No Translation is Perfect

In the realm of sacred texts, debates over translation and interpretation often assume a pharisaic rigor, filled with the terror of potential blasphemy or heresy. Yet, such a mindset tends to overlook the quintessentially human journey these Divine words have undergone before reaching us. Understanding this journey liberates us from religious terror and invites us into a space of joy, play, and adventure as we explore these sacred texts not as dead letters to be warred over, but as living testaments of the God that inspired them centuries or millennia ago, and is still speaking to and inspiring us today.

  1. God, the Transcendent Ultimate Reality: The journey begins with God, the source of all that is or could ever be. It is the transcendent Mystery that breathes life into existence and serves as the Ultimate Referent for Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Creation.

  2. Inspiration by the Spirit: This Ultimate Reality directly or indirectly inspires and communes with individuals, imparting glimpses of the eternal into the temporal. This inspiration happens in the unique circumstances of specific cultures, languages, and historical contexts.

  3. Articulation of the Unwritten Logos: Inspired individuals then try to articulate these glimpses, not through mere words but through a harmony of narrative, poetry, ethics, and metaphysics. These are attempts to capture various facets of the unwritten, universal, and eternal Logos in human thought and language.

  4. Localization: These Divine insights are rendered into locally appropriate idioms, stories, and analogies, making them accessible to specific communities and times.

  5. Oral Tradition: Many of these insights are passed down through generations as oral traditions, changing subtly with each retelling, before they are eventually inscribed as texts.

  6. Official Canonization: Over time, some of these texts gain "official" status, often subject to interpretation and even alteration, depending on the prevailing spiritual, political, or social climate.

  7. Translation Across Boundaries: These canonized texts are then translated into various languages and adapted for different cultures, each with its own set of idiosyncrasies and nuances.

  8. Variable Intent: It's essential to recognize that this work of translation and interpretation is sometimes conducted with pure spiritual intent and subject only to the human err, misinterpretation, and the limitations of linguistic and contextual systems, while at other times, it is mired in human political or religious agendas that intentionally corrupt the process.

  9. The Texts We Inherit: As a result, what we often engage with are not the original inspirations but their manifold transformations, rendered complex by human fallibility and diverse intentions. We therefore must be vividly discerning, rather than blindly accepting, of the scriptures with which we wrestle.

  10. The Living Spirit: Despite these transformations and adaptations, the Spirit that initially inspired these texts remains alive—both within us and the words themselves. Through prayer, meditation, and earnest comparative study, we can still access the deep reservoirs of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Truth embedded in them.

The New Covenant urges us to recognize that our relationship with God is not mediated merely by the written word but by the living and active Spirit of God, the author of the eternal, universal, and unwritten Law inscribed on our hearts. The written Law served as a guardian and a tutor, setting baseline standards and accomplishing our systematic elementary education. However, we are called to transcend these baselines as we grow in our understanding and embodiment of the Spirit of God. Thus, the Law becomes not an end in itself but a signpost pointing us towards eternal principles that safeguard our spiritual well-being and salvation as we live out a life of Right Relationship with the Creator, One Another, and All Creation.

Recognizing the inherently fallible and temporal nature of human translations frees us from dogmatic rigidity. It allows us to re-approach the sacred texts in a spirit of humble inquiry, ever aware of our human limitations permeating the process of Progressive Realization, while ever hopeful and Faithful in our Quest for Divine Wisdom and Guidance. We are empowered to navigate wisely and humbly through the best available translations, with the Spirit as our guiding light, towards an ever-deepening understanding of God's eternal Truth.

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