Friday, March 26, 2010

“Why Study Biblical Languages?” Redux!

A primary goal for studying the biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages is to demonstrate their necessity for understanding and appreciating the Bible in all of its original glory. For some, this will not be needed; for others, definitive proof will be required. These postings, that began on December 4, 2008, prove that a working knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek enhances one’s ability 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!”

One essential and often-ignored fact must begin this discussion: The Bible is Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek literature; English is the means whereby the English-speaking world accesses it, and is, thereby, a secondary source for the Bible. Another undeniable truth is that every translation of the Bible is interpretation, and interpretations may be good or bad. Furthermore, it is impossible for any translation to transmit all that the original languages say because languages do not communicate in the same manner. Consequently, in evaluating translations one can only speak of varying degrees of loss, and no translation consistently maintains its degree of loss. Some passages are excellent; others less so.

These postings, at the very least, show how a working 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 that the English translations offer, and (4) aid in evaluating between competing English translations/interpretations. Welcome again to the educational and exciting world of Biblical Languages and Bible Translations!