I have received this question from my virtual friend RomGabe, a Lutheran of Romanian origin, living now in Scandinavia, as a comment to a post on my blog about Southern Baptists banning the NIV 2011 from their shops (redirected from ABP). Since the issue is too important and complex to deal with in a comment, I have decided to respond with a separate blog post. Here it is.
Faithfulness to the Word? Which one?
To be fair, Gabriel, and sorry to say that, I do not share your anxiety about finding ‘the most FAITHFUL translation’ of the Bible. Let me explain.
I believe that the ‘Word of God’, in the highest sense of the word, is Jesus Christ, the son of God. Figuring him out, as much as humanly possible is the most important matter for me.
Now, you may ask ‘how could we do that without the Bible’? My response would be: Not necessarily without the Bible, but neither exclusively based on the book called ta biblia, the books) – this is the second meaning of the ‘word of God’. If we stop at this point, we are no different from the Muslim, for whom the holy Kur’an is what Christ, the Son of God, is for the Christians.
If we stop at this point, we may also fall prey to the curse of the subjective interpretations of Scripture. This is precisely the Pandora box that Luther has inadvertently open (sorry, my brother, I could not resist the temptation). To this challenge, the Catholics have responded with the Magisterium. Evangelicals, though, have no solution to it. The continuous fragmentation of the Church is the proof of that.
Then, ‘what else is needed’, you may ask. And my response will be, in a Barthian manner, the inner hermeneutical work of the Holy Spirit that makes alive the words of the God’s book. This is the third and absolutely essential meaning of the phrase ‘word of God’.
Thus, the ‘word of God’, the Bible, which is the written testimony about the Jesus Christ, the ‘Word of God’who is co=-eternal with the Father, becomes alive in us through preaching (and other forms of witness) as the saving ‘word of God’, in the power of the Spirit of God.
Now, of course, without a validating instance, we may be back to the square one of subjectivity. How do we know that it is the Spirit of God and not that of heresy which is speaking in the words of the theologian, of the preacher, of the evangelist or of the simple believer giving a testimony of the gospel? The answer is not a simple one, but it can be found in what Grant Osborne calls the ‘hermeneutical spiral’. We cannot self-validate our interpretations. For that we absolutely need the Body of Christ, i.e. the abiding testimony of the Spirit: synchronically, in the various expressions of the Church at the present time, and diachronically, throughout the centuries, until today (that is precisely the Orthodox definition of Tradition, understood as a hermeneutical instance).
Without that, we are prone to err, no matter how faithful is the Bible translation we use.
It will continue…