Can We Trust the Bible?
Ok , we're dealing with the reliability of the Bible these days in Gathering. How can we trust the message of the Bible when the original writings are no longer available to us? Couldn't the message get so corrupted over time and through all the translations it's undergone from one language to the next?
Suppose for example that you translate the following inspired text:
Gavin Johnson is the most intelligent staff member at his church. Everyone loves to sit at his feet. He is very humble and incredibly good looking!
As an original autograph, no one would doubt it's authenticity. Especially if Gavin Johnson really exists (he does). And especially if the author (me) is an eye-witness (he is pretty dang good looking).
Suppose we simulate the translation process using our friend Google Translate. Try it yourself! Don't trust me. I'm biased, remember, and could be trying to start my own cult of Gavin Johnson worship. Google Translate
If you take the original message and translate it to German hopefully you'll get the same message. But there might be some shade of meaning lost in the translation. Does "sit at his feet" mean the same thing in German as it does English?
Well, suppose some of the people who regularly translate my blog into German (so they can keep up with Gathering) become impassioned about the new Gavin Johnson cult. In their missionary zeal they want to take this inspired text to the Swahili-speaking people of Burundi.
Of course you how the story goes, Burundians were amazed to hear the good news about Gavin Johnson and couldn't wait to tell the Estonian diamond miners who for years have infiltrated their culture in hopes that their conversion would result in socio-economic liberation.
Curious about the translation process, Gavin Johnson himself wanted to see if the integrity of the original autograph was still in tact after all those translations. In a flash of brilliance it dawns on him, "I'll just take the Estonian textus receptus as it is, and translate it back to its original language!" Here's what he found after hours of painstaking work with Google Translate:
"Gavin Johnson has more understanding of his staff Church. Everyone likes to sit on your feet. It is typically, an incredibly beautiful."
This is actually what will happen to a text if it is subjected to such an open-ended translation process. Fortunately the Bibles we have today are translated from the original languages of ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek directly into English (or German or Swahili or Estonian). There is no game of "telephone tag" happening in the process. We can be confident that language translation has not significantly compounded the original meaning.
If the process by which we have received our Bible were like the above example, there could very well be significant theological compromise. Notice how in our example the translation process began with a marvelous impression of Gavin Johnson but ends with a church of people who sit on their feet! It's no longer clear that Gavin Johnson is the most intelligent staff member at his church. Where has his humility gone? No direct connection between Gavin and stunning good looks! What a rip off! I'd be mad right now if I was Gavin!
Good thing the internet came along well after God gave us scripture!