Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why Are You Using a Russian Bible When Church is in English?

I recently met a young couple who are new to this area and had the pleasure of spending an evening at Dairy Queen getting to know them. She was an MK and grew up in Austria and Germany. He majored in Bible with an emphasis on missions and spent time in the Ukraine. One of the things we discussed was this question. Well, not this question exactly. But something similar.

Though I have never actually physically been asked this question, I'm sure there are those of you out there who have seen some random person with a Bible that looks a little bit different than yours. Namely, it looks like this: Библия: В русском переводе

Or maybe not quite like that.

But anyway, back to my story.

The next time I saw this young couple, they were kind enough to let me borrow some song books and a bible that they had picked up in Ukraine.

This does have something to do with the question. I promise.

So I've been kind of flipping through the song books and such. It's been fun seeing what songs some of the Ukrainian congregations are singing. Then I stumbled upon one of my favorite songs, Send the Light. For those of you who don't know this song, I like to think of it as kind of the "Missionary Anthem" as it's all about taking the light to people in other places.

The second verse of this song is what I find most interesting.

We have heard the Macedonian Call today,
Send the light, send the light.
And a golden offering at the cross we lay
Send the light, send the light.

Pretty straightforward right? Yay.

Well, I was skimming through the Russian and the first line was translated such:

Македонский крик звучит и в наши дни

And suddenly a light bulb went off in my head and I was like "Oh!" New understanding dawned. Why? Well because if you translate the Russian line back into English it comes out something like "The Macedonian cry sounds even in our days"

When you put it like that, it means a lot more. All of a sudden, I wasn't just thinking about a reference to some dead guy who wrote half of the New Testament (No offense, sir). Instead it suddenly became more real. The Macedonian call goes out even today. Today. Now. Right now. This very moment. We are supposed to be sending the Light. Everywhere. I guess it just made it more tangible to me.

Then, I read the rest of the Russian translation of the second verse...

Македонский крик звучит и в наши дни:
Дайте света, дайте света.
Не покиньте бедных погибать одних
Дайте света, дайте света.

So... In English we hear the call to send the light and lay golden offerings at the cross. In Russian, the call is going out to Give the light. The third line of the stanza then imperatively commands people to not leave the poor to die alone. Yes, that's what I said.

The Macedonian cry sounds even in our day,
Give the light, Give the light!
Do not leave the poor to die alone,
Give the light, give the light.

Now, I don't know about you but to me, personally reading the Russian is kind of like a slap in the face. It gives me this feeling and sense of urgency that I don't feel when I read the English version of this song. In English it's like "La la la...oh yes we should be sending someone else to take the light...yay..." In Russian it's more like "HEY! HEY! YOU! YES YOU! WE'RE DYING HOPELESS HERE, GIVE US THE LIGHT!!! HELP US!!"

I mean, no offense to Mr. Charles H. Gabriel. I'm sure he had the best of intentions and spoke from the heart when he wrote this song. And it was written in the late 1800s after all.

But this brings me back to my point. Why do I follow along in an English church with a Bible that's in Russian? Because it's amazing what you can learn. I don't know about you, but often I will sit during worship service and kind of zone out. You get to the point where it's like "I've sung this song a thousand times, I've heard sermons similar to this one, I've read this verse over and over" You've done it so many times or heard it so much that after a while you become numb to it and don't even think about it any more. So to read it in a different language, often sheds insight onto the same, old, tired thing. Often it's just because things are worded slightly differently, or you read it in a way that makes you get something new out of it.

Is all of this making sense?


I encourage any of you out there who are studying a foreign language to pick up a Bible in that language. Even if you don't know the language well. Reading will not only help you improve your language skills, but the benefits run deeper as well.

No comments: