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Not long ago I ran across a modern translation of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy on death. Shakespeare’s original is on the page above it, providing a most instructive comparison.

The translation does a fine job of capturing the passage’s propositional content. I can imagine how much it might help a student reading Shakespeare for the first time. What’s a fardel? or a bare bodkin? The modern rendition clarifies such things nicely. It is, one might say, perfectly not wrong.

It is a good thing to be not wrong. If this page had translated “fardels” as long and burdensome journeys, or “contumely” as fancy, foppish fashion, it would have been misleading, useless, even dangerous in a way.

Still it is possible to be not wrong and at the same time be perfectly dry and colorless, practically dead. This translation page illustrates the point magnificently. Read the translation; then read the original. On one level they mean quite the same thing, yet they could hardly be more different. There is a rightness to Shakespeare’s original that far transcends the not-wrongness of its propositional content as conveyed in the translation.

I think many Christians work hard at translating the Gospel’s propositional content into modern language. We can recognize error a mile away, and we’re quick to correct it. We make it our business, one might say, to be perfectly not wrong.

It is important that we be true in this way. To be wrong is, well, wrong.

Still there is a rightness that transcends not-wrongness. It is the artistry of living a full-color life: a life of creativity, a life of exploration rather than of self-protection, a life of abandonment to God and to others. It is not only not wrong: it is right.

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