Extracurricular Activities 10.4.14 — Bible Translations, Jesus's Parables, & Theological Education's Mission
The Bible you carry is a political act. By “Bible” I mean the Translation of the Bible you carry is a political act. Because the Bible you carry is a political act the rhetoric about other translations is more politics than it is reality. The reality is that the major Bible translations in use today are all good, and beyond good, translations. There is no longer a “best” translation but instead a basket full of exceptional translations.
The world in which we live, however, has turned the Bible you carry into politics. So here goes for my politics of translation at the general, stereotypical level, and it goes without having to say it that there are exceptions for each, [added: and I have "de-raced" my descriptions to avoid that conversation]:
ACL: Professor Levine, thank you for providing us with such a fascinating read. Your research casts many of Jesus' most familiar stories in a new light. Did you ever find yourself surprised by one of the parables as your book was unfolding? In other words, did you ever have the experience of thinking that your research would take you in one direction and then find an altogether different line of thought emerge?
AJL: Thank you for your kind words. The major surprise I had was that what seemed so clear to me was not often noted in commentaries and even less noted in sermons. Given the increasing interest, in both theological and academic circles, in Jesus as a teacher of justice and ethics, I had expected to find comparably less focus on how Jesus saves our souls for the afterlife more focus on how Jesus saves us from damaging relationships with other people. What also surprised me -- not because if its presence (which I expected) but because its extensiveness -- was the frequent mischaracterization, through ugly and ahistorical stereotypes, of Jesus’ Jewish context. In interpretation after interpretation, Jewish theology and practice are used as Jesus’ negative foils and thus the interpretations bear false witness against both Judaism and Jesus.
Both Arminians and Calvinists, when they are being true to the gospel and their own traditions, agree that everything anyone achieves that’s good in God’s sight, truly pleasing to him, that brings them into a right relationship with God or grows them in Christlikeness, is exclusively God’s doing in them. Regeneration and sanctification are both entirely and exclusively God’s work in us. We are truly passive in both. Our “work” is only allowing the Holy Spirit to do what we can never do for or in or with ourselves. Being born again and filled with the Spirit are the only means to holiness which is not the same as “being a good person” in most people’s sense of that phrase.
Nabeel Qureshi was raised in a Pakistani-American family and grew up a devout Muslim. While he was in medical school, he read the Bible for research in his debate against a Christian friend, and this began a journey that eventually led to his becoming a Christian. He shared his conversion story in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, and he also works with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries telling his story and providing encouragement to those who seek to share their faith with a changing world.
In light of the fact that the Muslim world is front and center in the international press right now, we thought it would be particularly helpful to talk with Qureshi. He began by sharing his insights into some common misconceptions about Muslims.
That question asked by Jesus [in Luke 18:1-8] frames the importance of what is happening here tonight. We are gathered here, at least in part, to do something toward answering that question with faith and faithfulness. We are gathered to do everything within our power and influence to make certain that there will be faith on earth – a particular quality of faith that is bold, courageous, confessional, convictional, tenacious, evangelistic, missiological, and persistent, just like this widow.
How then does Jesus’ question in this text point to theological education as the most important endeavor on earth?
Extra-Curricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don't necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.
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