Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Lost in Translation
The story of the Good Samaritan came to life for me this weekend. In a book called, “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration,” a different perspective was introduced.
First, the author explained that Jesus chose a priest and a Levite for very specific reasons; they were experts on topics of salvation and Jewish law. Because they had access to all the scrolls, they were more intimate with the reasons for the law than the rest of the Jewish population. They understood the concept of “neighbor.”
The author then explains that the priest and Levite weren’t “cold-hearted” people, they were afraid to become victims too. The road was dangerous and they would be worried about their safety. Their downfall wasn’t prejudice, non-caring or not knowing who their neighbor included, it was just they couldn’t see past themselves.
The next point the author impressed on me was to say that we’ve mistranslated the original language of the story for the introduction of the Samaritan upon seeing the beaten man. “The Gospel uses the word that in Hebrew had originally referred to the mother’s womb and maternal care.” In other words, the original meaning went beyond the normal caring and into a personal caring, like the concern a mother has for her child. The Samaritan could see himself in the battered victim.
We know the mistranslated word as compassion. For us it means that we are moved with pity to help another. However, in the story’s original wording, the idea Jesus was impressing on his listeners was that the Samaritan’s heart was “wrenched open…heedless of any question or danger.” He couldn’t resist helping the assaulted man.
So where is the science in all this? Why am I bringing it up in this blog? Junk DNA.
I recently had a discussion with a friend over the term, “Junk DNA.” Scientists use this term to describe those letters in our DNA strings that they believe are not being used. They are “left-overs” from our evolution. Scientists reason that since they don’t know what these sequences are for, they must not be used anymore. They are simply pieces of information lost in translation. I disagree.
Language, the way we move our tongue, the sounds we etch from our soul come about because of our created need to communicate. From the time we are infants, our brain translates the audible sounds of others into something we can understand. For more on this, read this article: http://www.firstscience.com/home/articles/humans/science-of-language_19050.html
This ability to use language is in our DNA. Scientists won’t necessarily argue that. What they do not understand is that our emotional, mental and spiritual well being is in our DNA too! There is no junk DNA. It’s all there for a purpose.
I believe our ability to be compassionate comes from the delicate DNA that our Creator has gently placed within each of our cells.
When we don’t communicate well, or have issues communicating, we are a lot like the Samaritan bible story. Something gets lost in the translation. Whether it is our wording for what we want to say, like the English version of compassion, or our inability to see ourselves in our neighbors, we’ve lost the idea of what Jesus is trying to teach us.
The action of compassion—whether through words or actions—defines who we are and what we are to become. Our job is to make sure that we don’t end up lost in the translation.