Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Sinking in the mire

If this blog had a large readership, this post might open up a pointless debate about preferences for one particular English translation of the Bible over another, such as those who believe that the King James Version descended from heaven to earth, gilt edged and leather bound. Sarcasm aside, a few years ago as a student, I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of a respected international scholar on the book of Job.

If you want to see an experience of intense suffering, look at Job. He lost his wealth, children, and health, was tormented by the devil, and harassed by his wife. Nor were his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and  Zophar, or Elihu for that matter any consolation to him. To him they were "miserable comforters." (Job 16:3) Much of this book consists of cycles of debates between Job and his friends. Job's friends seemed more concerned with theological point scoring than they were with helping him.

I remember having a classroom discussion on the King James translation of James 5:11, which describes the "patience" of Job, which is also used in the ERV and ASV, to name but two. "Patience" is not the best choice of word, as it gives you the impression that Job stoically took all the suffering he went through on the chin, this translation does not adequately convey Job's experience.

The ESV translation uses the word "steadfastness," while others including the NLT, NASB, Holman, Darby and Young use the word "endurance," while the NIV uses "perseverance." A helpful text note in the NIV Study Bible explains that Job was not "patient." A patient man would not "curse the day of his birth" as Job did in chapter 3, become angry with his friends as he does in chapters 12 and 16, or express impatience as he does in chapter 21.

Job did however persevere (Job 1:22, 2:9-10, 13:15), as any reader of the text will clearly see. He sank to depths of despair, grief, and anger, but in all that he kept in faith in God. For generations his example has encouraged Christians that it is possible to keep faith in the midst of unimaginable suffering.

If you have the time and inclination, it's often a useful exercise to read and compare the wordings in different translations, and also to consult a study Bible. These tools are often useful if you want to gain a fuller understanding of what the author of a given book was saying. It pays to be diligent in reading the Bible.

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