I’ll have the Locust Bisque -or- Verb up, Homie!!

In the english NIV Bible, John 1 starts: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. I have always loved that picture. It feels calm and timeless to me. It feels still. And I like that.

And then I learned Spanish…And it ruined everything. (Okay, maybe not “everything”…but it ruined a lot of stuff for me. Shut up! I am NOT being “all dramatic”!) So here’s the thing; The Spanish VNI (NIV) translates John 1 like this: En el principio ya existía el Verbo, y el Verbo estaba con Dios, y el Verbo era Dios.

I always think it’s weird that the english translation says “Word”, but in Spanish it says “Verb”. Now, I can be kind of nit-picky about stuff like this, but, in my opinion, ”word” and “verb” have very different meanings. In my mind, a “word” just is. But a “verb” is, like…doing something.

I’m gonna be honest with you. I really liked the picture that I had of Jesus, just, like, floating around in space, kinda chilling out, you know, relaxing and stuff. He’s in no hurry. He’s “the Word”. And all a word has to do is be spoken. And ultimately, it’s up to the speaker to give it power or not, to make it beautiful or not, to make it meaningful or not.

But Jesus as “the Verb”? That just sounds…busy. That sounds like work. Like Jesus was there, in the beginning…with a job. And that conjures images of Jesus doing stuff, planning, preparing, movin and shakin…I don’t know. But I don’t like it. I prefer Calm Jesus with Nothing to Do.

That’s because I want to be like Jesus. I strive every day to be like Jesus. But I want to be like space-man Jesus, lazing around until it’s time to be spoken. Are you feelin’ me?

At this very moment, I’m watching the Hallmark Channel. (I’m not even going to try and say that I’m being like Jesus, although laying on the couch, writing a blog, and watching crap TV does fit with my ideal picture of “life of a Christ-follower”. Just saying.) So I’m watching this horribly lame, made-for-TV movie about some genetic grasshopper experiment gone awry, and now these crazy, fast-breeding, extra-hungry locusts are eating all of the crops in the whole world…and some people. And it’s hilarious!

Don’t misunderstand. I am not sitting here getting kicks out of the low-budget destruction of the human race. It’s not like that at all. It’s funny, A) because the main guy’s name is “Peter Axelrod” and that just cracks me up. I can’t explain it. But every time anyone says “Get Peter Axelrod on the line.”, or, “Only Dr. Axelrod has the answer!”, I expect, like, a hot nurse and a shirtless pizza boy to appear in the next frame. It makes me chuckle.

And B) because of this: Someone spent the time and money adding Spanish subtitles to this gem of a film. And, it appears that the only spanish translation for the word “locust” is “langosta”. Which also mean “lobster”. So the subtitles say things like “Run!! The LOBSTERS are coming!” and “These lobsters are unstoppable!”, which paints an entirely different picture, doesn’t it? Lobster in place of locust? I mean, lobsters are creepy, and they have those big pinchers with rubber bands on them and everything. But, a “swarm” of beady-eyed lobsters flopping their way through a Nebraska corn field, click, click, clicking at the air with their one big claw doesn’t really translate into terror. Lobsters are just funny. And delicious.

Locusts = Terrifying
Lobsters = Funny/Delicious
Lobsters + Dr. Peter Axelrod x really bad acting² – money + a kitschy script = HILARIOUS!

So Spanish ruined this movie for me, too.

No, I’m kidding. Truly, I love what learning this language has done to my mind. It’s forced me to look at all kinds of things, like movies, and books, and news reports and, most especially, the Bible in new ways. I wish I had always seen the world with these eyes, eyes that ask questions, that want to know more, that want to know “why”.

Granted, it’s a lot more work for me to read the Bible now than it ever has been before. And it’s a lot more interesting, too. Because I’m no longer satisfied with the interpretations that I’ve been handed by men, I’m always trying to find the original, to get as close as I possibly can to THE word that God intended for His inspired work. And sometimes it changes the whole picture.

So. Locust…or lobster? Word…or Verb? I really don’t know.

But it is weird, isn’t it? What a difference one tiny Word can make…



  1. http://abebedorespgondufo.blogs.sapo.pt/ on January 10, 2010 at 2:41 pm


  2. curiousceridwen on January 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Google reader makes it soooo easy to just be a lurker. I mean really, the effort required to click through to your ACTUAL site and leave a comment is just way too, um, verbo…but I had this really funny comment to make. I was going say, Jamie, I'm afraid Spanish hasn't just ruined Hallmark movies and the Bible…it's also affected your English…but the funny little homonym mix up I spied you have apparently already found and fixed. Apparently google reader doesn't update when you make a correction. Oh well!

    Verbo is weird though. Makes me want to know what the greek word is that we got such different ideas from. And out of curiosity, are there any passages that seeing in a different language really opened up for you?

  3. Martin Frost on January 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    "Logos" is translated "Palabra" in two versions that can be found on http://www.biblegateway.com:

    Biblia en Lenguaje Sencillo

    It is also translated "Palabra" in the "Dios Habla Hoy" version which is the Spanish version of the Good News bible.

    So, it's not necesarily incorrect to translate it thus.

    It did rather surprise me too when I started to learn Spanish in Argentina but I like it. After all, we have a "doing" God, a God who really does role up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty.

  4. Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras on January 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Interesting – I have had almost this EXACT internal conversations about the exact same verse. I saw it in church the other day and sat there stumped about it. There was another passage, and I thought that I just didn't like the Spanish translation at all! It provoked a totally different meaning of the understanding I've had on this verse – boy do I wish I could remember which it was. But that just showed me how important it really is to have a good grasp of BOTH languages, so when you are trying to have a conversation with someone about something really important – say like salvation – that you say it RIGHT! Sigh…alas I have a long way to go. If I remember the verse I'll be sure to let you know.

  5. ShikaShika on January 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    This is my favorite blog of yours. I don't know why. I like space-man jesus, too.

  6. Anonymous on January 10, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Jamie, can you believe it? I bet you and I were the only losers watching that stupid movie lastnight! There just didn't seem to be anything else on! Today anytime I saw electric lines, I thought about fried locust. Also, sorry to tell you, langosta is the correct translation for locust. – Kari

  7. Jamie on January 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Haha! I cannot believe someone else was watching – it as SO awful!!.

    And I know langosta is locust, but it does ALSO mean lobster, right?

    Sheesh, my spanish is terrible, but it would be extra embarrassing to have written an entirely irrelevant blog because of it. Not to mention the fact that I was shouting "Boil em' in a pot and dip em' in BUTTER!" at the TV! 😉

  8. Anonymous on January 10, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Biggest sister,

    Could it mean "In the beginning there was action, and the action was with God, and the action was God." I think I might like that better than space Jesus. It would mean that He really worked it out. I mean making it all in a time crunch is no laid back task.

    Anyway, I like to think of God as a protector… maybe its action MOVIE God. Wrapped up in bullets and strewn with AKs and machettes. (Maybe a word got left out and the real quote is "in the beginning there was action movies, and the action movies were with God, and the action movies are God.")

    Love you!
    Littlest sister.

  9. queliperu on January 10, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    In spanish there are two different animal species and both are called "LANGOSTA".
    Langosta from the sea (lobster) and langosta the insects (like the plagues in Egypt).
    It is very contradictory to me that a missionary wants to be "a spaceman Jesus: just a word laying around"
    Jesus is a verb, not a noun. In spanish this verse is a huge revelation, brings conviction that Jesus IS God.

  10. Jamie the Very Worst Missionary on January 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks, queliperu, for backing up my translation of langosta. I'm relieved to know I wasn't completely mistaken.

    I tend to be a contradictory sort of human, which has earned me the (self-proclaimed) title of this blog…along with some other (more colorful) names. But, what I was alluding to with "Space-man Jesus" was that I fall into the trap – like so many others – of liking the IDEA of following Christ as long as it's easy.

    I never said it was right.

    I may be the very worst missionary, but I ACT on my faith every single day, in purposeful emulation of Jesus. So, what I'm saying is, "space-man Jesus" was a half-joke, half-confession, NOT a proclamation of lifestyle.

    And don't you think it's odd that you can make a statement about the Bible – God's inspired word to ALL people – that starts off "In Spanish this verse…" That's the whole point of this post – just that I would like to know what God is saying in His language, and that learning Spanish has helped me learn what questions to ask.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Your input is very much appreciated!!! 🙂

  11. Kelly on January 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Jamie: I love you and your thoughts of life and film! Welcome to the "why" club!!!! I live there…and have often realized that so do most three year-olds! Ha. I love the verb-Jesus….always full of possiblities and promise. (And wasn't it the Holy Spirit that hovered over the waters? Maybe He's the One you were thinking of. 🙂 On the topic of the movie: I would be MUCH more frightened of a pack of lobsters chasing me than the grasshoppers. I mean, picture that!! Dang claws. Happy Monday…

  12. Dad on January 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Can you imagine ordering lobster at a Costa Rican restaurant and receiving a BBQ'd skewer of locusts?

  13. deemus on January 11, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Interesting post Jamie. I usually come here for the comedic relief, and here you go and challenge my faith. What nerve. (giggle)

    I think God does call us to action. This morning I was reading a book from a fellow blogger. He told a story of a friend of his. This guy's dad was the product of a rape.

    The dad took his mother and left Georgia for Texas. They started a new life. He married and raised a family. Lived his life as a good man.

    The author's moral: "sometimes evil begats evil. And somtimes good people snuff it out."

    The man's father lived a godly life, led his children to Christ and stopped the evil that started his life. When we follow Christ with our actions, we open ourselves up for God's redemption power.

    Its a win – win.

  14. Theo V. on January 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I started reading the french bible because:

    1.) I wanted to learn better french
    2.) In case I had a conversation with a frenchie I could tell them about the Bible in French

    but then…

    1.) The bible in French is really archaic… it would have been like speaking Shakespear to English people
    2.) I figured it would be cheesy if that was the only french I knew.

    But it did open up my mind to different ways of looking at the same scriptures I previously glossed over. Maybe it was because I had to read really slowly or because I started paying more attention to what it was saying…

  15. Meg on January 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Read "The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three" where the main character encounters the "lobstrosities" — you'll never think of lobsters the same way again. Every time I walk past the tank of lobsters at the Publix seafood counter, I think of that book. WAY scarier than killer locusts 🙂

  16. Eli on January 26, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    I just found your blog a few weeks ago, and I love it. And we're neighbor missionaries…I'm in Nicaragua. I'd hate to burst your bubble, but there are much worse missionaries out there than you (and they will probably try to tell you evil, wicked, mean, and nasty things about me.)

    I never went to seminary, but my great-grandpa did, and I inherited his Greek lexicon. When I read "logos" and then looked it up in the lexicon, it kinda changed the Bible for me…in a refreshing JESUS IS SUPER MORE HOLY THAN WE THINK kinda way, if you know what I mean. Here's what the books on Greek say:
    Logos was first used in 600BC by the philosopher Heraclitus, to describe a divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe.
    Something said, word, message, account, thought, settlement of an account, value, reason, grounds.
    So I read, really read, for the first time, "The reason for everything existing and the way it was brought about, was an account and the settlement of that account. The reason was with God and God was the reason. Everything that has ever been made was made through him, and apart from him nothing has existed."

    THAT is Jesus 🙂
    Blew my mind. I bought a Greek Bible after that.

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