Should Christians pray in Joshua’s name? : Eight words to be reclaimed

I’m reposting an updated version of this post from a couple years ago. I want to expand on a few of them in my next posts…

bible1I believe that the ancient scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the story of God’s mission to restore and renew all things. God is on a mission to restore friendship (the biblical term is “reconcile”) with people and to restore all of the earth – people, cultures, creatures and environment-  to their intended purpose.

The Christian scriptures were originally written in ancient languages that few Americans can read. It’s a beautiful thing that we have so many many translations of the scriptures in English. Recently, I’ve realized that there are many key words in the English translations have not be translated well for contemporary Americans. Of course, I’m joking in asking if we should pray in “Joshua’s” name (although a better translation of Jesus’ name, Yeshua, is just Joshua). Here is my list of words that DO to be reclaimed for an effective communication of the good news in 21st century America:

Christ to Messiah
Christ is not Jesus’ last name, it’s a title. It means “Messiah” or “Anointed One.”  It refers to the Coming One ancient Jewish prophets said would restore the kingdom of Israel, bring total peace on earth and restore humanity to right relationship with God. Often in the New Testament, Jesus was referred to “Yeshua the Messiah of Nazareth.” (This was important because there many other men with the name Yeshua living at the same time.) Xristos is the Greek translation of Messiah. Christ is a translation of a translation.

LORD to Yahweh
It strikes me as relationally odd that English translations still use “LORD” for the name that God revealed for himself in the Old Testament,  YHWH, or Yahweh (traditionally, Jehovah.) Jewish tradition forbade people from using God’s covenant/relational name out of fear that people might misuse this name and break a command. But I wonder if this fear and distancing from God is opposite to what Jesus taught of God as our Father/Papa.  It’s also strange that “Baal,” a head Canaanite deity in the Old Testament which means “Master” or “Lord,” is kept as “Baal” and the word Master/Lord is used for Yahweh.

church2Church to gathering, assembly
The word that Jesus and the early Christians used for the group of disciples (or apprentices – see below) of Jesus was Ecclesia in the Greek. Ecclesia is simply assembly or gathering in the English. It was commonly used of a political assembly of the citizens of a city called to carry out the business of the city.  Jesus seems to have re-filled it’s meaning for his community and it has strong overtones of mission, the Kingdom of God and worship. It certainly had nothing to do with a building, and little to do with a program and a staff team.

Evangelism to good-newsing
At the top of the list of “scary words” for both Christians and not yet Christians is the word Evangelism.  Evangel means “good news.” “Good-news-ism” is about witnessing to something, of communicating a message the news-sender wished to communicate. I like to use the English term, “good-newsing” instead to avoid all the unfortunate meanings it has today.

Preaching to proclaiming, communicating, announcing
Today, most people see “preaching” as the communication/teaching of the bible that happens from the pastor or speaker  to the people sitting in the church.  But the word translated “preach” just means “proclaim” or “announce” and it is almost always used in Acts of the communication of the message of Jesus to those who haven’t yet heard the news. I like to link “preaching” more to the communication of the gospel in any way to those who aren’t followers of Jesus.

Teaching to Training
When I read the New Testament, the word teaching has more of an element of training than didactic teaching. Of course there is information to communicate, but the essence of “teaching” seems to be teaching for transformation, for a way of living.  Jesus said to make disciples…teaching them to obey all he has commanded. How often I’ve heard or read “to obey” literally omitted. (Thought: If two of the church’s main goals then are “announcing the good news” among non-disciples and training disciples, how should a leader’s/elder’s time be used?)

Disciple to apprentice
Jesus, in his final instructions, tells his disciples to go and make more disciples. This word is fairly nebulous in our vocabulary. A closer translation might be something like “apprentice.” The word “student” might work except for the fact that Western culture only knows one type of student – one who sits in a classroom, absorbs information and recites it on a test. A disciple/apprentice/student is one who is mentored by a master teacher in the lifestyle and work of the teacher, for the sake of carrying on the “craft” of the master teacher.

Apostle to Sent One
Most people think of an apostle as either 1) a crazy-haired guy on religious TV or, 2) One of Jesus’  first followers who were uber-holy, super-human, forever remembered in odd religious paintings and artifacts. Jesus seemed to have coined a term when he called his closest group of apprentices “Apostles.”  Apostle just means “sent-one,” or perhaps “missionary,” and the problem is that the English word apostle conjures little picture of sending. I don’t know what a good translation would be. The other gifts/leaders in Ephesian 4:11 could also use a bit of translation work. (Like what JR Woodward is doing is his book, Creating a Missional Culture.)

Would you add more words?
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I wonder if we need a translation of the scriptures in the English that is translated by missionary translators working with theologians and bible scholars.  The Good New Translation comes closest perhaps for me. I dream of a time when Jesus’s apprentices today spend more time helping each other actually DO the things Jesus said and taught, and less time figuring out what the authors meant to get across.