interpretation or translation?

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this is from a note on my facebook page, originally published 2010.06.21

I was reading an introductory note in a book today and it made me stop and think. Big surprise, right? Everyone should know by now that I think, meditate and reflect on many things. Anyway the essence of the book’s introductory comments was stating that since “translation” is never 100-percent perfect that translations are really just “interpretations”.

As I was reflecting on the author’s distinction between “interpretation” and “translation” I believe the author is making a very astute observation and believe the author to be correct. Interestingly enough, the author’s statement was not about the Bible, but the statement is spot-on. The Bible will always be best understood in the original language(s).

I can already hear the retorts – to believe in God and to understand salvation the believer does not need to learn Greek, let alone, Aramaic or Hebrew. Frankly, I have run out of patience with believers who think they can understand the Bible as good as Jesus or the Apostles and never learn the languages they spoke.

To make my point I will use a reference from Star Trek and it is in no way meant to be humorous. A Klingon has the audacity to say, “You have never experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” The movie line was audacious and arrogant, and it is a reflective social comment about experiencing Shakespeare in the original Russian. Yet, for some reason there are some English speaking believers who actually believe they can experience the Bible and the profundity of it in the original English. This attitude is just as audacious and arrogant as the movie line.

The Bible was not originally in English and was not originally in Latin. It was first Hebrew, then had additional pieces in Aramaic, then the Greek letters remain. I agree with the book writer’s comments regarding the short comings of translations. In light of that, perhaps, instead of using the word “translation” I will begin using “interpretation” when referencing various English Bibles.

I will close with a final thought, which some will probably not like, but to really dig deeper into the meanings of the Bible, the believer really should learn more about Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. I want the reader to take note that I stopped short of saying that believers should learn to read the languages.

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