Saturday, February 9, 2013

Harshness Toward Modern English Translations

     Translators, unlike the original writers of sacred scripture, are  not  guided by
the Holy Spirit in their work. The men who wrote  Old  and  New  Testament
scripture were supernaturally guided by the Spirit of God in their work, thereby
insuring  the infallibility  or  inerrancy  of   the  original  writings.  (Nehemiah 9:30;
1 Corinthians 2:13;   Ephesians 3:5;   2 Timothy 3:16;   2 Peter 1:20-21)    All
translations  of   the Hebrew, Aramaic, and  Greek  texts  have  errors of various
kinds. Sometimes the errors reflect the theological prejudices of  the translators.
At other times the errors reflect the academic  limitations  of  the  people who
translate. An  error  is  an  error  whether  it  is  motivated  by  theological  or
academic considerations. On the other hand, we  should  be careful  not  to
harshly  judge  a  translation of the scriptures before we know all the facts.

     I    have   heard   preachers   say,   "You    couldn't    give    me    a    New
International Version  Bible." Why not?  "It  is shot full of Calvinism." The  same
preachers do not hesitate  to use Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the 
New Testament  when  they want to define New Testament words. The fact is:
Joseph Henry Thayer was a Unitarian and did not believe  in  the deity of Christ.
This fact alone does not make him an incompetent lexicographer. His work must
be evaluated in totality. (I     have   discussed    this    in    my   biblical   languages 
research    blog. The NIV is not
perfect,   neither   is   it    "shot  full  of  Calvinism."  It   is  a  version written in
understandable,  modern,  idiomatic  English.  It  was   not  designed  to  be a
predominantly  modified  literal  version. The  goal  of  the  translators  was  to
combine readability and accuracy, albeit with mixed results. Nevertheless it is a
good reading Bible and generally accurate. Most of the Calvinists I have known
used  the  King  James Version  in their preaching and study. Many of those who
malign the NIV use the New King James Bible, and they seem oblivious to the
fact that many of those who translated it were Calvinists.

     I have heard other preachers say, "I wouldn't have a Revised Standard Version
Bible in my library." Why not? "It was translated by theological liberals who denied
the virgin birth of Christ." They usually say this in view of the fact the KJV and the
ASV read "a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son" in Isaiah 7:14, but the RSV says,
"a young woman shall conceive and bear a son." First, the RSV does not deny the
virgin birth of Christ. It is translating the Hebrew word almah which means "a girl
of    marriageable   age,  damsel,  maiden,  young  woman." The   fact   that   the
RSV translates almah with the words "young woman" is not a denial of Christ's
virgin birth. Second, it is an attempt to accurately convey what the word almah
means in the Hebrew text. The  RSV teaches  the  Lord's  virgin  conception  and
birth in Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27. The RSV, like the KJV, ASV, NIV, and ESV,
is not perfect but it is a good version and is worthy of study. Many of those who
refuse to use the RSV do not hesitate to use the ASV  even  though  some  of  its
translators were  not theologically conservative! 

     If  a  translation's  acceptance  or  rejection  must  be  based  on the pontifical
pronouncements of the uninformed, no English translation would be worthy of use.
All translations have critics. We should evaluate the critics' statements, and in the
end we would do well to employ the "fish eating technique;" eat the meat and throw
away the bones. Let us avoid making harsh judgments against modern versions of the
Bible, merely on the basis of their modernity or alleged inaccuracy. A translation is
deemed inaccurate if it does not correctly convey the meaning of the Hebrew, Aramaic,
and Greek words of the original texts. No translation is inaccurate just because it does
not say what I want it to say, in the way I want it said, and for the reason I want
it to read a certain way. 

                                                                                                       R. Daly

Copyright 2013