“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” II Timothy 3:16-17On the basis of these verses, some folks insist that we must interpret scripture according to the plain reading of the text. Some believe it is dangerous to dig into the Hebrew and Greek meanings, to study the cultures and beliefs of Bible times, because doing so may result in conclusions that disagree with traditional interpretation of the Bible.
But is the King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, or any other version the scripture to which these verses refer? Can we be certain that the translators maintained the meaning of the original scripture? Can we be certain the translators did not impose their own bias upon the translation? And considering that translations differ, must we consider all of them to be the Inspired Word of God?
The truth is, it is the original scripture that is inspired, not the translations. We all must do our best to understand the text from the original—or as close to it as we can get, not from the translation. And if the meaning from the original differs from the translation or from the interpretation, we must go with the original Hebrew and Greek, doing our best to determine what those words meant in Bible times.
Insisting that bible words must carry today's meaning is also a false belief. The meaning of words can change over time. Take the word “gay.” Fifty years ago that word meant happy and cheerful, but today it means homosexual and people rarely use it to mean happiness lest they be misunderstood. Although many words keep their meanings, the fact that many change over time makes it very important to do our best to find out what the word meant when it was written. If the Bible was written in 1925 and we tried to say the word “gay” meant “homosexual,” because that is what it means today, we'd be so far off in our interpretation and completely miss the real meaning of the passage.
Frankly, I want the real meaning, the meaning God authored and inspired, not the meaning some translator or interpretor imposed upon the text.
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See www.wanetadawn.com A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.