Micah Tuesday: Translations, A-B-C, Money, Faith and Deeds

Tan Sri Prof. Dzulkufli Abdul Razak, Vice Chancellor of University Science Malaysia wrote an article on the use of ‘Allah’ in the Malay Bible, Alkitab (Bahasa Indonesia version) in theSun on 11 March 2009.

It would have been easy just to dismiss this article since its premise is flawed from the word go: He compares the Malay translation with the New King James Version when the base text of the Bahasa Indonesia version has never been any English version. Indeed the Alkitab makes it clear that it is based on the Biblia Hebraica text for the Hebrew/Aramaic Old Testament and the Nestle Aland text for the Greek New Testament.

Nevertheless Dzulkifil’s article provides an opportunity to inform Muslims why they cannot help but fail to understand the Bible since they invariably look at the Bible piecemeal in proof-text fashion. Their lack of hermeneutics is evident from the way they try to read the Bible (where the historical and literary context iis often clearly given) in the same way they read the Quran (where the context is often not evident). Without an appropriate hermeneutical framework it is no wonder they end up misreading the Bible and hitting at strawmen.

Imagine, if you will, that you left your country to earn megabucks – let’s say enough money to buy you several houses or start your own business or both – for a few years. Let’s say that when you get to your host country, your employer takes away your passport, tells you exactly where to go, what to do at which time of the day, what time to wake up and what time to sleep.

Your grasp of the language is far from perfect, and you find the communication barrier gets you into trouble. Sometimes, the cultural difference also gets you into trouble. Let’s say you’re signed up as a girl or boy Friday or an au pair, and you give your employer a chicken leg for lunch. Your employer is hugely insulted because it is considered to be the yuckiest part of the chicken, whereas the chicken breast is the most delicious part. Let’s just say that something like that happened.

How then do we pick a prime minister and cabinet ministers whose integrity are beyond question? How do we ensure that every branch of the government – from the legislative, the executive, the judiciary, His majesty’s loyal opposition, the civil service and the fourth estate – perform their duties without any hint of corruption?

What do we expect of someone who wants to be our prime minister?

Our movement against bribery and corruption needs to start at the top. The fish, it is said, always rots from the head. But, given that people are not fish, we can say, “People without a clear vision will perish”. But who defines such a vision?

Leadership always defines followership. Poor leaders develop bad followers. Who then defines whether we must or should still move towards Wawasan 2020? Is Vision 2020 still our popular view of where we want to be as a nation?

Or, has our 20-20 hindsight taught us that we lack the clear 20-20 visibility to have even articulated such a big dream to achieve and seek to achieve, that is the per capita level of the US in 1980, by the year 2020?

We can only be survivors if we accept God’s offer of forgiveness and learn to revere him.

There are two historical events concerning the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ which demonstrate the evil of money politics.

“We are not saved by works but we are saved for works.” (G. Stulac)

Yesterday we began swimming in deep theological waters as we meditated on the subject of faith and deeds. We continue this dangerous swim both today and tomorrow. I am therefore making more use of commentaries, trusting that they will serve as lifebelts enabling us to keep our heads above the water!

“In verse 18 James challenged anyone to be able to claim genuine faith without the authenticating works, and he declares the only way to have genuine faith is to carry it out with deeds. He affirms the necessity of both faith and actions and says he will show the former by the latter.” (George Stulac). Thus, it is not a case of “either..or” but of “both..and”. It is not a case of works being added to faith but of genuine faith including works.

Note that the person involved claims to have faith. James now questions whether this claim can be a genuine one if it does not produce good deeds.

Jesus Christ gave a perfect example of neighbourly love when an expert in the Law asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). In the story that follows (see Luke 10:30-37) there are three parties involved with the man who “fell into the hands of robbers”. Firstly, the robbers whose life motto was “what is yours is mine, if I can get it.” One does not need to be a robber in order to be desperate to wrest a higher position from someone else in the workplace, the society, the organization,the political party or even the church! The priest and Levite passed by on the other side because they lived with their motto “what is mine is mine, if I can keep it.” They were only interested in their own affairs and had no time or concern for those in need. But the Samaritan had a different motto, which he put into practice as he looked at the victim, “what is mine is yours if you need it.” His thoughts, his time, his action and his finance were all at the disposal of the person in need. The despised Samaritan obeyed the Royal Law by showing mercy.

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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