patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Saturday, December 29, 2012


For Mark “the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God”—that is, the One God Sent—begins with the one God sent before he sent Jesus—namely, John the Baptizer—to prepare Jesus' way. Mark substantiates his claims about John's being this intended way-preparer from Isaiah, re-envisioning Isaiah’s original bodiless voice’s demand that his listeners “prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3 NIV) as a direct promise from God:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

As always in the gospels, the writer’s scripture quoting is inexact. If you’ve ever tried to translate something from one language to another—especially something in verse—you know why. Translating’s hard, languages are very different, and the ancient writer’s audience (intended and inadvertent, contemporaneous and current) and intentions—neither of which, of course, can be known with any certainty—may might not be the same as the translator’s. Isaiah’s purpose was to inform, I’m guessing. Mark’s, clearly, was to substantiate his claims from the prophetic writings of Christianity’s Hebraic precursors.

You need to keep in mind, too, that you are reading these two quotations from scripture in yet another translation—in this case, the New International Version—and that the Old versus New Testament translations were almost certainly executed by two entirely different groups of linguistic and literary experts, who have their own intentions and audiences operate under their own linguistic and theological constraints. (We believers often avoid thinking about how dependent our understandings of scripture are on the murky intentions of possibly fallible writers and translators, but those on the margins of believing don’t avoid thinking about these matters, so I think it’s important, rather than relying solely on the Holy Spirit to smooth things over, to take them up ourselves.)

Somewhere in the midst of all these potentially conflicting purposes and audiences and constraints and fallibilities lies this change from Isaiah’s call to prepare the way and Mark’s confirmation that this way was being prepared through John’s desert baptisms. And since my own purpose is to discover in scripture new ways of growing my own faith in the One God Sent, my discovery today is that we are all called, as John was called in Isaiah and as Mark was called in Jesus’ own generation, to prepare Jesus’ way. To “make straight new highways in the desert for our God.”

If you’re like me, “highways in the desert” make you think of Texas. I’m sure, though, that there are others besides Texans—my spiritually evolving daughters and students, for example—for whom I am called to aid in the preparation of Jesus’ incarnation in their lives—his embodiment in their dry flesh—as well as his fleshing out of my own faith.

So, I guess that means God's work entails (and I'm guessing this is obvious to anyone reading, but I am a slower reader than most) evangelism—the assignment, that is, of Deuteronomy 6:7: talking about the good news when I get up and lie down and sit at home and walk down the road as a means of helping others and, most especially, myself to believe ever more genuinely in the One God Sent.


  1. I know so many Christians who question the accuracy of God's word for some of the reasons you mention. I am confused as to how someone can really believe that God created the universe and all that is in it including the laws that govern it, and then not believe that he is capable of smaller miracles like ensuring that the Biblical translators rendered an accurate translation and that the right books were chosen to comprise the Bible. This seems inconsistent to me. Can God be outwitted by mere men?

  2. Still, as believers we have to confront the reality of mistakes in translations (they exist) and additions to scripture to clarify some odd point (there are lots) and just the plain old fallibility of all things of our world, the Bible included. It is just as frail as we humans are--even though we were made in God's image. If we don't want to talk about this, we prepare the way for others to trip on the details.

  3. Are there mistakes in the scriptures or are the scholars mistaken? Is there an indisputable example or are there alternate theories for each? Is a change a mistake or a Spirit driven alteration? Is the Bible fallible? It hasn't failed me yet. Faith is a requirement of whatever answers we choose.

  4. All good questions. But we have to ask them, I think, and honor them--and God--by taking them seriously.