Liberalism in Bible Translations

Discussion in 'Non-Anglican Discussion' started by BibleHoarder, Nov 9, 2018.

  1. BibleHoarder

    BibleHoarder Active Member

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    Can people explain what exactly this means to me? Would this be more like proposed new revelations on the meaning of scripture, denying that there are things in the bible that have never been properly understood until now, because of a denial of the holy spirit accurately providing the correct interpretation in some way or another throughout history? That would suggest the scriptures are at the mercy of man and not safeguarded by God or some guided tradition as is often argued by those in the catholic spectrum.

    I would say pre-modernist translations like King James, Douay-Rheims and Geneva are probably more likely to adhere to patristic tradition and consensus, while the NRSV and some others like Good News fall into the liberal camp. Both have a very novel interpretation of Psalm 22:16 that is found neither in Christian or Jewish tradition. I have also heard some say that various study bibles will often contain liberal scholarship, though I need some insight as to what would that be exactly besides what I've already inquired about in this post.
     
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  2. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    Rather depends upon what you are meaning by the term 'liberal'. Are you using it with the North American presumption that it has negative connotations and therefore is a pejorative term? Each generation of translators struggles to get meaning from scripture, some of which can be ambiguous and far from 'plain speaking'. It is impossible also to interpret scripture without being influenced in part by the predominant mind set of the generation we are living in. Even the writers of New Testament scripture were influenced by some of the societal preconceptions of the societies they lived in. Jews would have had a different take on what Christianity meant than would have Gentiles, for instance. Romans would have a slightly different view of meanings than a Disciple in the Jerusalem or Damascus Churches. Paul was a Jewish Roman Citizen and had actually been confronted with a vision of the risen Christ, so he would have had an even more different understanding of what all that meant to him and so therefore to us. What modern scholarship should be trying to do is discover what Paul and other scripture authors actually might have meant, by writing what they did.

    Language interpretation from NT Greek to English is not so much a matter of 'the holy spirit accurately providing the correct interpretation in some way or another throughout history'. It is more a matter of discovering what the original authors meant by their use of the words they used in the sentences they constructed and how the various nuances of meaning of those original NT Greek words and sentences, may be accurately conveyed in an English Language which has constantly changing meanings of words from one generation to another. 'Meaning shift' is a serious problem.

    There are for instance upwards of 250 English words translated in the original KJV which have changed in meaning over the last 400 years so substantially that some of them even mean the exact opposite to the meaning they originally accurately conveyed, and more than 400 that have subtly shifted in meaning or are no longer used that way, enough to confuse the unaware reader.
     
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  3. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    I have no idea why the NRSV and Good News translations chose to go with this particular 'interpretation' of the oldest manuscripts. I agree it is incongruous and seems to make little sense, in context, particularly in the context used by the Gospel Writers and Zechariah, compared to 'pierced my hands and feet'.

    The problem seems to be with the original text which in Hebrew is very uncertain. Some ancient versions of the verse even come out as something very different. i.e. "Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts = (like a lion[they are at]my hands and feet]. The [they are at] is assumed because the actual text says [Like a lion my hands and feet], which does not seem to make much sense in English and probably didn't in Hebrew either, so something is probably missing in the ancient documents in question.

    I can't see any good reason however to depart from the 'pierced hands and feet' idea, since it obviously makes more sense. The issue for Biblical inerrantists would be the idea that there are some bits of The Bible that we simply cannot be certain of their meaning and so the gaps have been filled in by well meaning guesses at what it might have actually said. Whole sentences have been 'made sense of' this way. Another famous one is Job 19:25-27

    "For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
    and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    then in my flesh I shall see God,
    whom I shall see on my side,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another."

    No one can be absolutely certain what the original meant. Some Hebrew words are unintelligible and guesswork is employed in fitting them into coherent sentences. It only becomes a problem for translation when we go back to the ancient sources for meaning, which sometimes is simply not there in the oldest copies available. So we just have to go with whatever previous translators guessed the meaning to actually have been.
     
  4. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    https://www.gotquestions.org/Psalm-22-16-lion-pierced.html

    I found this, which to some extent opens the question in a way that we might understand the issue. The difficulty for us as Christians is that we should not only see the Old Testament in the light of Jesus, but also in its own place, so that it may inform us, not us informing the Old Testament what it means. We are for the most part informed by translations of the scriptures, and this is not an exact science, especially as both Greek and Hebrew have many nuances that are lost on us and can be very difficult to render reasonably in English.

    I don't see it as a liberalism issue, so much as an earnest attempt to provide the best scholarship with academic credibility possible.
     
  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    But what it means is Jesus:

    Luke 24:27-
    And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

    John 5:39-
    You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.
     
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  6. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Yes. However we do not get to that point by searching the Old Testament to find every reference and association simply from the faith in Jesus standpoint. When we do that we miss other things that are there. Ithink that the argument is that we should also allow the scriptures of the Old Testament to speak and to try to hear them as the first hearers heard them. It is easy from a Christian standpoint to see the Eucharistic overtones in the encounter between Abraham and Melchizedek, however we are not fair to the text when that is all we see.

    You can seek to force Jesus into every verse of the Old Testament or you seek to hear the Old Testament and recognise those places where we recognise it speaks of Jesus. Sometimes that means that there will be more than one layer of meaning. Isaiah 7:14 is a case where as Christians we recognise a prophecy about Mary, Mother of the Lord, theotokos, however we also recognise the prophecy in its own time had a realisation in the birth of Hezekiah.

    I was not especially arguing the point, but rather merely recognising that scholarship has a rightful place in the understanding the scripture. There are numbers of passages that I think are less ennobling in contemporary translation, however sadly I fear that some of that is a reflection of our attitude to language which has become more functional than beautiful. And I fear it is accelerating, to compare the language of say Winston Churchill with say Donald Trump, both important in their own age is to made painfully aware that we have lost a great deal of the dignity of language.
     
  7. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Wait, so would you say that Jesus forced himself into the verses of the Old Testament, and that to let it speak and be heard "for itself" would tell us a different message than what the first hearers heard them?
     
  8. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    No. I would not. My point is that the OT does speak of Jesus but we do not help or cause if we overplay that. You seem to stretch my meaning further than was intended.
     
  9. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Sorry, I didn't mean to. I just think that the position you're enunciating is where the church is finding itself today.

    It must never be forgotten that the traditional 'received' understanding is that the Old Testament speaks and teaches of Jesus very clearly. The modernist/liberal understanding does not not (not to say that you belong to that camp). The reason it does so derives from not taking the New Testament very strongly; any verses, including the the affirmations of Jesus about the OT being about him. Combined with the ecumenical dialogue with the Jews, it is assumed that the OT couldn't possibly, on the natural reading of the text, be speaking of him. The modern Jews are offended at Christianity's claim of the Old Testament, and insist strongly that the OT's audience had a fundamentally different understanding of the text than the Christians will claim. That's the horns of this dilemma that I think you're in.

    If I were asked, I would say that apart from Jesus, I would say this to the non-Christian interpreters of the Old Testament:
    -the OT clearly speaks of God in multiplicity; he constantly talks of himself as a 'we'
    -the OT has a climactic emphasis on the Messiah, the redeemer of all things.
    -there are many places where the Holy Ghost is present, not only in Genesis but in, like, the Holy Ghost infusing Samson.

    On that basis alone, the natural reading of the text would bridge the Old with the New Testament. Thereupon can we conclude that Psalm 22, etc, likewise fall into this interpretative grid? Yes. Should we assume that the Old Testament Jews would've been offended at Jesus and at the messianic interpretations of the OT? No, I don't think we can.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  10. BibleHoarder

    BibleHoarder Active Member

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    The simplest explanation is that translations of the originals like the Septuagint and NT Vulgate are close enough to the time periods in which the languages and culture were fresh that they could explain things with more certainty than we could, things that eventually fell into obscurity regarding all of that. Orthodox Jews began to force the "like a lion" interpretation into Psalm 22:16 based on the Hebrew in spite of its awkwardness, once the association with Jesus became quite common. The Septuagint translators were rabbis who, prior to Jesus, likely understood what it meant based on tradition and the common vernacular of their day.

    The Vulgate is close enough to the NT era that it serves the same benefit for the NT as does the Septuagint for the OT. The verse where Jesus talks about food going into the stomach and out 'is eliminated' used the word 'aphedron' in the NT to explain where it goes, which according to the Vulgate is basically a waste dump/toilet. The Greek word was obscure to us for many years, until archaeology proved that Jerome got it right in his Vulgate, because the word was still actively used in his day.
     
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  11. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    The fact is that attempts to force OT scripture into meanings which depend upon post resurrection hindsight are problematic wherever they may have not been the references Jesus had expounded about himself while walking home with those two disciples, (traditionally thought to be husband and wife). His exegesis may have taken an hour or so at most and we can't be sure which verses of which books he chose to expound upon. The temptation therefore ever since has been to trawl through the whole of the OT word by word and pounce on anything at all which might have been included in His discourse.

    Unfortunately our exegesis will never match His, and I have only rarely sat through sermons which have 'warmed my heart within me', as those two disciples experienced by the time they arrived at their destination. (A metaphor if ever there was one). Clearly there must be a limit to how much OT scripture can be shoehorned into becoming messianic predictions. That limit would have to be 'Did Jesus himself think the passage under consideration was prophetic of his own life and function as The Messiah'? In most cases we can only guess. The NT writers cite examples which may have come from Jesus, but beyond that the landscape of opinion opens up revealing a smorgasbord of 'faith' and 'revelation'.
     
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  12. BibleHoarder

    BibleHoarder Active Member

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    What I find interesting is that either the Aramaic or Syriac translation of Psalm 22:16 combines the literal meaning of the masoretic hebrew and septuagint texts into one. Instead of "Like a lion, my hands and feet" (Hebrew) or "They pierced my hands and feet" (Greek), it goes, "Like a lion they tore into my hands and feet".
     
  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Active Member

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    Interesting as all this undoubtedly is, it does not have as much importance as we might imagine. It seems clear to me that if Jesus quoted the first line of this psalm from the cross, he was intending his listeners, (if they knew what he was quoting), to recall the whole of the psalm and connect it with what had happened to Jesus on the cross and in the coming grave. It strikes me that reading through to the final stanzas even perhaps reveals his intention that we should understand what was being accomplished for us by his suffering, because it speaks clearly of his final victory over the dreadful circumstances that he was enduring at the time.

    All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
    and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.
    For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.
    To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.
    Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
    and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

    i.e. "It is Finished".

    It is here that we see the ambiguity of God in Christ dying for the world HE created, to redeem it ALL, even to the ends of the earth.
     
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  14. Rev2104

    Rev2104 Active Member

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    Personal thought
    I would go with the Septugent over the masoretic any day of the week.
    The jews of Christ time with Hellenized the Spetugent was the most common translation.

    Jesus ( IE GOD) and Paul where very clear on what the purpose of old testament was, to prepare us for Christ. They both where clear to make the point that the old testament as all about Christ. That also the way the early church viewed it. So scripture and tradition informs how I apporch scripture.

    I would be a fool to go against the Lord, Apostles, and the Church Fathers who came before me. I am not interested in a new and different faith, just the one handed onto me. Part of that faith, is how to read and handle scripture.
     
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