How Bad Bible Translations Covertly Manipulate Bible Readers
What does the Bible say?
Do you read and study the Bible to ask this question about your life decisions?
If you do, here are two significant questions for you:
- Do you read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek?
- Do you read the Bible only in translations?
Here’s another significant question. How do you know the difference between:
- What the Bible in Greek and Hebrew says on your topic?
- What Bible translations say about your topic?
And here’s the most critical question of all:
If you rely on Bible translations to ask what the Bible says about any topic, have you ever pondered the power of Bible translations to influence what you believe the Bible says?
The Focus of Does The Bible Really Say That?
It doesn’t matter whether you believe:
- The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God
- The Bible is a worthy guide to your life, full of spiritual guidance and practical wisdom.
- The Bible is all pious nonsense
It doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe about God, or Jesus, or any theological doctrine.
Whatever you believe about the nature of the Bible, the bottom line truth is that the Bible is made up of ancient writings written a long time ago in ancient languages.
This means that any translation of the Bible in any language is the result of centuries of human actions to write, preserve, and translate ancient documents.
If you are reading any part of the Bible written in any language that is not biblical Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic, you are reading a translation of ancient writings.
Here’s the real point. Whatever you believe to be true about the Bible as inspired scripture, any Bible translation is the work of Bible translators.
Why Are There So Many Bible Translations?
There are at least 450 English Bible translations. English Bible translations are only the tip of the iceberg. Full bible translations exist in 518 other languages. In addition, partial Bible translations exist for just about every known language on planet Earth.
This makes the Bible the most translated book in the world.
Why are there so many translations of ancient writings that were originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek over a span of at least 1000 years, many centuries ago?
The short answer is: What the Bible says matters to a lot of people.
If you are reading these words, it seems that what the Bible says—or doesn’t say—matters to you too.
Why the Bible matters to you and how the Bible matters to you are as unique as you are. Everyone has reasons why and how the Bible matters or doesn’t matter.
The important point is that almost everyone who reads the Bible reads translations of the Bible in languages other than the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of the writings.
Under The Influence Of Bible Translators
This means that Bible translators have extraordinary power to influence what you believe the Bible says.
Influence is the capacity to produce changes in someone else’s behavior, actions, beliefs, and opinions.
The methods of influence range from unintentional to intentional, from gentle hints through compelling force, from overt to covert, from subtle persuasion to deliberate manipulation.
Meanwhile, your awareness of the efforts of others to influence you ranges from awareness—including painful awareness—to oblivious.
What has all of this to do with Bible translations?
If you can’t read the original languages, you are dependent on translators. This gives Bible translators extraordinary power to influence what you think and believe “the Bible says…” on any topic.
Does this mean that Bible translators deliberately intend to manipulate readers? I don’t think so. I think that the vast majority of Bible translators really do intend to get it right.
However, Bible translators—no matter how dedicated or skilled—are finite human beings. All human beings are limited by our experiences, environments, and perceptions, and limited by our own knowledge, beliefs, and intentions.
Lost In Translation
Here’s my fundamental claim:
Despite the best intentions of the Bible translators, original meanings can get lost or changed in translation for many reasons, including:
- Unchallenged assumptions of the translators’ own era.
- Unchallenged assumptions of the translators’ own theological beliefs.
- Unchallenged assumptions of the translators’ own life experiences.
- Lack of understanding of specific realities of the ancient world.
- Lack of understanding of the meanings of specific words and idioms.
- Lack of understanding of the intentions of the original writers.
- Intentional manipulation.
All of these possible reasons mean that fallible human beings are the gatekeepers for what you will read and what you will not read on the pages of your Bible.
Bible Translators As Gatekeepers
Throughout history, gatekeepers controlled access to cities by controlling the city gates. In the late twentieth century, “gatekeepers” took on a metaphorical meaning related to mass media. Media gatekeepers decide what messages will be distributed and what messages will be withheld.
This gatekeepers description is especially relevant for Bible translators. Their mass medium is the most widely printed book in the world. In recent years, their mass medium can also include audio versions of the most widely printed book in the world.
Unlike bestsellers that come and go, some translations of the Bible endure. Consider the lasting effects of the King James Version (KJV), which was first published in 1611. For many of the last four hundred years, the KJV has been considered the authoritative English Bible, often by people who seem to have little understanding that they are reading a translation, not a book that was dictated by God in King James English.
Who Are The Bible Translators?
Unlike most books, whose authors are named on the front cover, most Bible translations are the work of committees. Sometimes the names of translators are included in the publication data in the front of the book. Sometimes only the editors’ names are included.
This means that the decisions of Bible translators—small armies of nameless and faceless scholars toiling behind the scenes—imbue the words on the page with the credibility and authority of Holy Scripture.
For those who regard the Bible as “the inerrant and infallible Word of God,” the words of translators become words of God.
The Purpose of Does The Bible Say That? Website And Books
The purpose of Does The Bible Really Say That? website and books is to focus on the often unexamined power of translators to be the gatekeepers of what you read in any Bible translation.
My purpose is to carefully examine some of the most familiar bible verses and stories to demonstrate specific instances when Bible translators have mistranslated the Hebrew or Greek manuscript underlying the translations. In the process, they have changed the meaning of the verses or stories in the Hebrew or Greek originals in significant ways.
It’s also reality that Bibles are almost always translated by people of faith. This means that translations can take on the theological biases of their translators to conform to the doctrinal beliefs of particular religious groups. Whether this kind of theological skewing is intentional or unintentional, the result remains the same. The translation imposes a specific theological agenda that is not present in the Greek or Hebrew source documents.
Bad Bible Detective
Does The Bible Really Say That? has a very specific focus based on my chosen identity as The Bad Bible Detective.
Detectives investigate crimes. Crime is a familiar word with a specific meaning. In common law, a crime is an action that causes harm to the whole society. In contrast, a tort is an action that causes harm to an individual. This is why crimes are matters of criminal law and prosecuted by the government on behalf of “the people.”
Crimes are not just personal injuries. They are actions considered harmful to the society as a whole.
Good detectives attempt to identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent. They look for evidence to identify the perpetrators. They look for cover-ups, planted evidence, and suspicious circumstances, so that justice can be done.
My Bad Bible Detective claim is that the Bible itself can be used as a weapon to harm the innocent, the powerless, and the vulnerable. This is when the Bible becomes Bad Bible. The Bible itself is not “bad.” However, misuse of the Bible turns it into Bad Bible.
Even more significantly, when any part of the Bible is used as a weapon of power against the vulnerable, the use and abuse of the Bible come under the category of crimes—even if there are no laws in any criminal code to cover them. Anytime anyone is demeaned, abused, and harmed, it affects all of us.
Does The Bible Really Say That? website and books demonstrate specific instances when Bible translators turn parts of the Bible into Bad Bible through specific translation choices that add, take away, or skew the Hebrew or Greek manuscript underlying the translations.
Currently Published Books In Does The Bible Really Say That? Series
As the title indicates, the focus of the book is not about belief in God or Jesus or Christian doctrine. It is about you. Who are you? What is your true identity? What is your true self?
The book is a Bad Bible Detective investigation about identity theft. It demonstrates how your true identity has been hidden by translations shaped by sin doctrine.
The purpose of the book is to take you on a journey to discover your true self.
This book focuses on eight specific statements about what Jesus really said and really didn’t say about money and about being rich. This will help you decide what these money bible verses mean for you.
The purpose of the book is to set you free from fear, doubt, anxiety, guilt, and shame that you won’t get into heaven if you have money because of unbiblical claims about “what Jesus said about money.”
Future Books In Does The Bible Really Say That? Series
Planned books will focus on topics such as women and submission, creation stories in Genesis, obedience to authority, and the Ten Commandments to demonstrate how translation decisions often turn the Bible into Bad Bible.
My purpose is not to persuade you to believe or not believe anything about God, Jesus, or the Bible. Instead my purpose is to disarm the Bible as a Bad Bible weapon of power.
My goal is to show you a path to your freedom from Bad Bible by demonstrating how often the answer to the question, Does the Bible really say that? is a resounding and emphatic No.
For Your Freedom From Bad Bible,