Thursday, May 06, 2004

I started, or maybe picked up where we left off, a very interesting conversation today with my sister-in-law over the issue of gay marriage. One of central issues we’re discussing is what does the Bible actually say?

I stumbled across a short article today by Gayle Felton, who is a United Methodist minister and former faculty member at the Duke Divinity School. The article is a discussion of different translations of the Bible.
I found the following discussion to be very interesting:

It may be helpful to begin with eight facts that underlie all biblical translations.
1.) No English translation is based on the original manuscripts of any biblical book.
2.) The manuscripts that we do have are not alike.
3.) The discovery of older manuscripts (the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example) enables us to get closer to the original texts.
4.) The Hebrew and Greek languages (with some Aramaic) in which biblical books were written are very different from English.
5.) We do not know the exact meaning of some words and phrases in these ancient languages.
6.) English words and phrases have changed in meaning over the years and continue to do so.
7.) What is considered standard or proper usage of English words has also changed through time.
8.) Any translation from one language to another involves choices about precisely which words are to be used.

The reality of these eight factors influencing every English translation should by no means cause us to lose confidence in our Bibles. Most questions about precise meaning are insignificant, and none affect any basic Christian doctrines. The gospel of our living Lord is expressed in the words of our living language, and changes are to be welcomed. Finally, we trust the same Holy Spirit who inspired the biblical writers to guide both translators and readers today.

Given those eight factors, it seems to me that humility is a good thing. Thinking about the Bible in that way, I asked myself a question – “would I be willing to cut someone out of my life if they didn’t agree with my interpretation of the Bible?” For me, the answer is no. I’m going to do my best to be faithful, to ask lots of questions, share Christ’s love with my neighbors, and leave the judging up to God.



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