Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When Bible Translations Affect Doctrine

Are all Bible translations created equal? More than just a discussion over dynamic or formal equivalence (see link), is the simple question of whether a translation can dramatically affect a person's doctrine.

For example, two translations are "The Message Bible" and the "NIV".

Let's start with an example from "The Message Bible", Mt 18:15-17 concerning how to deal with a Christian who has sinned against you. Most should know this passage; about going to the offender privately, then taking two witnesses, next take it before the church, then finally, a writing off of the person as a "heathen or tax-collector" if the person doesn't repent. Look how "The Message Bible" renders this passage:
"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love." -- MSG
Notice that it DOESN'T conclude with an "excommunication", but rather endless appeal, how "niiiiice" of them. ("start over from scratch"). That is NOT what the text says and perhaps is the reason why so many who claim to be Christian often find cutting off offenders as "mean", "hateful", "divisive". Compare several translations of Mt 18:15-17

Oddly enough, I believe the MSG does a fairly good job at relating 1 Cor 5 to a contemporary audience. After what was done with Mt 18:15-17, I would have thought MSG would have watered down this chapter, but it didn't. Compare 1 Cor 5

Now an example from the NIV, we look at 1 Cor 6:9 where we see who will NOT inherit the kingdom; specifically as it addresses homosexuality. The NIV renders it:
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders" -- NIV
Notice it calls them homosexual offenders, as if being homosexual is not offense enough. As if it is okay as long as the homosexual doesn't act on his inclinations -- I've actually heard people make this kind of defense.

This wording could lead people to maintain some really strange doctrines. But the MSG is even worse at rendering 1 Cor 6:9:
"Don't you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don't care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom." -- MSG
First, yes abusing the purpose of sex is wrong but the MSG completely blots out the fact that this passage is directly addressing homosexuality. Further, the MSG sneaks in environmentalism, saying that people who "use and abuse the earth" don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom. Compare 1 Cor 6:9 in several translations.

So, you see it really does matter what translation we're reading. It could dramatically affect how we practice our faith. One of the first things a cult does is make a new translation. The JWs did it with the "New World Translation" and the Mormons just out and out created an entirely different book called, "The book of Mormon".

Be on the look out for people who advocate "new" interpretations, whether in a book or in their day to day communication. God didn't send Christ to found the Church by merely spitting out words to any ole person to interpret however they'd like, but Jesus hand-picked apostles and taught them for 3+ years. Then He sent them the Holy Spirit to "guide them into all truth" (inspiration) and Jesus intended and planned for the Church to have structure and continuity in doctrine. Christians are SUPPOSED to be part of a community, not lone-rangers.

1 comment:

Daniel Efosa Uyi said...

hey nice post meh, I love your style of blogging here. this post reminded me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog: Negatives That Hinders Your Goal .
keep up the good work friend. I will be back to read more of your posts.