Inspired Translation of Copies Required for Bible Study

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Inspired Translation of Copies Required for Bible Study

©2011 Brandon Staggs.

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Now, what kind of a kook would say something as obviously nutty as the title of this little article? For of a certainty we all know that only the original autographs were inspired. And, obviously, no translation of God’s “original inspiration” could possibly be equal to its source, to say nothing of all those errors introduced in the copies of copies of copies over thousands of years.

That’s the standard, acceptable, and “logical” view, anyway.

The usual, acceptable position on Inspiration, Preservation, and Translation goes something like this: 1. God inspired his words in the original autographs. 2. Scribes copied these words, inevitably introducing errors. As if it wasn’t bad enough that God’s inspiration evaporated along with the liquid of the ink, 3. Translations of these copies are even less inspired, since whatever inspiration remained almost certainly couldn’t survive the translation process. In the end, we can at best hope for a reasonable approximation of the original message intended by God.  Therefore: true, deep study of the Bible demands eager inquiry of its original languages and constant, diligent searching for yet older and yet better manuscripts. And for the poor slobs too busy earning a living to learn dialects of languages God did not preserve (i.e., nobody speaks anymore), good lexicons and confidence in men learned in such matters (Ps 118:8) are required. (A spare $50 for the latest and greatest Bible version every six months would be helpful, too.)

The Bible, on the other hand, full of amazing blessings and astonishing truths as it is, takes an entirely different “point of view.” (While the Scripture was allowed to speak in Pharaoh’s court [Ro 9:17], modern academia is too afraid of making the Bible into an idol [Ps 119:140] to acknowledge that it personifies itself and it is therefore shut outside the gates.) The acute observer of such things will notice that each basic claim of the modern critic about inspiration, preservation, and translation as outlined above is utterly without Scriptural support, and yet the same critics teaching them demand that Bible Believers offer scriptural evidence of our positions. Job 8:13.

Nevertheless: The Holy Spirit is not quiet on the matter.

Inspiration: of copies; of originals.

What is inspired Scripture? In order to get a biblical answer to this question one must seek out what the Bible says about it. Scripture claims itself to be given by inspiration:

2 Timothy 3:15-17 And that from a child thou hast known the holy geschriften, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for leer, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

What the Greek word translated as inspiration “really means” is a discussion irrelevant to application. We’ll return to inspiration as a practical event in a moment, but for now let’s look at the rest. Whatever inspired Scripture is, Timothy had it as a child. Whoa there. Christian scholarship just got off the horse wagon and said goodbye.  Timothy lived roughly 1500 years after Moses, to whom God gave the first five books of the Bible (written on materials incapable of surviving centuries of use). So immediately the Holy Spirit tells us that Timothy’s copies of God’s words were given by inspiration.

But there is more.

Whatever “inspired Scripture” is, what does it do? What is it voor? The Holy Spirit tells us that it works in four ways: 1. Doctrine. 2. Reproof. 3. Correction. 4. Instruction. And to what purpose? Perfection of the man of God.

A way to understand this is to read it in reverse. Do you want to undergo perfection and be throughly furnished unto all good works? You need doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. How do you get those four things? Scripture given by inspiration.

Why is this recorded if it has no meaning for us? If the modern “scholarship only” position on inspiration is true, then we have no means of doctrine, reproof, correction, or instruction, and the entire ending of this chapter in 2nd Timothy is little more than cruel mockery. For it is not merely “a bible” that is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness: the Holy Spirit says that these things are the profits of Scripture given by inspiration.

So we see that inspiration is inextricably mingled with Scripture. If it is not given by inspiration, it is not Scripture. And because the Scripture also claims for itself purity (Ps 119:140Pr 30:5), we know that nothing containing corruption is Holy ScriptureScripture knows of no such thing as an “uninspired Holy Bible.”

Now what about this given by business? The academic concept of inspiration being at the point of a pen on an autograph is a misnomer. The actual, mechanical process of original Holy Writ doesn’t start with a pen; it starts with movement to speech.

2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

We can also see the process by which “original autographs” came to exist:

Jeremiah 36:4 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.

So we have the application of “Ghost to paper” through Baruch. This obviously begs the question: using the academic concept of “inspired originals,” was Scripture given through inspiration via Jeremiah, or via Baruch? (And here the irony of the so-called “double inspiration heresy” is sweet and thick.)

Figure this out:  Before Moses wrote In the beginning or recorded the events of the Exodus, the Scripture claims that Scripture spoke to Pharaoh:

Romans 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

So much for inspiration being linked to “original autographs!” Pharaoh had none.

If you still have any respect for the “orthodox” understanding of inspiration of Scripture left, consider the fact that God had far less interest in the “older and better” manuscripts than Tischendorf, Westcott, and Hort did. When God used his own finger to etch “the originals” into stone, Moses summarily demolished them before anybody else ever had a chance to read them. Ex 32:1619. God made new copies, presumably inspired a second time in stone, and since “the third time’s a charm” Moses later wrote them in a book. One wonders if the copies of God’s second original of the Ten Commandments that were stored in the Ark of the Covenant (De 31:26) contained scribal errors, since “inspiration” only applies to the original.  Our “traditional” definition of inspiration is becoming strained at best. And let’s not forget about Jeremiah and Baruch mentioned earlier: The “originals” autographed by Baruch (not Jeremiah) were later read by Jehudi aloud (Jer 36:14) (were they still inspired when Jedudi read them?), cut into pieces and burned (Jer 36:22-23), and then God engaged in some advanced revelation en added to the originals (Jer 36:22).

Thousands of church web sites say “we believe the Holy Bible is inspired by God and without error in the original manuscripts.”  So what!  When you ask one of those churches where you can get your doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2Ti 3:16) they tell you in the inspired originals. Good luck finding those.

Inspiration and Translation

Now we come to that point where even the Bible believer might start to split hairs. Not wanting to appear too simpleminded, many earnest believers in the authority and infallibility of their King James Bible nevertheless are afraid to call it an “inspired translation.” The logic is sound enough: It’s a translation, so it is preserved, not “inspired.”

Having been around this block a few times in the last 15 years, my plea is: Get over it.  And trust me: no “scholarship onlyist” is going to think better of a King James Bible believer just because he doesn’t call it an “inspired translation.”
If you need to take a breather, do so, then re-read 2Ti 3:16.

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

If it’s not given by inspiration, it’s not Holy Scripture. Any translation that can be said to result in Holy Scripture is by definition given by inspiration. So let’s dispense with this distinction without a difference!

This is not a new idea; it did not originate with me or any other contemporary author.

In 1956, years before there were any so-called “Ruckmanites,” Dr. Ed Hills argued that the King James Version New Testament is simply another variety of the Textus Receptus from which it was translated. (The King James Version Defended, chapter 8). The KJV is just as much the “inspired word of God” as the sources that form the basis of its translation.

202 years before that, John Wesley observed in his commentary:

“The Spirit of God not only once inspired those who wrote it, but continually inspires, supernaturally assists, those that read it with earnest prayer. Hence it is so profitable for doctrine, for instruction of the ignorant, for the reproof or conviction of them that are in error or sin, for the correction or amendment of whatever is amiss, and for instructing or training up the children of God in all righteousness.”

Look at that. God showed John Wesley something that modern fundamental Baptist theologians still don’t understand. Although Wesley didn’t include any cross-references in his short commentary on 2Ti 3:16, he still understood what Elihu told Job and his three friends:

Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.

Wesley had it right, and I’d hardly call him “KJV Only.”

Every time you understand, it is by the inspiration of God that you are given that understanding. It is a continual process. (You Greek and Hebrew guys: I know the connection of inspiration in 2Ti 3:16 with Job 32:8 is worrying you a bit, and you want to look in your lexicons. You’re hoping there is a way out of this now, aren’t you.  It’s okay, I’ll wait.  You go look up neshamah en theopneustos. Then take a deep… breath.)

But back to translation. While the Bible critic is haughtily demanding scriptural proof that the King James Bible is “inspired,” or proclaiming that a translation can’t be as good as the “originals,” the New Testament is replete with inspired translations of Old Testament texts. Remember that interesting verse where the Scripture claims its own personification?

Romans 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

That quote is an inspired translation from the “original Hebrew” of Exodus 9:16 (which was itself written long after the words were first said by Moses!) into the “original Greek” of Romans 9:17. And you’re reading it in the English… given by inspiration. (Again: if it’s not inspired, it’s not Scripture.)

You can’t go very far reading about Bible versions from the likes of James White or D. A. Carson without being told that by its very nature, a translation can never equal its source. So what do you do with Romans 9:17?

By the way, the actual word translate happens to exist in the Bible. 2Sa 3:10Col 1:13Heb 11:5. I leave it to the Bible believer to study the implication of those.

Translation a Requirement of Bible Study

Now, here is where the rubber meets the road.  After all, none of this matters if it doesn’t mean something practical for us.

If we accept the idea that “given by inspiration” can only apply to the original language in which the words were given, we are consigned to never grow in our understanding of God’s word, no matter how much biblical Hebrew or Greek we learn.

Huh, you say?

1st Corinthians chapter 2 is a contrast of human wisdom and the wisdom of God (1Co 2:6-7). Verse 13 shows one of the key methods of studying God’s word:

1 Corinthians 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

If we want to understand God’s word en grow in it, we must take this precept and apply it to Bible study. Not only are God’s holy words something “which the Holy Ghost teacheth,” Jesus said:

John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17). Scripture is spirit. Bible words are spiritual things. Do you want to grow in the word? Then read 1Co 2:13 (and Isa 28:10) and learn to compare spiritual with spiritual. The simple Bible study term for this is cross referencing.

What does this have to do with translation?

The Old Testament originals are mostly in Hebrew. The New Testament originals are mostly in Greek.

How do you compare anything in the New to the Old? Or from the Old to the New? The Bible critics are all left behind at this point because they believe that Scripture is only given by inspiration in their original languages.

You cannot compare spiritual words with spiritual words without having them translated into a common language. You’re either going to have to translate the Hebrew into the un-original Greek to compare them, or you are going to have to translate the Greek into the un-original Hebrew. Do you see it yet? (There is a third option, of course: translate them beide into another language.)

You can’t compare a Greek word in the New Testament with a Hebrew word in the Old Testament if you don’t translate one or both.

Inspired Translation a Requirement for Bible study

If God’s inspiration of Scripture does not survive the translation process, you can’t study the Bible in its entirety. Even if you read biblical Hebrew fluently, or biblical Greek, you must still translate anything you read in one language in order to compare it to the other.

And if that translation isn’t Scripture given by inspiration, it is not profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, or for instruction in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Admittedly, the claim I am making about this requirement for Bible study is only true if you consider the Bible to be Scripture. If you don’t, and you don’t really care about doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, then I would be at a complete loss to explain why you read all the way to the end of this article.

For the rest of you, dig into your King James Bible and explore its truly inexhaustible riches by comparing scripture with scripture.  Once you believe you are handling and reading the very Scriptures given by inspiration just like the ones Moses gave to the Hebrews and from which Timothy was made “wise unto salvation,” you will fast realize you have a mine of wonders the likes of which you will never see the end.

Psalms 119:111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

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