In my previous column, I discussed both believing, teaching, and confessing, on the basis of Holy Scripture, that Holy Scripture is Divinely inspired and some implications of that inspiration. In response to that previous column, someone asked how we know for sure which Bible translation(s) is (are) right, and this column offers an answer.
To be sure, Divine inspiration and its resulting inerrancy apply most-properly to what are called the “autographs”, the at least hypothetical, if not actual, hand-written or dictated original documents for the books of the Bible. Nevertheless, inspiration and inerrancy can apply also to the reliable copies of those autographs, the sense of which, by a miracle of Divine providence, is said to vary in a very small percentage of the originals’ text. Similarly, inspiration and its resulting inerrancy can apply also to versions of the Bible, both word-for-word translations and sense paraphrases of those copies, again, in so far as they correctly render the original text.
God’s Word is intended for all, and so, from its beginning, the Church furnished translations of the Bible into other languages. Yet, people’s reading God’s Word themselves is not absolutely necessary for salvation, since the Holy Spirit can and does work repentance from sin and saving faith in Jesus Christ through the preaching of God’s Word to groups and the applying of God’s Word to individuals through Baptism, Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
Since, by Divine inspiration, Holy Scripture is as clear as I mentioned in my previous column, particularly in passages upon which Christian teaching depends, every translation that at all deserves the name “translation” can be said to render the original text. The whole Christian teaching is said to be revealed in passages that are so readily translated that translators go wrong only when they decide to depart from the original.
As Francis Pieper is translated as saying more than a century ago, “What the Church lacks in our day is not a reliable text of the Bible, but the faith in the sufficiently reliable text” (Christian Dogmatics, I:340).From the Old Testament’s original Hebrew, to the New Testament’s original Greek, to Latin, to German, to English, and beyond, the effectiveness of God’s Word ultimately does not depend on a learned translator, pastor, or hearer/reader but on the fact that it is God’s Word, the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.