There were a number of comments on my last post regarding our confidence in the Bible. I think it is necessary to clarify some rather important points, as they are the basis for my investigation into the translation process. And although I expect that no one would assume this, I am not a translation scholar, and am not all that well read on the subject, though lately I have certainly been doing some reading.
1. No Bible translation is perfect. Do not confuse this with the known fact among serious Christians that the Bible itself is completely perfect.
2. No Bible translation is inspired. I hesitate to state this, but it is important to separate this from the first point. It is not suggesting that God is uninvolved in any translation process. I am still working through the details of this, and will have to devote a later post to it. God did not inspire men to pen His words in German, Italian, Latin, or English. He inspired them in their own languages: Hebrew and Greek.
3. There are many Bible translation philosophies. Knowing which translation philosophy has been employed in the translation(s) you use should be important. And related to this, there is a huge difference between a paraphrase and a translation, at least from a textual integrity perspective. The two primary philosophies could be labeled “word for word” and “thought for thought.” There are many variations of these, and I plan to devote a number of posts to further details on this specific topic.
4. There is a need for “standardization” within a body of believers. For the sake of unity, it is important for any assembly of believers to clearly identify a “translation of choice.” There is certainly a very good point in the argument that not doing so can lead to confusion among the general body. The pastor should consistently use the same translation from message to message so that the focus of the people is not “hey, my Bible doesn’t say that.”
5. There is no reason for discouragement. I am certainly not suggesting that the only real way to know and understand God is to read the original manuscripts in Greek and Hebrew. And I am not suggesting, as I have seen in a few articles, that all translations are profitable. Rather, with the proper understanding, we can learn so much more by being diligent about learning the “why” of various passage translation choices. And we are commanded to study to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the word of truth. It sure would be curious to know how rightly divide if we do not take into account the original languages and their context and related culture.
Finally, it is of utmost importance that any study about the Bible not take the place of the study of the Bible. I am mindful of this, and trust that you are, too.