Scottish Gaelic is a notoriously difficult language to learn, partly due to its grammatical structures. Take, for example, this common phrase:
“Alba gu bràth” = Scotland forever
That’s all well and good, if not a bit cheesy, but countless times I have seen it written as:
“Alba gu brath” = Scotland (for) spy/ Scotland (for) treachery
More than a slight difference!
It’s all down to that little stroke above the à. That little stroke is called a grave, and it appears above the vowels in various words of the same spelling. Its appearance can drastically change the meaning of the word, and indeed the meaning of the whole sentence or text.
It’s a very easy mistake to make, and in a glance it makes no real difference to the phrase—it still pretty much reads the same. Only on a more careful inspection do you notice the difference, and only once engaged in a deeper study do you see the massive difference it has made to the text.
Comparing the Words
Countless times in Scripture we are told to carefully study the word of God. The study of this word guides our steps (Psalm 119:105), it helps to keep us from sin (Psalm 119:11), it is a weapon that can outperform any other (Hebrews 4:12), it nourishes us (Luke 4:5) and it is part of the armor of the Christian (Ephesians 6:10-18). Not just part of the armor, it is our only form of attack—it is our sword. And like a fighter with his sword, if we are not well practiced in its use then we will not fight effectively with it.
Since the Bible is our sword, our form of attack, this makes it a prime target for our enemy. The enemy is expert at trying to twist and turn the sword so much that it becomes of no use to us.
We can see this right back when our first parents fell into sin. What tempted them to sin? It was, of course, Satan twisting God’s words: “Did God actually say…” In Genesis 3:1-5 we see the first time the enemy twists the words of God for his own ends, and we see it again when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness—Satan came to Him with parts of scripture, attempting to make Jesus sin. How did Jesus stop Satan? He answered his twisted scripture with Scripture.
Changing the Meaning
It’s no different in our world today. There are plenty groups willing to twist the word of God to their own ends. One example is found in the New World Translation, which is the scripture used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you take a brief glance through it, it looks just the same as any other Bible translation, but like our Gaelic phrase, on closer inspection, there are some small changes in the text that completely shift the meaning and purpose of the Gospel.
A subtle, but incredibly important, difference is to be found in their translation of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”
One extra letter inserted here by the Jehovah’s Witness version of the Bible, and Christ is robbed of His divinity; His special place at the right hand of the Father is gone. He is now just one god among many. That one letter changes all that we believe Christ to be, and if He was not who He claimed to be, He was a liar, and if He was a liar then we have no hope for salvation. By that small twist in the word of God, we see the whole plan of salvation collapsing down. There are plenty of other examples of slight changes throughout the New World Translation that Jehovah’s Witnesseses use to throw out the divinity of Christ.
Our reading and study of the Bible cannot just be glancing or superficial; if we are to grow, stand strong and be able to defend our faith, we need to know and understand what Scripture says, exactly. That way, if someone challenges or asks us why isn’t the New World Translation right, or why not the Qur’an or the book of Mormon, we can give an answer.
We have to be, as Peter wrote, “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). And as Paul wrote to Timothy, “be ready in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
What is this hope that the Christian has? It is the sure hope that we are not our own, we were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), that we worship a Savior who knows our afflictions and weakness yet is himself sinless (Hebrews 4:15), that we worship the King who came down out of Glory to die at the hands of his own creations (Colossians 1:16), we worship a Savior who promises to one day come back and collect his church to be with him for all eternity. (Matthew 24:31)
Without Scripture, without the word of God, we would know none of this. So, since we do have access to the very words of God, we should take more care in the study of them. Of course, we won’t understand everything we read; in fact, if in our reading we have no questions at all, then maybe our reading isn’t going very deep.
We have to pray that the Spirit would open our eyes to what is being read, after all he inspired the writers on the first place. This is also one of the reasons that we have the Church, so we can, as brothers and sisters, discuss these passages with one another, and together grow stronger in the use of our only weapon.
“The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.” – Charles Spurgeon