Are there biblical translations that are less accurate than others? Which translations should we use and which ones should we avoid? In part 2 of this vlog series, Dr. Craig Blomberg continues to share proof of the historical reliability of biblical scripture by expounding on the process of biblical translations. Dr. Blomberg addresses the three major philosophies associated with choosing a biblical translation: form preservation, a direct translation of Greek/Hebrew manuscripts to English, and optimal equivalence.
– [MUSIC PLAYING] Recent studies have shown that ancient libraries in the Mediterranean world kept in circulation scrolls and codices Book form usually for a minimum of 150 years often 200 and the most valued books if they started to get worn were re-inked. Someone would very carefully with indelible ink trace over the letters that were there. So that Codex Vaticanus, one of the big complete 4th century copies of the New Testament, was re inked in the 9th century after 500 years of continuous use so that it could continue to be used. Dr. Rosdahl said that I travel a lot, too much. Each time I say I’m gonna slow down. Strange things happen like my older daughter who lives with her British husband in England finds out she’s having twins this summer. And well, we just have to get over there. But I teach in Ireland on average about once a year for a week or so at a time at the Irish Bible Institute, which is just a short bus ride away from the museum open to the public where you can go in and see these and other documents from around 200. And I tell my students there it is completely possible that when you’re looking at those documents you are looking at copies of the original still well within 150 years. Now given the history of getting manuscripts as far from the Middle East as it is to Ireland, they’re probably not copies of the original but they very well could be copies of copies. You don’t have to see how many times you can say the word copies and that’s not the case with any other book or collection of books we know about anywhere in the world from antiquity. That’s what I just said. And I think I said that too. But “what if” is your mindset. Are you a “what if?” person? Any seniors here willing to admit it most of you have done your chapel already. What if I graduate and don’t immediately have a job? What if five years down the road I still have huge amounts of student loans? What if I haven’t yet met my life partner? Life is over. “What if?” And you can go through life torn up in knots about all the what ifs and never make a responsible decision and the same is true when it comes to biblical scholarship. What if tomorrow’s internet were to say that there was a discovery in the sands of Egypt of a document it could be conclusively dated to the 1st century and a fragment of it was pick a gospel-the Gospel of John. And in this particular verse it said something different and it was really different. Well, the answer’s pretty straightforward unless you can come up with an all encompassing conspiracy theory 300 years before Christians had any power base to even possibly execute conspiracy theories how all trace of that distinctive reading was lost from 25,000 manuscripts continuously traceable decade by decade from the beginning, then the only logical thing for scholars to do is say that’s eccentric. That’s an anomaly. Maybe we don’t know who did it or why they did it but there’s not one chance in h.e. double toothpick that it represents the original. So don’t lose sleep over the what ifs. Dan Wallace just up the road at Dallas seminary who is probably the leading American evangelical textual critic maybe the leading American textual critic and his center for textual inquiry likes to say slightly tongue in cheek. Holding up a Greek New Testament, I have the English here, you do have or we do have the originals or translations of the originals. We just don’t always know if it’s in the text or the footnotes and that’s not quite true. But it’s a lot closer to the truth than any of the stuff Herman says and maybe the most important point of all, not a single Christian doctrine teaching, ethical belief, perspective for a living, statement about worship. You guys do good worship. I wish I could take you back. You know what happens when you go to seminary? You’ve got a chapel and you’re just totally brain dead and you go, “We praise you Lord. “We praise you.” It’s so fun to see your enthusiasm. But you’re not one of the 12 disciples or Greek students, you’re not part of the elite. I’ll just stop. Stop saying that. You read and hallelujah. One of countless English translations and they’re all great. Glad you like that one. Why so many translations? Which one is the best? You want to know the only right answer to that question? None of them is the best for all situations. Every one was produced for a particular reason, a particular kind of audience. Somebody asked me, what do you recommend is the best English translation of the Bible? My knee jerk reflexive reaction is- For what purpose? And then we can have a conversation. Boiling a huge topic down to a very simplistic chart, there are three major philosophies- one says preserve the form, the word order translating the same Greek or Hebrew word with the same English word as long as it doesn’t lead to something ridiculous even if at times it’s not as clear or intelligible. If it starts to sound too much like Yoda, you’ve got to do something. But otherwise, go word for word. Formal equivalents at the other end of the spectrum is what’s called dynamic equivalence. Make it clear. Is there a sin greater than obscuring the word of God? Yeah, probably. But you know child abuse and things like that. But prioritizing intelligibility and clarity even if at times things aren’t quite so literal And of course, today, you probably know we mean “literal” to mean lots of things besides literal like I could have slept for 10 weeks literally…not literally.. that’s not humanly possible. But that’s another story. And then the third approach is optimal equivalence. I am not going to prioritize either at the expense of the other, passage by passage, verse by verse, phrase by phrase, I am going to try to have my cake and eat it too. I’m going to try to be as clear as possible and as accurate as possible, but knowing that without prioritizing one or the other. There will be times when the formal equivalent translations are a little more accurate and there’ll be times when the dynamic equivalent translations are a little more clear. And for those of you who like graphs, I was told you don’t have an enormous science department here, but maybe a little bit of math. Formal equivalence will make that the y-axis dynamic. equivalence wants to make that the x-axis. Here are some translations. Probably the two most used today. The ESV and the new Revised Standard version. The New Living Translation. some other ones that aren’t known as well. Great examples of dynamic equivalence and optimal by far the best known is NIV but there is also the Holman Christian standard now revised just called the Christian standard. There’s the net. There’s the common English Bible there’s some strange things that don’t fit into any clusters. And then there’s the Message, which is paraphrased it blows every category away. But even at the end of the day, they’re not that different. Most of the time, if you have logos or Bible works or accordance or some program where you can put 12 translations on the screen at once, you’re never going to look at those and go “I think they were translating different verses.” Now you will recognize when there is a very puzzling word that people aren’t sure what it originally meant like what about the little parable of the friend at midnight-the guy who wants to provide some bread for a friend who’s come after a long, tiring journey in the middle of the night. He doesn’t have any. He calls to his neighbor and Luke 11:8 says “even if the man will not get up and give him what he wants because he’s his friend yet because of his are. – is the wonderful Greek word and the King James Bible to this day has a perfect translation because of his importunity. Anybody know what that word means? And if you don’t. What good is it to have an accurate translation? The ESV is a little better. “It’s because of his impudence.” Now both my parents were school teachers. So I know they had a little bigger vocabulary than some, but my brother and I got accused on more than one occasion as we were growing up of being impudent. But I talked to seminary students today and they have no clue what the word means. Now just from what I told you, you might guess there’s a negative tinge to it. Well, how about the NIV- “because of your shameless audacity”- maybe five more people understand it. How about the New Living Translation? “because of your shameless persistence”- getting better. It’s persistence with an edge. And maybe the best English translation is a Yiddish word . And when somebody says that stay away from the splash zone Moxie-I don’t know this audience well enough to know if I can get away with this, but I’m leaving tomorrow, So why not.. slang, it would be “boy, he had brass ones.” OK, I’ll stop. OK, well going from the fire into the frying pan or whatever that metaphor is I won’t even ask what anybody thinks of when they read God’s words to Saul who became Paul in the King James version- “Why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Is that what you want to read in church when all the high school kids are sitting in a group in the front and the junior high are behind them? Well, the new American standard won’t raise any eyebrows. There won’t be any Twitters either kind. Saul, Saul Why are you persecuting me? It’s hard for you to kick against the goads. and if you’re a rancher you might know what that means. But if you’re not Goad me on what does it mean? Southern New Living Translation changes the wording for the sake of clarity. “Why are you persecuting me?\ It is useless for you to fight against my will.” The good news Bible tries to use the metaphor and explain it. “You are hurting yourself by hitting back like an ox kicking against its owners stick. If you’re goading ox, you’re striking it on the side of a leg and the ox can’t go sideways fast enough to stop you. It just gets annoyed. The new international readers version made for children say, “Saul,Saul” the voice said. “Why are you opposing me? It is hard for you to go against what you know is right.” Don’t give a literal translation to kids. If you want to be interested in the Bible or people for whom English is a second language or someone who didn’t have the opportunity to complete an education. even in this country. Give them a dynamically equivalent translation for detailed study in your study. Because you haven’t done Greek or Hebrew, go for a formally equivalent translation in the broadest cross section of our world. If your church is not made up of all college educated people and some are, that’s great. But many are not. You probably want an optimally equivalent translation that will communicate best, the most often, to the greatest number of people. And that’s what I just said. I tend to do that when I teach. Also. All of them however, are more than adequate to teach you how to be saved, how to come to know God deeply to how to live a life of faithful obedience to him to know his will in countless arenas of life. Somebody asked me, “Are there any translations you should avoid?” I say to my knowledge, only to the Jehovah’s Witnesses new World Translation and the Joseph Smith translation of Mormonism but other than those we sort of have gotten over the worship wars of some years ago, and maybe you guys never went through them-hallelujah. But let’s get over the translation wars. They’re all good enough and many of them are great. It’s time for me to quit. So I have to come back and ask the question that we started with. “Can I trust the process of copying and translating very tentatively and cautiously?” I want to say-Yes!
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