Saturday, December 6, 2008

Where Is the Professor When You Need Him?

Your Bible study group is really enjoying your brilliant expositions of the Psalms. You, of course, cannot tell the group how many laborious hours you spend pouring over your Hebrew Bible to assure them that you really do know what you are talking about. This week has been a tough one, however. Your family required extra time, your job moved into “extra innings,” your professors refuse to delay the mid-term exam. You have no choice; you will have to “wing it” on Psalm 56. Hopefully there will not be any “land mines” in the way of another successful evening of fascinating your Bible study group!

Then came verse 1 (English text) . . .

(NIV)”Be merciful to me, 0 God, for men hotly pursue me all day long they press their attack.”

(NKJV)”Be merciful to me, 0 God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me.”

(NASB) ”Be gracious to me, 0 God, for man has trampled upon me; Fighting all day long he oppresses me.”

SUE: "My Bible says 'men hotly pursue me;' Tom’s says 'man would swallow me up;' yours says 'man has trampled upon me.' How can it mean all of these things. Don’t they imply different things?"

TOM: "Right. Also, the NIV places the event in the present; the
NKJV, as a possible future event; and the NASB, a past event.
When did this happen? Is there a single best translation? Is there a single meaning?"

YOU: “Be merciful to me, 0 God!”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why Study Biblical Languages?

One of the goals of Hebrew and Greek grammar is to demonstrate the significance of studying these biblical languages. To some, no explanations will be needed; to others, definitive proof will be required. These blogs will prove, it is hoped, that a working knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek is imperative for anyone desiring to "rightly divide the Word of truth." Logic alone, however, can serve the same purpose. The following quotation is taken from The Expository Times:

"If the Bible is what we profess to believe it to be, it is worth the effort to read it in the original. One who made it his life's work to interpret French literature, but who could only read it in English translation, would not be taken seriously; yet it is remarkable how many ministers of religion week by week expound a literature that they are unable to read save in translation!"

The first fact that needs to be understood clearly is this: The Bible is Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek literature; English is merely the means whereby the English speaking world accesses it. The second truth that must not only be grasped but accepted is that every translation of the Bible is necessarily an interpretation. That interpretation may be good or bad, but interpretation it truly is. Furthermore, it is impossible for any translation to transmit all that the original languages communicate because languages do not communicate in the same manner. In evaluating translations, therefore, one can only speak of varying degrees of loss, and no translation consistently maintains its degree of loss. Some passage are excellent; others less so.

These blogs, at the very least, will show how a knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek can: (1) reveal truths unrecoverable by any translation, (2) clarify obscure passages of the English Bible, (3) open up new interpretive possibilities for understanding the text beyond those which the English translations offer, and (4) aid us in evaluating between competing English translations/interpretations. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Bible Blogger!