June 29, 2015

Mark 5:41-42 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).  Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.

This is weird. Not just that Jesus raises this little girl but that Mark quotes the words he speaks in the common language of that place and time, Aramaic. It is likely that Jesus’ first language, the language he used to preach and teach to the masses, was Aramaic. My guess is that Mark quotes him this way to draw us even closer to the scene dramatically, but I’m not really sure. What I am sure of is that he recognized that his readers wouldn’t understand Aramaic and so he provides the translation. It seems pretty certain that Mark and the rest of the New Testament documents were written in the common Greek of that day. You can thank Alexander the Great for that. And of course we are reading the whole event in English. Several years ago there was a movie titled “Lost in Translation” and we use the phrase as a cliché. But here the story seems to get enriched in translation. Even as the words of the bible get enriched by nuance of meaning required in the change of language so the story and faith of Jesus’ words and deeds are enriched as they are translated from time and place, generation to generation, life to life. Translators don’t make things up. They take what is already there and put it in a form that someone outside the language can comprehend. In doing that they come to a greater understanding of what they are translating and the people they are addressing. When it comes to God, are you making up your own story or translating God’s? This week, in what ways will your life translate the life of Jesus to those around you?

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