O Death, Where are Thy Arrows?
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I was given the impromptu opportunity to lead a consultant checking session during my last week in Nigeria. We spent the day working through 1 Cor 15:50-58, the culmination of which is quoted above.
Victory Over Death
After struggling with the concepts of "perishable" and "imperishable," the peak of the text loomed before us. The translators explained that their language has no words for victory or sting. Their draft translation instead stated that God had given us the power or strength over death, but this translation needed to communicate not only that God has given us the power, but that the battle is already WON and we have nothing left to fear!
We tried to find a word similar to the "victory" idea when one tribe might claim victory over a neighboring tribe after a battle, but one of them sighed, "English has too many synonyms for the same word! We would just say the others lost and then you know that we won. We do not need another word to say that!"
I had to laugh - I know I tend to use too many words in English when fewer will do!! For their translation, we kept the "power" word, and made it stronger to communicate the idea of "overpowering."
No More Arrows
For "sting," they settled on the word for "arrow" because like scorpions, arrows also sting and kill people.
When I asked what it means to say, "O Death, where is your arrow?" they responded, "Death has no more arrows. It is as if Death came to attack your house or village, but showed up with no arrows! You would laugh! Death cannot do anything to us because he has no weapons at all!"
These are the moments we are working towards in translating the word of God. After struggling for hours, sometimes days, with source texts, target languages, and our own language of communication, his uncompromising glory shines through.
Even when we don't have the words to describe it, the gospel (εὐαγγέλιον - literally, good news) brings victory in the face of death.
Please pray that the good news would continue to bring this language group hope in times of fear. Pray for God's help in finding the right words to communicate what he has done in conquering death on our behalf. Pray for the other 2,000+ language groups who don't have this news yet in their language.
Thank you for your hands, hearts, and prayers in moving this work forward and allowing me to be a part of it. If you're not yet a part of it, learn how to join me here.
And thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!!