You Can’t Do That!

When my daughter mentioned to somebody at her work about my creating a translation of New Testament (NT) texts, his reply was, “You can’t do that!”

I’m encountering Christians who think my translating books of the Bible is wrong. “God’s Word is just fine the way it is.” “What about the curse at the end of the Bible about changing it.” This is the type of response I’m getting. Let me clear up a few things.

I chose the title for my book, Rewriting Paul, as an homage to my professor from Brown University, Stan Stowers, to whom the book is dedicated, whose book title was A Rereading of Romans. The subtitle clarifies that I’m referring to “original translations.” I have created my own translations of most of the letters of Paul contained in the NT.

Since Jerome people have been translating the NT into another language. I count eighty-eight complete Bible translations into English. That’s not counting all of the translations of the Bible into other languages.

Some people seem to have the mistaken impression that their Bible they carry with them to church and read during their “devotions” is itself the Word of God. You might believe that God brought about the circumstances that led to the production of the Bible you hold in your hand, but God did not dictate to someone what words to put down on the paper, parchment, or papyrus. No reputable Bible scholar or theologian would support such a theory. Most anyone will tell you that the basic Christian stance is that inspiration of biblical authors was in the process of composing the final draft, shall we say, in their language of Hebrew/Aramaic (OT) or Greek (NT). Those so-called “original autographs” may be said to be God’s Word. The problem is that we don’t have those, and textual critics have to do the best they can to recreate it based on the hundreds of existing manuscripts that do not completely agree on the original composition.

No informed person should conclude that it’s wrong to create a new translation of the Bible. If you happen to be among those KJV-only Christians, then someone needs to disabuse you of that position. There is no Authorized Version because they were many versions including an early one containing the apocryphal books and others with alarming mistakes (“Thou shalt commit adultery”; “Sin on more”; “Let the children first be killed”). The idea that the KJV produces the correct text of the Bible because it is based on a family of manuscripts that were copied accurately from a single exemplar goes against the rules of modern textual criticism.

You may very well not like my translations of Paul’s letters, but there’s no basis for saying I shouldn’t be doing that or that God will curse me. I’m pretty well cursed enough, so I’m not sure what else can happen.

One Reply on “You Can’t Do That!”

  1. The ignorance of fundamentalists would be laughable if no so sad. I describe it as an addiction to certainty. They usually have no room for mystery. I’m looking forward to reading your book, it sounds refreshing.

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