Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

Orthodoxy and the Translation of the Bible

7/7/09

 

Any student of church history should realize that the doctrines of the institutional church were established long before the Bible was translated into any common languages. The various creedal counsels met and advanced their doctrinal positions more than 1000 years before the King James Version of the Bible became the benchmark of Christianity in the English language. With that fact recognized, one must suspect that the translators of the Bible into all the various common languages were greatly influenced in the translation process by what the church had already been teaching as the truth for a millennium.  If a passage could possibly be construed as supporting the church’s historic position on a subject, then the translators were naturally inclined, either subconsciously by mental conditioning or consciously by expediency, to render it in a way that supported the church’s longstanding teaching.

 

The upshot of this sequence of events is the sure realization that orthodox doctrines did not proceed directly from the study of today’s Bibles (those written in our language) but rather that today’s common languages Bibles are to a large extent the product of doctrines which were institutionalized by the church long before anyone but the select few could ever challenge those doctrinal positions. By the time such a challenge could even be raised, the church’s doctrine had enjoyed “free rein” in the hearts and minds of men for as long as anyone could recall. There is little wonder then that translations followed established doctrine in as perfect “lockstep” as could possibly be created.

 

As one considers the ramifications of the process by which we in the 21st Century have received the Bible, the attributes of human language must be considered. In the traditional view of the Bible, the church must rely on the precision of human language in order to impart the proper instructions to a doomed humanity. If the vital message from God gets garbled at any point, the result is catastrophic in the church’s understanding of God and His message. We may like to think that when we communicate in our language, the process is precise and clear, but, in reality, that is, more often than not, false. This is exactly the reason why legal documents are often so lengthy and erudite. It is an effort to convey meaning which cannot be misconstrued. That is very difficult given the ease with which language misrepresents the intended message of the author.

 

The above fact alone should give pause to anyone considering the reasonableness of conveying essential truth through a book which has the historical background of the Bible. No, reliance on a critical message transmitted in the fashion outlined above involves a leap of faith far beyond that of which many are capable. In hindsight we see that the cart preceded the horse in the unfolding of events. A person can be reasonably suspicious of this process, especially given the connivance of church and state throughout history.