I am convinced that we have to liberate Jesus, his apostles and our faith from centuries of stiff and stilted religiosity. That rigid, hyper-religious Jesus is unreal and unbelievable. Take for instance the end of the gospel reading for this Sunday (Mark 10:16). Standard hyper-religious biblical translations present something like this: And he took children up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. What kind of sad religious characters could possibly perpetrate such translation? They probably never even notice babies not to mention cradle some in their arms. Or perhaps they did, but then, when it came to church, religion and faith, they divorced themselves from their gentler-selves and they committed this atrocious translation. Unfortunately by the same token such translating made Jesus look like strange religious monster devoid of normal human emotions just conducting some strange religious rituals.
How much better it is to respect the context and search for meaning rather than mechanically translating individual words. How much better it is to use also our senses and emotions. Then we can end up with a normal and believable account. Jesus took children in his arms, cuddled them and made them laugh. This is just one sentence liberated from the hypertrophic religiosity and what a difference it makes! Finally, we can see Jesus in all his tender, caring divine humanity. And it is not only easier and nicer to read, it is also a more accurate translation.
And here is a paragraph for those who are interested in linguistic (phonetic) evidence. The Greek word ευλογεω (EULOGEŌ) did mean “to bless”. But every Greek person would hear in it “speaking kindly, positively, nicely”. In addition, the oldest manuscripts attached to this verb uniquely a causative prefix κατα (KATA). Thus only with a little bit of license we can translate “Jesus made them happy, made them laugh.” A similar situation is repeated with the word for “putting hands down upon” τιθημι/τιθηναι (TITHĒMI/TITHĒNAI). There is a substantive homophone (same sounding word) and homograph (same written word) τιθηνη (TITHĒNĒ) meaning a nurse or a nanny. Although this word is from a different verbal root θαομαι (THAOMAI), in the given context of little babies the phonetic proximity of this word can hardly go unnoticed and unappreciated. That is the reason for our “cuddly” twist.
This Sunday morning I invite you to Rutgers Church to meet Jesus in the Divine Nursery.