The dangers of Bibliolatry…

From this website,

Before the ESV was available, I used another translation that was a little freer in its translation philosophy. There were two Sundays in a row where I had to correct its interpretation to make what I thought was the true point of the passage. After the service a new Christian came to me and asked, “Can I not trust my Bible?” Ouch! So here is one of the big no-noes from the pulpit. Do not correct the English Bible. Ever! Never say, “the translators got this wrong.” The damage you can do to a person’s trust in Scripture is unimaginable.

“Do not correct the English Bible. Ever!”

This is possibly one of the most dangerous statements I have ever heard.

The danger that such a statement engenders is that of Bibliolatry – the worship of the scripture more than the Logos of God itself.

Translations are translations. They are the work of humans. They are fallible as Romans 3:23 points out. Miss that and you miss the incarnational nature of Christ, and the danger is that you try and capture God between the pages of a book – this does not glorify Him.

The people of God surely need to be taught with a little more intelligence than a blind “don’t correct the bible” closed approach. If we open the minds of our congregations to the nuances of the actual Word rather than the words (remembering that a comma in a different place can make a world of theological difference to a text written without punctuation), then we serve God better.

For example (Luke 23:43):

“Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise” (heaven soon – the doctrine of purgatory partially rests on this comma)

or

“Truly I say to you, today you willgreek_manuscript_p46_cad200_romans_hebrews be with me in Paradise” (heaven immediately)

Which one is right? We don’t know. We don’t know because SCRIPTUREWASWRITTENLIKETHISALLINCAPITALLETTERSWITHNOPUNCTUATION The Punctuation is the work of the translators, not of God.

If you don’t let people explore beauty, the poetry, the layers and the subtexts of Holy Scripture then surely the first time the People of God read it properly, they will feel that you have cheated them. For goodness sake, let the new faithful grow in faith and understanding and treat them like adults! Lie or obfuscate and they will catch you out! Honesty from the pulpit is surely the best policy.

From either an academic or a hermeneutical perspective, this is a dangerous statement, and it comes from someone with a doctorate. I agree that the use of the original languages should be used with caution, so as to avoid showing-off but not shied away from. The faithful should be encouraged to grow, and I would suggest this using multiple translations and interlinear works and not just the one the Bible-thumping Pastor chooses because it supports his argument.

Bibiolatory is a dangerous thing, it treats the faithful like less than children, it blunts our God-given intelligence and refuses to let us engage with the best work ever in the history of creation: the Holy Scriptures, where God is partly revealed, and can be glimpsed through the actual words on a page, but God did not stop his revelation to us after 120AD when the Revelation to S. John the Divine was completed. It is a significant part of the Revelation, but He continues to work through you, through me, through the Spirit inspiring us by prayer, interpretation of Scripture, meditation, worship and the sacraments. Let God free from the cage you try and put him in and for His sake, DO correct the English Bible (or the Welsh, or the French or the Romanian…) when it is necessary!!!