Can Bible Translators Outdo God?

Those who frequent this blog know that I am an ardent defender of an essentially literal Bible translation. Many of you have informed me throughout the years that you too are of the same persuasion. Jointly we point to the same set of infallible reasons for our defense of an essentially literal Bible:

– God never gave man permission to alter his text in any way, shape or form. If this isn’t the case, He would have never chosen to engrave and memorialize His message through the written text.

– God makes his feelings on the matter clear when he instructs both Israel and the Body of Christ that His statutes, commands and teachings ought to be faithfully preserved, taught and transmitted. (Deuteronomy 4:2 & Matthew 5:18)

– Lastly, God warns of the punishments reserved for those who deviate even ever-so-slightly from what He has said. (John 12:48 & Revelation 22:18-19)

Additionally, one can examine history to determine what the negative results are when people choose to ignore, omit and alter the historical record. Since truth is repressed, many are left in a state of intellectual and physical slavery.

Still, all these points are not enough to discourage those who manipulate the Bible for personal gain to desist from the practice of altering the text. (I am describing Bible publishing houses, rabble-rousing “Christian” authors and the like.)

The litany of excuses and counterpoints these swindlers offer are not new. Simplifying their arguments to their core, they claim that society changes and with it the use of language. Therefore, the Bible needs to accommodate itself to the public, not the other way around. Hence, new Bible translations which “simplify” (read dilute and diminish) the text and make it more “accessible” (read appeal) to all are sorely needed.

Never mind that the Good Book provides the diligent reader an education in language and syntax on its own. Never mind that God used particular and carefully chosen words to communicate a specific message and that if said words are altered it changes the message entirely.

In essence, the disservice to the reader is almost indescribable as it is maddening and horrendous.

Although I’ve touched on the subject of Bible translations on diverse occasions there’s one aspect I have never alluded to – the feeling that is prevalent in many circles which purports to improve upon what the original texts have to say.

This thought came to me recently as I read through John Taylor Gatto’s book Weapons of Mass Instruction. Gatto is a former public school teacher turned author and anti-compulsory schooling advocate who renounced institutionalized teaching after learning about the maleficent reasons mass public schooling was created. (I highly recommend Gatto’s book for many reasons, although some portions of the work are debatable. Nevertheless, the book is priceless for its historical and philosophical outlook.)

On pages 131-134, Mr. Gatto recalls an incident which occurred in a school near Los Angeles where he examined a shelf of eighth grade textbooks and found a copy of Homer’s Odyssey. He continues narrating in his inimitable style:

“I was delighted to find The Odyssey as part of the eight grade curriculum until I opened the cover to find it was a bowdlerized version – rewritten and simplified for 13 and 14-year-old California students from prosperous families. As if the ‘meaning’ could be abstracted from the language and presented in a livelier fashion than Homer. [emphasis mine] One thing is certain: if Homer had written the version I was holding, nobody except an ‘A’ student anxious for a good grade would have ever read the book to its end, and the only way it would have survived to bore a second generation of reader would have been as a textbook in a compulsory school scheme.”

I ask the reader to apply the same principle to the Bible. How can anyone liven, improve upon or even “clarify” what God has inspired? Yet, this is exactly what heretics like Eugene Peterson have attempted to do via the bastardized text called The Message. The NIV translators have done the same and worse, for example, accommodating the Bible to the gender-neutral sophistry and stupidity of modern secular society. These occurrences and others prove that certain men are, either implicitly or explicitly, attempting to “one up” what the Good Lord made perfect.

One last thing; aren’t the people who alter the Bible saying by their actions that God made an imperfect creation? I’d have a tough time attempting to justify that before the Creator of the universe. As is said in today’s vulgate, “Good luck with that!”

4 thoughts on “Can Bible Translators Outdo God?

  1. Then, ideally, a true and faithful Bible would be in it’s original language; God didn’t give us permission to translate the Bible into one other than the one he inspired it into. So we had all better begin learning Greek and Latin and Hebrew.


    1. Your sarcastic comment proves two things.

      Firstly, you didn’t read the article with any depth of understanding and therefore misrepresent what I communicated. (Or could it be that you are seeking to deflect from the essential message of this writing by intentionally misrepresenting what I wrote?) As I clearly stated in the piece, God prohibits altering the Bible by either omission, addition or interjecting a new meaning into the text, not merely translating it into other languages. Hence, I wrote that I am in favor of versions that are “essentially literal”.

      Secondly, by your declaration you prove a key point I made in the article, which is that many demand the Bible be “simplified” because they are intellectually lazy and choose not to be diligent in the personal study of the Scriptures – even though the text is fairly easy to comprehend. Therefore, through such an act, the Bible’s message is corrupted and made to accommodate secular whims and fit within a marketing scheme that make publishing houses millions without any forethought of being faithful to God’s Word.

      One last point, you might want to revisit history. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. The Latin Vulgate was a horrendous translation that came much later during the reign of Roman Catholicism.


      1. That’s just it, things get lost in translation all of the time. Many Bibles have footnotes about possible other interpretations of verses, sections that aren’t in some manuscripts that are in others, some have had words added in for clarity even though they weren’t in the manuscript that the translation was based off of.
        When I learned Spanish, I learned that the literal translation for a flat tire was: “the tire ran out of air on me” in effect blaming the tire for it’s failure, not the driver for having run over something that was that sharp. We can’t always know what idioms or sayings meant from that long ago and some are hard to gauge what they mean. The only way to mitigate such alterations is to avoid translation entirely.


    2. You need to read and digest before you reply, mate. Not only are you continuing to misrepresent what I wrote, now you’re presuming that I am not aware of what you have just written. You continue to insist on working from the premise that I somehow stated that translating the Bible is prohibited by God. Where did I declare such a ridiculous thing? Again, I’ll restate what I wrote: God prohibits altering the text via omission, addition or changing its meaning so as to make the Bible “fit” within a secular framework and for marketing purposes, as is done nowadays.

      Lastly, you cannot employ the “lost in translation” excuse in the face of “translations” that are clearly diluted and corrupted.


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