A network of highly cohesive details reveals the truth.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Exegesis, Bible translation, and Unity I

Eddie Arthur, of Kouya Chronicle, has an excellent post called All Together Now: Why Bible Translation is Important II. Wayne Leman points to some other posts, too. See Bible Translation and Unity for his thoughts and some comments. Also, Peter Kirk at Eddie Arthur on Bible Controversies.

In a comment on Kouya Chronicle, Eddie says:

A further comment to Rich’s, is that it is extremely hard to get theological bent out of translations.
I'd like to take that as my jumping off point.

Yes, it is extremely hard. But, I think the reasons for that have everything to do with the way we go about getting the bent out.

The Bible is always bent away from our own theological basis, so it always has a theological bent...relatively speaking.

First, let's get the right foundation in place. The Bible is the book that accurately, authoritatively, and effectively deals with questions such as, who is God?, who is the individual?, who are human beings?, what is my purpose?, what is our purpose?, how did everything begin?, how is it going to end?, and many other ... ummmmm ...theological ...questions.

So, the Bible is theology. One can't separate theology from the Bible.

So, then, where's the bent?

All together now, repeat after me: "It is me that always has the theological bent."

And that fact, the basic requirement for humility before other people, and before a holy God, starts to place us closer to a solution.

But (you might say), there are "me's" that translate the Bible. And that's a problem.

Good observation!

As Rich Rhodes has pointed out in a comment to Eddie's post,

All translation, of necessity, requires the translator to understand, i.e. interpret, the text. [Emphasis his and mine.]
He is absolutely right. There are a number of proofs as to why that is. I won't deal with those here and now. Suffice it to say that there are very common misconceptions among mono-lingual people that once dispelled show that Rich is right.

So, that means that we have absolutely no hope but to have Bible translations injected with the theological bias of the translator...right?


The common solution is to think, "Aha, I know what we'll do. We'll provide tools so that any individual will have access to the original text and therefore be able to 'get at' the original meaning for themselves."

Well, that grand experiment is not the silver bullet solution we thought it would be. We're increasing the number of "me's". On the positive side, this turns out to be a good business model and it markets well. And, more importantly, it also gets some tools in place we're going to need to complete the task of obtaining a clear, accurate, and natural Bible translation. Though, sadly, these tools span the spectrum of usefulness; some do more damage than good since they assume a wrong model of how communication works. I alluded to this above in response to Rich's comment. In any case, the better tools enable discussion. And that's a positive. However, the failure is in the fact that these tools also enable argument, and that's a negative. So these tools are not the solution. But, they are a part of it.

On the other hand, multiplying translations which synthesize exegeted meaning into modern, natural English isn't a much better solution than the analytical one. Though, like the increase in the number of tools, it is a move in the right direction. Properly synthesized meaning is inherently clear. But, ironically, that clarity makes it much easier to disagree with the rendering by those with a different theological bias. That's the benefit of clarity that the more analytically oriented translations don't have. The positive in this is that clarity enables discussion. It also enables argument, and that's a negative. So, the so-called, and often wrongly maligned, modern translations are also not the solution. They are, however, part of it.

The point is this: The common solution of getting tools into people's hands is not the solution to the theological bias problem because the theological bias problem has no procedural or methodological foundation. There, I said it. We can't put a process in place that will solve it. We can't even teach a method that will remove the issue. Having tools and a process doesn't solve the problem. It's not a method problem; it's not a process problem. Therefore: It is not a method solution; it's not a process solution. We need to grab that and hold on to that for all we're worth.

Now, there is hope. God always leaves us with hope. But, it's a hope obtained byobediencee. I did say the solution could be obvious, even though it wouldn't be easy. Right?

In solving any problem, one must first clearly define the problem. Then the solution (generally) becomes quite obvious. That is not to say the solution is easy. It's just to say it's obvious. Hopefully, I've made some head way here in this posting todispell a wrong headed definition of the problem.

So, what's the real problem?

The issue is more basic than method and/or process. The issue is the lack of spiritual maturity among those who argue about the theology in the Bible. No one wants to admit that. At least not publicly. And I'll freely admit I have much fear and trembling when I make the statement. I'm not making it because I'm mature. I'm making it because it needs to be made.

To conclude: I'd like to deal with this issue in a positive way lest it come across as a harangue. So,tomorroww I'll post what I believe to be the solution. At least the solution as seen from a fairly high level. Stay tuned.

And pray.


Blogger Eddie said...

That is a quality post. I am eagerly waiting for your next post on this.

10:54 AM  

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