Sunday, October 22, 2006

Language musings

Over at Better Bibles Blog, there is an excellent post from a few days ago.

I thought that there was a little book written just for preachers that gave the instruction not to ever say "This is what the Greek actually says," especially if every single Bible translation that has ever existed in English does not mention that option for translating a verse.

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He goes on to talk about he misuse of Hebrew in a "women are a doormat" sermon he heard.

Excellent post, and worth the read, but the part I quoted is what caught me. Those of us who know Hebrew and/or Greek need to be careful how we use it. I have seen this knowledge used to skewer people who don't agree with a point at issue. I have seen it used as a badge of honor in order to look down on "hoi polloi" who don't know the languages. When I was in seminary, one of the Hebrew profs brought this up, pointing out that there are not two tracks labelled "dummies" and "brains," i.e., English Bible & original languages, but that they were meant to be complementary. Both were designed to teach people to do careful exegesis, with the ultimate goal of leading people to a deeper relationship with God.

When using the languages, the emphasis should be on the fuller understanding available—the full semantic range of the word in the original. People should know that they can trust their translations to be accurate, but they should also know that there is a much richer meaning in the original than can be conveyed without turning the translation into an expanded Amplified Bible.

Above all, they should not be made to feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom. If they are, then we who do it are guilty of the grossest Phariseeism and deserve all the scorn and condemnation that Jesus poured on the original scribes and Pharisees.
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