Scripture: Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples
of all the nations . . .” Matthew 28:19a, NKJV
I have retained at least a few snippets
from my two-year study of high school Latin, including one short, non-Latin,
“Latin is a dead, dead language,
As dead as dead can be.
It killed off all the Romans,
And now it’s killing me. “
Some kindred soul, the previous guardian of the textbook,
had expressed the sentiments of many a youth struggling through the conjugations
and declentions of what was, without question, a foreign language to most
Granted, many of our English words derive from Latin
roots, as do many words of other national languages, the so-called “Romance”
languages. Granted, also, that the scriptures of Holy Writ were preserved
for centuries in Latin, and, even into the mid 20th Century, remained
the language of the mass in the Roman Catholic Church. The fact remains that
the scriptures were not originally written in Latin, but in Hebrew and Greek,
for the most part, all ‘foreign’ to most of us.
Jesus and the people of Galilee commonly spoke Aramaic,
a Semitic language used extensively in southwest Asia as a commercial and
governmental language and adopted by the Jews after the Babylonian
Jesus’ cry from the cross, in Matthew 27:46, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” is Aramaic. The
title Pilate placed on the cross was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin,
the languages of the temple and synagogue, of commerce, and of the Roman Empire.
“Living” languages change over time. Words come and
go, often shifting in meaning. Greek is still written using the alphabet used
by the New Testament authors, but the pronunciation is different in modern
Greek. Many languages, including English, use the letter forms developed
by the Romans, but Latin itself is distinctively ‘foreign’ to most of the
people of the nations of the world.
I think we can rightly say that the 'messenger’ or
‘carrier’ has changed over the centuries, at least as far as the spoken
or written word is concerned. And that is as it should be.
Suppose that religious authorities declared that the
“Word of God” was so Revered, Holy, and
Untouchable, that only the original words and languages could be used to expound
the scriptures. Think about the many, many would-be Christians
struggling like first-year Latin scholars, just to experience God’s Word! Think about trying to make disciples of all
the nations without being able to use their native language.
Praise Be! God transcends time, borders,
nationalities, and languages.
October 22, 2006
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