My question is this: how do you account for the fact of biblical translation when you appeal to the Bible as the word of God?
And it goes hand in hand with another couple of questions: what version of the Bible do you use? And what is its claim to authority over other versions? Not being a biblical scholar I can’t make any kind of claims to expertise here, but from the briefest of observations it seems clear that the nuances even between English versions can vary wildly between different translations.
Hey Ned. Some really good questions there, thank you. I hope that your questions will prompt those of us who don’t do so already, to quest after more rigorous Biblical study!
In response, I will say straight off that I am no expert in linguistics. And I fear that Facebook is not big enough for a proper and full discussion on Biblical hermeneutics. But some points need clarifying, I think.
First, the Bible does not claim that *all* of its text comes literally from God Himself. Yes, some parts do, such as the Ten Commandments. But others are the *inspired* words of God, recorded by men, with God’s authority. For example, God tells Moses (Deut 18) that He will raise up for them a prophet from among the brethren and that He would put His words in the prophet’s mouth. So, it is not beyond God to speak through man.
(Here, you can see, immediately, why a Facebook discussion of this nature can quickly develop into material for a major thesis)!
Suffice to say, Jesus claims to be God (ie the second part of the Trinity) and He quotes from the Old Testament scriptures (the canon of which was completed over 430 years before He was born), with approval. So *if* you come to the point of accepting that Christ and God are one, you are also accepting that the OT is the ‘word of God’.
Second, you mentioned Nide and ‘dynamic equivalence’. I don’t know much about Nide (other than he was a Bible scholar who had a degree ‘summa cum laude’ followed by a Masters degree in New Testament Greek). I do however know a little more about Wycliffe Bible Translators with whom I understand Nide had a founding hand. Wycliffe specialise in translating the Bible into languages in remote parts of the world that only have spoken language (ie there is no written language). Such translation projects can take many, many years. The translators go and live amongst the people and culture of the target language. Sometimes a single translation is that translator’s life work. I hope that answers one of your points, in some way. So, in this context, it is hardly surprising that ‘dynamic equivalence’ is one (but only one) of the methods used in translation. So far as I can see, it offers a solution to the limitations of ‘formal equivalence’ (or, broadly, literal translation).
A simple example may help: The Norwegian language has a much more limited vocabulary than English. In Norwegian, there is no word for ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’. So if a Norwegian wants to refer to their ‘boyfriend’, they will refer simply to their ‘partner’. If one wants to translate the English ‘boyfriend’ into Norwegian, one cannot do it literally (formal equivalence). One would have to use ‘male partner’ (dynamic equivalence). So, there is nothing sinister in this form of translation if one takes account of (a) the Bible not containing the exact words of God in every instance, even in the original manuscripts, but including the inspired words of God, (b) the spirit and essence of what God intended, and (c) the limitations of the target language.
Third, you mention historic and cultural traditions. All I can say here is that there is that the Biblical Canons (OT and NT) were both complete by 435 AD and that they were accompanied not only by Scriptural material but by other contemporaneous accounts by both Christian and non Christian historians. One would be the Jewish historian Josephus, for example, who I understand was also had a pro Roman agenda.
Finally, that leads us onto the point about what we, as Christians, use as our authoritative text. And I think that this is the most important, and crucial, of your questions. I hope that it will stir some thought amongst my fellow Christians, where needed!
First, and foremost, we should always be ready to justify our doctrine from the Bible. Those that hold doctrine merely because they have been told from the pulpit, or elsewhere, that ‘this is what we believe’ need to sharpen up! That is how doctrinal error, and dare I say it, hurt, creeps in.
Second, you are dead right Ned. We need to check our translations. Some are more faithful to the original Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew texts, than others. Some, such as the Message, or The Living Bible are paraphrases. They can help us understand what is meant but they should not be used for settling doctrine. The Good News Bible could be described as a ‘tabloid Bible’. Personally, I would not use that version at all! If we are looking to determine God’s word on an important topic, we need to be looking across, comparing and contrasting a number of reliable translations, as well as referring back to the original Greek and Hebrew.
How do we do that? By (i) using a Study Bible (which contains scholarly footnotes, Biblical cross references etc.) (ii) using additional tools such as Strong’s Concordance with Greek and Hebrew Lexicon and (iii) other authoritative scholarly material. My own Bible has key Greek words and their definitions included within the text. Another of my Bibles is ‘interlinear’. That is it has the text of the King James Version, the New International Version and the literal Greek side by side across the two facing pages. Armed with these tools, we need to rigorously test doctrine and, aided by revelation of the Holy Spirit (sorry, introducing more questions there), seek to objectively discern the truth of the word of God.
I hope, Ned, that this has given you some insight. I know it will not have answered all of your questions or thoughts indeed, it will have provoked yet more questions – which simply takes me back to the limitations of Facebook posts!! But thank you again for your very helpful intervention. I hope it has provoked thoughts on all sides of this debate.