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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

every translation an interpretation

I currently reading a recent book by a sociologist[1] who is bemoaning the fact that there is no consensus on what the bible means among those who claim to take the bible seriously. The author claims this effectively undermines their doctrine of scripture.

In all this discussion there wasn’t much said about bible translation. If we start with the view[2] that the inspiration of scripture was a divine providential process by which the very words written by the human author became “God’s Words” then nothing short of the original words are God’s Word[3]. Any other words used to represent the original constitute an interpretation of God’s Word. So in the English speaking world we have a rather large number of published interpretations currently in circulation.

Since the vast majority of people who take the bible seriously read it in translation, the authority they attach to the "original writings" is significantly reduced when reading a version in their own language. Confidence in the “original writings” does not translate into confidence in a translation. What constitutes a good translation is one of the most controversial topics in the bible believing subculture.

[1]Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible.

[2]This is the core issue in bible believing subculture which Christian Smith is deconstructing.  
[3] We will just set aside the issue of textual criticism.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

nyDear C. Stirling Bartholomew,

With regard to your "every translation an interpretation."

I agree with you: every translation is an iterpretation,and of course "God's Words" are the "original words". I take it that by "original words" you mean those of the original text. Are you aware that we are NOT in possession of any kind of original text of the Holy Scripture?
If we accept the idea that the current text has not been seriously damaged,are we sure we can understand a text which has taken the divine perspective to present a divine Revelation? Is it not more likely the case that from our given ignorance all we are going to produce is the human interpretaion of whatever divine declaration has remained in a text which could have been manipulated by all kinds of scribes?... ...

11:43 AM  

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