"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Limiting God to Holy Languages

In an age when some sought communication from extraterrestrials, ruling out revelation from God appeared to be arrogant bigotry. I decided to read the world's best-known scriptures to see if the Creator had given revelation.

My professor of Indian philosophy took pains to cultivate in our class a deep respect for the Hindu scriptures.  Yet, he never asked us to read the Vedas - the primary and holiest Hindu texts.  So I decided to study them. I went to the bookstall of the Gita Press, Gorakhpur -- the Bible Society's Hindu counterpart.  To my astonishment I was told that I could buy Vedic commentaries, but the Vedas themselves had never been published in Hindi, my mother tongue and India's national language!

"Why?" I asked the bookseller.  "Don't priests want us to know God's revelation?"

The bookseller gently explained that the Vedas could never be translated because they were too sacred and difficult to understand. Besides, understanding was not necessary. They were never written to teach truth. They were mantras to be memorized and correctly chanted with careful pronunciation, enunciation and intonation.  Their magic was in the sound, not in the meaning. To learn the Vedas, I must find a competent guru and spend years at his feet practicing the art of Vedic chanting, while performing prescribed sacrifices.

Next he wanted to read the Quran, but was unable to find it published in Hindi or Urdu despite the fact he lived in Allahabad "the abode of Allah."  Too bad this was before the Internet became popular because I'm sure he could easily find what he is searching for now.*

Several things stood out to me from this excerpt.

1. I like that he wanted to read leading world Scriptures to find out if it were possible that God had tried to communicate with man.

2.  Their magic being in the sound reminds me of some who say the Quran should be read/learned in Arabic because it just loses its oomph when translated. Indeed I remember Samer and me reading some passages of the Quran in English and his admitting to me that they seem so different when translated to what my heart and mind understand.  I guess the magic of the Quran is in its hypnotic sound when recited in its original tongue.  Not that that is magical to me.  Especially if the pretty sounding words in reality are telling me I'm going to burn in hell, boil in water and eat prickly fruit because I've committed shirk.  Know what I mean?

3. I'm thankful the Bible has been translated into the common languages. Sure nuances of words and idioms are lost in translation, but I think my God is big enough that He can convey His message for humankind in the heart languages of each of the people of His creation.  No need for me to learn Sanskrit or Arabic or Hebrew to know what God really wants. He knows English and can speak to me in English if He chooses! 

 I can understand powerful priests of old wanting to keep the Bible in the "churchy language" that the silly little commoners could never understand. What power to be the ones to tell the masses what God has said!  And how corrupting this can be - and was!

People who limit God to speaking in one language or communicating best in only one language are, quite frankly, limiting the Almighty God. Do they really want to go there?  And those who say it must be so for the sake of power and control over people are gravely mistaken as far as I'm concerned.

Don't limit God to your language! He can speak 'em all!

excerpt from pg. 44-45, The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi

*And maybe this bookseller just didn't want to admit that he did not have these books in stock!   :-)


Amber said...

Interesting. I think maybe (for English speakers) there are just some languages that sound pretty, no matter what's being said. Arabic is one of them, especially when you don't understand a word of it. It's very liquid.

I can understand powerful priests of old wanting to keep the Bible in the "churchy language" that the silly little commoners could never understand. What power to be the ones to tell the masses what God has said! And how corrupting this can be - and was!

Don't make me come up there! That's not why the Bible was originally translated into Latin in the West. And in the East it has always been translated into the local tongue.

Susanne said...

Hehehe..it makes me smile when you threaten to come up here. :)

Yes, I agree Arabic (and other "liquid" languages) sounds pretty. I like hearing Quran recited in Arabic. Doesn't mean I understand the message. :-/

Thanks for your feedback!

Suroor said...

I lost my page long comment!

Lat said...

Very interesting book! How languages can be holy and divine! Yes i've learned a few things in my reading of Judaism as well.And thought about the similarities between these two.No wonder my father thought the invading Aryans then in India were Jews! Of course i've already cleared the matter with him :)

Thanks for sharing Sussss! And you know what? both of us are reading on exclusivism :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, aw shucks! :(

Lat, glad you cleared the matter with your father! :D

muhteşem yüzyıl izle said...

Hehehe..it makes me smile when you threaten to come up here. :)

Becky said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. God understands and speaks and communicates in all languages. When that is said however, I do think it is very important that we pay attention to the translations we use, as it is very easy to change the entire tone in the message, just by changing a few words.

Susanne said...

Great point, Becky! People can manipulate others by changing meanings and tones...bringing more rules or changing what something means. That's an excellent point. Thanks for your feedback!