Mike Bird And Tradition: Pointing Out A Translation Bias

Mike Bird And Tradition: Pointing Out A Translation Bias March 5, 2018

From Mike Bird:

Second, we need to acknowledge that there is, quite sadly, a discernible bias against the word “tradition” in our English Bibles. The Greek word paradosis and verbal cognates are often translated as “teaching” or “instruction” when describing what the apostles taught, but the same Greek word gets translated as “tradition” when referring to something attributed to the Pharisees, Jewish teachers, or pagan philosophy. Think about that, it means that our translations are prejudiced because they associate “tradition” with legalism, false teaching, and heresy. Consider the following examples from the NIV.

As you can clearly see translations like the NIV – and the KJV and ESV are no different – clearly associate the word “tradition” with the biblical villains. So of course people in the pews are going to have a negative estimation of tradition if you use the word “tradition”  this way. I haven’t seen something this rigged since the Democrat National Committee rigged the 2016 primary for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. According to Edith Humphrey, “Because of our language and because of the way that translators influence us, English readers are frequently shaped to adopt a negative view of tradition, and this needs to be rethought.”

Rather than adopt a jaundiced view of tradition, rejecting it entirely, what we need is two things: (1) a better account of tradition; and (2) to determine the proper use of tradition in theology.

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