On the Original Languages

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There can often be a temptation to delve at depth into the original languages of the Bible, especially during teaching sessions, in the belief that this will result in a better understanding of the Bible than is otherwise possible from a translation. While I believe that there is merit to this practice, I also believe that it can be taken to the extreme; to the point that the translation itself is viewed as an unreliable alternative to the original manuscripts. The problem with this extremism is that it could lead people to believe that the translation is untrustworthy and that, to be a true Bible scholar, one must learn the languages that the writers of the Bible themselves used. While certain nuances of one language cannot be accurately translated into an other language; in general we must trust that the translators made decisions that were guided by God as they were choosing how to translate the Bible to more modern languages. In most of the cases that I have encountered in my study of the English Bible (I will not say all cases) the English translation has been of so satisfactory a quality that the there has been negligible benefit from going back to the original languages.

This is not to say, however, that a study of the original language is entirely without value; just that we must be careful to avoid forming the impression that a translation of the Bible is not as worthwhile or trustworthy for in-depth study as the Bible in its original languages. As a Bible student who is conversant only in English, I wish to say that, while we may encounter possible alternate translations of certain passages or ideas, we must trust that the translators are of far greater skill in this area than we who are not. We must trust that their decisions in these situations are made with integrity, the desire to serve and honour God and the committment to give us the best translation of the Bible in our own language that is possible. We must be very careful with our own retranslation of these passages into possibly "better" phrasing that we do not ignore the overal context of the areas in which these passages are found. The Bible is the word of God and is worthy of our greatest respect. We cannot be making the Bible say what it was never intended to say.