Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

September 17, 2005

Get your Bible out. I have class on Fridays and th…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 5:07 am

Get your Bible
out. I have class on Fridays and this quick article addresses the mind blowing gem I heard today. It’s periferally about a statement I made to Deb 18 months ago when, holding up my leather bound New King James (Nelson Pub.), I told her that the thing I was holding wasn’t the Bible. And it wasn’t infallible, or inerrant or any of those nice things we have always been told it was. She put up quite a fight.

My argument was that the true scripture can only be found in what manuscripts we have available. That is, in the case of the N.T., only the original Greek is infallible. This is true regardless of the fact that many of the manuscripts don’t agree and the originals can’t be found. It is our job to sort them out and arrive at which parts of which manuscripts constitute the truth. The truth is in there nevertheless.

But the leather bound thing in my hand is not inerrant simply because it is an English translation performed by imperfect humans.

I am here, tonight, to show you a beautiful example of this.

Without presenting any context, consider Romans 10:13-14, but specifically, verse 14.

Rom 10:13 – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

What follows here is a handful of translations of verse 14.

ASV How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

ESV But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

KJV How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

NAS How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

NIV How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

RSV But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?

Read those six versions of verse 14 carefully.

Two of those six is significantly different from all the others. The difference is enormous. If you haven’t spotted it, it is probably because textually it is minute and you may be looking for something monumental. The version that is substantially different in meaning and impact is the American Standard Version, ASV and its updated equivalent, NAS. So, armed with this info, reread it, along with any other one, and let how the NAS translators have translated Paul sink in. “How can they believe in Jesus, whom they have not heard.” The other four have it “of whom (or in whom) they have not heard.”

At this point, it is fair to address whether or not the ASV/NAS translators got it right. The answer, of course is, yes. The others got it wrong, with the resulting impoverishment of the church.

You may not think that is much of a difference, but in effect, he is saying that you or I have to actually hear Jesus speak to believe in him. “How is it possible to believe in Jesus unless you actually have heard him speak?” is the question. And then Paul goes on to answer the question with another question which in essence says, “By hearing a preacher, you are hearing Jesus speak.”

This verse, by the way, is the backing for the often heard claim made in Reformed churches, that in the sermon, you hear “God speak to us through his Word”even though preachers are mere men, and not remotely in the same category as Apostles.

The analysis of the Greek that backs up the NAS translation is simply that the “whom” in this text is a genitive pronoun that functions as a direct object. This is because the verb “hear” is unique (along with some others) in that it takes a genitive direct object when what is heard is a person, and an accusative direct object when what is heard is a thing. Therefore, there is no warrant for translating it “of whom” or “in whom”.

So, this example serves to demonstrate that your leather bound KJV is not the Bible, although it is close enough for jazz and government work.

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6 Comments »

  1. Since all English translations are fallible, why should we trust in them? What assurance do we have that we are truly hearing God speak through them…even when using the NAS? Do we need to be fluent in Greek and Hebrew to accurately hear God speak?

    Comment by mike s — September 17, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

  2. I just reread the list of translations of this verse and noticed that the ASV also translates the verse correctly. My bad.

    As for Mike’s question, the answer is probably a yes and a no. Some translations are not translations at all but paraphrases where the author or authors have an agenda. Not necessarily a bad one, but they do have an alegiance to a point of view, perhaps, or a personal slant that captivates them. I am thinking here of the “Message”. Cases like the Message where there is but one guy doing the work, I would avoid, simply on the grounds that he had no one to check him.

    Errors in translations are not rampant. So, for the most part, they work fine. Let’s put it this way. If translations are 99 percent accurate, and the reader is only willing to commit 1 percent of his life to either reading it or following it, then what’s the problem?

    I think what is at least as difficult is the question of how to read the Bible. Is it a magic book or a how to manual to have a successful life, or is it something else?

    So, I think fluency in the original languages is not required. But for one who expects to teach others from it, it would be foolish to attempt it without knowing enough of the originals to be able to use the many tools for doing so that are available.

    Comment by Bruce S — September 17, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

  3. Dunce report follows: The ASV and NAS have the same correct translation because the ASV, American Standard Version and the NAS, the New American Standard (Version) are the SAME, in essence!
    … mumbles as he goes back to his stool in the corner …

    Comment by Bruce S — September 17, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  4. Looking at some of the work that Andrew Walls and Lamin Sanneh have done on the translatability of Christianity (as, for example, cf. Islam, where Arabic is the only allowable religious language–all others are identified as interpretations) into all cultures could be very constructive and encouraging.

    Comment by Sister — September 18, 2005 @ 12:58 am

  5. I don’t have time to worry about if my NIV has errors. It’s good enough for me. It’s better than learning Greek.

    Comment by out of thin air — September 19, 2005 @ 6:15 am

  6. What is your “it’s” refering to? What’s better than learning Greek? How do you know this to be true, since you’ve never learned Greek?

    Comment by Bruce S — September 19, 2005 @ 8:57 pm


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