Guest / Limited Access /
Knowing What the Bible 'Really' Means
Image: Steve Sonheim Photography
Knowing What the Bible 'Really' Means

From countless pulpits every week we hear an implicit message that has wormed its way into our minds: We lack the key to unlocking the secrets of Scripture because we don't know the original languages. Sure, we have translations of the Bible—a lot of them, in fact. But pastors tell us again and again that, unlike the term in the Bibles in our laps, the true meaning of any given term in the Old or New Testament is something quite different. It's a bit like pre-Reformation times, when illiterate believers had to depend on church authorities to tell them what the Bible said and meant.

A little overdrawn? Perhaps. But many Christians assume that they could glean a deeper and more profound meaning from Scripture if only they knew the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

As a working translator, I have studied translation for years. And though I would agree that knowing the original languages is key for any other text, when it comes to the Bible, I don't. In fact, I believe that translations of Scripture are not secondary fill-ins. Rather, they are integral to the ongoing and primary expression of God's message to us.

Words and Their Wiles

We all know that words are powerful. The words spoken to us in anger as children can haunt us, and the tender words of those who love us can provide remarkable comfort for years. But we may not realize how fickle words can be. They are fickle because language, at its root, represents a perception of reality—our perception, which isn't necessarily shared by anyone else.

Words reflect what we believe or make believe. There is no guarantee anyone will ever completely understand our words—and we know from experience how easily they are misunderstood. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueThe Man Who Birthed Evangelicalism
Subscriber Access Only The Man Who Birthed Evangelicalism
Carl Henry's complex legacy, 100 years after his birth.
RecommendedCan You Name All Ten Commandments? If Not, This (and 18 Other Questions) Could Get You Deported
Can You Name All Ten Commandments? If Not, This (and 18 Other Questions) Could Get You Deported
Take this quiz of Christian trivia faced by converts from Islam seeking asylum in the UK.
TrendingWho’s Who of Trump’s ‘Tremendous’ Faith Advisers
Who’s Who of Trump’s ‘Tremendous’ Faith Advisers
The Republican candidate finally names his campaign’s evangelical connections.
Editor's PickSupreme Court: Texas Can't Keep Women from Abortion Clinics
Supreme Court: Texas Can't Keep Women from Abortion Clinics
Ruling to reverse restrictions interrupts years of pro-life advances on the state level.
Christianity Today
Knowing What the Bible 'Really' Means
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.