As a fledgling novelist I have discovered that having a title with more than one possible meaning or a character’s name with a myriad of potential pronunciations forces the readers to become more engaged in the story as they stop to consider meanings or pronunciations.
Our Bible is frequently criticized for being ambiguous. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, a language with no vowels and no punctuation, that has given Bible scholars a serious case of the pip for centuries as they try to agree on a definitive translation. The New Testament was written mostly in Greek, a language whose single words often have multiple meanings, making its translation only slightly less difficult than the OT.
Modern translations of earlier translations only compound the problem.
It is my opinion that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, who exists outside the time-space continuum, could have inspired the writing of his word in a single unchanging language that everyone could have understood for all time, if he so chose.
It is obvious to me that God, the creator of all communication, the author of authors, had a definite purpose in mind. He wants us to become engaged with his word, to think about the meaning and ponder its application to our lives.
Learning of the culture and circumstances at the time of the writing is helpful in discerning God’s meaning for those living then, but we know that although the world and cultures change, the Bible is relevant for all times and peoples. So, we must roll it around in our minds, grapple with it hand to hand to come up with the meaning and application for here and now.
Recent translations of the Christmas narrative often give the angels’ announcement to the shepherds (Luke 2:14) as some variation of “peace on earth to everyone who pleases God”, while the King James translation is “on earth peace, good will toward men.”
While the older translation appears to indicate God’s good will toward all men, the more modern versions limit his gift of peace to those with whom is pleased. It was pondering these two interpretations that started me thinking about the Bible’s ambiguity.
Taken together these two translations encompass the gift of God’s son and his love to all mankind, along with the fact that those who accept the gift, thereby pleasing God, also receive his peace.
Perhaps it is in the Bible’s ambiguity that clarity may be found.