Summary: The author of Hebrews states that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of His being. In a world where God’s message is so often drowned out by the noise around us, it is good to be reminded that God continues to speak to His
If you ever happen to listen to Positive 89.3 on Saturday nights, you know that Joe Polek and I often enjoy sharing humorous stories from the news between the songs that we play. If you listened last night, you would have heard us talking about a variety of mistranslations with humorous results. We got started on mistranslations because I had found a news article about a recent tourism publication from the City of Jerusalem. Boldly proclaimed on the front of the brochure were these words: “Jerusalem! There is no such city!” Tens of thousands of copies had been distributed before the mistake was realized—the correct translation? “Jerusalem--there’s no city like it!”
Some of my other favorite mistranslations include:
• A warning to motorists in Tokyo: "When a passenger of the foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet at him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigor."
• In a Tokyo hotel: Is forbitten to steal hotel toweles please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read this notice.
• In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: "Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists".
• When translated into Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin’ good" came out as "eat your fingers off".
• Denmark: in a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions
• Apparently skiers (and their ski-boots) were making lots of noise after hours in this Austrian hotel, so they posted this sign: "Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.
• in a hotel in Athens: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily
• Serbia: in a Belgrade hotel elevator: To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll pass on that elevator—United States comes pretty late in the alphabet, so I’m not sure I’d ever get to my “wishing floor!”
Translation is really quite difficult—as I’ve worked at the General Store this summer, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Saulo and Fernanda, the two Brazilian employees who work with me behind the sandwich counter. As they try to pick up English, they struggle most with our idioms and figures of speech. Often it takes far longer for us to communicate clearly, because we have to eliminate the short-cuts that we use in our every-day speech.
As I thought about translations and the difficulties of communicating between two language groups, I began to think about how difficult it seems to fully understand God. Whenever we begin to use words to describe God’s eternal attributes, we find that our language falls short. Words cannot contain or adequately represent God’s nature or His will for us. When we attempt to wrap our finite brains around His finite being, we quickly discover that we are not really up to the task.
After all, even the Apostle Paul—the most prolific writer in the New Testament, and the most effective missionary and church planter of his day indicated that he didn’t have a full grasp on God—that he didn’t really know everything there was to know. He describes this truth in First Corinthians 13, verse 12: Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
I find great encouragement in knowing that even Paul felt as though he had only attained a portion of the knowledge of God. As I struggle to wrap my finite brain around the infinite God, I am grateful to know that the day will come when I will see my Savior face to face, and that I will know God fully—as fully as He now knows me.
As we look at human history, we become aware that God has tried to communicate with His people in many ways. The Old Testament is really an accounting of the ways in which God spoke to His people (and their response to His communications). We know that Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden, giving us a picture of the clear and constant communication which God desires with His people. But we also know that Adam and Eve turned from God in order to do things their way, and that line of communication was severely impaired.
We can read of how God spoke directly to Noah and Abraham, how he used dreams and visions to communicate to Jacob and Joseph. We know that He spoke to Moses from the burning bush, and used Moses to speak to Pharaoh. When Pharoah refused to listen to Moses, God used all of creation to attempt to communicate with him, through the plagues which came on Egypt. Later in Moses life, God spoke to him on top of a mountain, and then carved words onto stone tablets for Moses to take back to the people. God spoke to Samuel in an audible voice—even though Samuel mistook His voice for that of Eli the priest.