Thursday, November 20, 2008

Joseph Herrin's View on the Bible Versions Controversy

Since a friend sent me a few emails linking to the writings of Joseph Herrin, I've spent quite a bit of time reading through his website and his blog. His writings are wonderful; his studies are in great depth. He puts me to shame in my paltry efforts to investigate some of the same concerns he covers.

He does differ from me on the question of the Bible versions, however, and I like his writings so much in general I'm going to have to give his views on this topic some careful consideration.

He answers a letter a Christian brother had written him:

I would agree with you that there are some serious problems with many of the translations today, but I haven't found the KJV to be a better translation, but in most cases to be a much more flawed translation.
I have to comment at the outset here that there is already a problem in lumping the KJV together with all the proliferating Bible versions as a "translation." When you compare the KJV with all the others the first thing you have to note is that it is based on a different collection of Greek texts than the new versions are. This isn't properly speaking a matter of translation, but a matter of textual sources, and the two shouldn't be confused. You can't say whether the KJV is a better or worse "translation" if its textual sources are different to begin with. You can only compare the quality of the translations where the texts are identical. If the Greek has different words of course the English will read differently as well. I'm sure he's aware of all this as he goes, but the point is that the reader has to be made aware of it.

He goes on to list the many translations he consults and compares in his research to argue for his care in this regard, and I am sure that he's as thorough a researcher as he hopes to be.

I have written that all of the popular English translations are full of translation errors, but until the time that I can find a suitable computer based substitute for them, or I can develop one myself, I will continue to use them, but in many instances I will susbtitute a word that gives a better rendering.
Now, this does bother me, that he feels free to substitute a word he believes gives a better rendering, but many preachers do this these days, as well as many amateur students of these things. What is to protect any of them from producing just more "translation errors?" Can they really claim expertise comparable to the translators of the various commercial Bibles? I personally wouldn't doubt that some could but I wouldn't want the job of determining which, and from what I know of the high qualifications of the King James team I wouldn't want to declare any of their decisions wrong without taking great care. (As it happens, Herrin does investigate a couple of passages with such great care in a recent blog entry and astonished me with his excellent reasons for disagreeing with the KJV translators on a couple of points. But I've come to believe that Herrin is unusually gifted for this task, truly anointed for plumbing the depths of the scriptures.)

He goes on to quote from a letter he received, but I will have to leave that for another post.


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