The Center for Faith & Culture—Olivet Nazarene University

New Testament

The Trouble with Translations

Translations of the Bible are dangerous. I’m not the first to say that, of course. During the Middle Ages, many leaders in the established Western church felt threatened by anything that gave lay people direct access to holy writ. Well, I don’t feel threatened by translations; in fact, I thank God that lay people (and professionals like me) have the opportunity to read the Scripture in their own languages. I confess that, even though I love studying Greek, I sometimes prefer to read the Scripture in English. My quarrel with translations isn’t about the access to Scripture they create for the lay reader; it isn’t about what they reveal. It’s about what they hide: ambiguity. Translation necessarily involves interpretation. That is, translators often find that the text they are translating can mean more than one thing, and, in order to translate it, they have to decide which of the possible meanings they think is the correct one. Often, what is ambiguous

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