Scripture – Translations & Copies

Dear Reader,

As we noted earlier Scripture, the very word of God in written form, has a purpose:

  • To make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus 2Tm 3:15
  • Profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2Tm 3:16-17

Only Scripture, which is given by inspiration of God, is effectual for such purposes—no other kind will do. Recognizing this point we can understand why it was never God’s intent for His word to be limited to the autographs. It was and is God’s plan for His word to be copied and translated into the various languages of the world so that all men can be made wise unto salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t see one language only as God’s intent and therefore disagree with both Original Language Only and English Only proponents. God didn’t inspire languages he inspired written words within languages. I hope you can see the difference, I do. I don’t see much difference between the false presumption that original languages (supposedly Hebrew and Greek) trump other languages and the false presumption that the English language today trumps all other languages – it is the same error in my mind. My reasoning is as follows:

A. Babel – Man’s ungodly intentions were aided by one universal language, but were thwarted by God dividing the languages.  God said: Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. God deliberately confounded their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech (Ge 11:5-9) so that man would have to do thing’s God’s way and not according his own imagination—man’s way. God has made men “to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:25-26). The bounds of their habitation determines the language people speak. God set the bounds so that they might seek the Lord according to God’s way and not man’s way. God was the author of diverse languages and confounded the languages deliberately so that man might seek the Lord. This is a Scriptural principle that leads me to believe that “one language only-ism” is wrong.

B. Gift of tongues (languages), Acts 2:5-11 – When God poured out His Spirit upon the disciples so that they might fulfill the great commission—Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15, Mt 28:19)—he gave them the gift of tongues (languages). That would not have been necessary if God’s plan was to preserve and keep His word in the original language, Hebrew. Nor would it have been necessary if everyone in Jerusalem spoke Greek, as some suggest. It wasn’t God’s plan to keep His word in the original Greek so that the Church of God might have one universal language as the standard. It is God’s plan to make His word available to all men in their language. This leads me to believe that it is God’s will to translate the word of God into the languages of the people of various nations. Look at the nations listed—every nation under heaven. Not just Hebrew and Greek—not just English. God’s intent was never original languages only any more than it was His intent to preserve and keep His word in English only. Every nation under heaven heard the word of God in THEIR language (Acts 2:5). They all heard the wonderful works of God in their own tongue (Acts 2:6). Men heard the word of God, not in some alleged Bible language, but in their own language—every man heard them speak in his own language. And later, how hear we every man in our own tongue (Acts 2:8 )? To me, this shows us God’s intent, at least since the resurrection, was to have His word put into the language (tongue – notice the Scriptural use of synonyms) of every nation. In Acts 2 God gave the gift of tongues, not the gift of interpretation. Had God intended for his word to be in understood by all from one language it seems to me that the Apostles would have all preached in Hebrew and the listeners would have been given the gift of interpretation. That was not the case. Thus, I am fully convinced that preachers in foreign countries should not preach in English, but in the language of the people. That goes for translations as well. The word of God should be translated into the language of the people. A genuine translation from the commonly received text once received by the Church of God as the Scriptures in their language, becomes and is the word of God for that people (language group)—their final authority.

C. Clarity, understandable, common language, 1Cor 14 – Paul addresses “tongues” (languages) directly throughout this chapter. Granted, Paul was dealing with the abuse of the gift of tongues and not translation directly, but I do see some principles concerning the use of languages in the Church of God. You can decide if my reasoning is correct.

1Cor 14:4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself…

I see a principle: Those who think the word of God is only in their preferred language only edify themselves. In other words they are self-centered. God’s intent was to use the gift of languages to edify others—all nations, not just ourselves.

1Cor 14:6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you…

Paul said clearly that if I don’t speak to you in a language that you readily understand then I am no profit to you. The Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, reproof, etc. That is a PRINCIPLE laid out in Scripture. A translation must be profitable to all, not just those with knowledge of the original languages, not just the clergy, who understood Latin, and not just English speaking linguistic racists.

1Cor 14:8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

Now, Paul hammers it home. It isn’t good enough to have distinct instruments making uncertain sounds, but each instrument must be played properly. I can play the trumpet—which means I can make the trumpet make a sound, but no one would know what in the world I’m playing! I can play, but certainly not well enough for people to recognize that I’m sounding out the battle cry. Every instrument (language) has its OWN sound, but it must also be tuned and played according to scale. I take that to mean, as applied to my metaphorical point, that the word of God should be written in the language of the people with proper grammar so that they can RECOGNIZE the song (message) being played. Therefore I believe the word of God should be translated into the common languages of every nation.

1Cor 14:9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

That is the proper principle. So that the average plowboy (farmer) can understand the word of God. That was what Tyndale said. What did he mean? So that the lowliest farmer without formal education could understand the word of God. College graduates of every nation have absolutely no understanding at all of Hebrew and Greek. Highly educated men and women from all nations struggle to hold even a basic conversation in English, and that among those who studied English. Where that leaves the average plowboy (farmer) is anyone’s guess. Therefore, I don’t believe the word of God should remain trapped in unknown languages called original by some, nor do I believe the word of God once translated can never be updated linguistically in that language. Languages grow old, become archaic and obsolete. Have you ever tried to read Wycliffe or Tyndale without the modern “updating”?

1Cor 14:10-11 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

To keep a familiar archaic word and neglect the meaning of the word would be an error. Words change meanings over time. Of course words are important, but so are their MEANINGS. Balance! Not just words, nor just meaning, but BOTH. Don’t get so hung up on words that you forget the MEANING, don’t get so hung up on meaning that you forget the words. BALANCE! An old English saying: Say what you mean, mean what you say. These are proper principles to guide us in translating and updating.

1Cor 14:12 seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Not just languages learned my seminarians. Not just Latin learned by the clergy, Not just the English of English speakers. But seek to edify the entire Church of God in her various languages.

1Cor 14:18-19 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

Better five CLEAR words than 10 thousand UNCLEAR words! Better one sentence written in accordance with proper grammar and vocabulary than 10 thousand sentences out of sync with correct grammar structure. We want the words of God to be in tune giving a distinct sound that all men may understand. We want to make a good Bible better. Better in what way? By tuning it up, tightening and replacing the warn out strings, putting it into scale. Making sure the words play a clear recognizable sound. In this sense, the autographs were made better when copied and translated so that men of all nations might have access to the word of God.

A few points to remember:

  • Timothy did not possess God’s finger written original (Ex 31:18), God’s finger written copy (Ex 34:1), Moses’ original copy (Ex 24:1), Joshua’s original copy of Moses (Josh 8:32), Joshua’s original edited edition (Joshua 24:26), Solomon’s original Proverbs, nor the edition Hezekiah’s men copied out with additions, etc.
  • Timothy had the Scriptures from his youth (2Tm 3:15), he did not have Paul’s, Luke’s or Peter’s letters from his youth. Timothy did not possess 1 & 2 Timothy from his youth.
  • Timothy did not possess the autograph, but what he did possess and know from his youth was a copy or translation of the Scriptures at least several generations, if not 1000-3000 years, removed from the autograph.
  • Timothy’s Holy Scriptures, that Paul said were “given by inspiration of God”, were copied and or translated by fallible men. Yet, Paul clearly said that they were “given by inspiration of God.
  • Timothy’s Holy Scriptures (copy or translation) which he knew from his youth were given by inspiration of God—God’s word in written form, thus perfect, pure, infallible, the final authority in all matters of faith and practice, true in all its parts (every word), trustworthy, etc.
  • The term Scripture is not the word of God because it is accepted by the people of God, but rather, it is accepted by the people of God because it is the word of God. It is axiomatic that born again Spirit filled believers will accept and believe the word of God.
  • Paul did not have to define Timothy’s Holy Scriptures—given by inspiration of God—because it was common knowledge among a consensus of Spirit filled believers what the exact limits were of the Canon of Scriptures. Don’t let the pundits derail the reader on this salient point.
  • Inspiration is not a one and done concept as popularized by seminarian traditionalists. The Scriptures were the “breath of God”, if I may borrow the seminarian term, long before Abraham believed God and will be the “breath of God” well into eternity.
  • Honest Spirit filled copyists and translators are not in danger the plagues found in Revelation, nor are they in danger of reproof or being found a liar as one kibitzer would have us believe. Dt. 4:2, Pr 30,6 & Rev 22:18, etc. have nothing to do with honest translating or making copies of the Scriptures. However, those who fraudulently add to or take away from the Scriptures as apparently some copyists/translators did in the “oldest and best manuscripts” may find themselves the brunt of Divine censure.

Moses added unto God’s finger written copy, Joshua added unto to Moses’ copy, Hezekiah’s men edited and made additions to Solomon’s Proverbs—none of those men are in danger of Divine rebuke, nor are honest Spirit filled copyists and translators who may legitimately add or subtract from original jot and tittle words counts.

God’s plan is to have His word copied and translated into the common languages of all nations. Valid copies and translations are every wit the word of God as the originals. Valid copies and translations are just as “given by inspiration of God”, “inspired by God”, or “God-breathed” as the autographs. Valid copies and translations in our language is God’s authority to us. Please don’t let the critics and skeptics rob you of words, phrases and verses in your extant Scriptures. Believe the extant Scriptures as if God Himself were speaking to you in your language.

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