Why is the Amish Voice not written in German?, By A.B.
By Joe Keim
November 1, 2019
Please take us off your mailing list. Why is the Amish Voice not written in German instead of English? Something’s not right about that since the main language for any Amish anywhere is German.
Sincerely, A. B., PA
As always, we will honor your request and cancel your subscription to the Amish Voice. However, before we separate ways, I would like to share a few thoughts concerning languages.
According to Genesis 11:1, there was a time when the whole world spoke one language. But then, one day, the people got together and decided to make a name for themselves by building a tower that would supposedly reach all the way to heaven. This upset the Lord, so He confused their language, and they were not able to understand each other. Today, there are approximately 6,500 spoken languages in the world.
Some questions for us to consider:
Do you ever wonder what language is used in heaven? Is it Hebrew, Greek, German, PA Dutch, or English?
Is one language more holy than another?
In the community I grew up in, some ministers believed that German was more holy than all other languages, including our mother tongue: PA Dutch. Therefore, while preaching, ministers used as many German words as possible and frowned on people who read from a Bible translated in English.
It was hinted to me one time that German is the language that God, Jesus, and the angels in speak in heaven. I believed it so much that I felt guilty whenever I read the Bible in English. I eventually stopped reading the Bible altogether because my guilty conscious kept me from reading the English translation, and I had such a hard time understanding the German translation. So I was growing up, not reading the Bible at all.
I look back now and wonder: “Were there others who struggled with the same issues as me?” I’m guessing so. A few years ago, I felt a deep desire in my heart to pass out English translated New Testaments to an Amish community in Wisconsin. A day later, the members of the community got together and burned every single copy. Why? I was told they would not accept anything other than Bibles, translated in German. I also recall being at a funeral in northern Indiana where a deacon had such a hard time reading from the German Bible that he finally laid it down and asked attenders to read the passage at home.
Of course, my question would be: if you don’t understand German, or you understand English better than German, why not just read the Bible in English? Did we not attend school for eight years so we could learn how to speak, read, and write in English? If PA Dutch is a SPOKEN dialect, and German is the least understood, why not turn to English – our best understood language in written form? This should be even more true when it comes to God’s Word and our final and eternal destination.
Some more questions for us to consider:
If a Russian speaking woman asked you for a Bible, would you not hand her one in the language she understood best?
If you prepared to go on a trip around the world, would you choose to navigate using a map written in PA Dutch, German, or English?
Think about it! If you don’t want to get lost or end up in enemy territory, you would obviously grab a map written in a language you understand best. Why? Because taking chances of losing your life is out of the question. You want to get to your destination unharmed, on time, and as quickly as possible.
Then why are some adamant, inflexible, and so determined to enforce the Bible in a language we do not understand very well? Is language so much more important than knowing Jesus and the way to God?
Five hundred years ago, when the Catholic church was in a similar situation, the church leaders rejected Martin Luther’s German Bible. Instead, they continued to enforce the Latin translation. And just like German in our day, Latin had become a least understood language of their time. Therefore, the common man made two very important mistakes: he stopped reading his Bible, and he relied on church leaders to tell him what God requires. In their situation, the church leaders had become so corrupt and focused on traditions that the pure and simple gospel of Jesus Christ was lost. Yes, lost! And, because it was lost, men and women like us did not know the way to God.
Languages are a tool by which we communicate with each other. Languages change from one generation to another. Dictionaries need to be updated all the time. The language that is most popular today may not be five hundred years from now.
First Cor. 14:8–11 says: For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise, ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore, if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
— Joe Keim
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