Four ways Bible scholars betray the Church

(Nathan Smith) #22

I think this is what the Berean Study Bible (at attempts to do. Correct me if I’m wrong.

(Bnonn Tennant) #23

I can’t speak to the full Logos package, but two of the main things I use the basic web version for are the interlinear, and the ability to rapidly filter a word to see where else it is used, and how.

The interlinear is because I don’t trust translators all that much, so I want to be able to at least check the English against the original (e.g., if I see “children” in English I just automatically scan for bene in Hebrew; if I see a long phrase in English and a single word in the original then I want to know why, etc).

The filter is so I can not rely so much on the lexicon, because I’ve repeatedly seen the fruit of a “word studies” approach to reading the Bible, where people treat it like a technical manual rather than normal human discourse for normal human people.

If I may say, though, you sound like you’re laying the blame on the tools, but then you really go on to (correctly) lay the blame on the people misusing them. I find the tools very helpful because I have been fortunate enough to learn from people who really know how to compare Scripture with Scripture, and have taught me to read the Bible the way its authors read it, and the way its original audience read it. The tools help me do that.

I just want to be careful not to throw the baby out. Surely the problem is bad teaching, not bad tools. It’s like the web in general. You can tell your child to ask Google if he doesn’t know something, or you can teach him how to do real research. In my own life, I haven’t allowed my children (11, 7, 3) to use any kind of technology with the Bible lessons we do each day. Instead I focus on teaching them vocabulary so they can understand the Scriptures, teaching them the text so they know the Scriptures, and teaching them the rules and methods of interpretation so they can understand the Scriptures. I’m trying to get them to think in terms of the flow of thought in the text, and the patterns they recognize from other texts. And I’ll be honest, it’s hard and often rather discouraging work. I am not a good children’s teacher. I have very poor theory of mind (Asperger’s…) But whatever my failings, I am certain they will never be able to get any benefit out of tools like Logos if they don’t learn this stuff first.

So I guess where I’m going with this is…where are the people in the church who are teaching this stuff to new converts, and to parents, so they can in turn teach their children?

(John M. ) #24

Bnonn, please let me be so bold as to recommend the Classical theory of pedagogy to you. Learning (for all ages) can be broken into three rough phases: grammar, dialectic (or logic) and rhetoric.

Grammar is raw facts: think multiplication tables, parts of speech, parts of an engine, timelines.

Dialectic is how facts fit together and interact. How does skip counting relate to multiplication tables? What did Lincoln’s election have to do with the Civil War? How do a distributor and a spark plug relate to each other?

Rhetoric is how to present facts to others: How do you construct a convincing argument for a position? How can you convey a Bible lesson to a group of six yet-olds?

Everyone has to work through these stages of learning to learn new things, but kids (say, under 11 or so) have a hard time with rhetoric. Their brains aren’t developed enough to really put themselves in someone else’s shoes to think through how an argument or presentation sounds/looks to someone else.

Young kids (say, under 8 or so) struggle with dialectic. They just can’t think through the implications of things to really form connections between things.

The things you’re looking to explain to them (flow of thought, patterns) are dialectic/rhetorical skills. If you focus on grammar, including terminology and verse memorization at this stage, you’ll find a lot more success and less frustration for everyone. Your 11 yo is probably old enough to start tying things together in Scripture, like themes, key words, rephrasing narratives and simpler parts of systematic theology.

That’s free advice, so take it for what it’s worth.

(Jason Andersen) #25

I once read a book by Joe Rigney in which he described – rather humorously – what he called, “New Calvinist Syndrome.” One of the “symptoms” of New Calvinist Syndrome was, the “acquisition of just enough Greek to to have no clue what one is talking about.” That particular point stuck with me.

It’s very irritating to me to hear preachers stopping every few thoughts to introduce a Greek word, as though it were adding something to what he was saying. I understand that it can be pertinent every now and then, but more often than not I find it to be nothing more than a self-aggrandizing chest puff. What’s worse is that they don’t even have any actual understanding of the Greek language, and they are just looking up words on Blue Letter Bible. It’s very tacky, and I am most positive that preaching was never meant to be reduced to a tedious dictionary lesson.

A simple, close reading and exposition of the text as it appears in any reliable, formal equivalency translation will be leaps and bounds more helpful to your hearers than pretending to be scholarly.

(Jesse Tiersma) #26

Amen. Its a way of showing off without addressing any real issues in a translation.

However, many pastors do seem to be afraid to address differences in translations. If a verse is translated differently in major translations, ( 1 thing in KJV, 2nd in ESV, 3rd in NIV) pastors should at least be able to explain why this is on the text they are currently preaching, without feeling the burden of resolving what skilled committees of translators disagree on. In other words, an explanation of differences without being the guy who always “corrects” the translation.

I think a lack of this information leads to people searching it out on their own, with the results being either the one you described (just enough Greek to know nothing), or an openness to a Bart Ehrmann style view of the Scriptures as a game of Telephone resulting in what we now have.

(Bnonn Tennant) #27

Definitely. I preached on John 3:16 once, and I talked about the way John uses deliberate ambiguity, which is why some Bibles say “God so loved the world” and others say “For in this way God loved the world.” Since this is literally about understanding the breadth of meaning in what John says, I suggested that a good way of translating the ambiguity is, “God loved the world in such a way.” I also briefly explained monogenes so people using older Bibles would not be confused or concerned about me saying “one and only” rather than “only begotten.”

I was later taken aside by one of our elders and told that I was undermining people’s confidence in the text of Scripture. I was utterly astounded at this remark. I did not say so to him, but it reminds me of parents who make their kids live in a bubble. If Christians have a view of the Bible that is more like Islam’s view of the Koran, how is that going to end well?

(Jesse Tiersma) #28

It won’t. The transmission of the Bible, especially the New Testament, isn’t like that of the Koran, with an early Caliph burning any copy that had a difference.

Secular media and academia is all to happy to point out seeming inconsistencies or differences in Bible manuscripts. To refuse to address this kind of thing, and educate the flock, is what leaves them open to having their confidence undermined when wolves attack the Scriptures. People should know there are answers to these slanders on God’s Word.

(Sarah Hoover) #29

I do agree with some of these concerns, but I have a hard time thinking most pastors are just using blue letter Bible to show off some Greek knowledge. Even the small Bible college I went to required two fairly rigorous years of Greek study of the men studying pastoral theology.

(Jason Andersen) #30

Outside of the reformed world, many pastors have no formal schooling. YMMV.

(Sarah Hoover) #31

Yeah, definitely has been a different experience for me. I was grew up in Baptist churches (one SBC and several IFB) and the college I went to was IFB, although it’s moved away from being as fundamentalist as it used to be. I started moving towards reformed theology in college, personally, but it was definitely not a reformed school. I do realize experiences may be different, and I’m not saying that a couple years of Greek make someone an expert, but in my experience many pastors have more working knowledge of the Greek than you were giving them credit for. Not that it’s never used inappropriately or unhelpfully, though- I agree with that.

(John Trocke) #32

Does your wife ever call you “cynical” and “always assuming the worst of others”?

(Jason Andersen) #33

No, she doesn’t. And I don’t want to derail this thread by exploring this comment further. :slight_smile:

(Tim Bayly) #34

Doug Moo?
During the past thirty years as “father” and its cognates declined by a third?
Wheaton and Cambridge?

It’s almost impossible for men to get their PhD, then take lots of money from Bible publishers, then do their work of translation faithfully. Read “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?” The author professes at Princeton, is an unbeliever, has received translation awards, and sees the problem better than we do. Love,

(Tim Bayly) #35

Vocabulary and tenses without reading comprehension and logic and self-knowledge are worth very little. Plus, really, how many years does it take one to begin to understand a language? Add in these men’s dependency upon lexicons and grammars that have been corrupted and the problem becomes more clear. Reading comprehension of Scripture doesn’t improve because one has some facility with Hebrew and Greek. Reading Moo as I preach through Romans, again and again, he along with other men of impeccable reputation as Greek (or Hebrew) scholars make basic mistakes about the way language works, the most common being forcing a word to have one meaning and one meaning only. That’s not how language works. Coders and engineers try to tell their wives it’s how language works, but their wives love them anyway. Love,

(Jason Andersen) #36

So what shall we say is the conclusion of the matter? What is the solution to this problem? Do we go ahead and stick to the authorized version, or ought there be some sort of thrust within the church to produce its own modern translation? What can we do to help the church reclaim its scholastic identity from the secular world? Where do we go from here?

(Joel Norris) #37

My pastor’s undergraduate degree is in Literature, which very much benefits his expository preaching, as he is able to apply literary analysis to bring out understanding not only from the surface words of the text but also from the larger structure and allusions to other books and broader themes of the Bible.

The exaltation of STEM in our culture breeds an approach to the Bible as if it were a technical document rather than a work of literature, and it shows in how current translators feel free to adopt words that don’t carry over deep literary themes that are unpalatable to the modern audience.

(Jesse Tiersma) #38

I think you misunderstood me, although in retrospect using the phrase “skilled committees of translators” how I did, in a discussion of a post criticising translators, was begging to be misunderstood.

I only wanted top point out 2 poor, and in my opinion arrogant, ways of refering to the original languages and manuscripts:

  1. Peppering a sermon with Greek or Hebrew words unnecessarily (as @jander mentioned)
  2. Constantly “correcting” the translation such that a pastor is essentially retranslating the Bible. An especially egregious example of this I once heard in a sermon (brought to mind by Bnonn’s refrence to John 3:16) is when the pastor said, when you look at the Greek, “world” is only in reference to the elect, so it could be translated “For God so loved the elect.” I know next to nothing of Greek, but I’m pretty sure if the Greek said elect, that’s how it would be translated.

I wanted to draw a distinction between that, and necessary references to the originals when different translations said different things, and the importance of a pastor pointing out the reasons for this during his sermon. This would include the things mentioned in your article about biases in the translators that affected their work.

(Bnonn Tennant) #39

Fwiw, John uses kosmos to refer to the kingdom of Adam. Definitely not the elect!

(Tim Bayly) #40

Understood now, and well said. Love,

(Greg Ladd) #41

You made some strong statements about engineers and techies in this thread. As a systems engineer I have worked with natural language processing capabilities in the past and am quite aware of the nature of semantics and the importance of context. I would totally agree that it is incorrect to assume that a single word has only one meaning. I am also less than enthusiastic about most word studies and prefer Biblical Theology and a strong holistic approach that considers the whole panoply of scripture (as well as the importance of narrative and other literary devices). I also had to chuckle about your comment regarding monographs on the use of the word kephale without taking the whole counsel of scripture into account.

As far as Logos and other tools are concerned, I remember something my Mathematical Analysis professor said in my graduate course. He told us that “any fool can use a tool and get the wrong answer without knowing it. I want you to understand what the tool is doing and why.” He would then proceed to give us all of the code we needed to run the programs. Our lab reports had to explain the results based on an in-depth analysis of how the tool worked and why it would work - or fail. It was very instructive - since he was a member of the team that workout the Earth / Moon “figure 8” trajectory for the Apollo program we received that calculation as an assignment. After putting Neil Armstrong on Pluto the first two times I learned the hard way - understand what model the software is using and what the limitations are for that model. Users of Logos should consider the same thing.

Finally, I would ask for your opinion on people like John Walton and his heavy reliance of “Near Eastern Literature” and its use as a “meta narrative” for Bible interpretation. I think inputs the cart before the horse by an over reliance on pre-conceived notions and is another example of Academia’s attack on Scripture. But since I am just an engineer, I may be missing the forest for the trees. :wink: