Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Malay versions, Hebrew MT, LXX (OG), Daniel Theodotion

I have had two weeks' break from work, though one is never far away from preparing for new lectures on Romans and my forthcoming Seminar on the book of Daniel in KL. Further, at the last minute my home-church asked me to preach this Sunday. I have been praying for the last 3 days and even this morning I still had my doubts over my sermon topic and what I wanted to say in the Lord's Name.

But whatever it will be, it will be a sermon of gaining knowledge in the Word of God especially among the Malay speaking churches. I read Isaiah 28-29 for the past 3 days and I had 3 Malay versions on hand. All very different in their translations, Terjemahan Baru, the classic Indonesian version, Berita Baik, the Malaysian version and Bahasa Indonesia sehari-hari. Then I read several English versions. But nothing beats looking up the Hebrew and the LXX (Old Greek) of the Old Testament. And the Hebrew MT is not always translated as such by the LXX which means LXX could be a translation of an earlier Hebrew vorlage than the one which the MT relied upon. Further, the Qumran Hebrew texts are another and more ancient of Hebrew biblical manuscripts.

As I was preparing for the seminar on Daniel, I read the Hebrew (and Aramaic), LXX and in the case of Daniel we have another Greek version which is the Theodotion in the Septuagint. For instance, the Hebrew word, "mercy" could be translated in the Greek versions as "righteousness" or dikaosune  as was in Daniel 9.

Thus preaching in Malay presents numerous challenges, not least which Malay version would you use and then how much of the Hebrew and Greek you need to translate and explain in your sermon, knowing that almost everyone in the congregation would have little Hebrew and Greek proficiency.

I watched the Quran reading on TV and I was impressed that our co-religionists have their young children memorizing and reading their sacred texts in the original language, Arabic and then their mother tongue, Malay. But we Christians have lost the art of biblical literacy, and even most Master of Divinity graduates will find hard to read a simple passage in Hebrew or Greek from our Bibles.

If I were to return to Sabah to serve, I would want that my superiors allow me to teach all the pastors under 40 (above 40 are also encouraged but not compulsory) to study at least 2 years of Greek, one year for the grammar and the second year for Greek exegesis based on the Greek text of the New Testament. As knowledge increases in the last days as prophet Daniel tells us (Dan 12:4), it is incumbent for us to bring our knowledge of God's Word to another level for it is only the wise who will shine as stars in the firmament, even those who instruct many to righteousness.

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