Sola Scriptura and English Translations


#1

Question for Protestants. In translating Bibles there are many different methods by which the translators try to capture the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew. There is the literal approach for instance where the best word is selected. There is the paraphrasing approach where the gist of what the greek and hebrew is trying to say is the focus. Others I can’t think of offhand but suffice it to say that neither of these will fully capture what the Greek and Hebrew intend. Further the English language is not as rich as Greek and Hebrew. For instance there are as I understand 7 words in Greek for love. Two of which are phileo (friendship time love) and agape (deep abiding love). In English they just come out love. Meaning is lost in the translation. A part of the Word of God is truly lost. This inability to capture the complete meaning of the Greek and Hebrew seems like a rather large problem in sola scriptura protestantism. Essentially if the English does not capture all the meaning then you have an incomplete Bible. A bible that is not “sufficient” as is so often quoted from Timothy.

What say ye?

God bless


#2

[quote=thessalonian]Question for Protestants. In translating Bibles there are many different methods by which the translators try to capture the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew. There is the literal approach for instance where the best word is selected. There is the paraphrasing approach where the gist of what the greek and hebrew is trying to say is the focus. Others I can’t think of offhand but suffice it to say that neither of these will fully capture what the Greek and Hebrew intend. Further the English language is not as rich as Greek and Hebrew. For instance there are as I understand 7 words in Greek for love. Two of which are phileo (friendship time love) and agape (deep abiding love). In English they just come out love. Meaning is lost in the translation. A part of the Word of God is truly lost. This inability to capture the complete meaning of the Greek and Hebrew seems like a rather large problem in sola scriptura protestantism. Essentially if the English does not capture all the meaning then you have an incomplete Bible. A bible that is not “sufficient” as is so often quoted from Timothy.

What say ye?

God bless
[/quote]

There are a few assumptions in your question that need to be addressed. 1) You are assuming that meaning has been lost without providing an proof that that is the case. 2) Your assumption argues against not only the Protestant understanding of inerrancy, but also of the Catholic teaching of it as well. 3) You are also assuming that somehow through a process that you have not defined - presumably a combination of “Sacred Tradition” and the “infallible teaching Magesterium” that these “lost meanings” have been preserved or restored. 4) Your statement that English is not as rich as Hebrew or Greek needs more definition; how for example is it lacking in richness? Modern German words do not have one to one corresponce to English either. Does that mean that we can’t understand works translated from German? English is comprised of the largest number of words of any language ever written or spoken. English contains over 850,000 different words, French has fewer than 100,000. The Bible contains fewer than 20,000 different words. See here: languagemonitor.com/wst_page7.html

It is true that many times a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word does not have a one for one correspondent or equivalent word in English. There are several ways to address this. First, learn Koine (NT) Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Secondly, there are numerous, indeed plentiful, resources to explain the various nuances of transliterated words.
Thirdly, place yourself under the instruction of other mature Christians. Fourthly, pray for understanding, the Holy Spirit will provide it. Fifth, Paul points out in Romans that the main problem is reception not perception. As the colloquial saying goes, “the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.” The New Testament was written in Koine Greek the language of the “blue collar” man of the ancient world. It was written to be understood, not hidden, the reading and interpreting of it was encouraged - the verse you allude to verfies this:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-18

[quote]
How much of scripture is God-breathed? ALL of it. How much of it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness? ALL of it.
And what are we equipped for by reading it? EVERY good work. Which good works are left out? None - it says every good work.

Peace

[/quote]


#3

Thank you for your insights. I just have a moment but I will say one thing. You said:

  1. Your assumption argues against not only the Protestant understanding of inerrancy, but also of the Catholic teaching of it as well.

Actually no, it is not a problem for inerrancy. You see if one describes a ball as round and red and rubber is that an errant view? Yet if one describes the ball with it’s chemical composition, hue on the color spectrum, and elestic constant are either of the two in error? If I call a 4 legged animal with ears that walks at my heal a dog am I in error. If it is a labrador is that contradictory or does it make it wrong that I called it dog before? If a part of the meaning is captured correctly it likewise does not make the scriptures errant or corrupt.

More later.


#4
  1. You are assuming that meaning has been lost without providing an proof that that is the case.On the contrary I did provide an example. The phileo/Agape one. It is actually used in John 21. Jesus asks Peter “do you agape me”. Peter responds “Lord you know I phileo you”. Bishop Fulton Sheen has a discussion of the significance with regard to a deeper understanding of the passage. I can come up with more examples if you like.

  2. Handled above

  3. You are also assuming that somehow through a process that you have not defined - presumably a combination of “Sacred Tradition” and the “infallible teaching Magesterium” that these “lost meanings” have been preserved or restored.

That’s not the topic but they didn’t have to be restored as they have been passed on through sacred ORAL teaching. Irenaus in the first century recognized this method of transmission when he said “if we had not the scriptures we would still have the Church”. Note that in the early days of the Church the Apostles passed on the teaching of Christ orally. There were no New Testament scripture for at least 20 years. Note also that this is the scriptural means of the Word of God (which cannot biblically from scripture cannot be shown to be interchangable with scripture, though scripture is the Word of God) is by both oral and written transmission. 2 Thes 2:15 Hold fast to the TRADITIONS you have recieved whether BY WORD OF MOUTH or in writing from us.

Note that scripture is a tradition. Alse not the authority (Hold Fast) of the oral teachings. The reason I said this thread is a problem for Sola Scriptura is that Catholic clergy study both oral and written teachings. When something is lost in the translation the oral transmission which is authoritative makes up for it.

  1. Your statement that English is not as rich as Hebrew or Greek needs more definition; how for example is it lacking in richness? Modern German words do not have one to one corresponce to English either. Does that mean that we can’t understand works translated from German? English is comprised of the largest number of words of any language ever written or spoken. English contains over 850,000 different words, French has fewer than 100,000. The Bible contains fewer than 20,000 different words. See here:

I am not an expert on languages but provided an example. Seven words for love that only comes out as love in English. And it’s not about understanding. It’s about capturing all the meaning. It also creates a situation which allows for misinterprutaion. For example in Matt 26 the word “do this in REMEMBERANCE of me” has a much broder deeper meaing that actually means to commemorate and to make present. When just rememberance is used there is a tendancy toward the merely symbolic view, which of course is a post reformation view. I think it likely that this was a big contributer to the misinterpruation and the watering down of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

More later


#5

snip

[quote=thessalonian]Further the English language is not as rich as Greek and Hebrew. For instance there are as I understand 7 words in Greek for love. Two of which are phileo (friendship time love) and agape (deep abiding love). In English they just come out love.
[/quote]

snip

I consulted Mr. Roget, the 1965 edition, on love, and stopped counting at 55 English words and phrases with that meaning. And I was only half-way down the noun column; I didn’t even touch the verbs. I would say that you claim that English (with 850k words) is less rich than Greek or Hebrew is unproven at best, completely bogus at worst.

Speaking as a retired professional linguist, translator, and language analyst, I have to say that meaning is lost or twisted any time there is a translation from one language to another. A serious Bible student (Catholic or Protestant) is going to need the original Greek/Hebrew text (with lexicons), a Greek OT (with lexicon), a Latin Vulgate (with lexicon), a literal interlinear translation, a good word-for-word translation, and a good thought-for-thought translation, all running parallel (in other words, a good Bible-study computer program).

It was precisely the realization of the difficulty of ascertaining the meaning of certain verses in the Bible that started me on my own journey into the Catholic Church. If there is only one verse (and there are many) whose meaning we can’t be sure of, then there must be an authority to tell us what the meaning is, or if it matters whether or not we know what the meaning is.

DaveBj


#6

“I would say that you claim that English (with 850k words) is less rich than Greek or Hebrew is unproven at best, completely bogus at worst.”

I will yield to your expertise on this. I thank you for the rest of your post.

Blessings


#7

[quote=DaveBj]snip

snip

I consulted Mr. Roget, the 1965 edition, on love, and stopped counting at 55 English words and phrases with that meaning. And I was only half-way down the noun column; I didn’t even touch the verbs. I would say that you claim that English (with 850k words) is less rich than Greek or Hebrew is unproven at best, completely bogus at worst.

Speaking as a retired professional linguist, translator, and language analyst, I have to say that meaning is lost or twisted any time there is a translation from one language to another. A serious Bible student (Catholic or Protestant) is going to need the original Greek/Hebrew text (with lexicons), a Greek OT (with lexicon), a Latin Vulgate (with lexicon), a literal interlinear translation, a good word-for-word translation, and a good thought-for-thought translation, all running parallel (in other words, a good Bible-study computer program).

It was precisely the realization of the difficulty of ascertaining the meaning of certain verses in the Bible that started me on my own journey into the Catholic Church. If there is only one verse (and there are many) whose meaning we can’t be sure of, then there must be an authority to tell us what the meaning is, or if it matters whether or not we know what the meaning is.

DaveBj
[/quote]

Thanks Dave.

My intended point on language / study aids, but concise.

btw, I use Quickverse 8.0 - a very good tool.

Peace


#8

[quote=EA_Man]Thanks Dave.

My intended point on language / study aids, but concise.

btw, I use Quickverse 8.0 - a very good tool.

Peace
[/quote]

I use PC Study Bible, also very good. Unfortunately, both Quickverse and PCSB are Protestant. PCSB doesn’t have the full OT or any Catholic resources. I don’t know about Quickverse; what say you?

DaveBk


#9

EA_Man

You said:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-18

How much of scripture is God-breathed? ALL of it. How much of it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness? ALL of it.
And what are we equipped for by reading it? EVERY good work. Which good works are left out? None - it says every good work."

Then you say:

“Secondly, there are numerous, indeed plentiful, resources to explain the various nuances of transliterated words.
Thirdly, place yourself under the instruction of other mature Christians. Fourthly, pray for understanding, the Holy Spirit will provide it”

So in other words one is not fully equiped with just an english translation of the Bible. One must have English Translation + resources + Mature Christians. Doesn’t sound like scripture alone.


#10

snip

[quote=thessalonian]So in other words one is not fully equiped with just an english translation of the Bible. One must have English Translation + resources + Mature Christians. Doesn’t sound like scripture alone.
[/quote]

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

and

:amen:

If I had a hitting-the-nail-on-the-head smiley, I’d use it too.

DaveBj


#11

[quote=DaveBj]snip

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

and

:amen:

If I had a hitting-the-nail-on-the-head smiley, I’d use it too.

DaveBj
[/quote]

By this logic, I guess praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit disqualifies as well!! :rolleyes:

You have a misunderstanding regarding what Sola Scriptura means.

Sola Scriptura means that we regard the Bible Only as the final authority on issues of faith and morals. It doesn’t mean that we can’t read any other books for guidance on interpreting Greek words. More later if (but more probably when) required.

Peace


#12

Dear EA_Man,

quote, EA_Man
By this logic, I guess praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit disqualifies as well!! :rolleyes:

You have a misunderstanding regarding what Sola Scriptura means.

Sola Scriptura means that we regard the Bible Only as the final authority on issues of faith and morals. It doesn’t mean that we can’t read any other books for guidance on interpreting Greek words.

Your quote above has helped me to understand
something.
I agree with the Sola Scriptura position in many
ways, when applied to the synoptic gospels.
[Sola Fides, Sola Gratia, is true as well, I think.]

I also agree with the Catholic Church on the
Real Presence, which I think is clearly stated
in scripture *…using
Sola Scriptura to arrive at that belief.

Where I’ve made my mistake is in thinking that
it has to be an either/or choice.

Best regards,
reen12*


#13

[quote=EA_Man]By this logic, I guess praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit disqualifies as well!! :rolleyes:

You have a misunderstanding regarding what Sola Scriptura means.

Sola Scriptura means that we regard the Bible Only as the final authority on issues of faith and morals. It doesn’t mean that we can’t read any other books for guidance on interpreting Greek words. More later if (but more probably when) required.

Peace
[/quote]

You’ve forgotten what the thread is about.
I was quite clear in stating that the Bible we are talking about is the English translation. We can discuss the original greek and hebrew if you want in this regard in another thread. But for instance in Matt 16:18 when it says “thou are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church…” there is something lost in the translation that cannot be settled by the English language tranlation of the scripture. Everyone lays out the greek and trys to one up the other on what the Greek says. Sola Scriptura is not valid with an English translation. By the way we know that the original texts were inspired but what guarantees that the English translation will be inerrant from a Protestant perspective? Apostles didn’t tranlate it.

By the way that definition is your definition. There are varying defnitions in Protestantism.

Blessings


#14

EA_Man,

You said the main things are the plain things. Protestants say we are saved by faith alone. Now if that were the plain thing then why didn’t any of the new testament writers pair the word faith which was used 273 times and the word alone together anywhere? That would make it plain. Oh wait, one did :).

James 2
24] You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.


#15

[quote=thessalonian]Sola Scriptura is not valid with an English translation. By the way we know that the original texts were inspired but what guarantees that the English translation will be inerrant from a Protestant perspective? Apostles didn’t tranlate it.
Blessings
[/quote]

Your observation that the apostles didn’t translate the Bible into English is more than little a ridiculous. They didn’t drive Ford Thunderbirds either, SO WHAT? English was not a language at the time of the apostles. Secondly, your statement implies that the language of the original manuscripts somehow enables Sola Scriptura. In other words, your statement makes the assertion that it is the English translation that invalidates the doctrine of Sola Scriptura - that cannot possibly be your intent however, as I’m sure that the Catholic church denies Sola Scriptura not matter what language the reader is using. Your argument also rests on the assumption that an infallible teaching magesterium is needed to unveil the Divine Word of God. But the Bible is the unveiled Word of God - so your argument implies that God’s Word was not unveiled properly to begin with. The essential truths of the Bible can be understood by any literate person. In fact, it is an insult to the intelligence of the common people to suggest that they can read and understand the daily news for themselves but they can’t understand God’s Good News for them in the Bible.

Back to the issue at hand: (all verses in English)

Jesus and the apostles constantly appealed to the Bible as the final court of appeal. This they often did by the introductory phrase, “It is written,” which is repeated some 90 times in the New Testament. Jesus used this phrase three times when appealing to Scripture as the final authority in His dispute with Satan (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10).

Jesus made it clear that the Bible was in a class of its own, exalted above all tradition. He rebuked the Pharisees for not accepting sola Scriptura and negating the final authority of the Word of God by their religious traditions, saying, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?..You have nullified the word of God, for the sake of your tradition” (Matt. 15:3, 6).

It is important to note that Jesus did not limit His statement to mere human traditions but applied it specifically to the traditions of the religious authorities who used their tradition to misinterpret the Scriptures. There is a direct parallel with the religious traditions of Judaism that grew up around (and obscured, even negated) the Scriptures and the Christian traditions that have grown up around (and obscured, even negated) the Scriptures since the first century. Indeed, since Catholic scholars make a comparison between the Old Testament high priesthood and the Roman Catholic papacy, this would seem to be a very good analogy.

The Bible constantly warns us “not to go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). This kind of exhortation is found throughout Scripture. Moses was told, “You shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it” (Deut. 4:2). Solomon reaffirmed this in Proverbs, saying, “Every word of God is tested…Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver” (Prov. 30:5-6). The Bereans were approved of in Acts 15:11 as they verfied what was SAID with what was WRITTEN, not the other way around; " they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Here we have an example of common everyday people testing the ORAL TRADITION of an APOSTLE with the WRITTEN WORD. But how can that be? How could they be reading and interpreting Scripture (personal interpretation) for themselves without an infallible teaching authority? Furthermore, it is a common assertion on these threads that there was “no Bible” in the early church - until the Catholic Church “gave” it to us, but here we have the Bible saying that the people that Paul preached to had the Scriptures. Hmmmm…

John closed the last words of the Bible with the same exhortation, declaring: “I warn everyone who hears the prophetic words in this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words in this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life…” (Rev. 22:18-19).

Peace


#16

[quote=thessalonian]EA_Man,

You said the main things are the plain things. Protestants say we are saved by faith alone. Now if that were the plain thing then why didn’t any of the new testament writers pair the word faith which was used 273 times and the word alone together anywhere? That would make it plain. Oh wait, one did :).

James 2
24] You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
[/quote]

In your previous post you chided me for not staying on the topic. I guess that provided you the license that you needed to justify the same behavior.


#17

[quote=EA_Man]In your previous post you chided me for not staying on the topic. I guess that provided you the license that you needed to justify the same behavior.
[/quote]

It was not a chide about staying on topic. Go back and read it carefully in the context of your post and the context of this thread. If you still don’t understand I’ll explain it to you.


#18

[quote=DaveBj] Speaking as a retired professional linguist, translator, and language analyst, I have to say that meaning is lost or twisted any time there is a translation from one language to another. A serious Bible student (Catholic or Protestant) is going to need the original Greek/Hebrew text (with lexicons), a Greek OT (with lexicon)…
[/quote]

I am not aware that the complete original texts are still in existence. We can look to the earliest pieces of original text, and/or the earliest complete texts which are not originals, but either way the door is opened to the potential for error. We simply cannot examine the original complete texts.

Therefore, whether we consider the English Bible, or the Greek, or other, it seems to me there is no way to ascertain the proper wording with any reasonable claim of certainty…unless of course God gave us a way, external to the Bible, to ensure proper wording and understanding. Catholics rely on the infallible teaching of the Church (protected by the Papacy) for this. Protestants rely rely on themselves.


#19

[quote=EA_Man] Your argument also rests on the assumption that an infallible teaching magesterium is needed to unveil the Divine Word of God. But the Bible is the unveiled Word of God - so your argument implies that God’s Word was not unveiled properly to begin with. The essential truths of the Bible can be understood by any literate person. In fact, it is an insult to the intelligence of the common people to suggest that they can read and understand the daily news for themselves but they can’t understand God’s Good News for them in the Bible.

[/quote]

The magesterium is in fact needed. But a clarification needs to be made here. One can read the Bible and understand what he reads, but on cannot read the Bible and be sure he understands** correctly** (with certainty), without a truth verifying source external to the Bible.

But even more problematic for the Protestant, is the fact that you cannot even know with certaintly what the words of the Bible are, much less what they mean, without relying on the Catholic Church. The original complete texts do not exist. What then will you compare your english translation to? Translations of the 3rd or 4th century?


#20

Hello, E_A Man,

quote: EA_Man

The Bereans were approved of in Acts 15:11 as they verfied what was SAID with what was WRITTEN, not the other way around; " they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Here we have an example of common everyday people testing the ORAL TRADITION of an APOSTLE with the WRITTEN WORD. But how can that be? How could they be reading and interpreting Scripture (personal interpretation) for themselves without an infallible teaching authority?

I was following your position, until I came to the quote above.

Is the following an actual verse from the Pauline epistles?

" they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." " quote E_A Man

Thanks for your help on this,
reen12


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