May 1st 2009, 10:59 AM #1
Sola Scriptura -- Split Off from Reliable Epistles
So if Random Person #A comes along and, without knowing or even caring about the Bible, writes that we are to treat our fellow-man as we would like to be treated ourselves, then that's in agreement with Scripture and is perfectly acceptable, even though A didn't intend to make a Biblical statement. If he writes that the universe has characteristics that require a Creator, that's also in agreement with the Bible as far as it goes, and we can that, too. But if he says that that Creator is a green, gigantic human with six arms and an elephant's head, then we part ways.
Who gets to decide, what conflicts with Scripture?
As for "projecting modern astronomy" into it, I don't know of any apologist who does that, including JPH. What they do say is that nothing in the text prohibits or goes against modern astronomy. But nobody that I've ever read (and I've read a lot of JPH's site, although it's so extensive -- I'm tempted to call it an expanse -- that I won't claim to have read every single article) has ever claimed, for example, that raqqia means that our Sun is the same type of object as all the stars, or that there are planets besides Earth orbiting the Sun, or that light from the Sun takes roughly eight minutes to get to the Earth, or anything of the sort. That would be "projecting modern astronomy" onto the Biblical text.
But what is a 'literal sense' for a language, where you can pick and choose, what each word means? Apparently Hebrew words are extremely flexible and can take on any meaning you desire -- just compare any two OT translations
But do we have problems understanding someone speaking English if they use the word "set"? No. We use context to tell us which one out of the 119+ is the correct one in this particular case. If we're native English speakers, or extensively-trained ESL-speakers, we mostly do it subconsciously and automagically, but nevertheless we do use the context to decide the proper meaning.
The process may be more conscious and less automagic, but it's the same when reading the original Biblical languages (or, for that matter, when we read Don Quixote in the original Spanish or Dr. Zhivago in the original Russian). Every language has nuances and details that one has to get right to, ahem, get it right. Every translator, even if he's only translating Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping-Frog of Calaveras County" into French1, has to deal with these issues, and every translator, being human and therefore prone to err, gets it wrong sometimes. That's why the best Biblical translations come out of committees, where several learned translators can compare their work before publication, and also they build on more than one previous translation in order to piggyback on the best preceding scholarship.
Despite what many skeptics claim about the multitude of Biblical translations, the differences between the majority of them are very few, and a lot of those are because of differences in the English that they are translating into. When you "adjust for inflation," as it were , and read the translation with due thought given to when and where it was translated, most of the seeming discrepancies disappear. Those that are left are generally due to the improvement in our sources (i.e., more manuscripts have been discovered in the meantime, to compare against) or scholarship (i.e., deeper study into other Greek or Hebrew sources reveals that a word, or more likely a nuance, was previously misunderstood). But just because a new translation comes out, does not mean that we've re-written the Bible.
Are there still differences of opinion about the meaning of a particular word or phrase? Sure, of course. You're always going to have a division between "this is a close-enough definition that doesn't clutter up the text with mostly unnecessary specifics" translators and "it's not a correct translation unless it includes all the specific nuances" translators, or the like. But when it comes down to it, the "arguments" are mostly between the "this word is translated 'red'" types and the "this word is translated 'scarlet'" types. Functional differences of opinion are few, and mostly can be resolved with a good overall reading of the subject matter (i.e., if you're basing your theology on a specific word in the XYZ translation, you're probably wrong).
The (I suppose this little discussion leads too far off topic, so you need not respond) FreezBee
The (I'm just funny that way sometimes) Curtmudgeon
1 I use this example deliberately. "Celebrated Jumping-Frog" is one of Twain's better-known short stories. During his lifetime, it was translated into French, by a Frenchman (who will remain nameless here because I don't remember his name). The translation was so poorly done, Twain in a fit of pique had it re-translated back into English, then published all three versions in a book to ridicule the incompetence of the French translator. Comparing the original short story with the re-translated version is -funny.The Reverend Earl Curtmudgeon the Sanguine of Frogging over Womble. (Peculiar Titles)
Thanx, JPH, for the avatar. Thanx, Muz, for the new tag-line. Thanx, Kelp, for the AotM nomination.
May 13th 2009, 12:54 AM #2
Re: Sola Scriptura -- Split Off from Reliable Epistles
I know that a lot of people who are interested in serious study of the bible use multiple translations to try and get different points of view. However such an effort is doomed to failure for the above reasons, and often the more ambiguous and fiendishly difficult the Greek is for a given passage the more identical the English translations are to each other. Usually to actually get some alternative readings of the passage, one has to dig extremely deeply into very obscure scholarly literature. I have come to believe that it is very important for biblical translators to make conscious decisions at times to deliberately give non-standard renderings to try and show the ambiguities of a passage.
If one looks at church history (somewhat appropriate for the church history forum), then one finds that at different times in history certain readings of certain passages were taken for granted for several centuries at a time. People would be absolutely convinced that a particular biblical passage taught a particular idea. Subsequently language would change, culture would move on, and it would become the universal view that the passage meant something entirely different, for a period of time. It concerns me somewhat that today there are a lot of passages for which both people and bible translations have bought into certain ways of reading them, and alternate readings are not being fairly reflected. I think this does a disservice to people who are interested in seriously getting to grips with the bible, and leads lay readers to think that particular readings and doctrines are a guaranteed to be biblical when in fact they are only one possible reading of the biblical text.
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