The Integration Of OT Theology With Bible Translation -- By: William D. Barrick

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 12:1 (Spring 2001)
Article: The Integration Of OT Theology With Bible Translation
Author: William D. Barrick


The Integration Of OT Theology With Bible Translation

William D. Barrick

Professor of Old Testament

Translation of Scripture should be faithful to the original languages of the text, but should also communicate the text’s meaning accurately to the modern reader so that he may reach proper theological conclusions. That poses a difficult challenge because of the great distance between classical Hebrew and various modern languages. Three passages from Genesis illustrate the interaction between translation and theology. Genesis 12:3 illustrates the importance of Hebrew syntax in translation. Genesis 15:5 reflects the effects of archaeology on translation and the importance of not excluding possible interpretations in passages with debated meanings. Genesis 19:24 shows how translations may obscure important details and why one should not impugn the theological positions of translators on the basis of renderings of isolated verses. Evangelicals with sound theology should take the lead in Bible translation because of the inevitable effect of a translator’s theology on the accuracy of his translation.

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Biblically based theology has no choice but to be wedded to Bible translation. One’s theology is heavily dependent upon one’s understanding of Scripture in translation, whether it is one’s own or that of a published version. On the other side of the coin, Bible translation is inextricably linked with theology. As evangelicals we tend to guard ourselves with the dictate that the Scriptures in their original languages are the final authority in all matters of faith and practice. In reality, however, an OT theology teacher must communicate with his students via some form of translation. The students themselves will interact with theological teaching on the basis of the translations with which they are most familiar.

Translation of Scripture must aim for the elucidation of the whole truth and nothing but the truth of the ancient text for the modern reader. The array of translations for any particular text of the OT is like a smorgasbord. Quick-fix, calorie-heavy, junk-food translations offering little in the way of exegetical nourishment exist alongside protein rich translations that are hard to chew and practically impossible for the spiritually immature to digest. Each one contains its own dose of the text’s truth. Even in the best of translations, unfortunately, a

balanced diet containing the whole truth is rare.

Bible translators are limited by the ver...

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