Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Bible Translations

Written by Rev. H.A. Bergsma
The question as to what sort of translation of the Word of God we set before church members has received much attention in the Dutch Christian press of late. A certain Dr. M. J. Paul of the Christian Alliance (Ger. Bond) opened up a discussion on that very topic at a recent ministers'' gathering. According to him, it is become undeniably obvious that an unbridgeable gap has developed between the trustworthy State Bible, and many of the younger generation within the Reformed Alliance who, so he says, still show interest in church and society life. It appears that Dr. Paul has touched a tender nerve with his pronouncement.

A Christian newspaper (Reformatorische. Dagblad) conducted a series of interviews on this matter, expressing the possibility of accepting a new Bible translation called the 2002 Translation. Those interviews made clear that there is no unanimity among those interviewed. Rev. D. Quant, minister of our sister-church in the Netherlands, wrote a column in the denominational paper for office bearers (Ambtelijk Contact), commenting on the interviews. He found the results of the interviews to be a painful reminder of the fact that it appears to be so terribly difficult to come to any kind of agreeable position on this matter. He makes some note-worthy observations, however, when he explains that the Holy Spirit works with the Word rather than through the Word. This should then tell us that we ought not to bind ourselves too rigidly to one translation. Our binding to Scripture is legitimate. But we need to ask ourselves regularly as office bearers, if the people of the congregation understand what we pass on to them as the Word of God. Do they understand the Scriptures when it is opened in the weekly gatherings of catechism classes, society meetings and clubs? As office-bearers, we should regularly inquire after such understanding. Philip's question in Acts 8:30 about understanding what is being read has reference to spiritual understanding of God's Word. In order for that to be possible, there must first be a literal understanding of that Word. "And," says Quant, "Dr. Paul is right. That is where the problem lies, especially for the younger generation. In the discussions one aspect in particular spoke to me, namely, that the gift at Pentecost (Acts 2) consisted of the possibility that every person could hear the disciples speak in their own tongue! We must not put obstacles in the way which the Holy Spirit takes to reach people."

Quant continues, "The language of the 17th century is different from that of the 21st century. And Rev. J.H. Velema taught us in his little catechism books that no translation of Holy Scriptures is infallible. Let us therefore as office bearers, for the sake of young and old, use understandable language as much as possible in our preaching, teaching and pastoral work. As long as there is no unanimity in the Reformed camp as to which (per definition: imperfect) translation should be used, let us read several versions next to each other. That may require some extra time, but will, with God's indispensable blessing, have penetrating results. There are lives at stake, and that, for eternity!" (From Ambtelijk Contact)

Dr. Paul and Rev. Quant spoke for the situation in the Netherlands, but the situation is no different here. And their concerns are as legitimate here as they would be there. The Authorized Version is a trustworthy version and its 17th century language is a monument of eloquence. But let us seriously investigate, whether its language still understood, particularly by our youth.

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