Posts Tagged punctuation

Understanding the Bible

John 9: 1 – 5

And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Which Bible translation should you use? In my study, I use many translations. In some passages, they can all be very similar. At other times, different translations pick up on different nuances of a word. The first thing we must fully appreciate is that the Bible was not written in English. You know that, but it slips our minds as we read. It makes a difference, though, because someone had to take all those words and translate them into English. If you have ever tried to translate an idea or phrase from another language into English, you appreciate that there is not always a perfect word which fully captures an idea that is found in other languages.

Then, of course, languages change over time. Just read the Canterbury Tales. You see how the English language has changed. In fact, English is changing before our very eyes. The word I have known all my life as “yea” is now being spelled “yay” and no one even seems to have noticed the change. The word “invite” was a verb only. Now people are using it as a noun in place of “invitation,” a word which will, likely, soon vanish. So, what is my point and why this scripture to make the point?

Notice the two italicized words in the passage above. The New American Standard Bible is my choice of Bible for several reasons. It is one of the most precise translations but also, the editors were good at indicating where they made editorial choices. This aids our understanding. You should also know that the original text did not have punctuation. So, the first thing I want you to do is to take your NASB and, with a pencil, line through all italicized words. You will receive a huge revelation when you do. The editors added words to make the sentences flow. In this case, as in others, their additions actually change the meaning. Look at this passage without the edits:

“It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents but in order that the works of God might be displayed in him we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day night is coming, when no man can work while I am in the world I am the light of the world.”

Now punctuate it yourself. I suggest Jesus was saying, “In order that the works of God might be displayed we must heal this man.” What these verses specifically are not saying is that God caused or allowed this man to be blind in order that God can show off. It also does not say that he was born blind because of sin. God does not strike people because of sin. If so, we would all be blind. Second, how much sense does it make for God to make someone blind and Jesus heal him. We cannot honestly believe they are working at cross purposes. Some would argue that God made him blind so that He and Jesus could show their healing prowess. Okay, that is just sick. This isn’t a game. God wants people healed and saved. He is not trying to wow us with His healing power and miracles. In fact, they are not even miracles to Him. Healing and miracles are simply putting things back in proper order. Therefore, in order that God’s works in the earth be displayed, we must lay hands on the sick and pray. We are the agents of God’s works in the earth.

So, when you read the Bible, line through all italicized words. Choose a Bible like the NASB with references because the references also include editor notes. Also, when you ponder a passage or study it, read it without punctuation thinking about how that might change the way you think about it.