Theological Bias

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Chet, Oct 21, 2002.

  1. Chet

    Chet
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    This is a question that I have had for quite some time. Actually it is a two fold question that has to do with Theological bias.

    Question number one: One of my fears in reading a translation is that there may be a theological bent toward one idea or another. I am not always sure that someone, or even the committee, may decide on key words just to enhance a passage that they feel may enhance their view of what a passage means. I really don't want to question the integrity of anyone, especially those on the committee of the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV. That is not my intent. An example may be that of the ESV. IMHO my observation is that there are a lot of theologians from the reformed position who highly endorse this translation. Is this translation committee one that would translate a passage with that view in mind? Probably not. I would say most likely not. But it is a question I have. Did the KJV or NKJV or NIV do that? Did a non-Calvinist determine a word should or should say this or that based on their idea? Or did a dispensationalist or non dispensationalist committee make certain decisions? Again I don't think so, but that is a question.

    My second and more serious question is one that really bothers me. I do believe we should examine all translations when we do a serious bible study. To check a literal translation and a dynamic one. And of course to the best of our ability compare that to the original. I think we have some good tools to compare to the original. BUT, I do not know how to read Greek or Hebrew and especially couldn't tell you about grammar. My going to the original is limited. Not to mention the fact that why should my limited knowledge compare to that of extremely good Hebrew - Greek scholars who translated these words for us already in a variety of good translations.

    But where does our bias end?

    For example if I am trying to prove a point, I may pick and choose some passages from whatever translation seems to be making my point better. This can't be good. Or is it? Obviously, the translations could differ or read a bit differently if they have a punctuation mark here or there, or if they have the sentence structure different. I am not sure we should use a variety of translations to prove our view. Perhaps it would be more fair to have a standard throughout, then show a different translation when we feel it communicates the point better. I don't know that is why I am asking this question. But I have read many books that are guilty of doing this.

    And when there is a passage in question and there are a dozen translations that say one thing but just one that says another, do we go with the majority?

    Well I guess that is three questions, but I hope this can be a profitable discussion.
     
  2. LRL71

    LRL71
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    Well, my reply to all three questions could simply be this: Learn Greek and Hebrew, and you can translate the Bible text yourself! Whether the translators came to a 'biased' translation is moot when you are able to understand the Hebrew and Greek-- therefore holding Bible translators accountable for what they 'interpret' when translating out of the original languages. When this is done, and you have the knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, you are on the same playing field as the mightiest Biblical language expert, and you might as well tell theologians that disagree with you your ability to prove Bible doctrines with scholarly aptitude!

    I sense that you (Chet) are not a Calvinist, nor do you adhere to the Doctrines of Grace. As a theologian, I'd say that even without the knowledge of Hebrew and Greek that you can prove that such doctrines are from God. You don't necessarily need to know the Biblical languages to understand your Bible, although the details-- and the Devil works in the details-- can remain hidden without knowing the Biblical lanugages. An assortment of English translations would be beneficial, although I'd say that you need to beware of theological bias-- and compare them when you are doubtful that the translation is best for that certain passage.

    An example of not knowing Greek and knowing it is in the passage at 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. Without Greek, you might suppose that the 'perfection' (in some English Bibles) might be referring to the Second Coming of Christ. If this were true, then tongues, prophesies, and revelatory knowledge is still valid uses today-- and the Charismatics/Pentecostals are right to believe their doctrines of tongues for today. But, hold on, we are Baptists who believe that the use of tongues ceased at the end of Revelation's "amen". True, but if you knew Greek, then you would know that the Greek word for "perfection" (Greek: teleion) is not so abstract; its meaning is neuter in the Greek, and its root is from the verb form, not a noun. The KJV has the best translation of this word: "that which is perfect", although I'd say that the best rendering is "the perfect thing". The reference to this is the completed Bible canon, where teleion is compared with the Greek word for 'book' (biblion). This cannot refer to Christ, but rather the completed Bible canon, and thus the Biblical use of tongues, prophesies, and revelatory knowledge ceased when the canon was complete at the end of Revelation when the Apostle John penned "amen"!
     
  3. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    On question number one, it is my opinion that there is no reason to fear great theological bias in any of the major translations - KJV, NIV, NAS, NKJV, ESV, etc. This is merely an opinion based on the thought that there is enough scholarship (and diversity of it) to keep most of that in check. Besides most scholar have enough pride that they don't want someone coming back on them and proving they are wrong! :D I prefer the KJV mayself - good translation of a good text-type.

    On question number two, I think we have to be very careful to not get into just going through translations till we find one we like! Not only is this a poor study habit, it is something that will likely cause us to lose credibility with others. But it can be good to compare translations. I think the comparison generally tells us that they mostly say the same thing. I think ultimately I would fear my own bias more than that of the translators.

    I commend LRL's suggestion - learn Greek and Hebrew - but with these additions:
    1. The average person should not fear that they are adrift without a sail on the interpretational sea just because they don't know Greek or Hebrew. I don't fear that I would miss much with a good knowledge of English and a good English translation (or whatever is your language).
    2. Most of us will never put in the time and achieve the kind of understanding of Greek or Hebrew that we have in our native tongue. Sometimes working with an inferior knowledge of these languages may cause one to accept some unusual ideas about the Bible. In other words, somethings a LITTLE knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
    3. Studying ANY foreign language can be helpful in gaining insight into translational problems, idioms, etc.
     
  4. Pastork

    Pastork
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    Chet,

    I think as long as you humbly recognize your own limitations and tendencies (as you seem to do), you can always rely upon the Holy Spirit's guidance and the elders to help you. I would also recommend the study of Greek and Hebrew for any who are able, but I would emphasize even more strongly the learning of good principles of interpretation and a constant and utter dependence upon the Spirit, who is always able to protect you from error.

    As for LRL71's example regarding 1Cor.13:8-10, I will have to disagree that the Greek text clearly supports a cessationist view. I think just the opposite is the case.

    Pastork
     
  5. Forever settled in heaven

    Forever settled in heaven
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    > The KJV has the best translation of this word: "that which is perfect", although I'd say that the best rendering is "the perfect thing". The reference to this is the completed Bible canon, where teleion is compared with the Greek word for 'book' (biblion).

    for some reason, during a recent survey more Charismatic/Pentecostal pastors prefer the KJB than any other Bible--i wonder why.

    maybe it's not this verse but rather where the KJB inserts "unknown" before "tongue." perhaps those here fr the Charismatic/Pentecostal Baptist communion wld know.
     
  6. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Chet, one other thing I intended to mention in my first post: Greek & Hebrew do not erase the arguments. That is quite obvious when we see scholars argue over the meaning in these languages just as we do in English.
     
  7. LRL71

    LRL71
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    Huh! I think we're up fer a duel, eh? Well, probably that debate would not be suitable in this forum! [​IMG]
     
  8. Pastork

    Pastork
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    LRL71,

    I agree that this forum would not be the proper place for a discussion of the proper interpretation of 1Cor.13:8-10. It will have to await another time and place.

    Pastork
     
  9. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Theological bias is always present in the person; however, translation not so much. I would point out that the earliest English translators (including KJV) chose not to translate some words (or simply transliterated the Greek into English) because they didn't jive with their theological understanding. Specifically, I am referring to the word "baptizo" (fitting for the BaptistBoard). They knew it means "to immerse," but the Church of England sprinkled--this caused some angst and they simply created the word "baptize."
     
  10. BrianT

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    Baptism in the KJV, in the context of theological bias, is an interesting subject. In Matt 3:11, the many pre-KJV Bibles (Tyndale's, Matthew's, Great, Bishops, maybe others) have "baptize you in water", while the KJV has "baptize you with water".

    Whether or not this is a result of a bias towards sprinkling instead of immersion is speculation, but I'd wager a pile of shiny nickels that if the KJV had "in" while another Bible had "with", we'd hear about the great evils of "the RCC Bibles" and "denying baptism", etc, etc, etc, from certain folk on this board. ;)
     
  11. Chet

    Chet
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    Thanks for all who have responded you all have provided a lot of good answers. ;)

    For the record, (I will break the tie on this thread) 1 Cor. 13 does indeed teach that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased. :D
     

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