Bloopers and Teachable Moments

Posted on Posted in Mixed Nuts
By Norm Weatherhead

Earlier this year, I was in Papua New Guinea working with one team of national translators on the book of John.  We were carefully checking that the translation was clearly reflecting the message of John into their language.  One of the terms that often came up was “the Jews”, which sometimes referred to the Jewish people as a whole, but most times was referring to the Jewish leaders who became more and more opposed to Jesus and His ministry.

There was not quite an equivalent term in the language, but we did find that we could call the Jewish authorities either “Jewish head men” or “Jewish big men”.  Everything was going along quite well when suddenly at one point one of our men saw what we had put in the translation and laughed so hard that he nearly fell out of his chair.

When we asked what was so funny, he said that the translation had the words all joined to say “Jewish big head men.”  And instead of intensifying the term to express the idea of “really important leaders”, it gave him an image of some Jewish people who had gigantic heads on them.  We all began to laugh as we pictured the Jewish authorities as “big pumpkin-headed men”.

We fixed the blooper, but then we talked more about this.  We had seen throughout the Gospel of John that the Pharisees, the chief priests and the Jewish elders were very stubborn religious leaders who couldn’t open up their eyes or their hearts to accept Jesus.  It reminded us that we should not become too rigid in our own church traditions to the point that we fail to see Jesus at work among us.  Otherwise, we too may become known as “those stubborn old pumpkin-headed people”.

Norm Weatherhead is a Bible translator and consultant based in North America.

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