Monday, February 07, 2011

Translations or Interpretations?

My frustration over the inaccuracies in our many translations is experienced frequently. Over the period of my life I have used many different translations or “versions” of the Bible. I learned Luther’s Small Catechism in at least three versions, each using another version of the Bible. Three different versions of the Hymnal also were foisted upon me. This is a confusing practice. It makes remembrance of the specific passages of Scripture difficult, especially when seeking to use a concordance.

But this is not the main cause of my frustration. My greater frustration arises from the continual bombardment that I experience of interpretation being forced upon the texts of the Holy Scriptures and being presented as what the Scriptures actually declare and teach. I do not know of any English version/translation that does not do this.

I have returned to using the King James as my primary source. It is the most widely known and accepted. It is better than many so-called translations. And, it is in the Public Domain and can be quoted freely without limit.

Nevertheless I encounter many false things in even this old stand by translation.

In the Gospel reading appointed for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, the reading for this week’s sermon, the first sentence is translated the worst in the ESV and RSV, which are virtually the same translation of this verse. The text is Matthew 13:24.

Here are a few of the translations of this verse:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

Another parable he before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field;

He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared unto a man who sowed good seed in his field,

Of these the KJV is the closest to what Matthew writes. The RSV and The ESV are the worst. These actually change the meaning of the verse entirely. Matthew records Jesus as saying: “Was made like/was likened the kingdom of the heavens unto a man sowing/who sowed good seed in the field of him.”

The RSV and the ESV change this to “the kingdom of heaven may be compared to . . .” This is horrible. May be . . .? Jesus says that it was likened unto and they translate that it may be compared to.

This completely changes the point of the parable. It completely changes how preachers preach this text and how people perceive the Word of God, even the kingdom of God.

IF you are interested, my exposition of this text is available here. PDF and Audio are available here.

My former church body has chosen the ESV for its official use. Before that they chose the NIV. Both are very bad choices. I used the NIV for years and regret it now. But even the NIV does a better job with this text than the ESV.

I find it frustrating that with the resources that a church body the size of the LC-MS has, with the number of experts in the original languages that they employ in their seminaries, that a really faithful translation has never been produced. But I suppose that would require an entirely other focus for the church body. Then, also, who among their “experts” would even understand the issue while they continue in a communion that does not care? It is a sad thing to observe, especially since so many people continue to trust such leaders because it is easier than standing on and in the Word alone.


Whitey Lawful's Blogspot: The spirit of the law is greater then the letter. said...

All the emphasis on love since the bejebus movement of the counterculture. As if the Lord did not say carry your sword and put on full armor. To combat not to embrace this world. While those that await satanic reign so Christ will take them to the heavens. There are those that know that this world is their responsibility. So if i love in a naive manner of carnality my compassion is nihil.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

It is important that we do not imagine this sword to be the sword of civil authority, taking the law into our own hands. The sword is the Word and the kingdom is spiritual.

It also is important to remember that the Scriptures teach that compassion begins with the household of faith and that the Church's focus is preaching the Gospel for those who will receive it. It then also extends to crying out on behalf of those who are abused in the world, and most especially, to give ourselves on their behalf when we encounter them.

If I hear you correctly, you also desire to emphasize the importance of preaching God's Law with the full weight of its condemnation so that people will realize that the Gospel is absolutely necessary. This message surely has been watered down by most who call themselves Christian today. It is a very sad misapplication of God's love.