Those of you, who know me, know that I am not someone who decries the very ideal translation, or believes that all translations are wrong and unuseful. Far from it. I believe that translation work, into vernacular languages of various people groups, is in fact extremely important.

I am also persuaded that no matter how good any given translation is and no matter by what group of people or individual/s it is accomplished, it is still an interpretation of the original text we call the Word of God and not the Word of God itself. Most people think that because the majority of Bible translators are committed to God individuals they would never introduce anything of “their own” into the text of translation. But the truth be told that it is impossible to do, no matter who does it. Translation is in some way an act of interpretation of the original Scriptures, because knowing original languages does give you the ability to know exactly what the original words and sentences mean, instead they give the ability to determine the range of possible meanings.

My point is simple: Everyone involved in translation of the Bible has to make translation decisions every time when various meaning possibilities present themselves in the text. That happens more often then you realize. That, in and of itself, should not discourage you or scare you in anyway, instead it should encourage you to learn how to use the simple tools such as Interlinear Bible, Dictionaries, perhaps, or Bible study software, to be able to see for yourself what other translation options are there in the text (sometimes you will be amazed and puzzled as to why the translators opted out of better ways to say it, and at other times you will see their logic quite clearly).

Another thing is important to state at the start. Sometimes the issue is not that the translators have followed “a wrong” trail, pursuing an erroneous trajectory of meaning, but that something that is said in Hebrew sometimes simply cannot be translated into any other languages clearly. So by learning how to read in Hebrew and use Bible Study tools you will be able to go into the original Hebrew text and discover for yourself the rich treasure that lies beneath translation. You will be able in some way to experience and feel the language in which these sacred texts were once penned down.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

124 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps I am dating myself by saying this ... I am 75 years of age. And back when I was a college student, studying for an Industrial Engineering degree and preparing for the ministry, I learned that "translation" and "interpretation" are essentially the same thing ... in that they both involve the conversion of the words of one language into the words of another. And that translation pertains to written words, and interpretaton pertains to spoken words. To this day I am somewhat offended when scholars attempt to "interpret" that which has been translated. What say you?

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    • re: invetreptation v translation. I once read a "translation" of a Catholic;ic saint, which hallway through I began to think was a bit odd. To keep it short I found (through the translators own notes) that it left out many crucial things , words phrase etc, and reinterpreted them in a way that was essentially modern politically correct. I then read another translation (Spanish to English) written in the 1920's that was a direct translation. The second was meaningful whereas the first was not because the writer decided which words or phrases were accurate or which may have been discreet digs at the hierarchy. The second, which had been vetted by not only the Carmelite Order to which this saint belonged, but by two additional scholars through the years. The Original words, not the politically correct version, was the better because it got the particular Saints thought s and words correctly. The Bibe , being a collection of centuries and millennia is different, but subject in some cases to the same problem; A particular translation might be incorrect because the "translators" might have an agenda'like Martin Luther or others who left out the Apochyrpha. Needless to say I have multiple editions so I can compare if needed.
  2. If we say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and the living Word, and in essence, the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible, can't we trust that the Holy Spirit is in the translations, and that God is Sovereign in them? I am not hearing anything about the Holy Spirit's role here.
    • Shalom, Kathleen. The role of the Holy Spirit is of utmost importance. Without the regenerative work of His (or Hers in Hebrew and Aramaic) no one can even see God's Kingdom as a reality). So Holy Spirit is VERY IMPORTANT. Having said that, we know for a fact (100%) that translations do not perfectly communicate to us the original sense of God's word in its original languages. NOW... the level to which they do, THEY TOO (the translations) can be referred to rightly as God's Word as well. Holy Spirit promised to lead God's people to All truth.

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    • The ONE and ONLY TRUE God Almighty is The great "I AM" Lord" Holy Spirit Father Son, the UNITY of the TRINITY (spirit mind body) who came to earth in the FLESH Immanuel (God with us) as God's only begotten Son Yeshua (God's salvation) on a threefold mission on earth to redeem repenting BELIEVERS with MERCY GRACE FAITH and HOPE as TRUE respectful OBEDIENT believing followers of YESHUA Messiah Christ Jesus our mediator Lord saviour and master!

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    • The prophets wrote by the Holy Spirit. But does the Bible say anywhere that all translators have done so by the Holy Spirit? the translators are scholars who have been guided by the existing doctrines, particularly those post-Constantine's attempts to abolish even the Judaism of Apostle Peter and Jewish Christians (Acts 21:20) by Roman church law.
    • Yakha, Of course the Holy Spirit "illuminated" the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church... all of them were God-fearing people, hence the God-inspired writings that they left us regarding the truth... "Are ALL prophets or teachers?" (or translators or exegetes?) NO, because God chooses who is.
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  3. My favorite for this subject is "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church." When I read the Greek I was surprised to see τεφχω, the word that I learned when I studied Greek was not used, but another word which also indicates to me the idea of dwelling in His Church. This gave me a completely new meaning to the passage. My Greek New Testament is still packed up, so I can't give you the word that was used. Just a thought.
    • Thank you for joining the discussion, Michael, but I didn't understand τεφχω or how it relates to Matthew 16:18.
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    • I've learnt so much from the provocations of this post. I just looked at the Greek interlinear of Matthew 16:18. It says, "... you are Peter, and upon THIS, the rock, will I build the assembly ..." Now, the translators have presumed that "THIS" refers to Peter. But verses 16 and 17 force another, if not different, interpretation. He had asked, Who do men say that I am? Peter replied, The Messiah, the Son of the living God. Then he says, ... upon THIS will I build my assembly.... "THIS" could certainly mean "THIS ANSWER"! "THIS KNOWLEDGE IS THE ROCK!"

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    • Are you saying your translation was on this rock 'I will (put) place' my church instead of "I will build." (oikodomaso) ?
  4. Is there a particular English translation you would recommend as the closest to the original text. I have about 30 bibles in my collection. Interested in your favorite.
    • I use ESV mostly, but translations are just a tool. When your various translations seem to diverge at a certain verse, then you can know that there is something deeper that each translator had to make a tough translation decision.
  5. Kathleen, you spoke my mind. I believe that in as much as we do not down play the knowledge and understanding of the original words used in scriptures we should also bear in mind that someone can know those original words and still miss the interpretation or the message that the Holy Spirit is conveying since those who wrote were inspired by Him. The scripture says that the letter killeth but the Spirit is life. Therefore to have knowledge of the letter without the Spirit will be equally misleading and dangerous. See also 2Peter 3 v 14 - 16.
  6. As a Biblical College teachers, I’ve had many discussion over translations. Love the article above. My simple response has been “God watches over His Word to perform it”. If this Word did not accurately represent Him, He would be under no obligation to back it up with demonstration. Enjoying you posts a lot. Love to learn.
  7. I have a minor in New Testament Greek.

    As I was taking my first course--baby Greek--in the language, I began to understand the problem of translation as interpretation. It is why I cannot possibly agree with the King James Only crowd, nor can I readily say that the translation I use is error- free though I believe it is one of the best. I am working to find the funds to take these courses, perhaps pursue an online course in Hebrew. Translation as interpretation is certainly a concern.
  8. I really do not understand, so please explain:
    How is it possible to learn to translate c 3000 years old scriptures when,
    I as a Dane, have difficulties to understand danish texts written just 400 years back.
    And have the same problem with c 400 years old English writings
    • There are so many early translations, commentaries and discussions of the New Testament, so understanding the vast majority of it is fairly straight forward. Also cross referencing with the Septuagint is a major player in interpretation. Only in various few places is the interpretation in question. The difference then is simply availability of related texts.
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