Have you ever played the game telephone as a child? You would start off with a simple sentence like ” I went to the store yesterday to buy some eggs” and by the time this sentence made through all the children it would be translated into something completley different, like ” I went to Rome with my grandmother ” … ok maybe it wouldn’t be that far off but the sentence would be completely different than it would be at the beginning. Now imagine playing that same game but instead of all the students speaking the same language, they all spoke different languages and had someone translate how they heard it in between each child. Can you imagine how butchered that sentence would become by the end of the line?
If you think about it the Bible could be butchered in the same way. I know that people spend their whole life’s trying to translate the bible as close as they could to the original text, but if you have studied biblical Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic you will realize certain verses will translate in a way that brings on a whole different meaning. What is great about God’s Word is every person that reads it can interpret the same verse in a different way. When you read The Bible the Holy Spirit helps you understand it and God speaks to you through the Holy Spirit revealing certain things to you as you read, study and meditate on the word. The Holy Spirit will litterally open up the truths in the Word and freely gifts these truths to you. This is one of the amazing parts of being a child of God. When I am talking about the different meanings that are shown in verses while looking at the verse in biblical Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic I am not only talking about the way you personally interpret the verses in Greek (Hebrew or Aramaic) vs. English . I am also talking about the ideas, words and/or meanings that get lost in translation. I find as I continue to study Biblical Greek and the New Testament this is bringing my relationship with Jesus to a new intimate level. I feel that I am getting the closest thing to original God breathed word as I can.
Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic were the ONLY languages that God chose to communicate his word. These were the languages that the original biblical writers or their scribes used as they penned the manuscripts. By gaining knowledge of the original biblical languages, you also are gaining knowledge on the original emphases, grammar and word choice;. I even have noticed that certain words that are considered nouns in the English translation are considered verbs in the original biblical language translations. This can change the whole interpretation of a verse! So if we return to the telephone game analogy, if we were hearing the bible through that telephone game , we would he hearing it from then beginning of the telephone line of children vs. the end.
Martin Luther was a great German professor of theology, composer, monk and priest during the beginning of the 1500’s. He added several principles to the art of translation and helped influence the writing of the English translation. Luther too had views about learning biblical Greek and Hebrew. He was a strong supporter of christian students learning languages and stated some reasons for his opinion in a little tract titled “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools. ” Then first reason was that if you really wanted to explore deep into the word while you are studying this is a way to do so. Really digging into the word can help expose those pastors thay are preaching the word wrong, which can lead people astray.
“A simple preacher (it is true) has so many clear passages and texts available through translations that he can know and teach Christ, lead a holy life, and preach to others. But when I comes to interpreting Scripture, and working with it on your own, and disputing with those who cite it incorrectly, he is unequal to the task; that cannot be done without languages.”
Luther’s other points he stated were that learning of languages was needed for effective ministry, protection of the gospel and spiritual formation. After reading some of Martin Luther’s writing I am behind alot of what he says and would strongly suggest checking him out for yourself. On another note learning these languages can be extremely effective in spiritual warfare.
People would also argue that certain versions of the Bible ( as in NLT, MSG, NIV, ESV, KJV, AMP, AMPC or the many others) would bring you even further or closer to the end of the telephone line as well. Everyone has different views about which Bible to use when you read, study or meditate. Often believers put our blind trust in one translation or a spiritual leader. This causes us to have a closed and minimal view of everything the Bible teaches us. My advice would be to pray and ask God to lead you to the right translation and the right spiritual leaders. God knows our needs and will lead us exactly where we need to be and bring us whoever we need when we need them. Also when you are studying a certain book or verse, look at the same book or verse in many different translation (even if they are all English for example, I often look at ESV, AMPC and NIV.) Just like I believe you should look at more than one translation , I also believe you should look to more than one spiritual teacher during your walk with God.