Saturday, March 29, 2008

Translation Has Its Disadvantages

I was going to wait until tomorrow to post, having been on vacation for a week. I saw this post at ER's blog, and the wonderful, free-wheeling discussion that ensued, and thought I would add my cent-and-a-half.

Since it has come to my attention that some people get all "het up" about the differences between various understandings of "love" as used in the New Testament, philia and agape, I thought I would offer a couple points to the discussion, then remain silent until my vacation really ends.

First, the idea that silence on a particular subject in the New Testament, especially one as volatile as human sexuality, equals condemnation, doesn't quite hold water. While it is true that the one direct discussion of lust is put in the mouth of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount - that looking with lust upon a woman by a man is morally equivalent to adultery - in a negative way, I would hardly put that down as a blanket condemnation of "lust". Furthermore, I would wonder why the person who made the assertion seems to believe that all that can or does exist between same-sex partners is lust, rather than romantic attachment. These are separate questions, obviously, but I offer them up here merely to begin you thinking.

The New Testament is silent on a host of issues - from flight and space travel to genetic engineering and nuclear war - that some have seen fit to address using scriptural witness. Silence is no indicator of a point-of-view. In fact, it could show either ignorance or apathy.

Second, and more pointedly, we are dealing here with an issue not just of translation - rendering one word from one language in to another - but of translation from a long-dead language in to a living, always-changing language. This raises a whole host of issues, not the least of which is how it might be possible to understand a whole host of linguistic and cultural baggage and information from a long-dead society to our own. How can we possibly understand all the nuance behind a word like eros without grasping the history of the word, its myriad uses in myriad settings, and the ways the word's meaning changed over the life of its use? Is "lust" the same now as it was then? Is "lust" even a good translation for eros? Is "lust" bad in and of itself? Can such a view be upheld by a strict interpretation of Scripture? Should we turn to scripture to understand how we are to respond to feelings to which we apply the term "lust"?

I offer these questions for discussion and review only. It seems to me, though, that any discussion of any word as weighty as "lust", freighted as it is in a context and history of repression in the Church, we might consider the possibility of new readings, new translations, new ways of thinking that offer us all opportunities to think and be fully human as God intended.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

One Last Thought

Christ is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!

Virtual Tin Cup

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