Translating the Whole Bible

Over the years, I have lamented the fact that Bible translation organisations, my own included, often concentrate on translating the New Testament to the exclusion of the Old. You can see some of my thoughts on this in these posts:

However, if you don’t want to read my ramblings, or if you have read them and remain unconvinced, it is well worth taking a look at a recent post on Better Bibles’ Blog which demonstrates very clearly why it is unwise to translate the Epistle to the Romans but not the Old Testament Law. Make sure you read the comments…

It is not really possible to read Romans with any comprehension without having read the Pentateuch first, and thus the relevant reference at Numbers 15:19-21.

One normally begins a book at the beginning and reads to the end; if one begins reading the Wizard of Oz in the middle and complains “who is this Dorothy character?” one has no basis for complaint.This is clear — in the book of Romans alone, we find the following explicit references to the Torah: 2:12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 23, 25, 26, 27; 3:19, 20, 21, 27, 28, 31; 4:13, 14, 15, 16; 5:13, 20; 6:14, 15; 7:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, 21, 22, 23, 25; 8:2, 3, 4, 7; 9:4, 31; 10:4, 5 (note that this verse actually quotes the Torah); 13:8.

When a student who has not studied algebra opens up a calculus book and cannot understand the meaning of the variable “x”, does she have a valid reason for complaint? Or cannot we legitimately suggest that students study algebra before they attempt calculus?

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2 replies on “Translating the Whole Bible”

That is an excellent thread in and of itself, but there is an excellent case for the need to translate the “Bible,” not just the New Testament.

Do you think an issue involved in the under-emphasis of OT translation work is the relative lack of interest in people learning Hebrew? That’s what I have seen here in the US, a major disinterest in delving into learning the Hebrew language and was wondering if you see that yourself, if there is a lack of Hebrew translators about, if I am totally off on that idea.

I suspect that the problem is not related to the lack of Hebrew – not that many people want to learn Greek either! Trying not to sound pompous, I think the problem is that many evangelicals have an inadequate understanding of the Gospel which they see purely in terms of saving people and getting them into heaven as fast as possible. The areas of justice, care for creation, community and covenant relationship with God, which are taught in the OT just don’t come onto their radar.

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