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The Word: On the Translation of the Bible

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But Barton – who is an Anglican with Lutheran leanings – believes that it’s perfectly possible to see the Bible as a book with its own history and also to regard it as a repository of religious truths. They regarded the life of Christ as the great truth towards which the Hebrew prophets and scriptures pointed, and which superseded the old faith and its laws. The Psalter, a mixture of liturgy, national history and individual experience, which Barton describes as “a mess”, probably came together in about 300BC, although individual psalms may be much older than this. This more likely reflects the beliefs of a later era than that of Jesus himself, and John’s gospel may indeed be a biography of Christ written to suit the interests and beliefs of John’s own particular branch of Christianity. As a published translator, I wrestle with problems that John Barton identifies as fundamental to the “translator/traitor” paradox.

Barton begins with a distinction which is both useful and problematic, that of the difference between functional translation and formal translation.It traces the challenges they faced, ranging from minute textual ambiguities to the sweep of style and the stark differences in form and thought between the earliest biblical writings and the latest, and explains the bearing these have on some of the most profound questions of faith: the nature of God, the existence of the soul and possibility of its salvation.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. The promise of God’s strength in the face of fear is a comforting truth, but Isaiah 41 also warns God’s people against setting up idols in their lives.

Biblical ideas are embedded in their context, and things can change or break when we force them into our thought world.

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