Difficulties in the Bible is a subject which receives constant attention from the critics of the Christian faith. They usually put their case forward by implying that if there are difficulties in understanding or interpreting certain passages of the Bible, then this whole book should be rejected. It is most unfortunate that many Bible-believing people are taken in easily by this intimidation.
The presence of difficulties alone is no criterion for rejecting a book, because books written on all subjects, even by experts, contain passages which are difficult to understand or interpret. The courts of our country is a very good example of this case. Even though they have a highly accurate terminology to express legal matters, and even though the experienced lawmakers made the laws with utmost care and clarity, we still face difficulties of interpretation in many places. Usually a group of learned judges are then appointed the task of weighing all the evidence and intention of the law to give us the correct interpretation.
The mere presence of difficulties does not invalidates the laws and constitutions.Nor does any sane person demand that books of the laws should be abandoned merely due the presence of passages which are difficult to understand or interpret In all honesty and integrity, the critics of the Bible should show the same charity towards the Bible,even if they do not consider it anything above the ordinary books of the world.They should allow an objective examination of the whole problem instead of trying to throw away the book.
In the past centuries there have numerous attacks directed against the Bible, and this has given a good opportunity to the Bible scholars to sort out the problems and the reasons why they look problems to a person.A full discussion of their findings would require several dozen massive volumes of books, and they will necessarily contain a good amount of matter which will be highly technical. However, there are many matters which can be understood by the non scholar, and in this article we will discuss one such problem: the difficulties arising due to the problems of translation.
The first problem of translation is that no two languages have exactly equivalent words or concepts. Even if two such words in two languages seem identical, their actual meaning and usage is dictated by the cultural, religious, and moral pattern of the people who speak these languages. Tor example, the English word ‘sincere’ is a common word known to almost all my readers. However, if they are asked to produce an equivalent word from any of the Indian languages they will be at a loss to do so.
Many of them might be able to come up with some words which express some aspects of sincerity, but no word can be found which conveys the full meaning of the English words. Because of this Bible translators have to wrestle constantly with the problem of what word to use and what not to. In their quest to give as accurate a translation as is possible they use a variety of words to translate the same Greek or Hebrew word. This why the precise wording of a particular verse changes from translation to translation. It is not an error, but a limitation of human languages.
Another problem is of understanding the words employed by the Hebrew and Greek writers of the Bible. These forms of Hebrew or Greek are not spoken today, so the meaning of many of the words used by them has to be deducted from ancient manuscripts. Since Archeology is relatively new discipline the process of discovering and studying ancient manuscripts is hardly a century old. On the other the hand, the most commonly used translation of the Bible, the king James version, is about four centuries old. Hence any person should be charitable enough to understand that errors due to the limitations of understanding the Hebrew and Greek words at that time must have restricted the translators in many places.
In I Thessalonians 4:4 we find it written ‘That each of you know how to possess his own vessel". Here the original word might mean a vessel, one’s body, or even one’s wife. Now there is no single English translator is not allowed to expand his translation by introducing more than one word. Since the subject of discussion in this verse is sanctification, there must be some means to communicate the other meanings also. This requirements applies more in the case of Bible translations which are undertaken for people with no church or English background. So one translator might use the word body while another person might use the word wife to render the meaning in English. No person reading these verses from different translations should conclude that there is some error in the Bible.
Translation from one language to another is a very difficult task, and difficulties are bound to arise due to limitations of language.
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