Home  |  Biblical Interpretation Seminar Main Page  |  Seminar Notebook Table of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |

THE BIBLE

I. Author’s General Presuppositions

 

A. God exists and He wants us to know Him.

 

B. He has revealed Himself to us.

1. He acted in history (revelation)

2. He chose certain men to record and explain His acts (inspiration)

3. His Spirit helps the reader (hearer) of this written revelation understand its main truths (illumination)

 

C. The Bible is the only trustworthy source of truth about God. It is collectively our only source for faith and practice. (OT and NT books written to specific occasions and times are now inspired guides for all occasions and ages). However, they do contain some cultural truths that do not transcend their own time and culture (i.e. polygamy, holy war, slavery, celibacy, etc.).

 

II. Its Literary Limits — Assumed Canonization Principles

 

A. The Protestant Canon contains all the inspired books—the canon is closed! (Jude v. 3)

1. accepted OT from Jews

2. twenty-seven books in NT (a progressive historical process)

 

B. New Testament authors are connected to Jesus or an Apostle (a progressive historical process).

1. James and Jude to Jesus (His half-brothers)

3. Mark to Peter (turned his sermons at Rome into a Gospel)

4. Luke to Paul

5. Hebrews traditionally to Paul

 

C. Theological unity with Apostolic teaching (later "rule of faith")

1. because of the rise of heresy (i.e., adoptionism, Gnosticism, Marcionism, and Montanism)

2. because of the delayed Second Coming

3. because of the death of the twelve Apostles

 

D. The permanently and morally changed lives of hearers

 

E. The general consensus of the early churches through a consensus in a large geographical and diverse cultural context before the major church councils can be seen in the early lists of canonical books.

1. Origen (a.d. 185-254) asserts that there were four Gospels and the Epistles of the Apostles.

2. The Muratorian Fragment dates between a.d. 180-200 from Rome (the only copy available today is a damaged, late Latin text). It lists the same 27 books as the Protestant NT (but adds Apocalypse of Peter and Shepherd of Hermas).

3. Eusebius of Caesarea (a.d. 265-340) introduced a threefold designation (as did Origen) to describe Christian writings: (1) "received" and thereby accepted; (2) "disputed" and thereby differences among churches; and (3) "spurious" and thereby unaccepted and not to be read in churches. The ones in the disputed category were: James, Jude, II Peter, and II and III John.

4. The Cheltenham list (in Latin) from North Africa (a.d. 360) has the same 27 books (except for Hebrews, James, and Jude [Hebrews is not specifically mentioned, but may be included in Paul’s letters]), as the Protestant NT, but in an unusual order.

5. Athanasius’ Easter Letter of a.d. 367 is the first to list exactly the same 27 books as the Protestant NT with no additions.

6. The concept and contents of an authoritative list of unique books was a historical and theological development.

 

F. Suggested reading:

1. The Canon of the New Testament by Bruce Metzger, published by Oxford Press.

2. Articles on canon in Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1. pp. 709-745.

3. Introduction to the Bible by William E. Nix and Norman Geisler, published by Moody Press, 1968 (esp. the chart on p. 22)

4. Holy Writings - Sacred Text: The Canon in Early Christianity by John Barton, published by Westminster John Knox Press, 1997

 

G. The Old and New Testaments are the only literary productions of the ancient Near East that were canonized as especially coming from and revealing Divine purposes. There are no other religious lists which differentiate between canonical (i.e., authoritative) vs. non-canonical religious writings.

How, why, and when did this historical process happen?

1. Was it by the decisions of the church councils of the third and fourth centuries a.d.?

2. Was it by the use of Christian writers of the second century?

3. Was it by the churches of the late first-fourth centuries?

 

III. It Speaks for Itself

 

A. The words of Jesus about the Bible’s significance and eternality. (In context Matt. 5:17ff shows Jesus’ superiority over the Old Testament and rabbinical literature (cf. Acts 15; Gal. 3; Hebrews). Jesus lifts the Old Testament in order to lift Himself above it as its only true interpreter.)

1. Matt. 5:17-19

a. The Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ, not abolished.

b. The Old Testament is eternal. It is always relevant.

c. The Old Testament is a means or standard of judgment (cf. Galatians 3).

2. Matt. 5:21-48

a. The current rabbinical interpretations were wrong.

b. The Old Testament is inspired, not fallen human interpretations of it.

 

B. The words of Paul and Peter about its inspiration.

1. II Tim. 3:16

a. "all" or "every" Scripture

b. "God breathed" (theoneutos)

2. I Cor. 2:9-13 (the Spirit reveals God)

3. I Thess. 2:13 (not words of humans, but of God)

4. I Pet. 1:23-25 (God's Word is eternal)

5. II Pet. 1:20-21 (not from humans, but from the Holy Spirit)

6. II Pet. 3:15-16 (Paul’s writings as Scripture). This is one of the few places where NT writings are placed on par with Scripture (it is also implied by Matt. 10:10 and Luke 10:7, where Jesus makes a comment based on Deut. 25:4. Both Jesus’s comment and Deut. 25:4 are then quoted in I Tim. 5:18, where both are called Scripture).

 

C. The words of Paul about the OT relevance

1. Rom. 4:23-24; 15:4 (Bible is for believer’s instruction and encouragement)

2. I Cor. 10:6, 11 (Old Testament is an example for us)

3. I Peter 1:10-12 (OT authors knew their writings about the Messiah were for future believers)

 

IV. The Bible’s Basic Purpose

 

A. It is not a rule book

1. Its basic purpose is redemption (cf. II Tim. 3:15).

2. Its secondary purpose is Christ-like maturity (cf. II Tim. 3:16b-17).

a. profitable for teaching, reproof, and correction

b. profitable for training in righteousness

c. makes believers mature and equipped for every spiritual task

3. It focuses on relationships, not on rules (cf. Col. 2:16-23). It is not a "Christian Talmud." Rules can become barriers instead of bridges. The Bible does contain guidelines for conduct, but not in every area. Ambiguity is present and gray areas will be encountered. The major gift is "the Guide," not the guidelines. We can know enough to live a life pleasing to God. We must walk in the light we have in love, realizing there are always some ambiguous areas.

 

B. It is not a science book. Modern people are asking questions of the Bible that it was not meant to answer!

1. It is pre-scientific, not anti-scientific

2. It is a world view (God did it), not a world picture (how God did it)

3. It is written in the language of description (phenomenological).

a. the dead live in the ground (Sheol)

b. the earth floats on water

c.even modern English uses idiomatic language (i.e., figurative or what appears to be true to the common observer)

(1) dew falls

(2) sun rises

4. suggested reading

a. Religion and the Rise of Modern Science by R. Hooykaas

b. The Scientific Enterprise and the Christian Faith by Malcolm A. Jeeves

c. The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Bernard Ramm

d. Science and Hermeneutics by Vern S. Poythress

e.  Darwinism on Trial by Phillip Johnson

f.  Reasons to Believe by Hugh Ross, Pensacola Bible Church, Pensacola, FL

 

C. It is not a magic book. In our love for the Bible and our desire to know God’s will for our lives we do strange things to the Bible, using it as a:

1. crystal ball (letting the Bible fall open and putting our finger on a text)

2. magic charm (put it on our desks or dash boards)

3. fetish (take it to the hospital with us simply for its presence)

The Bible is a message to be read. Its physical presence is not enough.

 

V. Author’s Basic Presuppositions About the Bible

 

"I believe the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the only clear self-revelation of God. The New Testament is the perfect fulfillment and interpreter of the Old Testament. I believe the one and only Eternal, Creator, Redeemer God initiated the writing of our canonical Scriptures by inspiring certain chosen persons to record and explain His acts in the lives of individuals and nations. The Bible is our only clear source of information about God and His purposes. Natural revelation (cf. Job 38-39; Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-15) is valid but not complete. Jesus Christ is the capstone of God’s revelation about Himself (cf. John 1:18; Col. 1:14-16; Heb. 1:2-3). The Bible must be illuminated by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:23; 16:20-21; I Cor. 2:6-16) in order to be correctly understood (in its spiritual dimension). Its message is authoritative, adequate, eternal, infallible and trustworthy for all believers. The exact mode of its inspiration has not been revealed to us, but it is obvious to believers that the Bible is a supernatural book, written by natural men under special leadership."

VI. Evidence For a Supernaturally-Inspired Bible

 

A. Predictive prophecy

1. Isa. 9:1ff. (Galilee as focus of Jesus’ early ministry)

2. Mic. 5:2 (cf. Matt. 2:4-6, the exact location of Jesus’ birth)

 

B. Archaeology

1. The same names (but not the biblical people) of Gen.11-12 are found in other second millennium B.C. texts from Mesopotamia (i.e. Mari and Nuzi texts).

2. The Hittite civilization is mentioned in the OT (cf. II Kgs. 7:6, 7; II Chr. 1:17, possibly Heth in Gen. 10:15), but was unknown by documentary evidences until 1950's

3. Belshazzar (cf. Daniel 5) not listed in Babylonian Kings lists, but now known as the son of the last Neo-Babylonian king (Nabonidus) and co-regent in charge of the city of Babylon when besieged by Cyrus’ army)

4. Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, p. 31, "No archaeological discovery has ever been made that contradicts or controverts historical statements of Scripture."

 

C. Consistency of the message

1. Written over a 1600 year period (depending on the date of the Exodus).

2. Written in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Koine Greek).

3. Written by men of vastly different social status and cultural situations.

4. Yet there is a unity of message!

 

D. Permanently changed lives of hearers

 

E. Bishop H. C. G. Moule, "He [Christ] absolutely trusted the Bible, and, though there are in it things inexplicable and intricate that have puzzled men so much, I am going, not in a blind sense, but reverently to trust the Book because of Him." Harford and MacDonald, The Life of Bishop Moule, 1922 (p. 138).

 

F. A good book which extends these evidences is D. James Kennedy’s Why I Believe.

 

VII. Problems Related to Our Interpretation of the Bible (hand copied manuscripts and limits of human languages)

 

A. Manuscript Problems (textual criticism)

1. Suggested reading:

a. Biblical Criticism: Historical, Literary and Textual, by R.H. Harrison

b. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration by Bruce M. Metzger

c. Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism and Scribes, Scrolls, and Scriptures, by J.H. Greenlee

d. The Books and the Parchments by F.F. Bruce

e. The Early Versions of the New Testament by Bruce Metzger

f. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce

g. The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism by D.A. Carson

h. Ancient Orient and Old Testament by K.A. Kitchen

i. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, by Bart D. Ehrman

j. Rethinking New Testament Textual Criticism, edited by David Alan Beach

2. The major sources of our modern Bible

a. Old Testament

(1) Masoretic text (MT) - The Hebrew consonantal textual form was set by Rabbi Aquiba in a.d. 100 (probably the text of the Pharisees). The addition of vowel points, accents, marginal notes, punctuation, and apparatus notes were finished in the ninth century a.d. by Masoretic scholars. This textual form is quoted in the Mishnah, Talmud, Targums (Aramaic translation), Peshitta (Syriac translation), and Vulgate (Latin translation).

(2) Septuagint (LXX) - Tradition says it was produced by 70 Jewish scholars in 70 days for the library of Alexandria, Egypt. It was supposedly requested by a Jewish leader of King Ptolemy II living in Alexandria (285-246 b.c.). The Ptolemy rulers of Egypt boasted of the largest library in the world. This tradition comes from "Letter of Aristeas." The LXX provides a differing Hebrew textual tradition from the text of Rabbi Aquiba (MT). Both traditions are represented in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

(3) Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) - written in the Roman b.c. period, close to New Testament times by a sect of Jewish separatists (left temple worship because the high priest was not of the line of Aaron) called the "Essenes." The Hebrew manuscripts (MSS) were found in 1947 in several cave sites around the Dead Sea. They contain the Hebrew textual family behind both the MT and the LXX.

(4) The LXX has helped to understand the MT (one example):

(a) the LXX of Isa. 52:14 - "as many shall be amazed at him"

(b) the MT of Isa. 52:14 - "Just as many were astonished over you"

(5) The DSS has helped to understand the MT (one example):

(a) the DSS of Isa. 21:8 - "then the seer cried, upon a watchtower I stand. . ."

(b) the MT of Isa. 21:8 - "And I cried a lion! My Lord, I always stand on the watchtower by day. . ."

(6) Both the LXX and DSS have helped our understanding of Isa. 53:11

(a) LXX & DSS - "after the travail of his soul he will see light, he will be satisfied"

(b) MT - "he shall see of the travail of his soul. He shall be satisfied" (The MT doubled the verb but left out the first object).

b. New Testament

(1) Over 5,300 manuscripts (whole or fragmentary) of the Greek New Testament are in existence today. About 85 of these are written on papyri. There are 268 (uncial) manuscripts written in all capital letters. Later, about the ninth century a.d., a running script (minuscule) was developed. The Greek manuscripts written in this form number about 2,700. We also have about 2,100 copies of lists of Scripture texts used in worship that are called lectionaries.

(2) The Papyri - About 85 Greek manuscripts containing parts of the New Testament are extant, written on papyrus, dating from the 2nd century a.d., but most are from the third and fourth centuries a.d. None of these manuscripts contain the whole New Testament. Some are done by professional scribes but many of them are hastily copied by less exact copyists. Just being old does not in and of itself make it better.

(3) Codex Sinaiticus which is known by the Hebrew "A" (aleph), "א" or (01). It was found at St. Catherine’s monastery on Mt. Sinai by Tischendorf. It dates from the fourth century a.d. It contains both the Old Testament and New Testament. It is of "The Alexandrian Text" type, as is Codex B.

(4) Codex Alexandrinus which is known as "A" (alpha) or (02). It is a fifth century A.D. manuscript which was found in Alexandria, Egypt.

(5) Codex Vaticanus which is known as "B" or (03). It was found in the Vatican’s library in Rome and dates from the middle of the fourth century a.d. It contains both the Old Testament and New Testament. It is of "The Alexandrian Text" type, as is Codex א. Its roots go back into the second century from P75.

(6) Codex Ephraemi which is known as "C" or (04). It is a fifth century A.D. manuscript which was partially destroyed. Its roots go back to the third century P45. Codex W from the fifth century is also of the textual family.

(7) Codex Bezae which is known as "D" or (05). It is a fifth or sixth century a.d. manuscript. Its roots, according to Eldon Jay Epp, go back into the second century based on the Old Latin and Old Syriac translations, as well as many papyri fragments. However, Kurt and Barbara Eland do not list any papyri connected to this textual family and they put it to the fourth century and no earlier, but they do list a few precursor papyri (i.e., P38, P48, P69). It is the chief representative of what is called "The Western Text." It contains many additions and was the main Greek witness behind the third edition of Erasmus' Greek New Testament which was the Greek witness for the King James translation.

(8) The NT manuscripts can be grouped into three, possibly four families of manuscripts that share certain characteristics.

(a) Alexandrian "local" text which includes:

i. P75, P66 (about a.d. 200) which record the Gospels

ii. P46 (about a.d. 225) records Paul’s letters

iii. P72 (about a.d. 225-250) records Peter and Jude

iv. Codex B called Vaticanus (about a.d. 325), which includes the whole OT and NT.

v.  quoted by Origen

vi.  other manuscripts which show this text type are א , L, W, 33

(b) Western text from North Africa which includes:

i. quotes from North Africa: Tertullian, Cyprian and the Old Latin

ii.  quotes from Irenaeus

iii.  quotes from Tatian and Old Syriac

iv.  Codex D "Bezea"

(c) Byzantine text

i. is reflected in over 80% of the 5,300 manuscripts (mostly minuscules)

ii.  is quoted by leaders from Antioch of Syria: Cappadoceans, Chrysostom and Therdoret

iii.  Codex A in the Gospels only

iv.  Codex E (eighth century) for full NT

(d) the fourth possible type is "Caesarean"

i. it is primarily seen only in Mark

ii.  some witnesses to it are: P45, W, ʜ

c. Some examples of the problems related to Old Testament quotes in the New Testament:

(1) Compare Num. 25:9 (24,000 died) with I Cor. 10:8 (23,000 died) (possible allusion to Exod. 32, not Num. 25:9);

(a) I Cor. 10:7 quotes Exod. 32

(b) Exod. 32:25 mentions "YHWH smote them," cf. Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, pp. 140-41.)

(2) Matt. 27:9 quotes from Zechariah but attributes it to Jeremiah. Some theories for this problem:

(a) The Peshitta (5th century a.d. Syriac translation) removes the name "Jeremiah" from the text.

(b) Augustine, Luther, and Keil say an error has occurred in the Masoretic Text.

(c) Origen and Eusebius say it was an early copyist error in the New Testament manuscript.

(d) Jerome and Ewald say it is a quote from an apocryphal work attributed to Jeremiah, but now lost.

(e) Mede says Jeremiah wrote Zechariah 9-11.

(f) Lightfoot and C. I. Scofield say that Jeremiah was considered the first of the prophets by post-exilic Judaism and, therefore, his name implies "in the prophets section of the canon."

(g) Hengstenberg says Zechariah quoted Jeremiah.

(h) Calvin says an error has crept into the text, but how is unknown.

d. Brief explanation of the problems and theories of "lower criticism" or "textual criticism."

(1) How did the variants occur?

(a) Inadvertent or accidental (vast majority of occurrences)

i. Slip of the eye

a) in hand copying which reads the second instance of two similar words and, thereby, omits all of the words in between (homoioteleuton)

b) in omitting a double letter word or phrase (haplography)

c) in hand copying mental error in repeating a phrase or line of a Greek text (dittography)

ii. Slip of the ear in hand copying by oral dictation where a misspelling occurs (itacism) in similar sounding words. Often the misspelling implies or spells another Greek word.

iii. The earliest Greek texts had no chapter or verse divisions, little or no punctuation, and no division between words. It is possible to divide letters into different words.

(b) intentional

i. Changes were made to improve the grammatical form of the text copied.

ii. Changes were made to bring the text into conformity with other biblical texts (harmonization of parallels).

iii. Changes were made by combining two or more variant readings into one long combined text (conflation).

iv. Changes were made to correct a perceived problem in the text. (cf. Bart Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 146-50 concerning Heb. 2:9).

v. Changes were made to make the text more doctrinally orthodox (cf. I John 5:7-8).

vi. Some additional information as to the historical setting or proper interpretation of the text was placed in the margin by one scribe, but placed into the text by a second scribe (cf. John 5:4).

(2) The basic tenets of textual criticism (transcriptional probabilities):

(a) The most awkward or grammatically unusual text is probably the original because scribes tended to make the texts smoother.

(b) The shortest text is probably the original because scribes tended to add additional information or phrases from parallel passages (this has recently been challenged by papyrus comparative studies).

(c) The older text is given more weight because of its historical proximity to the original, everything else being equal.

(d) Manuscripts that are geographically diverse usually have the original readings.

(e) Attempts to explain how variants could have occurred. This is considered the most important tenet by most scholars.

(f) Analysis of a given biblical author’s literary style, vocabulary, and theology is used to decide probable original wording.

(g) Doctrinally weaker texts, especially those relating to major theological discussions of the period of manuscript changes like the Trinity in I John 5:7-8, are to be preferred. At this point I would like to quote from J. Harold Greenlee’s book Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism

"No Christian doctrine hangs upon a debatable text; and the student of the New Testament must beware of wanting his text to be more orthodox or doctrinally stronger than is the inspired original" (p. 68).

(h) "W.A. Criswell told Greg Garrison of The Birmingham News that he (Criswell) doesn’t believe every word in the Bible is inspired, ‘at least not every word that has been given to the modern public by centuries of translators.’ Criswell said: ‘I very much am a believer in textual criticism. As such, I think the last half of the 16th chapter of Mark is heresy: it’s not inspired, it’s just concocted. . .When you compare those manuscripts way back yonder, there was no such thing as that conclusion of the Book of Mark. Somebody added it. . .’

The patriarch of the SBC inerrantists also claimed that "interpolation" is also evident in John 5:4, the account of Jesus at the pool of Bethesda. And he discusses the two different accounts of the suicide of Judas (cf. Matt. 27 and Acts 1): ‘It’s just a different view of the suicide,’ Criswell said. ‘If it is in the Bible, there is an explanation for it. And the two accounts of the suicide of Judas are in the Bible.’ Criswell added: ‘Textual criticism is a wonderful science in itself. It is not ephemeral, it’s not impertinent. It’s dynamic and central. . .’"

3. Some examples of the problem of hand-copied manuscripts in the Greek New Testament:

a. Mark 16:9ff - In the Greek manuscript tradition of Mark there are four different endings. The longest ending of 12 verses found in King James is missing in manuscripts א and B. The Greek texts used by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius and Jerome also lack the ending. The ending is present in manuscripts A, C, D, K, U and אc. The earliest witness in the Fathers is Irenaeus (ministered a.d. 177-190) and the Diatessaron (a.d. 170). The passage is obviously non-Markan.

These verses contain terms and theology not found elsewhere in Mark. They even contain heresy (i.e., drinking of poison and handling snakes).

b. John 5:4 - This verse is not in P66, P75, nor the uncial manuscripts א, B, C, or D. However, it is found in A. It was obviously added by a scribe to explain the historical setting.

This is obviously Jewish folklore answering the question why there were so many sick people around this pool. God does not heal by angels stirring water with the first to enter being rewarded with physical healing.

c. John 7:53-8:11 - This passage does not appear in any of the ancient Greek manuscripts or early church Fathers until the 6th century a.d. in a manuscript "D" called Bezae. No Greek church Father until the 12th century a.d. comments on this passage. The account is found in several other places in the Greek manuscripts of John, after 7:36, after 7:44 and after 21:25. It also appears in Luke’s Gospel after Luke 21:38. It is obviously non-Johannine. It is probably an oral tradition from the life of Jesus. It sounds so much like Him, but it is not from the pen of an inspired Apostle, therefore, I reject it as Scripture.

d. Matt. 6:13 - This verse is not found in manuscripts א, B, or D. It is present in manuscripts K, L, and W but with variations. It is also absent from the early church Father’s comments on the Lord’s Prayer (i.e., Tertullian [a.d. 150-230], Origen [a.d. 182-251], and Cyprian [a.d. ministered 248-258]). It is found in the King James translation.

e. I John 5:7-8 - These verses are not found in manuscripts א , A or B nor any other Greek manuscript except four dating from the 12th century a.d. This text is not quoted by any of the Greek Fathers even in their defense of the concept of the deity of Christ or the Trinity. They are absent from all ancient translations including Jerome’s Vulgate. They were apparently added later by well-meaning copyists in order to bolster the doctrine of the Trinity. They are found in the King James translation because of their inclusion in Erasmus’ third edition (and only this edition) of the Greek New Testament.

f. Luke 22:43-44 - These verses are found in the ancient manuscript Greek uncial א*, א2, D, K, L, X, and Delta. They are also found in the quotations of Justin, Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, and Jerome. However, they are omitted in MSS P69 [probably] 75, אc, A, N, T, and W, as well as the manuscripts used by Clement of Alexandria and Origen. The UBS4 ranks their omission as "certain" (A).

Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 187-194, assumes these verses are an early second century addition to refute docetic (agnostic) Christologies who denied Christ’s humanity and suffering. The church’s conflict with Christological heresies was the source of many of the early manuscript changes.

The NASB and NRSV bracket these verses, while NKJV, TEV, and NIV have a footnote which says, "some ancient manuscripts omit verses 43 and 44." This information is unique to Luke’s Gospel.

g. Our modern translations of the Bible do have some textual problems. However, these do not affect a major doctrine. We can trust these modern translations of the Bible for all that is necessary for faith and practice.

h. One of the translators of the RSV, F.C. Grant, said, "No doctrine of the Christian faith has been affected by the revision, for the simple reason that, out of thousands of variant readings in the manuscripts, none has turned up thus far that requires a revision of Christian doctrine."

i. "It is noteworthy that for most scholars over 90% of all the variants of the NT text are resolved, because in most instances the variant that best explains the origins of the others is also supported by the earliest and best witnesses" (Gordon Fee, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 1 (p. 430).

 

B. Translation Problems

1. Translation from one language to another is always difficult. All translations are a commentary on the language of the original author.

2. Theories of translation

a. literal—word for word correspondence

(1) King James Version and New King James Version

(2) American Standard Version and New American Standard Bible

(3) Revised Standard Version (between literal and idiomatic) and New Revised Standard Version

b. idiomatic—dynamic equivalent

(1) Good News for Modern Man (Today’s English Version)

(2) New English Bible and Revised English Bible

(3) Jerusalem Bible and New Jerusalem Bible

(4) New International Version

(5) Williams Translation (the NT in the language of the people)

c. concept for concept or paraphrase

(1) Living Bible

(2) Amplified Bible

(3) Phillips Translation

d. by comparing a and b one sees

(1) MSS variants

(2) word meanings options

(3) punctuation options

3. Suggested readings:

a. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart

b. The Book and the Parchments by F.F. Bruce

c. The Bible in Its Ancient and English Versions by H. Wheeler Robinson

 

C. The Problem and the Limitations of Human Language

1. our language is finite and, therefore, not exhaustive

a. anthropomorphism (God described in human terms)

(1) God with human body

(a) walking - Gen. 3:8; 18:33; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14

(b) eyes - Gen. 6:8; Exod. 33:17

(c) man on throne - Isa. 6:1; Dan.7:9

(2) God as female

(a) Gen. 1:2 (Spirit as female bird)

(b) Gen. 17:1 (El Shaddai)

(c) Deut. 32:18 (God as mother)

(d) Exod. 19:4 (God as mother eagle)

(d) Isa. 49:14-15; 66:9-13 (God as nursing mother and also possibly Hos. 11:4)

(3) God as advocating lying (cf. I Kgs 22:19-23)

(4) NT examples of "God's right hand" (cf. Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1;20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 13:1; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; I Pet. 3:22)

b. Human titles used to describe God

(1) Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23)

(2) Father (cf. Isa. 63:16; Ps. 103:13)

(3) Go’el - Kinsman redeemer (cf. Exod. 6:6)

(4) Lover - husband (cf. Hos. 1-3)

(5) Parent, father, and mother (cf. Hos. 11:3-4)

c. Physical objects used to describe God

(1) Rock (cf. Ps. 18)

(2) Fortress and stronghold (cf. Ps. 18)

(3) Shield (cf. Gen. 15:1; Ps. 18)

(4) Horn of salvation (cf. Ps. 18)

(5) Tree (cf. Hos. 14:8)

2.Language is part of the image of God in mankind (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), but sin has affected all aspects of our existence, including language.

3. God is faithful and communicates to us adequately, if not exhaustively, knowledge about Himself. This is usually in the form of negation, analogy, or metaphor.

 

Home  |  Biblical Interpretation Seminar Main Page  |  Seminar Notebook Table of Contents  |  Previous Section  |  Next Section  |