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Scripture, Translation, Interpretation and Art

I am going to cover this topic in an unconventional way—through YouTube videos.  (This is where you react by crying out in a horrified voice, “YOUTUBE?  How terrible!  Why not GodTube?  That is the holy choice for watching videos on the Internet.”  I’ll give you a chance to catch up.  You done?  Ok.)  Take a few minutes to watch these videos and we can talk.  Thanks!

Here is the first video—a cute short video about a little boy and his bike.

Here is the next video, an Auto-Tuned production from the Gregory Brothers, famous for their Songify the News and other Auto-Tune videos.

Finally, this is a video from the band Walk Off The Earth and the artist Roomie.

In the first, it’s an honest, simple moment between father and son after the success of riding a bike for the first time and a sweet message of encouragement to all other children trying to do the same.

In the second, it’s a little more silly but still inspiring and cute.

In the third, it gets even more intense, with collaboration between artists on different continents, dancing, and part-parody, part-honoring re-enactments of the original video.

I have been obsessed with these videos for the past couple days (not to mention more videos from The Gregory Brothers and music from Walk Off The Earth).  Partially because they are simply sweet and short, light pieces of entertainment.  But also, I see now in reflection, because they represent the beauty of Translation, Interpretation, and Art.  Imagine with me…

Long ago, a man in a land thousands of miles away, a man struggling with lust and selfish pride, a man who served as a lowly shepherd, killed a giant, and rose to become the highest power in his country (save One), long ago he wrote the following words…

These words, in the middle of a prayer against the wicked of the land, stand out in their praise to JHVH, the One who called him to be King, the one who was faithful to Him in his good and bad times, the One who promised to once again place one of his descendants, son of David, on the throne of Israel.

Scribes copied these words for millennia, maintaining the praises of their God.  Others translated them to different languages, that others may know the Word of the Lord.

Centuries later, on an island near the North Sea, a group of scholars worked together to produce an official, royalty-sanctioned edition of Holy Scrip, building their work off of translators that came before them.  These men, such as Edward Lively, Dr. Lawrence Chaderton, Francis Dillingham, and Dr. Robert Spaulding, helped bring us this text.

Centuries passed, the Word spread, translations abounded in later years.  “Thy faithfulnesse reacheth unto the cloudes” became “Thy truth reacheth, even to the clouds” became “Your faithfulness to the skies” became “and even the clouds in the sky can depend on you.”  Somewhere along the way, a group of musicians from Marietta, Georgia got together and penned a song that spread beyond the fame of the record it was on.  This song played on radio stations for years afterwards and is still sung in worship across the globe.  Video below.

You see,

Scripture first became oral tradition and/or was etched on stone and scroll

It was kept by faithful believers who honored the text as much as God Himself

It was translated by numerous scholars who desired to bring the Word to the People

It was interpreted and paraphrased and restructured that all may understand God and His Word

And all along the way, art was made

Art is not merely that song and video—Art is not just the delightful font from the King James Bible.  Art is in the understanding and the recording, Art is in the translating and transmitting, Art is in the interpreting and communicating, Art is in the receiving and producing, Art is in the hearing and the telling, in the living and being.

In the videos at the beginning, there is variety in the production.  One is simple and to-the-point.  Another is technological and inspirational.  Another is quirky and melodious.  But each of them, at the heart, at the core, have the same story—Boy Rides Bike, Motivates the World.

Likewise, each of these verses say the same thing.  The Hebrew says it (though you need to know Hebrew to understand it).  The King James says it (though you need to know… how to speak King James to read it).  The song says it too—

Your Love, Oh Lord, reaches to the heavens

Your faithfulness stretches to the skies

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains

Your justice flows like the ocean’s tide

And I will lift my voice to worship You my King

And I will find my strength in the shadow of Your wings”

The words are a little different.  There are extra pieces here and there.  But at the heart of all the verses is a song of praise to JHVH, the LORD, God.

The Word should not be pressed into a box, unable to grow and spread.  If you did the same to a seed, no plant would emerge.  The Word (The Bible) is a seed with life inside.  It has been growing ever since the first words were spoken.  This plant has grown and grown over the years, always the same and always different.  It has flowered here, stretched there, sprouted fruit here and there.  Much flourishing, one plant.  Many flourishes, one plant.  The Word of God should be like a meme, spreading across the world in various iterations, always true to the core of His character but varied as the facets of Who we know Him to be.  Do not press the Word into a box, for it will grow into whatever shape you want it to grow, like a watermelon squashed into a square.  It will be less of the Word and more of your word.  Let the Word grow and split like a cell in mitosis and you will see life like you’ve never known.

If you search YouTube, you will find countless remixes, Auto-Tunes, and covers of the song.  What once was a little 90 second video has spawned countless other videos.  Art upon Art upon Art.

The Scriptures once were only known in Hebrew, or Greek.  Then Latin.  Then other languages, such as English.  Then they were known by later generations, by younger generations, by changing generations.  Versions and Paraphrases, Interpretations and Teaching.  Art upon Art.

Life itself is Art of the Creator.  When we take what He has made and make our own art (a painting of a lake, a song about a friend), we are sub-creators.  Our art is a little different than the original, but it is absorbed into His greater, original Art. It becomes a family of Art.  The same is true with Scripture.  As long as it is true to the original, it is part of that growing plant and it is a member of the family of Art and Scripture.  You see row upon row of imitations and sub-creations that point back to the original, and that original points back to the Original Word of Life, Christ Himself.

May our translations and paraphrases, our works, our very lives be Art that points back to the original Artist, the Source of Life, God our Lord.


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