Concerns In Bible Translation: Introduction -- By: Burton L. Goddabd

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 10:2 (Spring 1967)
Article: Concerns In Bible Translation: Introduction
Author: Burton L. Goddabd

Concerns In Bible Translation:

Burton L. Goddabd, Th.D.

When church historians, writing in perspective, describe the era in which we live, it is possible that they will have little to say about the “God is Dead Movement” but considerable to say about the phenomenon of Bible translation which we have observed and continue to observe. Evangelical scholars do well to consider their relationship to this significant activity. Is the present translation of the Scriptures into the English language a waste of time, as some affirm? Ought conservative scholars to by-pass this program in favor of writing commentaries, as a friend of mine suggested recently? Or, as one reputable scholar contends, should we not rather be out in missionary and evangelistic work, seeking to convert the unbeliever? Moreover, is it not true that the average member of the Evangelical Theological Society is sufficiently conversant with the original languages of Scripture that he can be somewhat unconcerned about the matter of English translations? Certainly he is well qualified to use such translations judiciously, irrespective of failings they may have.

If the scholar’s sphere of activity was limited to the study and the classroom, it is reasonable to suppose that he might, indeed, have no great concern for any particular rendering of the Bible into English, but that is not the case. For most of us, English is our native tongue. When we worship, this language becomes the vehicle by which God speaks to us and we to Him. When we lead in worship, it is the English Bible which we almost invariably use. When we teach Bible classes in the Church or in the Sunday School or in the home, we employ an English version. We memorize Scripture not in the Hebrew or the Greek but in our own language. Large portions of the Christian literature which we read refer to the Bible in translation, and it is the English Bible which is represented by the wall plaques in homes and which is quoted in the newspapers and secular magazines and through audio-visual communications. In fact, the culture of which we are a part, when it has anything to say about God’s revelation, generally employs the English Bible, and we cannot dissociate ourselves from the culture at this point. It is ours. We ought, therefore, to be concerned with the merits of the English version or versions which we use.

But think of the Christian whose only Bible, so to speak, is the English Bible. How well does the translation he uses represent the original? And how well does it communicate God’s word to him? Is it not true that he will have only those versions which have been made available to him by scholars? An unlettered person is himself not well prepared to do translation work. Yet whose work will he use? If he uses a tra...

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