Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Vulgar Translation


I read a news story today that both thrilled and boggled my mind.
The Jamaican people speak a creole language called Jamaican patois. 
For the first time,
the Word of God will be coming to them in their native tongue.
And they are overjoyed.

But not everyone is happy.
There are those who who call it a vulgar translation.
Some English-speakers object to it,
because 'creole is no substitute for English',
and 'it has to resort to coarse expressions to make its meaning clear'.

"Even those (Patois) words 
that we would want to use to fully explain what was in the original, 
are words that are vulgar."

Wow.
I guess that bishop must not have read Ezekiel very closely.
Even in English, that pure and holy language,
Ezekiel translates pretty coarsely.

The same objections were raised when God's Word was translated
into... um, English.
And German.
And any number of coarse, vile, low-born languages.

We are people, down here on earth.
People made of dirt.
And God in His mercy translated the Word Himself 
into the vulgar dirt of a human body.

I've birthed four children, and it was not immaculate.
God sent His Son into our world the same way I came in --
pushed out in a mess of vile fluids,
and put to the breast of a woman
who surely needed a bath after birthing in an animal shed.
He touched contagious lepers, and His feet needed washing.

It is odd to me that anyone is concerned
about the dirt of our language touching His word,
when He came -- the Word made flesh -- and touched the dirt of our sin.
He cooked breakfast for His disciples,
and stripped off His clothes to wash their dirty feet,
and offered His wounds to their probing fingers.
He, in His righteousness,
was sentenced to death and tortured by sinners.
That's pretty vulgar.
But it's true.
And that Truth sets those who believe it free.

Come to think of it, it is true:
creole is no substitute for English --
to an English-speaker.
And English is no substitute for creole to a creole-speaker.

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, 
and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, 
devout men, from every nation under heaven. 
Now when this was noised abroad, 
the multitude came together, and were confounded, 
because every man heard them speak in his own language. 
And they were all amazed, and marveled, saying one to another, 
Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans? 
And how do we hear every man in our own language, 
wherein we were born? 
...We hear them speak in our languages 
the wonderful works of God."

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