Monday, March 1, 2021

A Double Standard in Biblical Translation

If you read all of the footnotes in a Bible like the one that I am reading this year, you'll start to notice something about all of this translation work that is going on: the very same people who tell you that you can't understand the most basic English words correctly, requiring them to substitute them with other words you're less likely to take wrong, will also tell you that when they come up against discrepancies in the Hebrew or Greek text, they understand that the 'more difficult' reading is probably the correct one. 

In other words, the harder it is to understand the Bible, the more likely it is that you're reading the right one. 

Think about that for a minute. The very same persons who want to tell you that the Bible is too hard for you to read also spend their time making sure that you understand that the Bible is supposed to be too hard to read. And then, in the same breath they tell you that you can't make it too simple or you'll get the wrong idea (believing, for example, that God might actually have literal hands), they also tell you how important it is for them to make the Bible simpler for you. 

Not only that, but they'll add that if you come across a phrase in the Hebrew or the Greek that seems to be too common a phrase, that is the way that a series of words 'often appears,' then it is likely that it is not the original text, but that some scribe somewhere has changed it to match the things that you expect to see in a place like that. For example, if a passage says 'the Lord your God,' it may be that it actually only said 'the Lord' but someone once upon a history took it upon himself to add 'your God' because the whole phrase - 'the Lord your God' - was what you would customarily expect to see in a place like that, so he was just making it easier for you and smoothing out the reading. 

These translators, who call themselves scholars, will then add back in what they think must have been the original words, tell you that they're doing so, imply that it's important that you understand that some ridiculous scribe somewhere thought it was necessary to smooth out the reading for you instead of giving you the actual text...and then three verses later, these translators will confess to doing the very same thing - we smoothed out the reading for you so that it would make more sense. 

For another example of this, they'll tell you, perhaps, that they've changed the word 'book' to 'scroll' because they don't want you to think of an object of pages bound together with a spine, since such a thing would not have existed in ancient Hebrew. 

But, of course, it's disastrous if you think for a second that the Old Testament really said 'the Lord your God' when the original word written was only 'the Lord.'

Are you starting to see the problem? This is exactly the sort of thing that I was talking about yesterday. We get all of these scholars that want you to believe that the Bible is too difficult for you to understand. They come in as aids, claiming that they are going to help you, but they also condemn the very practices they preach - if they aren't the ones who have done it. 

You cannot interpret the Bible for yourself; you're likely to get it wrong. Rather, you must depend upon them to tell you how to interpret the Bible. And at every turn, they're making a show of it. This is very difficult, which means it must be accurate. I will dumb it down for you. But you cannot dumb it down for yourself, lest you go astray. 

It's modern-day Pharisaism. That's what it is. It's gnosticism - the Scriptures are some divine secret that you cannot understand without proper interpretation. It's meant not to put the Bible into your hands, like it claims that it is, but to flaunt the educated nature of the translators themselves. You can tell because they tell you what's hard, and then they tell you why it's too hard for you, and then they rattle on about all the things that they believe. And then, at the very moment you start to understand, they tell you why you're wrong, and you have to start all over again. 

This is not to say that we don't need Bible translators. Of course, we do. Not all of us are able to read and understand the original Hebrew and Greek texts, nor do we have such access to them. We do need our translators. But we have to hold them accountable for the work that they are doing and for the double standards they want to try to establish in gatekeeping their own work. 

We'll keep talking about this tomorrow. That's enough for today. 

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