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Don Stewart :: Since All Bible Translations Are Imperfect How Can We Speak of an Inerrant Bible?

Don Stewart

Admittedly there is not translation of Scripture that is perfect. Each has its deficiencies. Those who translate the Scripture recognize this. Yet the meaning of the passages can be adequately communicated from one language to the next. For example, a simple comparison of good English translations of Scripture will show that the meanings of each passage will be shown to be the same even if the wording is different. The message of Scripture comes out crystal clear.

Translations Have More Things Right Than Wrong

With respect to the major Bible translations that have been done there is much more right with them than things that are wrong with them. The things that are wrong do not affect the message. Consequently people can read these translations with confidence.

A Lesson From New Testament And The Septuagint

An example of how an imperfect translation can still be the inerrant Word of God is found in the Septuagint - the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The New Testament quotes the Septuagint one hundred and sixty times. Thirteen of those times it calls it Scripture. These quotations are as follows.

Matthew 21:42

Jesus cites the Septuagint when speaking of His predicted rejection by the people.

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes?'" (Matthew 21:42).

This cites Psalm 117:22-23 (Psalm 118:22-23 in English translations).

Luke 4:18-19,21

The Septuagint was cited when Jesus said that He had fulfilled the Scripture at that very day.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor . . . Then he [Jesus] began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:18-19,21).

Jesus is citing Isaiah 61:1,2.

John 13:18

The Septuagint was quoted when Jesus said the Scriptures predicted His betrayal by one who was close to Him.

I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me' (John 13:18).

This cites Psalm 40:9 in the Septuagint (Psalm 41:9 in English translations)

Acts 8:32-33

The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the Septuagint translation about the prediction of God's suffering servant.

The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth" (Acts 8:32-33).

This is citing Isaiah 53:7,8.

Romans 4:3

Paul quotes the Septuagint when referring to the faith of Abraha.

For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3).

The passage cited is Genesis 15:6.

Romans 9:17

Paul cites the Septuagint when speaking of God's reason for raising up the Pharaoh of Egypt.

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth (Romans 9:17).

Paul is citing Exodus 9:16.

Romans 11:3,4

The Septuagint is cited when referring to Elijah's complaint that all the prophets had been slain.

"Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me." And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (Romans 11:3,4).

Here Paul is citing 1 Kings 19:10,14,18.

Galatians 3:8

Paul quotes the Septuagint in the passage that says Gentiles would be blessed through Abraham.

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you" (Galatians 3:8).

The passage cited is Genesis 12:3.

Galatians 4:30

The illustration that the promise of the inheritance will come through Sarah, rather than Hagar, is quoted in the Septuagint.

But what does the Scripture say? "Drive out the slave and her child; for the child of the slave will not share the inheritance with the child of the free woman" (Galatians 4:30).

Here Paul is citing Genesis 21:12.

1 Timothy 5:18

Paul quotes the Law of Moses in the Septuagint version.

For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain" (1 Timothy 5:18)

Deuteronomy 25:4 is cited here.

James 2:8

James cites the Septuagint with respect to loving one's neighbor.

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (James 2:8).

James is citing Leviticus 19:18.

James 4:6

James quotes the Septuagint concerning God blessing the humble.

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

The passage cited here is Proverbs 3:34.

Citing Scripture

Each of these passages cites the Septuagint and in each passage it is clear that the Scripture is being cited.

The New Testament teaches that the Septuagint, a translation, is Scripture. Since all Scripture is divinely inspired then the Septuagint, along with other Bible translations, are divinely inspired in the sense that they convey God's truth.

Summary

The imperfections of Bible translations are used as an argument against an inerrant Bible. Since all translations are different how can anyone speak of an inerrant Bible? However the problems with translations have nothing to do with the original. It is admitted that all translations have their problems. However the message still comes through loud and clear. The real issue is the text behind the translations. Is it error free? The evidence says that it is.

In addition, the New Testament cites the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, and calls it Scripture. Therefore it is a biblical idea to call a translation of the Bible "Scripture."

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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