Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Latin vernaculus native, from verna slave born in the master's house, native

And how is it that every one of us is hearing their words in the language which was ours from our birth? -- Acts 2:8

I've been thinking a lot about putting things in the vernacular -- in language that will communicate in "spirit and truth." I was amused by the LOLBible yesterday -- bits are really funny; like Luke 2
Oh hai, Jebus iz bornd

1 'Roun dis tiyem, Caesar Augustus wuz like, "I can has cenzus?"2 ('Coz while Quirinius was Teh Boz of Syria, is invisible census!)3 And all teh doodz went home for teh saying, "I is heer!"4 So Joseph went from Naz'reth to Judeeah to Bethlehemm whar David wuz bornededed, 'coz David wuz hiz graete-graete gran-daddie,5 An Mary went wif him, 'coz she was gonna be married wif him an she was preggerz.6 When wuz time for teh baybee,7 it wuz a boy, so he wuz wrapd in blanket like burrito an placd him in fud dish, cuz innkeeper wuz liek, no room here kthxbye!
It reminds me of the Valley Speak Bible of 20 years ago ... a placing of a sacred text into a very "common" tongue. Some people think it is profane. I certainly wouldn't use it in the pulpit or for serious study, but it does cause me to pause and think about the text. Some would place Petersen's "The Message" in this category, but I don't know about that. RLP has a really funny video where a "King James Only" pastor preaches an entire sermon based on a particular way of translating a phrase from the Hebrew Scriptures -- specifically the way KJV uses the phrase "he who pisseth against the wall" verses the NRSV "male."

Certain congregational contexts probably would not tolerate the LOLBible very well; to appreciate things like this takes some room and flexibility. Could something as silly as the LOLBible lead to true transformation of heart and life? Could something like the LOLBible communicate the heart of the Gospel?

The portion that I quoted yesterday contains what some call the "Gospel in a nutshell" -- John 3:16. Is there enough contained in that nutshell and in that translation for transformation? Luther claimed that the Gospel in a nutshell was that Jesus "is the Son of God who became man for us, that he died, he was raised and that he has been established Lord over all of us." Can something as silly as the LOLBible communicate that?

I've long wanted to do a documentary on the history of the English Bible. The Vulgate was translated early on by Jerome, but it was centuries before the Bible was translated into any vernacular language. There are debates about why this is so. Some say that the message was too precious to be entrusted to the vernacular. Some say that by keeping it in Latin (by then an archaic language), anpriest could "control" the gospel and subsequent interpretation and application. Until the printing press, having the Gospel in the vernacular wasn't that important. I have recently read a book that traces the history of the English versions; it was a bloody and controversial thing. We still fight over what translation to use.

Alongside these ponderings, I've also been reading "The Jesus Sutras" by Martin Palmer. I realized that Christianity spread down the Silk Road in the 6th century AD; I didn't realize that it left footprints. The Sutras are interesting in that they reflect a significant portion of what we would consider orthodox thought; but they also reflect influences from Asian cultures and religions. Some would claim that the Gospel is "despoiled" by these influences. However, have WE not despoiled the Gospel in the same manner? Is not our version of the Christian faith just as contaminated by European culture and mythology?

The LOLBible is just the latest of a long history of contextualizations. Somehow I believe that the Gospel itself is self-correcting. And who knows? Maybe someone reading the LOLBible will hear the Gospel with fresh ears -- and actually HEAR it for the first time. Stranger things have happened....

Edited: Oh my goodness! Thanks to JWD, I have now ordered the Manga Bible! (One note: it opens the wrong way....)

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