A View of the Bible Translation Debate
Concerning the debate on which translation constitutes
the true word of God, depending on your philosophical presumptions you
will develop different convictions.
Consider a number of points:
The problem of communication in a language people can understand.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. So does that
mean that God requires everyone in the world to learn greek and hebrew
to understand what He said? Doesn't seem reasonable to me.
And even if they did, there is still enough variation in the meanings
of the words and phrases in these languages on certain points to result
in different interpretations of the meaning.
Now, when you start translating something into another language, how
do you know whether your translation is correct if at times you have to
chose words based on a certain interpretation of the passage?
And if you've translated into old 16th century English, shouldn't it
be retranslated when the language changes? And certainly you can't reasonably
expect that if you've translated it from greek to english, that you don't
need to translate it in any other language. For then I would reason, why
not just keep it in greek and Hebrew if you expect people to learn a foreign
language to read the Bible?
The problem of variation of manuscripts.
We don't have the original manuscripts. What we have are copies. There
are variations in the copies. Does that mean that God has not spoken? God
has entrusted His word to people. People are imperfect. So what do you
expect is going to be the result? However, if you actually examine the
variations, you would wonder what all the fuss is about (What are we really
debating about?) For the variations have so little impact on the meaning.
And if the objective was for God to communicate meaning, these variations
in the manuscripts add up to nothing. It's like complaining about the penmanship
of the writer.
The Muslims claim that every literal word in the Koran is God-spoken.
The Koran claims (as its only miraculous basis) that the language is so
beautiful and accurate that it must have been written by God. (Actually
I've been told that there are literal errors in the Koran) And therefore
a translation of the koran cannot be considered God's word, from the muslim's
point of view.
Christianity is different. It is not the literal words that are the
important thing. It is the meaning of the author. When you translate the
meaning, no matter what the language, you still end up with the word of
The authority of the translator
Can anyone translate the word of God? I say "yes". Why not? But God
will hold them responsible to translate the meaning correctly. There are
those who hold a more institutional concept: That certain committees are
like prophets and that only their translation should be accepted as the
word of God. The "King James Only" people are like that. I wonder how they
can explain how most people now become Christians not by hearing the King
James, but through a Bible in their own language or through the NIV. How
dare God use an unauthorized version of the Bible to save people!
God has spoken in history in a certain language. There are variations
of languages and each language changes over time. But it is the meaning
of what He said which is important. And this can be translated and retranslated
into languages people can understand as there are diversity of languages
and each language varies over time.
Logically, this is how God would have to have done it. Since He's smart
enough to realize that people speak different languages. And so, just as
life itself can tolerate alot of mutations and defects that are just a
part of life in this world, so the meaning of the Word of God is not easily
lost in the translation of it. For God has spoken it such that the meaning
is not highly dependent on the precision of the language.
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources