Bible Translation (Series): What Language Does God Speak?

Walk into any bookstore seeking a Holy bible and you will find many choices. You may find shelf upon shelf of Bibles. There are many different “translations” in many different languages. Within many languages such as English you will find dozens of different translations. And with any particular translation you may find several different types of “study Bibles” containing notes and references with a particular emphasis. (My own “Bible of choice” is the New International Version (NIV), Archaeological Study Bible.)

The Holy Bible is both the most widely published (more than 1,000,000 Bibles are distributed worldwide each week) and most translated book in history. It has been translated in whole or part into over 2,300 languages and is available to over 90% of the world’s population in their native tongues. No other book even comes close to those figures.

To the person who has never been introduced to God’s Word and is ready to get into It, this can either be totally bewildering or as simple as picking up the first Bible that looks interesting. Or they may simply accept the gift of a Bible from someone else. (This week youth from my home church distributed 27 copies of the New Testament translated into Spanish in the Dominican Republic.)

For the well-established student of the Bible, many have a strong preference for a particular translation. This can be the source of tremendous debate and even argument among Christians. (I’ve managed to stir this pot a bit in some of my own blogs.)

In addition to the various translations of the Holy Bible there is also a wealth of supplemental resource material to understanding God’s Word. Among other things there are concordances, commentaries, at least a zillion supplemental books. Getting to know God and His Word can be (and should be) a very serious undertaking!

While I have stated my “bible of choice” above, this series will not be in defense or criticism of any particular Bible translation. I actually use several different translations and supplemental resources in my own Bible study. Instead, we will look at things such as the history of Bible translations, reasons for translating and the origins of some select translations, the problems of language, new scientific findings (particularly in archaeology) and new discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Why undertake this series?

Selection of a particular Bible translation has a tremendous impact on how we come to understand God. This is true whether we are new to His Word or if we’ve been studying it for our entire lives. No Bible translation is without its difficulties. These can range all the way from outright revision of the intent of God’s Word to simply not being able to understand the basic meaning of some words.

Bible translation has never been as easy as sitting down with a Hebrew or Greek to English dictionary and substituting word for word. The syntax of various languages is different. Such things as idioms, euphemisms and acrostics found in the original texts would make such a word for word translation meaningless to most readers. Languages are living and constantly changing, words change meaning through time. Choice of words in the translation often depends on the cultural or historical context of the original. Understanding of such things can be of tremendous assistance in studying God’s Word.

Back to the basic question: What Language Does God Speak?

The simple answer is yours!

God’s Word is both for all of us collectively and for each of us individually. He has given us the Holy Spirit to aid us in understanding.

Unlike any other book, the Holy Bible speaks to us. It gives us direction and understanding of our purpose.

And the Word of God, as recorded in the Holy Bible, understands us! What other book can do that?

As with the dimensions of time and space (both God’s creations), we are constrained by our use and understanding of language. Language falls far short of the mind of God. Let us work together to make the most of what we’ve got.

I strongly encourage the thoughts and questions of others to this series. Although I am just beginning my own research, I can already see the intricacies and complexities, many of which I had never seriously considered.

Shalom, Art
Alive in The Word

This blog is part of a series on Bible Translation. A listing of all blogs in the series (with links):

Bible Translation (Series): What Language Does God Speak?

Bible Translation (Series): In the Beginning

Bible Translation (Series): The Septuagint

Bible Translation (Series): The Vulgate

Bible Translation (Series): Love and Unicorns, two challenges of language

Bible Translation (Series): Formal vs. Dynamic Equivalency

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About aliveintheword

Missouri, USA Married to Marty, 45 years 2 sons (with 2 daughers-in-law) and 2 granddaughters Life dedicated to serving Jesus Christ and delivering the Good News
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6 Responses to Bible Translation (Series): What Language Does God Speak?

  1. ptl2010 says:

    I love the KJV, grew up reading it (now over 60 years), memorizing and studying from it. Yet when I do Bible study with my Home Assistant from Myanmar, I use the NIV – easier for her to understand.
    Each time before we open the Word we pray “open our eyes that we may see wonderful things from Your Word” and praise God, the Holy Spirit illumines our minds and hearts as we read His Word.

  2. abundantlife says:

    Reblogged this on ABUNDANT LIFE LIVING and commented:
    I love the Word of God! My preference is New American Standard, but I do read other translations to get a different perspective.

    Awhile back, I did a blog post about the dangers of The Message, Eugene Peterson’s fictional account of God’s Word, as so many so called Christian leaders and pastors are using this from the pulpit and in their teachings. It is sadly being touted as the Bible by emergent leaders and others – and they are woefully deceived.

    What Does the Bible Teach About False Teachers? Is Eugene Peterson’s Book, The Message, the Bible?
    http://abundantlifeliving.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/what-does-the-bible-teach-about-false-teachers-is-eugene-petersons-book-the-message-the-bible/

  3. ptl2010 says:

    To me it is the language of Love that God speaks to us through His Word. It is a language that is universally understood and as He beckons, saves and rekindles His love within each life, He touches our lives and makes us whole and to His glory. Praise His wondersful Name.

  4. rickroehm says:

    The below verse comes to mind as I relate this Blog to various nations, people, and languages around the Globe. The Bible calls humanity the “mixed multitudes”…great and small.

    As we all know… God is no respecter of persons, race, nationality, language or blood. Isn’t that beautiful? God is not partial to language or nationality. Any human being can find God’s mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. Human beings are all one blood with many languages. Christians are all one Spirit and all speak a language that God understands. The Christian’s actions speak louder than words…because the heart is made clean and holy by the power of God’s Grace.

    God said…
    Acts 17:25-28…seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being;

    Glory to the Lord Jesus Christ who touches, changes, and speaks to the hearts of men and women from every part of the world, every kindred, every tongue, and every nation. Notice it says, “Every tongue”. Be aware that Jesus was God in flesh to redeem any human being on Earth! Be aware that forgiveness is only found through trusting Christ’s death at Calvary. “When forgiveness is found by trusting Christ you speak the language of a child of God.”

    • Thank you Pastor Rick! Sometimes people pick or defend a particular Bible translation for reasons very different from what you and I are describing here.

      At the bottom line when we select a Bible we need one that does “speak to us” in a way that we can understand. God does speak all languages, even those unspoken! Our problem is that we can’t understand them all.

      I always appreciate your comments. They add a great deal to my simple understanding.

      Shalom, Art

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