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The term “hermeneutic” can seem outrageously technical and foreboding. It isn’t really. Look at the guy in this video confronted with a “book”.

I felt this exact way back in the 90s when someone explained something called “e-mail” to me. I couldn’t make sense of it at first. I understood saving a file and sending a disk in the mail. THAT was “e-mail” to me. Now I give it no thought except “Geez…I think I should have spell-checked that first before I sent it to 30 people.”

Same with Biblical interpretation. It is just learning the tools of how to read and study the Bible.

Still, as we study, we do well todo so with patience and good humor.

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Topics from the Conservapedia.com front page.

Topics from the Conservapedia.com front page.

Stringent note: Almost everything said here about this Conservative group and it’s flagrant fouls has been done is spades by Liberal groups in equal or worse measure. This is not about politics Left of Right. It is about messing with or changing the Word of God. Get it? 

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Well, it seems certain that the new Bible “translation” by the folk at Conservapedia will not be translating the words of Jesus in red. In fact in many cases they will not be translating the Bible at all, but changing the meanings of specific passages to 1) remove anything they deem supportive of American Liberalism); and 2) to accentuate any passages that can be made to seem more Conservative, free-market and down-right Republican.

We are not talking about a commentary on the Bible by Conservatives. Nothing wrong with that except it would not be based grammatically or linguistically. We are talking about literally changing or deleting words from legitimate translations.  Here is their agenda verbatim:

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.[1]

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[5] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles. The translated Bible can be found here.

Now let’s be clear. If suddenly there appeared a “Liberalapedia” with their translation using a similar, but Liberal, approach in this way the objections would be exactly the same.

In previous posts I have talked about the difference between “exegesis” – “reading out of the text” and the dangers of “eisogesis” – “reading into the text”. This is far worse. This is actually changing the accurate  translation of the text itself.

I’ll give you an example tomorrow, but let’s  look at the basic presuppositions of “errors” found by Conservapedia.

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ

Lack of precision? The Bible translations we have our the most rigorously studied and researched documents of any collection of works in human history.  If you want the definitive work on this in English read Bruce Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. It is not only a primary source of scholarship (that is readily accepted and used by Liberal and Conservative theologians alike), it is a great cure for late night insomnia.

next:

  • lack of precision in modern language

The very reason we have so many translations is because there are variances in time sand places when it comes to the English language. But the meaning between the easier to read NIV does not alter the meaning that is found in the more literal (and therefore more “choppy”) translation like the NASB.  The very need for a translation to replace or stand alongside the KJV (1611) is how English has changed between 1611 and 2009. I have a fine library of English puritan literature from the 1700s, some in the original English of that time. It is damned hard to read!

To be sure, the etymological meaning of specific words from the best manuscripts can bring out richer meaning, especially when added to First Century cultural studies and archeological finds. This is not what these folks are talking about. They mean to ignore the plain meaning of these words in their original context and superimpose not only an interpretive grid over the texts to change their meaning, but actually mistranslate  words.

This is no different than our friendly, but textually misguided Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have also “changed” the meaning of the text to fit their beliefs (more on this in articles on what James Sire calls “Scripture Twisting”. )  [Note: and by the way, the next time Mormon Missionaries or JW’s show up on your door, do NOT be mean to them or shine them on. It’s a tough gig, and they are trying, in a sense, to “earn” their salvation. I invite them in for water or tea and offer to pray with them together (they can lead). Sure, as a former apologist I could rip their arguments to shreds, but what’s the point of that? They more than not, really want God. I find that noble and at times brave.]

The  last “error” they state is the most absurd. For a moment I thought I was reading an article on The Onion.

  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

Of these three sources of errors, the last introduces the largest error, and the biggest component of that error is liberal bias. Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.

Why in the heck would you EVER do a translation of the Bible from an earlier English version from 400 years ago when we have Greek manuscripts that we can use that are 1900 years old?

Now the King James Bible is a remarkable translation. Given the manuscripts they had at the time (1600s) compared to the massive number of manuscripts we now have (and which date back to within 30-50 years of the original autographs), you could argue that the translation they came up with is almost “miraculously” accurate.

It was assumed that with each new find (manuscripts dating back closer and closer to the First Century) that major errors would be found. Some “strains” of slight errors were found and could actually be traced as they ran their course through later copies. They were in consequential.

Anyway, not to bore you any further (or at least at a later time), the  question is still “why in the heck would you take a translation in English from 1611 and use that as the “Textus Receptus” (the starting point) for a new translation over Greek, Coptic and other early manuscripts much closer to the originals? That would be like choosing an English translation of Caeser’s Gallic Wars that was derived from 3 manuscripts written 800 years after the originals instead of starting over with the newly found  300 manuscript copies, written in Latin that dated back to within 100 years.

Are they insane?

The answer is pretty obvious. But in case you are as slow as these Conservapedia guys are, you would only opt for that if you could only read English, had no idea how to deal with Latin, manuscript evidence or would be let within two miles of the manuscripts because they don’t recognize your credentials in Electronics from the University of Phoenix (apologies) online.

Just to give you an example (and I will NEVER ask you to do this yourself unless you write me and really REALLY want to learn how).
Let’s say I am studying a passage that uses the word “peace”. In Greek that is “eirene”. Of course the context is important (that’s all the other words that happen to also be in the sentence, paragraph and chapter). But let’s say I want to know what the word “peace” means to a First Century Colossian when his village get’s a letter from Paul.

First, I go to an Interlinear. That is a word for word translation with the Greek words on top, the closest English word below. It reads very choppy because word order is different in Greek than English. The verb can be the last word of a very long sentence!

Some are not so bad…like the end of Colossians 1:2 “Grace    to you   and   peace   from   God   Father   of us.”

But let’s say you want to know what the word “peace” meant (and by the way, this group wants to strip that word out by some accounts) in that time and culture (and language). From there I have to get my Analytical Greek lexicon (as I am not brushed up on my Greek declensions and am lazy)  that will tell me the root word (as it may be in a plural, possessive…blah blah form here).

From there I can consult some Greek Commentaries (some written long before this idiotic culture war in America) for someone that has already done the work. But maybe they are tired of doing it because Paul almost ALWAYS uses this in his opening salutation.

So from there, knowing the root word in Greek I have to crack open the correct volume (one of ten) of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (translated from the German) which is about $400. But I have them.

TDNT
From there, I can look up “eirene” (sorry no Greek fonts)  and read the uses of it prior to New Testament times (including the Inter-testamental period), its usage in other documents of that exact time, its use in the early church times and even beyond. Pages and pages of information done by the best Greek scholars the world has ever seen (no one is racing to replace this set).

From this we learn interesting things that, while held in check to some extent (nuances), can help us gain a greater understanding of how those Colossians Gentiles would have understood Paul’s letter to them that we now call “scripture”.

For example, one core meaning of the word “eirene” was “right relationship in every sphere of life”. That is part of Paul’s wish for this young church, and for us as well.

The Bible, particularly the New Testament, has very little to say about government. The only “government” it is interested in is the “Kingdom of God” as outlined on the Sermon on the Mount and the other Gospels.

In a sense, theological Liberals have done the same thing with the “Jesus Seminar” which I object to on the same essential grounds. Even the term “The Jesus Seminar” is deeply ironic. It is an attempt to strip out the actual words of Jesus from the Gospels because they do not agree with the “Seminars” presuppositons (read opinions).

They don’t like what Jesus has to say any more than those at Conservapedia. In some ways The Jesus Seminar may be worse because they hide their agenda behind a veil of pseudo-scholarship.

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