Minister of Education Reports
Understanding Language and Culture in Bible Translation
Recently I read a Phyllis Schlafly report on the importance of our English language to the American way of life. I considered about how significant some of the statements she made concerning communicating our ideals in other languages was to the issue of biblical translation.
One of the points Mrs. Schlafly made in her article was that such a familiar phrase as “the American dream” encounters problems in translation. You see the Americas is made up of several languages on two continents plus Central America where “America” does not mean the United States. But if you translate the term as the United States dream, you are then referring to the government and not the hopes and aspirations that have inspired people to come to this country. You see, communicating the fundamental ideals of our nation into other languages is difficult. The same problem also exists in communicating expressions from Hebrew and Greek into other languages. In many cases the King James translators chose to leave the terms intact and trusted people to study their Bible and come to a correct understanding.
The interesting thing to observe about the subject is that in many cases the people who have produced the so-called modern versions have chosen not to follow the KJB translators example. The result has been that a great deal of damage has been done to Biblical truths these expressions convey. Then people through ignorance and blind trust are beguiled into accepting the false understanding of God’s Word the revisionist communicated. Of course, when someone finds out that this has been done in the modern Bibles, they should immediately want to know why the people who produced it would do that?
There are three major reasons that this has occurred in the versions produced over the past hundred years. The first of these is ignorance. Being able to read a language does not mean that you understand the culture that produced it. If you do not know what is meant by an expression, it is impossible to overcome the difficulties of translating it. The second reason is unbelief. If you do not believe the truth that is being conveyed in the expression, you do not feel any compunction against altering the expression to make it more conformable to your views. This is particularly true if the translator does not respect the Word of God in the first place. The last reason is profit. In order to copyright your version as a new work and receive royalties, it has to be substantially altered from any previous work. To do that, you have to change and alter a few things. The loser in that deal is the person who makes the mistake of trusting the new product.
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