What Is Transliteration?

For those who don’t know, a transliteration is a word that is not translated into English (or any other language), but is instead written in the original language (or as a slight corruption of the word in the original language). For example, the word “Baptizo” in Greek means to whelm, to cover wholly with a fluid. In English, we would translate this word as immerse, but the New Testament translators decided not to translate “Baptizo” at all. Otherwise, we would read Acts 2:38 as, "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" Instead they transliterated “Baptizo” into a similar sounding word, “Baptize.” Of course, the meaning remains the same.

As Christians, we don’t have any problem using transliterated words when studying, teaching or debating. Translated or transliterated, they are still Biblical. Therefore, using terms like “baptize” or “Bible” are on an equal par with “immerse” or “THE Book” However, I personally find the word “Bible” less confusing.

In any event, transliterated words are not the same as made-up words or phrases sometimes used by denominations and increasingly by some of our brethren. My favorite made up term is “Foreign Evangelism” – as if the evangelism in Bucharest or Beijing is any different from the evangelism in Birmingham or Biloxi. I have heard preachers and elders say, “We don’t support ‘Foreign Evangelism’ because we have too much to do here at home.” My question is always this: “Where is ‘here at home’ to you? Your next door neighbor? The people in your city? The people in your country? The people in North America? The people in the Western Hemisphere? Give me a break! God’s perspective is global, so ours should be as well.

Yes, we need to talk to those in our backyard, but we need not be so provincial that we forget to “go out into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” or at least support those who do. I am also aware that churches have limited means and must make decisions and prioritize, but come on! Do we really need yet another preacher in Tampa or Nashville or Alabama (yes the whole state) when we have virtually nobody preaching on the East Coast or in New England, not to mention the rest of the world? If you were running a company, you would be missing out on some great money by traipsing across same weary ground over and over again while ignoring eager, developing markets. But we’re not losing money, are we – we’re losing souls.

So instead of talking about, “Personal Work” and “Foreign Evangelism,” why don’t we just use the appropriate Biblical word, simply “Evangelism”: “to announce the good news (the gospel) – to declare, bring glad tidings -- to preach,” -- and then stretch our minds around the concept of evangelism as a global objective – to see things from God’s perspective, as is revealed to us in His Book.

Unfortunately, these are not the only made-up words used by brethren. There are a whole host of manufactured words and phrases that are used with reference to preachers as well. The three most irritating to me are, “Hire, Fire and Try-out” These phrases are a crest of ignorance upon those who use them when talking about preachers. I used to say, “Well, people just use these words accommodatively. They really do understand the relationship of the preacher to the church.” I don’t say this any more because a new generation has arisen that doesn’t understand that a preacher works for God and is not a hireling of the church. I believe we have borrowed this idea from denominationalism in an effort to tidy up God’s system – to make evangelists into “pastors” (in the denominational sense) and worse, into employees.

Hence. . . the need for Christians to use Bible names for Bible things. What is merely accommodative language today leads to error tomorrow.

By - Alfred Regis

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