• Pastor MacLaren

Pentecost and Bible Translations Today


The miracle of Pentecost provided the prototype for ordinary work of translating the gospel into the modern, contemporary languages of our hearers. The Spirit came upon the apostles and reversed the curse pronounced at the tower of Babel in a preliminary fashion. At the tower of Babel the one language spoken by everyone (cf. one English language translation) was divided into many different languages to frustrate the spread of man's sin. At Pentecost, the barrier of many languages was overcome by a miraculous "translation" into the language of the people. The Spirit empowered the church to preach the gospel into the plurality of languages present that day, rather than requiring them all to learn Aramaic as spoken by the local Galileans!!

“Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Acts 2:5-11.

The Spirit blessed the translation of the gospel into contemporary languages, and provided the church with a model for its mission of discipling the nations. The gospel would be spread in the ordinary language of the people, and people didn't need to learn the "sacred language" (Hebrew, Latin, KJV English) to hear the good news. The work of "teaching them to observe all that I command you" is the task of Christian teaching and preaching. That task is performed by imperfect and errant pastors and teachers, yet through the "foolishness" of preaching the gospel is proclaimed. In fact, it is principally through the "foolishness" of preaching that many are saved, and not through public readings of Scripture in an inerrant translation. If the kingdom of God is designed to advance through imperfect preaching and teaching, would an "imperfect" but faithful Bible translation stand in the way of the gospel message? The Christian evangelist does not advance the gospel in a community merely by standing on a street corner and reading a passage from the Bible. The evangelist/pastor/teacher is called to "preach the word," which is not merely repeating the text of Scripture but explaining and applying it, in his own fallible words, to the hearts of his hearers.

Preaching is the principle way in which this gospel is advanced. The apostle Paul puts it like this: "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:14-17).

If the Scriptures place a great emphasis on uninspired, errant preaching through fallible men as the means by which the gospel is spread, does that not suggest that the gospel does not require an infallible, inerrant text of Scripture (which will be imperfectly explained and applied by the preacher) for the advance of the church?

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