Don’t like the Bible? Change it! (And one Random Comment)


Dictionary.com has reported that new “versions” of the bible will be coming out soon.  These versions will have altered language in them.  I don’t know exactly how to feel about this.  Two main issues jump into my mind.  The first is “How can men change the meaning of scripture by changing pronouns?”  The second issue is “How can you “modernize” an ancient text and preserve its integrity?”   Well, first some basics from Dictionary.com’s article:

New International Version (NIV) and The New American Bible, respectively, will include gender-neutral language and substitute words that the editors claim will reflect a modern understanding of the book’s theology.

That is a bold claim, considering they are “modernizing” an ancient text that was written through a divine hand acting through a mortal.  That begs the question of do the editors have the right reason stones to change a book reguarded by millions as the end all and be all of their religion?

Gender neutral pronouns, as the article states, would cause loss of meaning and confusion on many passages that scores of people have committed to memory and live their lives by.

The Apostle Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female…”  – this passage from Galatians 3:28 makes a statement about gender roles by using the specific masculine and feminine pronouns. However, if replaced with a gender-neutral pronoun, as in the case of NIV, the intended meaning may simply get lost in the translation. The same could be said for the passage: “Man cannot live by bread alone” (Mathew 4:4), as it has become such a popular cultural phrase.

There is a quote that came to mind when I read this article:

Language forces us to perceive the world as man presents it to us.  ~Julia Penelope

When man changes the language from the divine- it truly is a case of language presenting the world as a man wants us to perceive it. Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”  provides evidence of the Bible’s survivability throughout time.  The main point he makes is that the Bible’s survivability is largely credited to its unchanging form.  That takes into account verbiage and form.

Since God handed Moses the 10 commandments in roughly 1400 BC, the Bible has been translated into 100s of languages around the world.  Is there any way to truly know the meaning and intent of the original work?  I think that it was lost hunderds of years ago.  Contextual and vocabulary dissimilarities could only cause confusion and misleading statements.  Like the Dictionary.com article points out.  This goes past pronouns and may have resulted in a bastardized text we know as the scriptures.  Let me provide an example:

Original Text:

You must go to the store and buy bread.

Translated into a language with dissimilar vocabulary:

You must travel to a building and trade for a grain and water mixture that uses yeast to rise.

I know you can see how that can mean the same thing- literally.  When the original text is used as a metaphorical device and not a literal sentence, I can see how it’s meaning can become marginalized by the translation.  We assume that “bread” is universally known as a symbol for Christ’s last supper.  I think that same scenario has been repeated over the decades and decades until all that is left is:

You must go.

These “gender neutral” additions are just the latest stride in a marathon of clouded meanings since the original words were penned.  Not to mention that The King James Version of Revelation 22:19 says that:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Maybe the believers and re-writers should read it?

What do you think?

Now the random comment on the Dictionary.com post:

Alex Madjarov on March 27, 2011 at 10:41 pm

The best way to modernize the bible is to get rid of the whole thing and start all over. If you remove the genocide, slavery, unicorns, zombies, talking snakes, misogyny, lies, infanticide, deceit and other less-than-nice elements, you’d barely have anything left.


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About matt1912

I am.

Posted on April 5, 2011, in religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Mar21Steve Miller Good points! That is why it is an inesretting conversation. I guess that is why I make the distinction between translating what the original historic texts say and what today’s readers understand in common language. I’m not saying my way is right, just what works for me. For your Spanish example your teacher on a written exam most likely would grade you on translating the actual words accurately in written form, but in class verbally there would be the possibility for discussing the nuances of meaning. So for me fidelity to the original language text in written form with nuanced oral presentation is how I handle gender inclusive biblical texts.When I discuss the fidelity of the scripture often skeptics will tell me well the verses’ wording was changed over time because the meaning of words change as cultures change. It is hard enough to adequately communicate the idea of a translation which still is in line with the original Hebrew or Greek without also trying to defend why today we are making adjustments to fit our modern vernacular. I understand why the NIV2011 came into being in terms of gender inclusive dialog it just isn’t that big of a deal for me.

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