Objections to Reasons for Faith in the Bible Part III: Lost In Translation

by PastorErick | 12/6/17, 9:06 AM

We are spending some time going over objections people have to the Bible. First, we dealt with the claim that science has disproved the Bible. After much discussion, we determined that to say such a thing shows either an ignorance of science or an ignorance of Scripture or both. Then we moved on to the claim that the Bible is filled with errors. After much discussion, we saw that there were reasonable explanations for the supposed “errors” in Scripture and that the apparent contradictions etc. have already been dealt with by very capable scholars (now it should be pointed out that these responses don’t “prove” the Bible is the word of God. However, the responses do give us good reason for trusting what the book actually says).

Today’s objection is a combination of two very similar (but slightly different) complaints toward the Bible. They go like this:

1. The Bible’s been lost in translation- You may have heard this explained like “the telephone game”. Sure the story started one way, but after a little bit of time, it ended up becoming something completely different.

2. The Bible’s been corrupted- This is the Dan Brown/Zeitgeist conspiracy theory about the Bible. It goes something like this: In the early days of the Church Jesus was not presented as God and the “life of the Spirit” looked much like a commune in the hills of Vermont during the late 1960’s. Then some meanies (led by Irenaeus initially, and eventually completed by Emperor Constantine) who couldn’t stand “the love” gathered together in a smoke filled room somewhere and determined what should be in the Bible and what should not.

What can we say in response?

First off the whole “lost in translation” thing just isn’t plausible. Here’s why: We have over 5,000 manuscripts of various New Testament documents dated very close to the life of Jesus. Therefore, we can compare our modern versions of the Bible with what was written in the earliest days and see that indeed, nothing’s changed. There simply wasn’t enough time for myth to develop or for changes in the story to take place without way too many people knowing about it.

On top of this, the whole “telephone game” version of events just doesn’t fit with ancient ways of transmitting narrative. We know today that precision and accuracy (without embellishment) in the retelling of an event was the expectation in an oral culture. When we think of transmission of the Bible being like the telephone game, we are unwittingly imposing our modern western culture on to 1st century life; it doesn’t translate well.

The second objection is the smoke filled room hypothesis. Fitting right in with the Postmodern assumption that all institutions of power are to be assumed guilty until proven innocent, some writers have posited that the Church as we know it today got started in this conspiratorial way.The idea is that certain writings that told a different story about Jesus than what was deemed “orthodox” were purposely excluded from the Bible. The writings being referred to here are things like the “Gospel of Thomas” or the “Gospel of Judas”.

In response, a couple of things can be pointed that should put this view night, night:

There is no evidence of any “secret meetings” taking place. Oh sure, there were various meetings and councils to decide on creeds and doctrinal statements, etc. but this was not done in some smoke filled room somewhere away from the public’s eye. This was done with members from all over the known world, those with dissenting and agreeing voices. As a matter of fact, we have TONS of historical data about those meetings….

As to the claim that the Church “expunged” certain writings, all one has to do is actually read these joker “gospels” to see why. For starters, we know they were written (at the very earliest) in the late 2nd century; that’s much later than the Gospels we have in our Bible (which we know were written in the lifetime of Jesus’ disciples). Second, the material in these “gospels” is much more mythical/fanciful in nature than are the New Testament gospels. Indeed, it is the case that these writings were not “included” in the Canon of Scripture, but they were “expunged” or "excluded" since they were never taken seriously to begin with.

So there’s a brief response to the claim that the Bible has been lost in translation/corrupted. However, if you want more in depth stuff about these topics, I’d suggest going here or here. Next week we’ll conclude our objections to the Bible series with the claim that the Bible can’t be trusted because it’s “outdated”.



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