Thursday, July 15, 2010

Does Bible Translation Matter?

People often wonder if it really matters what version of the Bible they read. After all, the versions with glaring and obvious errors have all been weeded out, right?

While that’s true of mainstream editions of the Bible; there’s still some room for caution. Out-and-out errors aren’t common but the translators’ intentions can still seep into the material. Consider the extremely popular New International Version’s (NIV) treatment of “tradition”.

Let’s look at some places “tradition” is used:

"Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?... Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Mt 15:2-3)

“Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Mt 15:6)

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." (Mk 7:8)

Notice a theme? Every reference to “tradition” is negative.

Interestingly, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is rendered this way:

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

The root Greek for “teachings” in 2 Thess 2:15 is the same as all of the above references to “tradition”. What’s the difference? Well, 2 Thess 2:15 endorses “teachings” while the others condemn “traditions”. It’s not hard to figure out what the translators of the NIV think of “tradition” is it?

In addition to having all of the Old Testament; this is another reason why the Catholic Church gives its approval to certain translations of the Bible and withholds approval from others.

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