Reposted recently but still old, an article by someone named Phillip Owens titled Interpretation versus belief. I’ll split this into two parts, the second coming later today.
“Interpreters” explain or give the meaning of words from one language to another language. No one would knowingly say of a competent interpreter, “Well, that’s just his interpretation,” meaning that his translation is only an opinion, has no solid basis to support it, and should be discounted as unworthy of any consideration. If he knows both languages and is honestly doing his work, he can be depended on.
I’d argue that “translation” and “interpretation” aren’t exactly interchangeable concepts. Translation should be direct and objective, with the intention being to maintain the original idea or concept as expressed in one language by using the closest possible words from another. That’s how language to language dictionaries function and someone well familiar with both languages can potentially do the same. Maybe another translator might pick a different synonym or phrasing but the original meaning will still make it through. To my way of thinking, interpretation is a loaded word filled with the opinions and experiences of he who interprets. I’d say it’s fairly subjective in its make-up, with synonyms chosen reflecting the mood of the interpreter rather than the mood of the piece being interpreted. I could be wrong about that, but it’s my interpretation of interpretation, so here it stands.
Most don’t need an “interpretation” of the daily newspaper. It is fairly self explanatory. If there are several articles in one newspaper on one breaking story, reading all the articles gives on a clearer picture of the event.
And it’s likely each article was written by a different desk writer, all of whom would be interpreting the story through their own lenses of experience and knowledge base. Many might reflect the bias of that particular newspaper and its expected audience instead of remaining totally neutral, too. It’d be better to sample articles from a variety of papers to get an expanded, more well-rounded report of what went down. Every journalist will focus on a different moment from the event, perhaps interview different people — assuming their papers aren’t merely lazily pulling one author’s story off the wire and running it unaltered, of course. Money and deadlines can get in the way of decent journalism pretty easily.
On the whole, this is true of the Bible. It has been my observation that “interpretation” or understanding what the Bible says is not that big a problem. Believing it is!
And that’s his interpretation of his observation. Clearly he doesn’t look at this the same way I do because I come to a different conclusion based on observations. Most of what’s in the bible is unbelievable, I’ll grant him that, yet so many believer can blindly ignore reality and scientific fact on a daily basis to promote every ludicrous thing in it without seeing the illogical nature of the books within.
I can’t know how much actual bible history this guy knows but I can admit that I’m aware of the difficulties presented when trying to define Hebrew concepts via suitable Greek approximations. Nothing ever translates word for word, after all. Word order, grammar rules, lack of vowels. Mysterious turns of phrase and local/historical cliches and analogies. A completely different cultural way of thinking and reacting to the world around them. Those who worked on the Septuagint really had their work cut out for them. I quote from Wikipedia, explaining how Greek Jews aided in writing their holy book into Koine Greek, what they spoke in Alexandria in the 3rd century BCE:
According to the record in the Talmud,
‘King Ptolemy once gathered 72 Elders. He placed them in 72 chambers, each of them in a separate one, without revealing to them why they were summoned. He entered each one’s room and said: “Write for me the Torah of Moshe, your teacher.” God put it in the heart of each one to translate identically as all the others did.’
Laughable notion. Beautiful thing to believe, but laughable.
Back to the article. “Understanding what the Bible says” is a huge problem. Otherwise why would there be so many flavours of Christianity all preaching different things? Some focus on the anti-gay. Some focus on silencing or at least diminishing the role of women. Some promote huge families and home schooling lest their kids learn “the wrong things.” Some ignore evolution and teach the 6000 year old earth tripe. Some buy transubstantiation. Some take a completely literal route about rising from the dead. Some accept the likelihood that whole swaths of text were altered heavily. We can’t even know by how much in most cases because what translators had to work from were copies of copies.
Reliable translations of the Bible use English words understandable to most people. Where then does the problem lie? It lies in rejecting what is the obvious.
If it were easy and truly obvious, there’d never be an argument over how to interpret it. There’d only be one translation for all languages.. oh wait. I wrote above that nothing ever translates word for word across languages so every language would wind up with a different book. Problems again. People who’d study it in Greek would learn to read the English at some point perhaps and see major differences in phrasing and word choice, revealing a means of interpreting the verses in other ways. Anyone ever read Shakespeare in German or Italian or Russian? How does Shakespeare’s early Middle English dialect transfer over? Same rhythms? Same rhymes? Same japes? Or do they wind up with what’s essentially a modernized Cliff Notes prose version that tells the story but loses the aim of the author in the process? Shakespeare was considered low-brow in his day and look at the pedestal we’ve placed him on since.
Getting back to the bible, I have to ask what’s obvious? People find a problem with the language used in the bible all the time. PETA was up in arms over all the animals referred to as “it” a while back. They thought “she” should be used instead because they think using “it” belittles the fact that animals have consciousness and can feel pain and it makes it too easy for humanity to justify killing and eating them if they are described in a holy book like unthinking objects akin to rocks and trees.
Is Jesus Christ Deity (God’s Son), Or Merely A Historical Character?
He gives several examples from scripture that are supposed to prove Christ’s godliness. They don’t prove anything to me except the fact that he believes in Jesus as a deity.
These passages are straightforward. If one believes the Bible to be God’s Word, how much “interpretation” does one need on this subject? It is as straightforward, and I would say much more so, than most headline stories in newspapers. He was both a historical figure and Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23).
And if you don’t believe it’s god’s word? If you, like me, believe that it is instead a collection of crap thrown together by a bunch of guys with a clear ambition toward propaganda and c/overt population control, then everything in there needs to be read with an eye toward the past and what they hoped to accomplish then, and another eye on the present to confirm their successes. It’s dismal what this book has done to humankind, frankly. For every pretty, peaceful, pleasant quote that changed a life for the better, there must be a dozen disturbing ones that changed thousands of people’s lives for the worse.