Don't Trash Your Translation

This article was written by Benjamin Darge, a member of Addison and a former pastoral intern.
By the grace of God, we live in a time in which there are so many translations of the
Bible in English that we have encountered the unforeseen issue of having too many choices to pick from. Compare this to many places worldwide that would love to have just one translation
they can read! Because of this “problem” it has become dramatically easier to disregard a
translation for several reasons. If you are unfamiliar with the biblical languages,
you might hastily believe someone that says, “most English translations say this, but the Greek
actually says…” After all, they know Greek, and you don’t. They probably have it right, so I’ll trash what my translation says and take their word for it. Or, if one is in any way familiar with Greek or Hebrew, the temptation might be to think that YOU know better than your translation does and be the one to say, “most English translations say this, but the Greek actually says…” Whether you're knowledgeable in the Bible's original languages or not,  the same temptation is there: trash your translation. But to do this is to make a grave mistake. If you get anything out of reading this article, let it be this: Don’t trash your translation! Here are three reasons why.

1. People dedicated their whole lives to this.
Have you ever stopped to consider that there are people who have spent their whole adult
lives studying the original languages of the Bible so that they can provide readers with quality
translations? Yes, their whole lives! When you think of it that way, it is surprising that
we are sometimes so quick to trash our translations. To put it into perspective, picture this: a
young med student is determined to become a world-renowned surgeon. So, they spend eight
straight years of their lives dedicated to their studies and perfecting their craft. They graduate, and they are now ready to begin performing procedures. On their first day, they show up to work, and the patient they were going to perform surgery on begins to question their ability and ultimately decides that the doctor is not capable of performing the surgery. Instead, they will have it done by their friend who took two semesters of human anatomy in college. We would regard this person as a fool! Obviously, the trained doctor would be more capable of performing the surgery. Yet, we do not maintain the same sentiment when it comes to Bible translation. We are quick to throw out work done by trained scholars because our friend who took two semesters of Greek in college told us that the translators got it all wrong. And this leads to reason number two…
2. Most people don’t know Greek and Hebrew
More than likely, the majority of people reading this article do not have any knowledge of Greek or Hebrew, and that is okay! By no means does one have to know these languages to study God’s word well. We can have a great amount of confidence in our English Bibles. But, if one does not know these languages, an extra level of discernment is needed when one hears others make claims about the original languages. Here is a general rule of thumb to live by: side with the Bible translation committees. You might hear people on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, or even your friend make claims about what the "actual" Greek or Hebrew says, but one must be cautious when taking their claims as fact. The reason I suggest you take the side of translation committees is that they are exactly that, whole committees of scholars. The translation process for our common English versions (ESV, NIV, NASB, etc.…) is very grueling. Whole committees must come to a consensus when making a translation decision. Because of this process, I believe it best to exercise caution when hearing independent claims about the original text on the internet and when in doubt, trust the abilities of our Bible translation committees.
3. If you do, you probably don’t know Greek and Hebrew as well as you think you do.
This problem is most notable in circles, such as Bible colleges, where there is a basic
understanding of the original languages of the Bible. This is coming from someone who has now finished two semesters of Greek. However, here’s the issue: we can get a little
overconfident in our understanding of the original languages. One important thing to consider is how language is taught in our schools. To the point, Dr. Andy Naselli says, “Colleges and graduate schools tend to emphasize translating Greek to English in an extremely form-based way. That’s not bad. It’s like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. But the problem is that some students think riding a bike with training wheels is the goal.” Your Greek
Grammar 1 & 2 classes are not bad! They are just not the end-all-be-all of Greek. So what is the point of all of this? Well, it is simple. Firstly, let’s thank God for the people who have worked so diligently to provide us with ample Bible translations. Secondly, let’s view our plethora of Bible translations not as a problem or as a cause to start translation wars, but rather, let us see the vast amount of translations as a great aid to good Bible study. Finally, and most importantly, don’t trash your translation.
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