View Full Version : Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek --- and English
September 30th 2003, 05:56 PM
Often, when discussing a Biblical passage, someone will refer to the language of the oldest known manuscripts and explain the meaning of a particular word or phrase.
Is this an acceptable approach when discussing the Bible?
If yes, then it seems to me that we all need to be experts in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek in order to understand God's word. If no, then all Biblical discussion should be restricted to English translations only.
How we know that we are reading God's word and not someone's interpretation of God's word?
How important is a particular Biblical translation in our understanding of the nature of God?
September 30th 2003, 06:06 PM
All translation is interpretation. Thus my advice to those who don't know the original langauges is that there is victory in a multitude of counselors. Do not restrict yourself to anyone translation, it is in this manner those who do not know the languages can see that there is mroe complexity there than you get out of an English translation. Of course, going back to the originals is prefered, I would jsut say that those who cannot need be tentative in their conclusions, as we who know the languages are trained to be in our conclusions.
September 30th 2003, 06:26 PM
What GP said :thumb: .
September 30th 2003, 06:35 PM
Thanks GrayPilgrim for your explanation.
What then is the ultimate authority?
September 30th 2003, 06:49 PM
The ultimate authority is God, but from that derives the authority of the original manuscripts.
We "experts" must also be at least somewhat tenative in our conclusions based on the facts that we are not native speakers of said language and that we by no means have full comprehension of their world view.
September 30th 2003, 10:11 PM
Of course, God is the ultimate authority, but although "from that derives the authority of the original manuscripts", we don't have the original manuscripts.
The link of God's authority to the present-day Bible is still a matter of faith. Where does the faith come from that enables us to believe that the Bible is the Word of God? Is it not, by definition, beyond the Bible?
Also, the extant manuscripts do not completely represent God's ultimate authority. God's word is obviously more than just the Bible. How is the rest of His authority manifested?
Does He talk directly to us today? In what ways?
December 17th 2003, 08:39 AM
I've seen that many issues surrounding Biblical interpretation involve disputes about proper translation.
A large team of expert translators, researching for years, comes up with a translation (KJV, NIV, NASB, etc.) and then someone says: "Based on a thorough understanding of Biblical languages and culture, what this passage really means ..." Someone else "No, that's not what it really means. You didn't take into account ..."
If that's "what it really means", why didn't the expert translators write it that way?
Who's right? Does it matter?
December 17th 2003, 10:04 AM
Fascinating thread and some very acute observations, Nimrod.
"Often, when discussing a Biblical passage, someone will refer to the language of the oldest known manuscripts and explain the meaning of a particular word or phrase.
Is this an acceptable approach when discussing the Bible?"
For me it is the only approach. For me personally. What if I was an illiterate Christian with no access to "the Word of God"? I would be exactly like the first Christians, the Galilean fishermen and peasants who followed CHRIST, not the bible.
"How we know that we are reading God's word and not someone's interpretation of God's word?
How important is a particular Biblical translation in our understanding of the nature of God?"
Assuming you ain't gonna get into the original languages, when reading an English translation, it's good to have another version to hand and compare their approach. Personally I believe that not even random controlled trials are without bias - every translation is going to have it, some intentionally, some unconsciously.
As for the nature of God, I think our view of that needs to look beyond our Scriptures. Even the bible-focused Christian who sees the bible as all-sufficient for learning about God would have to admit that we can at least learn from scriptures of other faiths what God is not. My own view would be less negative. Also, if God inspired men to write the biblical scriptures, how much closer to him is the world around us, the generation of which was not mediated through humans.
"What then is the ultimate authority?
Where does the faith come from that enables us to believe that the Bible is the Word of God? Is it not, by definition, beyond the Bible?
God's word is obviously more than just the Bible. How is the rest of His authority manifested?"
No matter how you look at it, we are our own authority at the end of the day. Even if we chose to submit that authority to the bible, the church, the quran, or some guru, it is still on our own authority that we do it. Now if you believe God to be sovereign you might say that that authority comes from him - but in this schema he still permits us to exercise it as we see fit, in such a way that one could personally deny the granting of personal freedom from without. I think a Christianity limited to the bible is okay, impoverished in comparison with what it could be, but not wrong.
"Does He talk directly to us today? In what ways?"
My experience of God's... talking is too anthtropomorphic, as is communicating... there's no word for it really. The closest I can say is that my "experience" (and even that word's insufficient) of God is one that permeates everything. I'm not a pantheist, my belief is quite "orthodox", but I can relate to a great deal of what Jospeh Campbell says on this matter. I think hoonesty, integrity and genuine openness are essential in being open to experience of God. This means a very deep level of self-awareness, so that even if you want to apply that to the life-world where there is no god, well it can only be good for personal development and self-actualisation.
"If that's "what it really means", why didn't the expert translators write it that way?
Who's right? Does it matter?"
Expert translators are not without bias, not one of us is. Even the hardest positivist-empircist scientist cannot truly remove bias from his/her methodology. The same is true for translators. I find it useful to know about translations and those who have produced them. I don't think anyone translation is right per se, but it does matter that we seek to discern who is closest on any given excerpt. The comparison that this requires, or preferably the acquaintance with the original language, takes one on a wonderful journey through the ages, back to Clement of Rome and his peers, as well as into the academia of contemporary biblical studies. Fascinating stuff if you're into it, although absolutely inessential to being a Christian per se.
December 20th 2003, 11:48 PM
Also, I think context is a valuable tool available to the average reader. I'm struck by how often an exegetical issue is decided by context, even after looking at the linguistic evidence. Thus, I think the average reader who's thoroughly read his/her bible can't go too far off track.
December 29th 2003, 09:42 PM
I agree with Gray Pilgrim, Hospitaller, and Jaltus.
I would add that when reading the Bible (or any other text, for that matter) the question consciously on our minds is usually: What does this passage say (or mean)? I submit that another question is actually more important, and ought to temper our every reading of the text: How am I reading this passage?
Am I approaching the text with the desire to learn from it, or am I seeking to force an outside theological construct on it no matter what it says? Am I letting the passage convince me of its point, or do I already "know" what it is going to say before I even read it (because of what my church, my parents, my pastor, my best friend believes)?
A humble approach to the text is essential for all courses of study, in my opinion, and especially the Bible if we truly believe that it is trying to teach us something.
Without humility, knowing every inflection of every obscure Greek verb will profit little.
That said, it is the original language that must be determinitive, not the translation. Think of it this way: If you heard that there was some great debate over the exact meaning of a phrase in a speech given by Bush, would you try to access the transcript of that speech in the English original, or would you turn to the Russian translation just because you were fluent in that language too? Make no mistake, the Russian translation might provide valuable insight into how other countries are interpreting the controversial words, but for Bush's original meaning the hands-down best option would be the English original.
In his service.
August 22nd 2004, 07:34 PM
Thanks GrayPilgrim for your explanation.
What then is the ultimate authority?
Ask God to help you to see what is true and what is not, this my take some digging.
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