Bible Translations Watered Down by Modern Linguistics?

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By Vincent Funaro, Christian Post Reporter
December 13, 2011|2:53 pm

Translating the Bible using modern linguistics seems to be a controversial topic among experts and scholars of the Christian faith.

By replacing ancient Hebrew and Greek with modern English, the definitions of words can change drastically and the message in the Word of God can lose its true meaning.

But this is not always the case said Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, who specializes in employing new Bible translation methods using modern linguistics providing readers with updated and effective texts for scripture reading.

“I think there’s great beauty in the Bible, and much of it only comes to light through improved translations,” Hoffman told The Christian Post. “Unfortunately, some modern translations do water down the original language, and I think this is part of the reason so many people cling to the KJV (King James Version).”

“But there’s no reason we can’t have a modern translation that is accurate, beautiful, and deep like the original text of the Bible,” he added.

Hoffman highlighted some of his discoveries in the scripture text in an article that was published in the Huffington Post recently.

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Hoffman’s findings received criticism from other Christian leaders such as Pastor Trevor Hammock of Victory Baptist Church in Ovalo, Texas who called his work an “attack on the Bible.”

Hammock specifically targeted Hoffman’s conclusion drawn from the Song of Solomon that stated its original Hebrew text stresses equality between men and women.

He expressed his feelings towards this in a post on Sermon Audio.com stating that if Hoffman is right about the Song of Solomon “it would change the entire understanding of a lot of things.”

Hoffman defended his work on Song of Solomon to CP and explained how he arrived at his proposed meaning behind the text.

“The key here is the Hebrew word ACHOT, commonly translated “sister,” he said, referring to the terms used in the original text. “In the Bible, and, in fact, more generally throughout the ancient world, kinship terms were used to express power structure. So ‘father,’ for example, referred to a parent of ancestor, but also to someone with more power, while ‘son’ was the opposite. Similarly sister meant ‘someone who is equal in power to me.’ The man in Song of Solomon repeatedly called the woman ‘my ACHOT,’ that is, ‘my equal.”

Hoffman feels this discovery can offend Christian leaders who adhere to a worldview that women are subservient to men. By seeing this type of evidence in the Bible, it shakes up their previous assumptions and this is the reason why his statements have come under fire from pastors such as Hammock.

Pastor Sean E. Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C. also created a post on SermanAudio.com stating the Hoffman was essentially claiming that “you can’t trust the word of God.”

But Hoffman believes that his methods translate the texts accurately and bring out the original meaning, and this is something that certain Christians don’t want to hear.

“I know that some people are unwilling to distinguish between their translation of the Bible and the Bible itself,” he said. “Some people don’t want the Bible as it was originally written, but rather the Bible in a form that’s convenient to them.”

He used the Catholic Church as an example of this.

“Similarly, the Catholic Church tailors its translation to match its theology,” added Hoffman. “For example, it still translates one of the Commandments as, ‘you shall not kill,’ in keeping with the pacifist agenda. It’s widely recognized that ‘kill’ is too broad, and the Commandment was not intended to forbid all killing.”

He also stated that there is a rising trend of people such as Christopher Hitchens who attack the Bible without understanding it. Hoffman feels he might have been mistaken to be like some of these people but assured CP that was not his intent. According to Hitchens, he is trying to enhance the experience of reading the Bible by providing Christians with accurate modern translations.

“Modern translations give readers a better understanding of what the original authors of the Bible were trying to say,” said Hoffman. “If you care about what’s actually in the Gospel of Matthew, for example, then you want a linguistically accurate translation of it.”

“In this regard the Bible is like a beautiful oil painting that has been buried in the earth for 2,000 years,” added Hoffman. “Just as modern cleaning processes could help restore the work, modern linguistics and translation theory reveal the original beauty of the Bible.”

 

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