CTBHHM: What is a “help meet”? (in the KJV)

by Libby Anne

Created To Be His Help Meet, p. 24

Debi finishes this her first chapter with a memo on the background of the word “help meet.” I sort of feel like this should have come earlier, given that most people I’ve mentioned the book to find the term odd.

The word help meet appears in the KJB just two times – Gen. 2:18 and 20. However, it is the translation of one word – ayzer – which is found 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. Other than being translated “help meet” two times, it is translated just plain “help” 19 times. The Hebrew word studies tell us that it means to succor or one who helps. My proofreader kept trying to get me to join the two words with a hyphen (help-meet), which is commonly done. but throughout this book I have written it just as it appears in the Word of God – two separate words (help meet), which is to say Eve was created to be a helper (noun) who was meet (adjective), suited to Adam’s words.

For an eploration of the meaning of the Hebrew words in Genesis 2:18 and 20, start here and here. I’m going to focus instead on Michael and Debi Pearl adherence to the King James Only movement (see this and this). Michael and Debi Pearl believe that the King James version of the Bible is the divinely inspired English translation, and all of the other English translations are fatally flawed and should not be used. In fact, it’s curious that Debi refers to the Hebrew at all. Regardless, this adherence to the King James Version of the Bible explains why she continues to use the term “help meet” even though most English Bibles today translate it “suitable helper.”

As I was digging around for information on the Pearls’ views on the King James Bible, I found an extremely pertinent article by Michael Pearl on the topic. In this article we learn a lot more about Michael’s Bible college education and the evolution of his views of the Bible.

I graduated from an independent Bible College with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Bible and theology…

Now we know that Michael’s Bible college education was indeed a full four years, a bachelor’s degree (though remember that the college was not accredited), and that he did, like I inferred earlier, major in Bible and theology.

When I was a young man, my pastor had often emphasized the passage, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). That’s what I wanted to be, taught in correct doctrine and furnished unto good works. The inspired Scripture was the avenue.

As a young preacher, I would hold up a King James Bible and confidently say, “This is God’s Word, perfect and infallible.”

And here begins the classical narrative repeated so many times by fundamentalists and evangelicals. They started out believing the Bible was the inspired word of God, and then they went off to college, to Bible college no less, to have their faith shaken by the very “intellectuals” who were supposed to be strengthening and enriching it. It seems to me that these evangelicals and fundamentalists take one of three paths: they leave religion entirely, move to a more liberal Christian tradition, or they simply reject all of that “intellectual” knowledge as a conspiracy.

The independent evangelical Bible College I attended advertised that it boldly stood for the “plenary, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.” Plenary means “full and complete and not limited in any way,” and verbal, means “every single word was inspired, with none added and none missing.” But in my very first college class, I was informed that the King James Bible was poorly translated. Therefore, in class we would use a “better” translation—the American Standard Version, along with several others when the ASV didn’t say what the professors wanted it to say. I asked, “What about ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable…’?” They quickly pointed out that the KJV was in error there also. The ASV reads, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching…,” implying that not all Scripture is inspired of God.” Only that which is inspired is profitable for doctrine. So, my next question to my teachers was, “Which Scripture is inspired of God; which one can I read and know it is the words of God with no mixture of the words of men? Is the ASV the real Word of God?” Their answer: “No, it is not Scripture inspired of God either; no English translation is. Only the original languages were inspired of God.” That presented a difficulty, but not for long, for I started out my first semester taking Greek. So I would just learn Greek, and then I would be able to actually read the Scripture that is inspired of God and is profitable for establishing doctrine.

Michael did study Greek. I wasn’t sure, since I’m not sure whether every fundamentalist Bible college teaches Greek and Hebrew or not. Note that I use the term “fundamentalist.” Michael calls the college he attended “evangelical,” thus attesting to how the term “fundamentalist” has fallen in reputation even among those most would consider fundamentalists. Most today consider the term “evangelical,” which they consider more positive in tone.

It felt good, knowing that I would be able to uncover the riches of the original language. Daily in our classes the professors corrected the KJ Bible with “the Greek.” But they corrected the other many translations as well, pointing out the poor qualities of each. I kept wondering why someone didn’t just make a translation that was correct and then let it alone so we could learn from it. But, several new translations came onto the market during my four years in college. There are over 200 of them now. Very quickly, I lost faith in the prospect of reading any English Bible and believing it to be the plenary, verbally inspired, written Word of God.

So there I was, a young preacher with his faith in the old book momentarily shattered. But, I had a new hope of once again recovering that sweet ground of assurance and trust where I could actually sit down and read God’s Word, believing all that I read without having to approach the text critically.

I jumped into my Greek studies with a zest, and in a few weeks of Greek grammar and memorizing the definitions of Greek words, we were actually “reading” from our 25th edition of the Aland Greek New Testament. And then it hit me. I was not reading an “inspired” Greek text any more than when I read another English translation. Every definition, every phrase, every noun and every verb were defined for me by one man—the man who compiled our Greek grammar. With a shock, I realized that after 20 years of Greek study, I would still be relying on definitions found in some book written by other men. In time, I would have enough information catalogued to be somewhat “original” in my scholarly opinions, but I would still just be one man with an opinion, colored by the school of thought in which I was raised.

The Bible was no longer a book I held in my hand. It could only be accessed by jumping through the many hoops of Greek word studies, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, commentaries, and theology books. I was uncomfortable quoting any passage of Scripture and saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” “Thus saith A.T. Robertson” was more like it. So, my final authority was no longer the Bible I could confidently convey to the congregation and tell them to go home and study it, believing every word in it. My final authority for the moment was a select group of Greek scholars—the ones I chose to believe over the others. The differences in the “bibles” they were publishing testified to their inability to agree on the meaning of the “original Greek.” But somehow, I knew that there would come a time when I would not have to trust them in determining what the words of God were; I would become informed enough to trust no one but myself—and the leading of the Holy Spirit, of course. (I fully expect you to detect the subtle note of cynicism and sarcasm.)

Many of my young preacher friends, who were members of my home church and went off to other Bible Colleges at the same time I did, were more disturbed than I. One of them became a Sodomite, one an atheist, and one an agnostic. One, who was already pastoring a Southern Baptist Church, divorced his young wife and quit the ministry before he even finished Bible College. Out of seven of us who started in the ministry, only two survived the four years still “in the faith”.

I graduated with less faith in the Bible than when I started. With no more classes to attend, and less time spent traveling, I found time to investigate the Bible for myself. At first I tried the study method that I had learned in college. When I came to a difficult passage, I opened all the commentaries to see what they said. They differed greatly. I also went through a stack of different English translations, finding that they differed as much as the denominations differ in their understanding. I then got out my Greek and Hebrew lexicons and word studies to see if they would shed any light. More confusion. The Greek scholars disagree significantly. How was I to be so bold as to know which one to believe and which ones to reject?

Again, this is the classic trajectory. Realizing the problems of Bible translation, Michael jumped into studying Greek and Hebrew with zeal, excited with the prospect of reading the Bible in its original languages, only to become disillusioned with this approach as well. And as Michael himself points out, not all theology students make it though this with their faith intact. Some throw up their hands, their simple belief in Biblical inerrancy shattered by the complexity and complicated nature they find when delving into it.

Then someone gave me a book called, Which Bible, by David Fuller. I was blown away. I acquired a dozen other works on the same subject, by John Burgon, Wilson, Dr. Peter Ruckman, and others. Why didn’t they tell me this in Bible College? Surely they weren’t ignorant of it. Did they intend to deceive me? The Greek Bible that I was using was not the original Bible. It was created—manufactured—less than 100 years earlier by two unbelieving infidels and pawned off on the Church as authentic. It is just one of 24 different Greek texts. Furthermore, it is not even the same Greek text from which the King James Bible was translated. To correct the KJ based on this new text was like trying to update a 1935 Ford according to the pattern of a 1965 Volkswagen. Somebody was fooling somebody. There was a real conspiracy to deprive me of the words of God and replace them with the words and opinions of men. I discovered that this modern Greek text differed from the traditional text of the King James Bible in over 6,000 places.

This corrupt text is the standard Greek text of nearly every Bible College in America, and the basis of all late 19th, 20th and 21st century English translations. In other words, the ASV and the New International Version, and 200 other translations are not based on the same Greek text as is the King James. The reason that a 90-year-old text could be in its 26th edition is because the owner of it changes it every few years. Between the 26th and 27th editions there were over 600 changes. When you hear a preacher say, “The original Greek text says…”, you must ask him “Which Greek text? There are 24 of them. Which edition?” Here today, gone tomorrow. They are standing in the pulpit and correcting your English Bible based on a Greek text that changes every few years. Where is the standard? Where is God’s Word? Where is the jot and tittle that will not pass away? Was God mistaken about preserving his word forever? Can you hold a book in your hand, any book, any language, and say it is “Scripture inspired of God”?

Here is where Michael starts to go awry. I’m not a Bible scholar, but I am indeed aware that there are different Greek texts of the Old Testament, and I believe also different Hebrew texts. But the conspiracy he speaks of is no conspiracy. I studied Greek under a theologian in high school, and he told me that the King James Bible was translated from what Greek texts the translator had on hand at the time, but that more Greek texts have become available since, both through archaeological finds and through the opening of various monasteries and the increasing internationalization of the scholarly community.

The trouble was that these texts didn’t always match perfectly, and indeed had many discrepancies. Those “unbelieving infidels” Michael refers to were simply scholars trying to piece together the most authentic of all of the Greek texts available to get the closest to the original. And yes, they used scholarly methods rather than simply relying on divine inspiration or going with what they wanted the texts to say to determine which texts were most authentic. It’s only natural that today’s Bible translations strive to rely on the most authentic of all of the Greek texts available, and it’s not surprising that those texts are not the same exact ones the translators of the KJV happened to have on hand.

(Again, this is the short version – I’m not a Bible scholar and don’t want to spend several posts hashing this out, which I most certainly could if I wanted to really get into this subject.)

I have a hard time believing in conspiracy theories. But I quote from the 1990 book, The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years. It is the transcript of four scholars speaking at a symposium to their peers. For a moment, they were quite candid. James Sanders, Ph.D., who served on the committee that put out the New Revised Standard Version, and author of many other scholarly works, on pages 70-71 says, “I think it is time for us to stop fooling the people, making them think that there is just one Bible and that our Bible committee got closer to it than their committee did.” But then he goes on to voice his reluctance to do so, because of the impact it would have to tell the truth. He says, “I have been told by some that that would just destroy the Bible, because lay folk still want to think of the Bible as somehow ‘inerrant.’” The greater context makes this look even worse. That was over sixteen years ago, as of this writing, and still they have not told you the truth about what they believe. They don’t want to shatter your misguided faith that the Bible is “somehow inerrant.” They don’t think it is wise to let you know that there are actually two different Greek Bibles, and that all their modern versions are based on a corrupted minority text that has been historically rejected by God’s people down through the ages. The King James Bible is accurate to the text from which it was translated. It is the Word of God to English speaking people. You can believe every word in it without resorting to anyone’s opinion about the validity of the text. On that ground, you can read and study your Bible and learn from it.

Michael seems to think these are some sort of “gotcha” quotes. Let’s look at exactly what he quotes the scholars as saying:

“I think it is time for us to stop fooling the people, making them think that there is just one Bible and that our Bible committee got closer to it than their committee did.”

“I have been told by some that that would just destroy the Bible, because lay folk still want to think of the Bible as somehow ‘inerrant.’”

Now what is Michael’s interpretation of these statements?

They don’t think it is wise to let you know that there are actually two different Greek Bibles, and that all their modern versions are based on a corrupted minority text that has been historically rejected by God’s people down through the ages.

Um, no, that’s not it at all. There aren’t simply “two” Greek Bibles, there are a myriad of Greek texts that each differ from each other in points ranging from irrelevant to theologically important. Scholars who work with these texts try to establish which are most reliable and authoritative. This process is both complicated and brilliant. I know a bit about the process from studying Greek in college and from reading books by scholar Bart Ehrman, and let me tell you, it’s fascinating. What the scholars Michael quotes are saying is that most laypeople think somehow that the Bible they hold in their hands was essentially handed to them by God, and are unaware of all of the vast and complicated process behind it. But Michael’s idea that all modern translations use a “corrupted minority text” is both hogwash and chock full of conspiracy theories (think how many people would have to be in on that, including extremely devout Christians!)

It is absolutely true that understanding the vast and complicated process it took to create the simple Bible text in one’s hands can be challenging to a person’s faith. Some, like Bart Ehrman, do lose their faith through studying it. Others, like James McGrath, don’t. And some of those who learn about all of that complication respond by not actually dealing with it and instead rejecting it entirely.

Note Michael’s conclusion when he is informed that all of that complicated higher criticism of the Bible he encountered in Bible college (and to be honest, I doubt his Bible college did more than scrape the surface of higher criticism) is a vast conspiracy to lead devout and honest simple folk astray:

The King James Bible is accurate to the text from which it was translated. It is the Word of God to English speaking people. You can believe every word in it without resorting to anyone’s opinion about the validity of the text.

This is the heart of the King James Only movement. All other texts, including all the Greek texts, are corrupted, but God has preserved the King James Bible for his people, er, I mean, his English-speaking people. One rationalization I have heard is that just as Greek was the common international tongue of the first century, even so English is the common international tongue today, so it only makes sense that God would preserve an English text as perfectly inerrant for the use of present day Christians.

Note also the anti-intellectualism here. Having been confused by and having had his faith shaken by intellectuals, Michael has concluded that all that intellectualism is actually a conspiracy to erode the faith of good, honest, ordinary Christians. He therefore instructs his readers that they don’t have to listen to anyone’s – meaning, of course, scholars’ – “opinion of the validity of the text.” He has rejected his study of the Greek and Hebrew and concluded that all he needs is a good old fashioned copy of the King James Bible, intellectuals and their highfalutin opinions be damned.

When I discovered the evidence confirming that the King James Bible is indeed accurately translated and is the preserved Scripture inspired of God, Bible study became simple and a pure joy! Just read what it says, and believe it. All you need is a King James Bible without notes, a Strong’s Concordance (hard copy or computer), a Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, and a Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition or earlier (see panel to the right for more info). You must learn the Bible by learning the 66 individual books. Books are learned by understanding paragraphs. Paragraphs are learned by understanding sentences, and sentences are understood by knowing the meaning of individual words. Very often, doctrines hang on the meaning of a single word. You arrive at the meaning of an individual word by using your concordance to find and read every time that word is used anywhere in the Bible. The Bible will define its own words by the multiple contexts in which it is used. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is just a giant center-column cross-reference. It will lead you to similar passages anywhere in the Bible. This dictionary is a quick reference to the definition of words as they were used in the seventeenth century, when the King James Bible was translated, so you won’t have to worry about “archaic” words.

All you need to understand the Bible is, well, the Bible. Period. Note that the dictionary is not even meant to be used to understand the meaning of words, but rather simply to understand how they were used in the seventeenth century. The meaning of words is to be derived from the context (“You arrive at the meaning of an individual word by using your concordance to find and read every time that word is used elsewhere in the Bible”). What Michael describes here is characteristic of the fundamentalist approach to the Bible. He rejects intellectualism or scholarship and instead suggests that all you need to understand the Bible is the Bible itself. No need to study anything else at all. Ever. No need to even study Greek (no indeed, that might just serve to “confuse” people!).

(As a side note, I’m honestly not sure what Michael sees wrong with the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Maybe it got corrupted too.)

Anyway, to bring this wandering post back around to where it started, all of this explains not only Debi Pearl’s confusing use of the archaic construction “help meet” but also tells us a lot about how Debi approaches the Bible (since, given her beliefs about the role of the wife I’m going to assume that she approaches the Bible in the same way her husband does).

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Comments open below

Read everything by Libby Anne!

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism

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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • Betty Crux

    “Many of my young preacher friends, who were members of my home church and went off to other Bible Colleges at the same time I did, were more disturbed than I. One of them became a Sodomite, one an atheist, and one an agnostic.”

    My kind of people!

  • Iris

    Wow, you’ve just gotta love his approach to literature. :) I’ve taken many classes on literature, and you always interpret a literary work in its cultural and historical context.

  • Nea

    Of all the psychological horrors unleashed through this book, I think this is in many ways the worst – and it’s certainly the foundation for the rest. The moment when Michael Pearl admits that his pastor lied to him, that understanding context is hard and scary, and that actually thinking about what he needed was intolerable. Like an infant, Michael needed a set of “do this, don’t do that” rules because anything else is too confusing, and that’s the lifestyle he’s wedged his family and anyone else who will listen into as well: don’t think, just read and obey.

    Don’t even read, though. Decode, word by word (using a limited and preapproved set of tools) because it’s not as though the text may actually mean what it actually says. Because if you come up with an interpretation different than his, and he can’t bear to be wrong, then obviously the problem is with your own lying eyes. So just do what Michael wants and all will be fine.

    Ugh.

  • madame

    I guess 17th century England was particularly godly…..

  • Nightshade

    Complicated approach indeed, and it really shouldn’t be. If one is to assume that the Bible is the word of God, a few assumptions follow IMO. First, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand what God is saying-he wants people to know the truth, right? Second, he should be able to protect his own word from serious translation errors. Actually, that should be ALL translation errors, if he really is as great and powerful as these people say, but I’m willing to be a little flexible and give him a break on this. Therefore it shouldn’t be that difficult to pick up a Bible of any semi-reasonable translation-remember, God can protect his own word from errors, right?-and understand what he does and doesn’t want us to do, without reading ‘between the lines’ or extrapolating based on whatever one thinks is ‘right,’ and analyzing Every. Single. Word. to death shouldn’t be necessary.

  • laura

    Hmmmm well since the rate of abortion went up……breast cancer and female cancers went up too. What ever. If science doesn’t prove that something is wrong then what will? The economy and lack of neonatal care required for all the suffering in human flesh……who knows. The local public schools are shutting down in our area. Oh well. Who needs children anyway? Abortion must be working.

    Can’t I have my rights to keep my body free from cancer by actually having children?
    Can’t I have my rights to keep away from bullying in the workplace and just focus on family alone?

    It would be nice if you actually would have explained what “Helpmeet” means in terms of a dictionary definition rather than rambling through and judging what Mr. Pearl did for his education. Since when does the mind of a man transfer over to the mind of a woman? I’ve never heard of that before. If I can recall the book was written by Mrs. Pearl NOT Mr. Pearl.

    Thanks for the waste of time. That was an article worth skimming.

    I’d like you to go to a better college so you can write a more convincing article. Now back to the housework I need to critique the dust in the atmosphere…

  • laura

    Hmmm maybe your next venture of a book critique should be by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and the book “Lies Women Believe” If I can recall she was never married. But I don’t know for sure as I usually don’t want to spend my time poking my nose in other people’s business. Maybe you can pick on her “husband” for coming up with all her crazy ideas. Good luck writing that article.

  • Lolly

    My train of thought while reading the excerpts:

    “Huh, well, yes it is vital to research what you’re taking as moral law. Glad he did that. And he went back a couple of languages to look more closely at the source. Yep, that’s difficult too. Just shows how important critical thinking is. Wasn’t expecting Michael Pearl to say something that sane– oh, there he goes. Conspiracy!”

  • Lolly

    The book was written by Debi Pearl, with Michael Pearl’s permission and instruction. The whole thing’s about not deviating from what your husband tells you to do, so in that sense, he had more influence on the book than she did.

    There was a link to the Hebrew definition of helpmeet in the article before it got onto the subject of Michael Pearl’s education.

  • Mayara

    Have you been drinking or taking drugs?
    Or do you have a severe psychological problem?
    Because you seem to live on a paralel world, same as those quivering people … humhum

  • madame

    I agree!
    And I find that when one reads without assuming God means X,Y or Z, and just reads what is there, you find that there is a lot of information that isn’t meant to teach us how to live. There is a lot of history, some common sense, some regulations for existing circumstances, corrections, warnings…. Not everything can be translated into our life today because we live in a completely different time!
    I’ve wondered how all these scriptures become “useful” in the way Michael Pearl & company believe. I don’t like it when preachers read a piece I consider to be just history, and try to draw all sorts of lessons, or use history as proof that God wants us to go back to living like Abraham did (with his wife calling him Lord and all that stuff)
    As for having to look up every word in a specific dictionary to find out the meaning in 17th century English, and then go on to find where else that word shows up to try and decipher what meaning it has in the Bible, well…. I can only expect people to come up with all sorts of different meanings.
    I absolutely disagree with building doctrines on one word. That is dangerous.

  • madame

    Laura,
    I found the detour into Michael Pearl’s education and his reasoning for believing that the KJV is the only authoritative translation in the English language very helpful. I know the Pearls and many other fundamentalist Christians believe the KJV translation is the only “true” translation, but I had never read why.
    As Michael Pearl teaches women to adopt their husband’s beliefs, I think that understanding what Michael has taught Debbi is important. We now know that Debbi didn’t see it necessary to study the meaning of the words Ezer Kenegdo (sp?) because Michael will have told her that it’s a waste of time.
    I still think one can do a much better job at understanding the words if one reads them without presupositions. If Ezer is used together with armies coming ot the rescue and with Jesus and God himself, how is it always understood to mean subordination?

    laura, I think Libby Anne is doing an excellent job critiquing this book. I’m sorry you aren’t enjoying it.

  • suzannecalulu

    Laura, no personal attacks allowed. If you want to discuss the post in a respectful manner then you’re welcome here. Attacking the writer of the article is not allowed. You have been warned.

  • suzannecalulu

    If I recall “Lies Women Believe” is one of those dangerous books that tries to heap guilt and condemnation on ladies without much substance. Very spiritually abusive.

  • http:///krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

    Nightshade, I do think some of these assumptions ought to be considered more closely. It’s easy to fall into a line of thinking that goes, “If there’s a God, God would do what I would do.” But as for just sitting down and reading the Bible– is it even possible for any person, in any culture and at any point in history since these words were written down, to read them without reference to anything else but their own default ways of thinking, and receive the same message? Did God intend this text to be something easy, or something we wrestle with? Further, is the point of reading the Bible to understand what God does and doesn’t want us to do? Is God really all that interested in “protecting his own word from errors?” And if so, what kind of errors? Just big ones, or every possible one? Finally, what do we mean when we say “God’s word”? Do we mean God used the human authors as a human uses a pencil? Or something else?

    As Madame says, I think it’s important to try to just read the text for what it says– but also to find out how the people who originally wrote it down thought and lived, so we don’t bring unwarranted assumptions to the text regarding what it says, what it should say, or how it should say it.

  • naath

    The KJV is an odd sort of choice really; the English is out-of-date so one struggles to understand what even quite simple sentences mean (um, I’m not a Bible scholar of any sort but many people get “Whereforart thou Romeo” wrong; as an example of English of a similar period). Also as a random sort of aside much of the KJV is copied straight out of earlier works, dating back to the early 16th century (largely Tyndale) and thus already not exactly up-to-the-minute contemporary language at the time it was published.

  • Nea

    I’ve read a couple of fascinating books on the writing and language of the KJV. “In the Beginning” (the one about the language) points out that in many places the archiac words were kept because the Bible was still not to be read silently at home, but out loud from the pulpit, and thus the translators kept words that sounded more impressive when declaimed.

  • http://existingbetween.wordpress.com/ Joy F

    Hmmm strange. I remember people making arguments like this back when my family came back to the US and got involved in in Gothard fundamentalism. My parents never went that far because they had been missionaries and knew all the issues involved in translation. Later, when I went into Linguistics, I realized how absolutely ridiculous it was! Translation is so difficult, just for normal conversation! I remember going to Costa Rica at twenty-two and trying translate for the missions trip and realizing what a mess it was trying to get across ideas and concepts in Spanish that didn’t exist in their culture. How do you explain a baseball metaphor to a culture that doesn’t play baseball? It made me realize how silly the idea was – that a seventeen hundreds group of translators in England without computers to compare linguistic options, could possibly end up with the absolute Word from first century writers of Greek and Hebrew! How would that be possible? It also gave me a sense of amazement – that they did a decent job at all! That I think is the true miracle of the KJV – that it wasn’t a horrid translation (though I feel it is one full of errors and rife with seventeenth century contextualization) but one that was decent for its time at all!

  • http://existingbetween.wordpress.com/ Joy F

    As a side note, I have noticed most (I have never known some one to speak more than one language and believe this, but there surely are some?) of the people who push KJV only are monolingual. This leads me to think it comes from an ethnocentric, monolingual, mono cultural perspective that knows nothing of how to cross cultures and successfully communicate outside ones own context. Hardly someone to consider an authority on translation!

  • madame

    Joy,
    you make some very good points with this post. Translating is not just about getting the words right, it’s about getting the whole story right and understandable in the language and culture of the people who are going to read it.

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha

    I know of a bilingual Christian speaker (English and Afrikaans) who push the KJV and one particular Afrikaans translation.His argument was “God gave his word right the first time, no futher translation was needed.” But the KJV was not the first English translation, and the Afrikaans translation he push is from 1953, a translation which has re-formulations of some things that scholars found wrong in the 1933 Afrikaans translation.
    As such, his argument simply cannot lead to supporting the translations he does.

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  • ssohara

    Wow. Just WOW. I am a Christian, and I believe in the Bible, BUT… of COURSE there are going to be different meanings to words, etc., based on original text… it’s no different than what you’d get with ANY thousand+ year old text… Old Testament being quite a bit older, of course. My understanding was that is why we have the Spirit of God? Sometimes when I read a different translation or interpretation something just seems to click – I pray about it and trust the Spirit to guide me. How do I know it’s the Spirit? When that still small voice guides me to be less selfish, more loving, etc. than my normal tendency – that’s the Spirit of God. The whole of the Bible can ultimately be boiled down into “love God and love thy neighbor”. IF YOU JUST DO THAT – you’ll be 90% there… at least, that is what _I_ think. But I’m not God… the problem I have with fundamentalists – they discard the possibility that God can use the same text to speak differently to different people. That’s NOT an impossibility! Because each of us comes to a text with our own set of experiences, etc., and we each NEED to learn different lessons – the Holy Spirit may in fact guide each of us to a different nuance of a particular text, the shading that most applies to our situation. To me, that is one more sign of an awesome God. I think of Him as a huge parallel processor, capable of having a direct line to each human being and communicating wtih all of us simultaneously. Of course we don’t each get a cookie-cutter message!

    My thoughts, anyway.


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