Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Translation Error

I've been thinking recently about the language we use -- just to discuss and describe "the Bible." To be accurate, I should really say that the book in my hands is, "an English translation of the Bible," rather than saying that it is, "the Bible." This would be a useful exercise in reminding everyone in earshot that what we read, discuss, and squabble over is not the original words of the Bible, but words 1) not even in the same language, 2) filtered through translation, and 3) filtered through the inevitable interpretation that translation requires.

Relevant to this topic, here's a brief post from Scot McKnight about the fundamental issue in discussing translated works: You need to know the original language to have an opinion about the translation.

Here's my point: the authority is the original text, not the translation. The original texts are in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). The authoritative text is not in English, regardless of how accurate the translation. No matter which translation you prefer, it is not the authoritative text for determining which translation is best. Yes, we need more [sic] to devote more time to study of the original languages.

Now, the KJVO dodge would be that the original text of the Bible no longer exists, so it and knowledge of the original languages are unnecessary.... Lucky for them, their favorite translation, miraculously based on an apparently nonexistent source, is already available for them to read.

If it really were the case that the real Bible is gone, and all we have is a bunch of translations of different quality levels and debatable accuracy, then we're in trouble.

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