I was recently told the following story by an American professor of religion from Oxford. He and his family use their academic standing to serve as “missionaries” to the British. His connections with other professors and missionaries give him a unique insight into God’s work around the world.
He explained that when the British ruled India, they had many of the upper caste as their servants. With great intentions of sharing the gospel, they had these privileged natives help translate the Bible. When the Brahmins translated the word for “Jesus,” they picked the name of one of their gods, a deity who looked favorably on the upper caste but not on the lower. When the middle and lower class religious leaders were presented with the truth, they turned away, believing that this God only offered salvation to the upper caste.
Now, hundreds of years later, a new translation is being written that reaches to these lower castes. This time around, when the name for “Jesus” was selected, the translators searched for the name of a familiar god in the Indian history and found Bali Rajah. Bali Rajah is an Indian god who was sent to earth, lived and died for humanity before coming back to life. The story of Jesus had been there all along; the people simply needed to hear the full truth from God’s Word in their own language!
Like Paul, explaining the story of the statue to the unknown God in Athens, the Indians needed someone with the whole story to give them hope and salvation. Translations have power to reveal long-standing myths as timeless truths.
So What: Continue to pray for the caste system in India, that God’s Word and the Bible will reach people no matter what their place in the culture.