An update gone squirting awry…

Posted: 1st October 2007 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Hopefully you’ve noticed the RSS feed I put in the right column about a month ago for “My Utmost for His Highest”. I received a mass-market copy of this daily devotional as a graduation gift from the church I attended while in college and have used it on-and-off since then. My dad quite accurately summarizes it as “the thinking man’s devotional” and Oswald Chambers’ reluctance to lower his writing to trite throwaway passages is divine.

My copy is of the original version, with language from its World War I era and Bible excerpts from the translation by James Moffatt. The version on the RSS website (hosted by RBC Ministries, publishers of their own daily devotional, Our Daily Bread) is “An Updated Edition in Today’s Language”, featuring “Jim Reimann’s modernization of the beloved devotional”. I haven’t spent much time with the updated edition, since the original is largely intelligible and I prefer authors’ original words when possible.

However, the following “modernization” in yesterday’s reading caught my eye:

Chambers: “I wonder what kind of finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped?”

Reimann: “I wonder what finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you? Have you been as hard as a marble and escaped?”

First, there’s the NLT’ian approach to “today’s language”, whereby comprehensible thoughts are broken down into even shorter sentences. The tension between faith and thought seems lessened; the “thinking man’s devotional” becomes “every man’s devotional”; is the reward still as sweet for the effort not needed?

marbles.jpgChambers clearly alludes to a game of marbles to illustrate how we “escape” God’s purifying discipline, the image of a hard round marble squirting out of a squeezing “knuckles down” hand and off in some unintended direction. Reimann must have thought that “Today’s” reader would be unfamiliar with marbles, as he has redirected this allusion to the quality of marble, a hard stone “extensively used for sculpture, as a building material, and in many other applications” (Wikipedia).

Now, instead of unintentionally resisting God by our ironically comical nature, we actively resist God’s discipline by putting up a stiff back and hardening our thoughts and hearts. Where, in the original, we cannot help our resistance, now, in the update, we are the cause of it. A small phrase to be sure, but of no small significance, and a shame that a modernization lost the primary image.

Here is an idiom a phrase that has changed meaning even when both original and the update are in the same language. Reflect on the difficulty that Bible translators have, working in multiple languages and references that may have changed context through “updates” such as above. Thank you, God, that we have the quality of translations that we have!

  1. Maybe modern people never played marbles. They are designed to escape a squeeze.

  2. John Hobbins says:

    Thanks for a delightful post.

    Maybe human beings are designed to escape a squeeze, too. Even from their Creator.

    I highlight this post on my blog.