Thursday, March 15, 2018

Selections from the First Nations Version of the Bible

I have been watching with interest the development of a new translation of the Bible. It is called First Nations Version. It is an English translation of the Bible but with a cultural emphasis on sensitivities of Native Americans. Progress is kind of slow and the end-goal is a translation of the New Testament. Progress is a bit slow but I sure approve of their efforts! I wish them the best. I recently laid my hands on a copy of this Bible. So far, they have translated the four Gospels, Acts and Ephesians. That's about all you need for a young church's spiritual nourishment (for a while). Reading from this translation is quite moving—almost shocking—emotionally for me. I am interested in how it reads for a Native American. Is it a welcome effort or is it offensive? I intend to find out.

This translation is the work of Native American Bible Scholars. There is an effort in every verse to render it is clearly as possible for a Native American reader. Everyone's name is given descriptively rather than technically. Jesus (meaning "savior") is written as "Creator Sets Free (Jesus)." Peter ("rock") is written as "Stands On The Rock (Peter)." For a taste, here is a short quote from Matthew:
Matthew 1:1-3
Here is the record of the ancestry of Creator Sets Free (Jesus)—the Chosen One—a descendant of Much Loved One (David) and of Father Of Many Nations (Abraham).
From Father Of Many Nations (Abraham) to Much Loved One (David), his ancestors were:
2 Father Of Many Nations (Abraham), He Made Us Laugh (Isaac), Heel Grabber (Jacob), Give Him Honor (Judah) and his brothers, 3 He Breaks Through (Perez) and his brother First Light (Zerah) whose mother was Fruit of Palm Tree (Tamar),
Circle of Teepees (Hezron), He is Lifted Up (Ram),...
This method has made one of the most boring chapters in the Bible into a good read!

The translation sometimes supplements the text with italicized notes that are intended to add clarity to a passage that is confusing if taken too literally. Here is an example:
Ephesians 6:16-17
Then you must raise high the shield of trusting in Creator; this will put out the flaming arrows of the evil one. Don't forget to 17 put on the headdress of Creator's power to rescue and set free, and use the long knife of the Spirit—which is the word of Creator coming from your mouth.
Ah. So the sword of the Spirit is not supposed to be used to hurt people but to hurt spiritual forces of evil. That helps.

So, I think that I would like to look up and quote a few choice passages to see what I think and what you think. Any typographical errors are my own.
Acts 16:30-31
He then took them outside and said, "What must I do to be set free and made whole?"
"Put your trust in Creator Sets Free (Jesus), our Honored Chief," they said to him. "He will make you whole and set you and all your family free to follow him."
Acts 22:16
What are you waiting for? Rise up and participate in the purification ceremony, washing you clean from your broken ways, as you call out to him, trusting in all that his name represents.
John 14:6
"I am the Great Spirit's pathway, the truth about who he really is, and the life of beauty and harmony he offers to all. There is no other guide who can take you to the Father.
Acts 2:32-47
"Creator Sets Free (Jesus) is this Chosen One who has been raised to life from death! We have seen him with our own eyes. He has now returned to his place of honor in the world above to sit at the right hand of Great Spirit. The Father above has gifted him with the Holy Spirit that he promised to send. This Spirit has now been poured out upon us like the rain from above. This is the meaning of what you see and hear happening to us.
"Much Loved One (David) did not go up into the world above, so when he says, 'The Great Chief said to my Great Chief, "Sit down beside me at my right hand, my place of greatest honor, until I bring your enemies under my loving power,"' he was not talking about himself. He was talking about the Chosen one.
"So let all the tribes of Wrestles with Creator (Israel) have no doubt about what the Great Spirit has done. He has made Creator Sets Free (Jesus), the one you put to death on the cross, to be both Chief of all the tribes and the Chosen One, the one he promised to send long ago."

The Crowd Responds
37 When they heard this, the words pierced their hearts like a long knife. With troubled hearts they lifted their voices to Stands On The Rock (Peter) and all the message bearers.
"Fellow Tribal Members," they said, "tell us what we must do."
Acts 2:38 Change your thinking," Stands On The Rock (Peter) instructed them, "and participate in the purification ceremony that is done in the name of Creator Sets Free (Jesus), the Chosen One, representing him and initiating you into his right ways. You will then be healed from your bad hearts, released from your broken ways and gifted with the Holy Spirit who will give you the strength to walk the Good Road with him. He has promised this to all generations of the tribes of Wrestles With Creator (Israel), and to all the Nations who live far away. For the Great Spirit, our Creator, is calling out to all who will, to share in this life of beauty and harmony."
Stands On The Rock (Peter) said many more things to the ones who were listening. With strong words he kept telling them, "This is how you will be set free and rescued from the bent and twisted ways of this generation."
The ones who believed the words of Stands On The Rock (Peter) became a part of Creator's new Sacred Family and participated in the purification ceremony. About three thousand people were added on that day!
A New Family is Formed
42 This newly formed family continued daily to learn from the twelve message bearers. They lived together in harmony, ate ceremonial meals and prayed with one another. Great respect and awe came down upon all, and the message bearers performed many powerful signs. As the new followers lived together in peace, their harmony grew stronger and they shared all things. Many of them had a give-away to provide for all who were in need.
Acts 2:46 Each day they gathered at the Sacred Lodge. With good and pure hearts they feasted together in their homes and shared the ceremonial meal of bread and wine given to them by Creator Sets Free (Jesus). Acts 2:47 They gave honor and thanks to the Great Spirit and were respected by the people. Each day Creator sent more people, who were being set free, to join with them.
Sometimes the italics is a bit overly interpretive in my humble opinion. What do you think:
Matthew 28:19-20
"So now I am sending you into all nations to teach them how to walk the road with me. You will represent me as you perform the purification ceremony with them, initiating them into the life of beauty and harmony represented in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You will then teach them all the ways that I have instructed you to walk in."
Creator Sets Free (Jesus) then looked into their faces with love and great affection. He lifted his hands toward them and spoke these final blessing words over them.
"Never forget," he said as he began to rise up into the world above. "I will always be with you, your invisible guide, walking beside you, until the new world has fully come."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Jeremiah 17:9-10. The heart is devious above all else; and is perverse—

Jeremiah 17:9-10
9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it?
10 I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

This passage is often conscripted (often without verse 10, see into the service of proving that everyone is totally depraved.

The actual meaning of this verse can be understood by looking at a little context.

Jeremiah 17:1 says that the people have become so comfortable in their sin that their hearts have hardened to it. The writing on their figurative hearts is etched with a hard stylus. It cannot be erased and written over with right teaching. As we read on (Jeremiah 17:2-3) we learn how this heart hardening happened. The people had become accustomed to worshiping idols. They even taught their children how to practice this worship when they should have been teaching them about covenant with God (Deuteronomy 6:20-25).

The problem was in where they placed their trust (Jeremiah 17:5). Instead of trusting God (Jeremiah 17:7) they have trusted themselves‒their own strength and wisdom.

Contained in this context is invitation to reorient their misplaced trust back to God. The ones who trust God thrive (Jeremiah 17:7-8) while those who trust in themselves harden themselves like a shrub in the desert that has become adapted to lack of nourishment (Jeremiah 17:6).

Jeremiah 17:9 is directed at a particular segment of Judah that was unfaithful to God and had become comfortable with it. The point is that people can easily justify in their hearts that it is okay to do evil if it is for a good cause.

The poet goes on to explain the means by which God knows people's hearts. He knows by testing (see Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:3). What is on a person's heart is evidenced by what he/she does. He does not search the heart by reading people's minds. He observes their actions. He is not a thought cop but he is a fruit inspector; and what they are doing produces nothing useful, as a partridge that broods her eggs but nothing hatches (Jeremiah 17:11, NABre, or they accumulate from other people's hard work like a partridge collecting chicks from other birds).

Jeremiah 17:9 does not mean that everybody is totally depraved. The writer means to express that he is astounded people can engage in error to the extent that they become comfortable with it. They convince themselves that what they are doing is right. What an astonishing thing that some people's hearts have grown that hard.

They were not born that way. They became that way by misplacing  their trust.