The Gift of Translation

by Harley Voogd

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With it being the Easter season, the photo on the right is what you’ll see on a typical atheist Facebook fan-page including the caption, “Read a history book Christians.” The argument being, I guess, that Christians are so stupid that they don’t realize they’re actually worshipping a pagan fertility god on Easter instead of Jesus. Well, if that argument is valid, then I could also say the same for atheists celebrating Christmas — “Those atheists are so stupid. They think they are celebrating a holiday time of giving and family, but they are unknowingly worshipping Jesus.” It’s a stupid argument.

My response to the Facebook post was this:
Christians co-opted pagan holidays and made them their own; made them Christian holidays. It’s similar to how secular culture has co-opted some Christian holidays. That’s what happens when one culture dominates another. Christians know the true origin of Easter, and they don’t care. They’ve changed it into a holiday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

And it got me thinking about speaking in tongues. In Acts 2, the disciples were given the ability to speak new languages so that all who were present at the temple heard the “wonderful works of God” in their own language. Tongues is best understood when studied in relation to Babel. At Babel (Genesis 11), God scattered the nations through the confusion of language. Directly after that, He called Abram and set him apart from the nations. From Abram came Israel, which was a nation of priests to the Gentile nations to act as a mediator between God and man. The mission of Israel was perfected and completed in Jesus through His death and resurrection — the old world died in Christ and a new world was born with His rising. Once the work of Jesus was complete, there was no more need for the nations to be separate, so God reversed Babel and brought them back together. He did that at Pentecost (Acts 2) through the gift of tongues… or a better way to say it: the gift of translation.

The gift of tongues/translation is manifest today in that wherever Christians go, they translate Christianity into the receiving culture. That starts with language, i.e. the Bible, but it doesn’t end there. Language has two aspects: the objective and the subjective. The objective is simply using words to pass along information. The subjective however, is poetry, novels, song lyrics, plays, movies, TV shows, etc… All that which creates a culture comes from the subjective.

We can call the before-Christ time the Old Covenant World, and the after-Christ time the New Covenant World. In the New Covenant world, Christ has all authority and that authority passes down to the Church. One thing Christians can do, which Old Covenant Israelites could not do, is choose their own holidays. In the Old Covenant, God strictly decided when Israel’s festivals and holidays would be. In the New Covenant world, Christians decide for themselves — the Christian calendar is much more arbitrary. Another aspect of the authority handed to Christians is the fact that Christians are commissioned to take over the world.

So, we can put this all together: 1) Translation; 2) Holidays; 3) Dominion. When Christianity is moving in on a new culture, it will translate itself into that culture, remaking the holidays, and taking dominion. That’s how it works with any dominating force moving in on another culture. We see it with non-Christian influences as well, such as the secular force in the west today.

In Cambodia, the biggest holiday of the year is the Khmer New Year, which is the Buddhist new year celebration. The holiday is celebrated by water fights — people in the streets throwing water at each other. It’s a good way to celebrate, since April, when the holiday falls, is the hottest month of the year. What would happen to Khmer New Year if Cambodia became a Christian nation? Would the celebration of Buddhism still stand? No. Would there still be water fights in April. Most probably. It would just be co-opted by the Christians. In fact, what a great way to celebrate Easter — with the living water of Jesus.

Further reading: Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday – Christianity Today

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