When Jesus Needs a Filter
Updated: Feb 9
You've been following Jesus all across Judea. The sick are healed, thousands of people fed, He even walked on water! He's the @RealMessiah, and it seems that everything promised is finally coming true. It's just... some of the things He says really drive people away! The man could use a PR rep, or at least a social media manager.
Like when He says He's "the bread of life." That's great, Lord. We have the perfect Instagram post already drawn up:
But then He takes it to the next level and people start to get uncomfortable.
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Everyone starts asking the obvious, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” John 6:51-52 Those temple leaders are constantly trolling his teaching and they'll have a field day with this one.
What?! Get the content strategist in here!!
As you watch the comments explode and people unfollow His account in droves, you wonder if He could have phrased it differently.
The Temptation to Edit Rather Than Translate
If you think I'm exaggerating, read John 6. The Bible translators I was working with on this passage were afraid that Jesus' words would not sit well with their target audience -- and for good reason.
"People will think that Jesus is talking about cannibalism! We cannot say this." They translated "eat of my flesh" as "stay in me" to sound a little less graphic.
What would you do? I agreed that this is definitely one of Jesus' more provocative statements. And their revision is not untrue. But as we read the rest of the chapter together, we saw Jesus' own followers react the same way. In fact, many literally "unfollowed" Him! Together, the team and I reminded ourselves that our ultimate goal as translators is for our target audience to understand what the original audience understood, as much as we can. In this case, that understanding led the original audience to an unfavorable reaction. It was so difficult to transfer that understanding to our new target audience because these translators have such a heart to see more of their people come to faith in Christ. The last thing we want is for others to "unfollow" Him!
Tempting as it may be, it is not our job to run Jesus' social media campaign (thank the Lord!). We don't get to present a high-gloss, likeable, sound-byte version of the Messiah, no matter how noble our intentions may be for doing so.
The Words of Eternal Life, Unfiltered
As we tried various solutions in rendering this verse accurately and acceptably, we came back to Peter's own conclusion, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
The team revised their draft to be more accurate, albeit less palatable (see back translation below). They reasoned, "If people want to know more about what He meant, they will have to keep reading."
Good advice for all of us. Keep reading. Keep following Him, friends, even to unexpected places. No matter how others react, these words have eternal life in every language. Thanks for your faithful support.
"My body is true food and my blood is true drink. The person who eats my body and drinks my blood will be resident in my being and I will be resident in his being. Just as the living Father sent me and I live through the Father, the one who eats my body will also stay alive through me."
-John 6:57, Back Translation
Interested in learning more? Subscribe for monthly updates!