Bible Translations, Not Inspired (Redux)

Open BibleSome time ago I published a brief reflection titled “Bible Translations, Not Inspired,” in which I argued that we must not assume that our contemporary Bibles—because they are translations—are the same thing as the inspired (inherent) words of God. While I don’t want to disagree with that post, I do want to reflect upon the inspiration of the scriptures, spurned on by Jaroslav Pelikan’s Whose Bible Is It?, which I’ve been reading the past couple of days.

Occasionally I will run into someone who holds an unusually high view of a certain version or translation of the Bible. This is true across denomination lines: Catholics have the Apocrypha and the Vulgate, the Orthodox have the Septuagint, and various Protestants have their Scofield Reference Bibles, the King James Version, or the dearly-beloved ESV. And because we have our version of the best Bible, clearly our theology must be more fully informed (and therefore accurate). Continue reading

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Reflections on “Ephrem, Athanasius, and the ‘Arian’ Threat”

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Ephrem the Syrian and early Syrian Christianity.
Athanasius of Alexandria

Athanasius of Alexandria

In her chapter “Ephrem, Athanasius, and the ‘Arian’ threat” of Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem’s Hymns in Fourth Century Syria (CUA Press, 2008), Christine Shepardson compares the anti-Arian rhetoric of these two great defenders of Nicene Christology, arguing that both deployed anti-Jewish rhetoric and language against the Arians in their efforts to defend Roman ‘orthodoxy’.[1] This essay reflects upon her arguments in this chapter, noting some convincing and unconvincing facets of her perspective. Continue reading

Bible Translations, Not Inspired

BibleOccasionally I will run into someone who holds and unusually “high” view of a certain translation of the Bible. The most notable (or notorious, depending on your position) are those people who subscribe to the “King James Only” position. But there are also people I have met who argue for the supremacy of the Revised Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, and the English Standard Version.

When reading any English Bible, we need to remember something very important: It’s a translation. And translation always involves interpretation. So not only are you reading Ephesians in a different language and linguistic context than the Apostle Paul wrote it in, but you are reading an interpretation of that passage by a certain set of Biblical scholars. Irrespective of what your views on the authority and inspiration of the Biblical text are, it seems unlikely that many people would subscribe to the view that the editors of the NET Bible are as inspired and authoritative as the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ.

Additionally, throughout the history of English Bible translation there have been more than a few clearly uninspired moments, clear demonstrations that the humans editing and printing the Bibles that we read are, in fact, still humanly prone to error. Some of the most famous (or infamous) are below:

Matthew’s Bible (1537), A.K.A. “The Wife-Beaters’ Bible”

Proof that study notes and footnotes are not inspired: Notation on I Peter 3:7 reads, “And if she be not obedient and healpeful unto him, endevoureth to beat the fear of God into her head, that thereby she may be compelled to learn her duty and do it.”

Geneva Bible (Second Edition, 1562), A.K.A. “The Place-makers’ Bible”

Matthew 5:9 reads “Blessed are the placemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”. Homemakers everywhere loved this passage for years until it was fixed.

King James Version (1612), A.K.A. “The Printers’ Bible”

Psalm 119:161 reads “Printers have persecuted me without a cause” instead of “Princes.” Rarely mentioned by advocates of the “KJV Only” position.

King James Version (1631), A.K.A. “The Adulterers’ Bible” or “The Wicked Bible”

Exodus 20:14 (the Ten Commandments) reads, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” This version was recalled almost immediately, and only 11 copies are known to exist today.

King James Version (1716), A.K.A. “The Sinners Bible”

John 8:11, reads “Go and sin on more” rather than “Go and sin no more”.

New English Translation (2001), A.K.A. “The Prostitutes Bible”

Proverbs 2:16 reads, “To deliver you from the adulteress, from the sexually loose woman who speaks flattering words.” In the first printing of the New English Translation, there was a footnote at the end of this verse with a 1-800 number. The translator was writing the notes for this verse on his computer when he got a call and, unable to find a pen, he made note of the number on his computer. Unfortunately, he forgot to erase the number later.