Yesterday, National Public Radio aired an hour-long discussion that set me to thinking. The gist: Every language reflects its culture, and you can’t translate from one language to another apart from the cultural setting. That has enormous implications for how we view the Bible.
Later in the day, an old Charlie Amorphous Hole News showed up on Facebook. It dealt with Bible inerrancy. I took that as an omen. Here’s an edited repeat of that post. We’ll see where it leads:
Hey Charlie, what’s up? Oh, Molly’s raggin’ me again, and it’s your fault. You wrote about inheritancy. Now Molly claims you don’t believe the Bible. You sure that wasn’t inerrancy, Charlie? I believe the Bible means what it meant to its first readers, and we don’t know a whole lot about how those readers viewed their world.
The Bible began in the late Bronze Age and continued for about 1600 years. Forty more authors, writing in Hebrew, Aramaic, and some Greek, put their words on long leather scrolls or papyrus, paper made from an Egyptian reed. Scribes hand-copied these writings over and over. Scholars eventually gathered the writings together, but the first single-volume Bible waited for Johannes Gutenberg to invent moveable type;mid-1400s A.D. First major book off Gutenberg’s press was a huge, fancy Latin Bible.
A lot of stuff happened to the Bible’s original words before they reached you and me. Claiming inerrancy is a stretch. Translating requires more than matching words; some words have no precise match in other languages. We have over 100 English versions, all a tad different. Bible teachers tell us what they think the Bible means, each with a different slant.
Toss in figures of speech, a literary device in all languages. Jesus taught in parables; so did Old Testament writers. Inerrant truth taught through non-literal language.
Hold on, said Charlie, you lost me. Soon as Molly cools down, I’ll bring her over to talk with you.
I’ll pick up on the theme next time.
Old Grandpa Lloyd