Sarah Ruden’s Rebellion Against Our ‘Just the Facts’ Bibles

How her approach to translation recovers the emotion and artistry of God’s Word.

God spoke. And not just the world, but the Bible too came into existence. Then again, Isaiah, Luke, and Paul also spoke, using human voices and tools to do the work we’ve come to expect words to do. It’s been an interesting partnership. Some of us have wanted to consider only one side or the other in this co-endeavor, preferring to think of the Bible as simply and clearly God’s Word, or else discounting the divine and focusing exclusively on varied expressions of ancient religious experiences of . . . something.

But the best and most interesting way to see the Bible has always been to embrace it as fully human and fully divine at the same time. These are our own words on some great godly errand. If we take seriously what the Bible says about itself (insofar as it talks about itself), then the Bible is a divine speech act—a collection of words meant to do things on God’s behalf, to effect change and inaugurate new realities. Yet God has chosen to do all this in and through regular people doing regular human things. Some angry prophet denounces the injustice he sees. A worried leader dictates some letters. Storytellers capture and hold audiences with their skillful narrations. A visionary somehow transcribes his fantastical dreams and nightmares into language, so others might catch a glimpse. Our words, God’s work.

Losing Touch

For a long time now, human words have been more than bare symbols of basic meaning. Maybe that’s what they were when we first started using them. But we’ve learned how to shape those sounds and intonations in special ways to add depth and strength, crafting more powerful and moving expressions of things like pain and humor, beauty and pathos. With these new, …

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