If you just read it in the original language…..

February 1, 2010 — 3 Comments

 
 
 I don’t know how many times I have heard the words in the title of this post when it comes to the Bible. The pastor of my church even says them rather frequently. It also seems to be a major theme of some of the blogs I occasionally frequent. They seem to say that if you just read the original text it will be obvious that all the current English translations of the Bible have got it totally wrong! They typically take one word and say it does not mean xxxx but instead means something completely different.

I must admit that at this point in my life I don’t have much of a desire to take on the Aramaic or Greek languages. In my very limited knowledge in this area the best logical conclusion to these types arguments seem to be that there is a vast conspiracy among  biblical scholars throughout time to twist Jesus’ words into something that they do not say. It is hard to explain “these obvious differences” without a conspiracy theory. But, another explanation might be that the person using these blog title words has a need to show that he is somehow superior to others and especially all the myriad of scholars that have come before him. A final reasoning might be that the person just does not have the depth of knowledge in this area that those past biblical scholars had. That is something like a teenager believeing that he is much smarter than his parents.  I know I am at times guilty of going off half cocked but not in the language area; I claim total ignorance of that! I’m sure some of the many things I question I just haven’t studied enough. That is why I try to pose my concerns as questions and not answers.

Those of you to regularly read my blog know that I am definitely not a person who implicitly trusts others to tell me what the Bible says. I question many things others just take for granted. But, I just can’t buy into this logic that the Bible translators got it all wrong. There have been probably thousands of Biblical scholars in the last century who spent much of their lives pouring over the contents of the Bible. I do admit that many probably probably had a particular agenda going into their study but why hasn’t someone “fixed” all those errors and come out with a “real” Bible?

As you probably know I cling to the red letters in the Bible. No, I don’t believe that 100% of those words actually came out of Jesus’ mouth. I’m sure some of them the writers just got it wrong or maybe even added their own words, but hopefully that was a rare occurance.  I do trust that most of those red letters were accurately transcribed and were accurately translated from their original language into English for me. We don’t have any of the original texts of the Gospels so again I have to trust that the copies they used to make the present copies we have were, for the most part, faithfully done. To believe otherwise would result in havoc! Even worse than the slippery slope I mentioned a few posts ago 🙂

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3 responses to If you just read it in the original language…..

  1. 

    You know I have to object at least a little on this one, RJ. ;{)

    I don’t know if you speak any languages besides English, but if you do, you know that some things can’t be conveyed in a simple word-for-word translation from language “a” to language “b.” There can be nuances, thoughts, even significant meanings that are lost, or at least obscured, in any translation. No less so with the Biblical texts.

    The problem that drives me back into Greek, is that for so long, “everyone” has simply “known what it says” about certain things, that even if they attempt a new translation, the chance for any real discovery of meaning is slim because the translators inevitably bring their own doctrinal assumptions to the task of translating. This is what I’ve argued regarding 2 Tim. 3:14-17, that because “everyone knows” that Paul is laying out the case for verbal & plenary inspiration of Scripture, nobody notices that VPE isn’t the subject on his mind at all.

    It’s not a conspiracy, so much as it is a failure of imagination, that assumes that 1,700 years of church doctrine can’t be wrong. . .and yet if you believe the Reformers (to pick just one example) had any justification at all, then at their time, 1,200 years of doctrine WERE wrong. . .and if error can be perpetuated for 1,200 years, why not for 1,700?

    I’m not going to claim that you’re an inadequate Christian until you learn Hebrew, Greek, and/or Aramaic. But don’t dismiss every insight those who have studied one or more of those languages comes up with. . .not all are arrogant displays of superiority.

  2. 

    I knew I would get a rise out of you on this one Dan 🙂

    Yes I do speak two other languages (one barely and one pretty fluent) so I understand the difficulty of sometimes finding words. Yeah, the reformation did change things based on different interpretations of the Bible. But I have recently started a comparison between the Protestant and the Catholic Bibles and they appear to be pretty much the same. It seems to be more what the reformers believed the words say and not the words themselves.

    One of the examples of “if you just read…” mentality that I came across recently is where the Bible again and again has Jesus using the word “command”. The person said the Greek word for that is just not that strong; it is more like suggests to him. Of course, the person is from a denomination that minimizes works in a Christians life so I think there is an agenda at work there.

  3. 

    Oh, yeah, that sounds like a major agenda. . .and actually some of Jesus’ command words were quite emphatic too. I dunno what he was referring to, but I doubt it came from good linguistics.

    One good reason for a guy like you to arm yourself with Greek, if you ever were inspired to give it a shot, would be to provide a good defense against that sort of sloppiness. Language is a tool, but as a former boss of mine used to say, “a fool with a tool is still a fool.”

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