One of my favorite bible translations is Da Jesus Book. This is a translation from Greek to Hawaiian Pidgin. This pidgin (properly a Creole if you are a stickler for linguistic accuracy), like many of the world’s pidgins, arose in the context of diverse people needing to speak together. On Hawaii, peoples from Hawaii, Japan, Philippines, China, Portugal, America and other places were brought together. Some were indigenous, some immigrants brought from their homeland to work the crops and cattle, some as exploiters, or adventures.
But the people needed to speak together and pidgin was the language that emerged. It is the most common language spoken in Hawaii today and has its own grammar, words and usage. The language is one that allowed for greater inclusiveness, and it is a rich enough language to capture some things in the Greek NT that are missed in standard English. Still it is close enough to English to be understood by English speakers. This allows me to draw out some things I’m thinking about like inclusiveness. And since pidgin evolved to make the Hawaiian Islands more inclusive it serves two purposes in this post!
The scripture I want to explore opens on a scene where Jesus has appeared on the banks of the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection and has directed Peter and some of the apostles, who have gone fishing, where to cast their nests. They make a haul, bring it ashore, and sit down to a fish dinner. After a nice meal Jesus begins the following conversation:
15 Afta dey pau eat, Jesus wen aks Simon Peter, “Eh Simon, John’s boy. Tell me dis: You get mo plenny love an aloha for me den dese guys get, o wat?”
Peter tell um, “Eh, fo shua, Boss. You know I yoa friend.”
An Jesus wen tell um, “Kay den. Feed my baby sheeps.”
16 Den Jesus aks um one mo time, “Eh Simon, John’s boy. You get love an aloha fo me, o wat?”
Peter tell um, “Eh, fo shua, Boss! You know I yoa friend.”
An Jesus tell um, “Kay den. Take care my sheeps.”
17 An den one mo time, Jesus aks um, “Eh Simon, John’s boy. You my friend, o wat?”
Den Peter wen come all hurt inside, cuz now three times awready Jesus go aks him. He wen say, “You my friend, o wat?” So Peter tell um, “Boss! You know everyting! You know I yoa friend.”
Jesus tell um, “Feed my sheeps.
18 You know wat I mean? Den I like tell you dis too: Befo time, wen you was one young guy, you used to put on yoa clotheses an tie yoa belt an go weaeva you like. Bumbye, you goin come one old guy. Den you goin stick out yoa hands an one nodda guy goin tie you up an take you one place you no like go.”
19 (Jesus wen talk lidat fo tell Peter wat goin happen bumbye, how Peter goin mahke fo show how awesome God stay.)
Den Jesus tell um, “Come on! Stay tight wit me an be my guy.”
Notice, that in the first instance Jesus asks him about love in general, Greek Agápe, which gets translated in the KJV ‘Charity’ and here ‘love and aloha.’ Then it switches to ‘Philia’ in the Greek and get’s translated ‘Friend’ here. (Don’t ask me for a nuanced reading here, go to Kevin for that, if I’ve misread, my point still holds).
This has some pathos that comes out in the pidgin, with Jesus asking twice, so you love me in general, like the aloha we give tourists (to place them in a Hawaiian Island cultural context)? And all three times Peter insisting more, “I am your friend.” And finally Jesus, “Are you? Are you really my friend.” And Peter insisting, emphatically, “I am. I am your friend.”
How to be His friend? “Feed my sheeps.”
Which is also how we can participate in, “Come on! Stay tight wit me an be my guy.”
Pidgin was developed so that diverse people can talk and communicate. It is inclusive. Opening. It allows people of different ethnic and genetic and cultural backgrounds to flourish together.
I worry that there are forces in the world that are trying to exclude. To cast people into being ‘other,’ unworthy of being fed, cared for, and deserving full dignity as persons. Whereas pidgin allowed the bringing down barriers, we live in an age of fences, based on the fear of the other. Contrary to that we know about fear—that it is ‘love’ itself that ‘casts out all fear.’ The very context of what it means to be ‘one of Jesus’ guys’ (‘Guys’ in pidgin (as in Utah) is gender inclusive) is to love and feed others.
We can draw our boundaries, barriers, and cling to the accidents of our birth as somehow inviolate and use them as an excuse for dismissing others. We can erringly hold ourselves as better then the other ‘guy’ by right of birth. We can, as Peter did in the setup of this scene, go fishing i.e., make the concerns of our profession, our politics, our lack of vision, blind us to what it means to be a citizen of God’s Kingdom rather than a particular country.
Being a member of God’s Kingdom demands things of us. Charity? Yes. But more, if we want to claim, “Eh, fo shua, Boss! You know I yoa friend.”
Kay den. Feed my baby sheeps.
Da Jesus Book. 2000. Wycliffe Bible Translators. Orlando, FL.