Ever since 1991 when I first received my back-issues of JP in the mail, I’ve remembered Bivin’s “To Destroy The Law” article from Issue #6. I had grown up with several teachings about Jesus’ fulfillment of the law of Moses, but this article clearly pointed out that if Jesus had communicated this in his mother-language and those words were translated into English we would probably have a completely different understanding of Matthew 5:17. It’s that pesky middle-language of Greek which so taints our understanding of Jesus’ message.
To help convey these translational issues, I took a group of youth to a Mexican restaurant. While we were eating I asked the kids to describe the food and establishment in slang and then I wrote the words on the whiteboard I’d brought. We formalized the words into three phrases:
- This food is sick!
- This restaurant is bad!
- Their cheese dip is nasty!
We then discussed the three phrases and all agreed that each of them were positive statements. Next we asked our waiter to translate each phrase word-for-word into Spanish:
- Este alimento está enfermo!
- Este restaurante es malo!
- Su salsa de queso es desagradable!
Finally, we asked the waiter to go and bring the cook to us because we wanted to speak with him. A Mexican man in his 60s who knew only a few words in English came into the room humbly but with a very big smile. He was nodding and saying hello to everyone. But his eye finally caught the whiteboard with the Spanish phrases written down and his smile decayed into sadness as he read in his language that the food was bad, nasty and sickening. With only a few words he bowed out of the room back to the kitchen where the waiter explained to him what had just happened.
And this is just a two-language example, the message would become even more devastating if the Spanish was then translated into German. I used this illustration to help them understand Matthew 13’s “words of grace (see last paragraph)” and how we can always better understand the words of Jesus by better understanding his language. Which brings us to David Bivin’s “‘Destroy’ The Law” article which has been recently revised by the author.
As I said at the beginning, this article engaged my mind because it clearly shows credible evidence that Jesus’ statement about not coming to destroy the Law but to fulfill it could better translate into English as (in my own words):
My intent is not to misinterpret the law, but to correctly apply it…to get David’s “Dynamic Rendering” you have to read the article.
That sounds much more like the Jesus I’ve come to know and love. If you haven’t read Matthew 5:17: “Destroy” the Law, I highly recommend you allow it to “engage” you!