Monday, September 19, 2005

Enjoying 'The Message'

I'm pretty easy to influence, I suppose. Like most Christians, if you speak of something in the Christian world in a negative tone that I know nothing about, your words are going to be given much credence. Sometimes, undue credence.

It's with understanding that I confess I've been wrongly influenced about dynamic translations. While I would never advise using them solely, and especially if one is performing some kind of exegetical work. However, when the Scripture is familiar, a dynamic translation can really open up in the text in modern -- sometimes powerful -- language.

Here's is a Galations 2:19-21 in the ESV:
19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Here is Galations 2:19-21 in The Message:
19What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. 20Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Now, I've read the verse, this passage, this book hundreds of times. I've even gone through commentaries on the book, including Martin Luther's seminal work. If I had ever learned any Greek, I'd study that, too.

What impresses me about the message is it's greater ability to impart the forcefullness of Paul's language where the literal translation does not. It closes the gap on 2,000 years of missing connotation.

The Message is not a scholar's Bible, but it's probably not the best for a new Christian, either. It's best used, I think, in the hands of a mature Christian who recognizes the traps of a dynamic translation, but also recognizes the benefits. Translations like this can bring new life to the text (and I readily offer they can do damage, particularly when no more accurate version is used in comparison).

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