Monday, October 10, 2011
A More Churchly Translation
In Hebrews 9:10 Gerhard translates "only with food and various baptisms [where we might be accustomed to see washings]." Again, in 2 Kings 5:14 he translates "Naaman baptized [washed in modern parlance] himself seven times in the Jordan." With respect to the Eucharist, he translates 1 Corinthians 10:16 "[the cup of blessing that we read] the consecrated chalice."
I am convinced that part of the poverty of our Bible reading is our failure to connect the dots. We do not see baptism throughout the Scriptures but only in the few obvious passages related to its institution. This is not how our Lord intended. It is by the nature of His use of Old Testament Scripture that we see how He regarded these things all connected together. From Ezekiel's promise to sprinkle many nations to the ordinary Hebrew practice of washing things ceremonially unclean, baptism is woven into the words and we are meant to see it, to recognize it, and to rejoice in it.
We live in an age and time in which these natural connections implicit in the text are less than obvious -- perhaps even alien to the way we read Scripture. This may, in part, be due to the fact that Bible translation has been taken over largely by folks from non-sacramental backgrounds. But it is also due, in part, to our own failure to read with the means of grace always in mind, with the Word and Sacraments as the perspective of the reader. We are not imposing this upon the text but seeing what God has placed there. If the cross and empty tomb were God's plan from the beginning and implicit in the history of the Old Testament as well as the record of the New, then also implicit in the text is the means by which He delivers to us His Son and the blessings of the cross and empty tomb -- namely, the means of grace.
When you read of the Fall in Genesis 3, did you see God's call to confession and absolution when He walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, seeking out the hidden Adam and Eve? If not, why not? Why did God call to Adam except to offer them the opportunity to come clean through confession? But, of course, Adam did not hear that and saw only his sin and guilt, which he sought to deal with only by hiding from God. Is this not the pattern of every age and people. The call to repentance is nothing but this call to confession and the place where God reveals His great mercy to the guilty and fallen.
It is part of the terrible curse of modern methods of Biblical interpretation that we are more concerned with what the original hearers heard or read in Scripture than with what God intended. The message of Scripture is nothing less than the message of Christ, of the cross, of the suffering that pays sin's terrible price, and of the grace that flows from that obedience unto death on behalf of a whole sinful world, captive to death and the grave. To see Christ in Scripture is to see the means of grace by which Christ comes to us, rich in grace and laden with the gifts He won for us by His own obedient suffering and life-giving death.
The longer I serve as a Pastor the more I see this. It is my hope and prayer that those in the pews see with me the same rich images of the means of grace all throughout the Scriptures. What a blessing it is and what a blessing it might be if we had a churchly translation which drew attention to this!