Friday, May 1, 2015

Pure In Heart

During our recent consultant check of the book of Matthew, our consultant helped us to make it crystal clear in Enga just what it means to be pure in heart.

Second language learners are often slow to realize that one word can have many shades of meaning. For example, it took me a long time to realize that the same Enga word that means ‘stand’ can also mean ‘be’, ‘live’, ‘stay’, ‘inscribe’, ‘fasten’, and ‘from’. The same is true for Enga speakers who have the opportunity to learn English. Often they are unaware that an English word can have multiple shades of meaning, and this can corrupt their understanding of the English Bible (especially since the English itself is a translation).

So as the Enga translation team translated 'Blessed are the pure in heart', they were focused on purity only in the sense of ‘moral perfection’ because that was the sense of ‘pure’ that they were most familiar with. As a result they translated Matthew 5:3 as 'God blesses those who have no filth in their hearts'. But as our consultant explained the meaning of the Greek source text more closely, the Enga team realized that being 'pure in heart' is actually more focused on singleness of motive in one’s devotion to God than it is on moral perfection (which none of us can ever achieve in this lifetime anyway). In other words, Jesus isn't telling us that only those who are morally perfect will be blessed, but rather the ones who are blessed are those who completely devote themselves to God (even if they are sometimes imperfect). So after much discussion, we adjusted the Enga translation to read 'God blesses those who set their hearts upon Him alone'. After hearing that translation, Stephen Larsen, an Engan youth leader who had come to help us with the consultant check, said, "I've never understood this verse before, but now it makes sense."

Stephen Larsen listening to our consultant explain the meaning of a passage from the book of Matthew.

That Was Close...
Anyone familiar with the Wicked Bible knows just how devastating a typo can be. The Wicked Bible was a printing of the King James Version that accidentally printed, “Thou shalt commit adultery” (famously omitting the word ‘not’). We had a similar close call as we were checking Matthew 18:3, which reads, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” As our consultant checked the Enga translation, she was asking the Enga team what children were like and what qualities of children Jesus might have been talking about. We were expecting them to talk about how children are quick to trust and believe and other such qualities that would make them a model for people who want to live a life of faith. Instead, the Enga team members just kept listing all of the bad qualities of children, and both the consultant and I were very confused as to why they were ignoring more positive aspects of what children are like. As I sat there puzzled, I reread the Enga text only to discvoer that it said, “If you change your ways, and humble yourselves, and become like little children, you will not go to the Kingdom of God.” We forgot to put in the word ‘don’t’ before ‘change’! No wonder the Enga team was telling us all the negative characteristics of children that we should avoid! They were trying to figure out how not to be like children so that they could go to heaven!

Just For Laughs
On the subject of typos, they are actually much more common in the English back translation of the Enga text than in the Enga text itself. Our consultant chuckled to point out to me that my back translation of Matthew 27:26 read, “Then Pilate freed Barabbas and then gave Jesus to the soldiers, telling them to hit him with a witch and then crucify him.” Thankfully she figured out that it was supposed to say ‘switch’ instead of ‘witch’. A switch is the closest equivalent in Enga to the whip that would have been used to flog Jesus.

Pastor Peter Rai enjoying a laugh at our consultant check.

What's Next?
We are currently in the village of Birip for our final stay in Enga before our upcoming furlough. We then hope to record the book of Matthew and edit it. Please pray for God’s grace and strength during this final stretch of our first term.