Saturday, January 22, 2011

Inspired Translations?

“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 3:16-17
On 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 A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.


  1. People that claim this seem to be wanting read the bible they way they want to.

    It makes no sense to NOT take into account what you mentioned.

    Amen! to your article!

  2. Very well said, Waneta. Being born in 1946 I was totally confused about any "new translation." I was in a southern culture where the KJV ruled.

    Most interesting is that anyone having a good Bible finds in it at the beginning or end a short treatese about the "basis of this translation."

    Most important fact: we DO NOT have any "original autographs" the inerrantists claim are pefrect. They were written on perishible material of papyrus / sheep skin.

    The Nestle Greek Text is the scholar's source for the NT. On some pages there are about 4-6 lines representing the "most likely reliable words" and most of the page showing "variant readings" in other manuscripts.

    It is NEVER as simple as the fundamentalists want to depict it so they can try and control their followers.

    Real faith still requires the individual to find the most accurate translation---and still realize it is not "perfect." The Bible is our "guide" and "ruler"---and "Canon" means "measuring stick."

  3. Waneta, it's interesting that the latest version of New International Version translates Malachi 2:16 as “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. The ESV version says a similar thing.

    Yet, this verse has often been misquoted as "God hates divorce" and singularly used as the verse to give women no option to escape abuse.

    My Christian friends cannot accept any reason for divorce (except for infidelity), even in the worst of circumstances. They often tell me they know my husband is guilty of being violent to me, that he has physically and psychologically damaged the kids, but that I must still remain his wife and not get away from him, but believe for a miracle. Why? Because God hates divorce.

    That's it. No other reason. So being a Christian is definitely a risk factor for suffering abuse, injury and even death. Because while an unbeliever can weigh up options and do what is rational, a Christian can never disobey the Word.

    Isn't it about time we really took the time to study the Word and what it really means, when throwing around such verses could mean life or death to women in abusive marriages?

  4. Anonymous,
    Even worse, Walter Callison points out in his book, "Divorce, A Gift of God's Love" that the original text did NOT say God hates divorce. The King James says, God hates "putting away." Putting away is setting your wife aside giving her a writing of divorcement, which would give her the freedom to remarry, to stop living in that no-man's zone of neither married nor single, to have a one-flesh union with a man who actually loves her, instead of remaining tied to a man who dispises her. Men were abandoning their wives or setting them aside when they added a new wife. The put away wife was often ignored or forced to become a servant. see

    Callison points out that in the New Testament, the same word is translated "put away" eleven times, and "divorce" the twelveth time. As we read it we always translate it "divorce" in our heads, because that is how it is taught.

    This problem is still present among Jews today. 35,000 women in the US cannot remarry because their husbands only provided a civil divorce, but not a Jewish one. Without a written Jewish divorce, the women would be committing adultery if they remarry.

  5. Correction:
    "Putting away is setting your wife aside giving her a writing of divorcement, which would give her the freedom to remarry, to stop living in that no-man's zone of neither married nor single, to have a one-flesh union with a man who actually loves her, instead of remaining tied to a man who dispises her."

    Should be: Putting away is setting your wife aside INSTEAD OF giving her a writing of divorcement...

    Sorry for the mix up!

  6. Waneta glad you wrote this...for couple of months been researching legitimacy of Bible [based on numerous can in NO WAY add up to the realities of slavery/sex slavery of women/non Roman citizen to numerous texts in NT, something was Way off] I so, I found So much Evidence, not just hear say, about so of Bible, Judaic writings, etc., are not without debate, therefore to Take them as THE WORD of GOD no matter what, is delusion. Simply put, they were Man's View of God for MEN,

    always have been. This doesn't mean however that we can't glean truth From them, I do think though, this may be why it says, the Holy Spirit [not Bible or Talmud] will lead you into All truth.


  7. Jane,
    Could you share links or book titles/authors of 2-3 of your resources? (I don't want to be overwhelmed with too much to look up--just enough to get started. Hopefully, they are in a place where I can get access to them?)

    At one point I would have said how dangerous to question what has been decided as the word of God. But since I know that simple concordance checking of the meaning of words when they pertain to women shows pro-male bias, I wouldn't be surprised to find other bias as well.