With more translations of the Bible than we know what to do with anymore, it can be easy to take this history for granted. Imagine, though, if you will, that you were only able to hear, “Sic enim dilexit Deus mundum ut Filium suum unigenitum daret ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat sed habeat vitam aeternam”? Would it mean much to you? Instead, we hear, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who ever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). To me, as an English speaker, this translation of the Good News of Jesus Christ is far more important than the Latin Vulgate. For that, we celebrate the work of Martin Luther and the work that he did to change the church and change the world.
The work of translating the Good News into every day language continues to this day, though in different ways. The translating work we do one a daily basis does not require one to learn Ancient Greek and Hebrew (though some of us still labor away at that kind of work, too!), but, instead, is the work of us translating ancient teachings about the grace, love, mercy, and goodness of God into the lives we live. We regularly interpret how these attributes of our Lord engage and encourage us in our every day lives. Martin Luther was locked away in his stay at Wartburg Castle while he pondered what the ancient words he labored over meant in German, but we do something similar when we carry our faith through the fields of the Mission Valley, the hallways and classrooms of our school districts, the offices where we work, the houses we keep up, and the forests where we hike, hunt, and fish. The eternal truths that encourage our faith are translated anew each and every day as we show the love of God to every new person we encounter and work to find divine encouragement with every passing moment. The Good News comes to us not only in English or whatever language we are most comfortable with, but also through the hope that we share as we inhabit the world that God created for us and for all living things.