Post 65 / The Next Language
November 15, 2021
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Mat 6:13)…
This will be an exercise in discourse structure but also has good theological and practical value.
One of the most challenging aspects of oral translations such as we make is discourse level linguistics. One aspect of this is the juxtapositioning of phrases. The original meaning of phrases is couched in the linguistic assumptions that come with the order of the phrases. Much of the Hebrew poetry in the Psalms and Proverbs is constructed with such dualisms. The sequential order of each establishes focus and impacts meaning.
For instance, consider the three dualisms in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9- 13):
Thy will in earth as in heaven
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
I am not going to pretend to be an expert in Hebrew but I believe that what the Lord was really emphasizing in this prayer would be better expressed in English if the phrases were reversed. Let’s illustrate with the last one.
Deliver us from evil (evil one) as we come into temptation, (trouble, suffering)
Because English presumes cause normally precedes effect and focus/priority normally precedes secondary focus we tend to get hung up on the temptation because our discourse structure puts it in focus. This is problematic with other Scripture that appears to contradict the suggestion. James says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (Jas 1:13 KJV)
I believe we can correctly pray for deliverance from evil. I do not believe we can correctly pray that we will be delivered from temptation. Temptation is a result of living in a fallen world as fallen human beings where evil is endemic. As God’s children we can in faith pray for deliverance and expect to be delivered.
This has been an exercise in illustrating how careful we need to be in structuring the story of Jesus in different languages (and this is only a tiny piece of the discourse level mosaic). For a fuller explanation I would recommend studying Discourse Considerations in Translating the Word of God by Beekman and Callow. This is an important reference source in our recordist training.
Meanwhile, I close with 1 John 2:14 (KJV): “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
The “wicked one” is the same Greek word used in the Lord’s prayer for evil.
As we pray for deliverance, let’s also remember to pray for the translation process that delivers the Gospel to all.
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
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