In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:1-9, NRSV)
I am not, nor was I ever, an English major. My ability to read and write and punctuate things correctly did not get me through school. Now I use spell check and type words and wait for the red squiggly line. I just hope I get close enough that the dictionary knows what I meant!
But this passage like many others in the Bible had punctuation galore, and we are not completely sure if it is what was intended. You see the original texts were written or chiseled 16 characters to a line, with no punctuation.
And here we have the quote of Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”
Do we know that was what God wanted? Or should it have been: “The voice of one crying: Out in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord make His paths straight.”
See the difference? That : could be setting the meaning of that passage to something other than what was meant, and how do we know what is the right way to read that?
Maybe we don’t know, maybe both are correct…
Just follow God and it will all be making straight paths, in the wilderness, or crying out in the wilderness.