Sunday, May 06, 2012

Okay, so are new Bibles dangerous, evil, or pornographic?

Okay, so are new Bibles pornographic? I really don't think so.

Remember that in addition to their moral, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical biases, translators have decisions to make over linguistic nuances. Plus knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek languages, punctuation, and linguistic rules have grown over the centuries because of modern archaeology and anthropology. 

Translation is tough as it is. Most words have many meanings and shades of meanings so it's difficult to find the perfect English word for a Hebrew or Greek word from back in the day. Consider the Hebrew word used in Job: 2:9. "It can mean either to bless or to curse." So our idea of Mrs. Job depends on the translator's ideas about what he thinks the verse means. Heck, it depends on if the translators understand Mrs Job's pain. So the KJV translators chose to translate it as "Curse God and die." Other translators from other version choose either "bless" or "curse." Most translators choose "curse" but others choose "renounce" or "bless." One wonders how the translation would be if a woman had been on the translation committee. Understandably, it's a troublesome word because it has two opposite meanings. But in English we have a word like that: cleave. Cleave can either mean "put together" or it can mean "tear apart."

If you think translating from another language is tough, try translating to English from English .
What are we to do with a verse such as this one?

And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 2 Peter 2:7
Okay, most folks will understand that "deliver" means "rescue"  and a few may understand that "conversation" means "conduct"...but what are we to do with the word "just"?? In English the word "just" can mean either "only" or "righteous." So the NIV clears things up a lot by translating this as 
and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men
 Not to mention that certain words used in the days of King James have changed in meaning. Would most people nowadays who hadn't read a Bible understand that "suffer the little children" means "allow the little children"?

(Have you ever tried telling a Mormon that "on the order of Melchizedek" means simply "just like Melchizedek?" (A being without father or mother.) Mormons actually believe there is an order of Melchizedek. This kind of stuff only happens when folks don't know basic Shakesperean English.  Or consider the phrase, "The light shines in darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it." If one reads the King James Version only and doesn't understand how words have changed, one might not realize that the old word "comprehend" means "to overcome."

It's evident from reading the King James Version of the Bible that either different translators worked with different notions of how words should be translated or the same translator chose to translate the word one way in one passage and another way in another passage. For instance, "full of grace" in one instance but "accepted in the beloved" in another instance. Not to mention some passages within a single book where a word is spelled "ensamples" in one instance then "examples" in another section. 

So, here is a passage from Song of Solomon 7:2 that supposedly is pornographic. 

Here's the KJV version. Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies. 
The NLT version:
Your navel is perfectly formed like a goblet filled with mixed wine. Between your thighs lies a mound of wheat bordered with lilies.

The problem here seems to be with the word translated "belly." Actually, in Hebrew, it's the word for "lap" so already we are beginning to see the problem. Laps don't really exist, do they? They disappear when we stand up and sit down. But the other problem is that "lap" here is a euphemism and a slang. Some versions of the Bible translate the euphemism, the  symbolism, or slang, while others translate the meaning of the symbol. 

A symbol tends to be better because it can be applied to many situations "Cast your bread on the waters and you will find it after many days" could mean anything from "Invest in various ventures." to "Give to the poor" to "Don't put all your nest-egg in one basket." So if a person tries to translate the actual meaning of the proverb, things can get pretty narrowed.

Of course the flowing symbolic language has a lot of echoes, but when it comes to bodily functions, sexuality, etc....well, translating gets complicated.

For instance, some translators of the KJV use the slang "he that pisseth against the wall" to mean a male, while other KJV translators simple say "a man." So even in the KJV different translators choose different ways of expressing the same idea. Consider the phrase  "he uncovereth his feet."  This is one confusing slang that was used in the story of Ehud and the fat king in the book of Judges, the story of Ruth and Boaz, and the story of Noah. It seems to mean anything from being actually undressed in the lower parts, as in going to the bathroom, to being symbolically undressed. Lord knows what it means. So a prudish translator might translate it one way, and a translator who is less prudish might translate it another way but who really knows what the real meaning is...since the slang itself is so old. We have to take our meaning of it from the context...and if we are prudish we will read Ruth's actions one way, but if we are lascivious we will read it another way...and really who knows what the real answer is. The more we learn about anthropology, ancient linguistics and punctuation, history, and archaeology, the more we understand what a word in the Bible actually means. 

Consider Joseph's clothes of many colors. Tamar also had one of those clothes. The rulers of those days often wore those ornamented vests and cloaks. If one reads the KJV without knowing history, one would be tempted to believe the brothers were jealous because of the pretty cloak....when what was going on was more important and significant: Joseph was being set up to rule over his brothers. 

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. Gen 37:3 KJV
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. NIV
In the story of Tamar, the chroniclers of 2 Samuel even had to explain what the robe Tamar was wearing signified.
So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing a richly ornamented robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 2 Samuel 13:18
Now, the KJV translators were for the most part honest. If they weren't sure of the meaning of a word or if they paraphrased something, they added italics. So the KJV abounds with italics. Over the years, many of the italicized words have become understood by translators (although those who are KJV-only folks often behave as if the KJV italics were God-ordained. And even the Book of Mormon has used whole sections of the KJV, namely the sections in Isaiah and other sections, where they use the passages with the italics the KJV translators inserted.) 

Fact is though that the translators of the KJV and the Geneva Bible (which influenced the KJV greatly) had different ideas on words. And again their own doctrinal or denominational biases and their own educated sense of the usage of each word affected the way they translated certain words. Sometimes it's fairly innocuous: Some translators translated Noah's name as Noah, other's spelled it as Noe. Sometimes it's a political compromise. Some translators translated one word as "overseer' while others translate it as "bishop." 

Sometimes their choice of translation is downright dangerous. For instance, when Luke writes in the book of Acts about a healing that took place on the island of Malta, (Acts 28:9) the KJV reads;

So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: 

When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.

It seems like a small thing to some but in a subtle way it shows that the translator who worked on this part of the book of Acts couldn't quite get it around his head that EVERYONE sick on the island was healed. 

Consider punctuation also. Talk about the importance of a comma or a period! Punctuation can create a whole vast confusion of theology if one doesn't know where a period, a quotation mark, or a comma is placed. Depending on the Bible one reads, one can think Jesus is saying something he might not be saying.
Consider  this exchange Mark 9:22,23;

The question put to Jesus in Mark 9:22 is as follows:
"It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

Jesus' answer in Mark 9:23 -- depending on which Bible one reads is as follows;

New International Version
"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

New Living Translation (©2007)
"What do you mean, 'If I can'?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes."

English Standard Version (©2001)
And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

International Standard Version (©2008)
Jesus said to him, "'If you are able?' Everything is possible for the person who believes!"

Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010)
Yeshua said to him, “If you are able to believe, everything is possible to the one who believes.”

GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
Jesus said to him, "As far as possibilities go, everything is possible for the person who believes."

King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
Jesus said unto him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.

American King James Version
Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.

American Standard Version
And Jesus said unto him, If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Darby Bible Translation
And Jesus said to him, The 'if thou couldst' is if thou couldst believe: all things are possible to him that believes.

English Revised Version
And Jesus said unto him, If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth.

Webster's Bible Translation
Jesus said to him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Weymouth New Testament
"'If I possibly can!'" replied Jesus; "why, everything is possible to him who believes."

World English Bible
Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."

Young's Literal Translation
And Jesus said to him, 'If thou art able to believe! all things are possible to the one that is believing;'

And let's not even talk about the contention about where Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus actually ended in John chapter 3. But moving on to the main part of this blog. 

So upshot? Do I think the KJV is God-appointed? No, I think it's a bit of a cult actually...a cult based in fear of changes and our worship of English. I just don't think the other Bibles are planned by evil illuminati trying to destroy Christians. After all, the KJV itself has some places where it dampens the faith of believers. That said, the KJV is one of my favorite Bible translations because it is A) beautiful B) because i can understand it, C) because the writer in me likes reading high english  and D) because it gathers many different manuscripts together. Some BIbles only use certain manuscripts. The story of Jesus and the woman who was threatened with stoning, for instance, does not appear in certain very old manuscripts. But just because it doesn't appear doesn't mean it didn't happen. It sounds like something Jesus would've done. ;-)

Anyway, again: I have no problems with the other Bibles. My faith in my Lord and Saviour does not rest on the mere written word but on the Living Word inside me....although, like I said, I do love the Bible. I have about six of them...different versions. I recommend that. 

No comments:

Blog Archive

Popular Posts