Words Carry Meaning at Mars Hill

Words vs Thoughts at Mars Hill

Stated vs Meant at Mars Hill

This is my third entry on Mark Driscoll’s explanation for why his church uses the ESV translation. We will see that what has been stated before is building up into something. Driscoll is headed somewhere, he has a goal in mind. And as I respond, my responses also build on themselves as we will see in this post.

Here is the entire third point in Driscoll’s entry,

3. THE ESV UPHOLDS THE TRUTH THAT WORDS CARRY MEANING

Some scholars will argue that thought-for-thought and paraphrase translations do not change the meaning of Scripture, just the words of Scripture in an effort to clarify the meaning of Scripture. But this reasoning is misguided because meaning is carried in words. So when we change the words of Scripture, we are changing the meaning of Scripture.

This is why when we handle other important documents we don’t take the liberty of changing their words. For example, an attorney is not free to change the words of a signed contract, a husband is not free to rewrite his vows of promise after his wedding, and a public notary is not free to make alterations to the words of a signed legal document. We would be rightly worried if such liberties were taken with our personal affairs, and we should be even more worried when such liberties are taken with God’s affairs.

When we change the words of Scripture, we are changing the meaning of Scripture.

In this way, word-for-word translations like the ESV are following the directives of 1 Corinthians 4:6, which admonishes us “not to go beyond what is written,” and Proverbs 30:5–6, which warns, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

Everything I’ve said thus far shows how Driscoll is the one misguided when he says, “Some scholars will argue that thought-for-thought and paraphrase translations do not change the meaning of Scripture, just the words of Scripture in an effort to clarify the meaning of Scripture. But this reasoning is misguided because meaning is carried in words. So when we change the words of Scripture, we are changing the meaning of Scripture.” Context determines how a word is being used, and thus how it fits into a sentence. Just because a word appears  in a sentence, like “says,” doesn’t mean it is being used a certain way. Context plays a vital role in determining what is being said as much as what a word means.

Consider “read.” We don’t know what is being said when I write, “I read a book.” Is that present tense or past tense? You don’t know what is being said until I add the word “will” so that the sentence now reads, “I will read a book.” Or instead of “will” I add “yesterday” to get, “I read a book yesterday.” What was said (Driscoll’s term) was determined by context.

But then Driscoll compares translating the Bible to contracts or wedding vows. But this isn’t the same thing. Again, he’s being disingenuous here. The reader assumes the vows or contract is in a language that both parties understand. The vows the husband makes to his wife must also be understood by the wife. He can’t make vows to his wife in German if she doesn’t understand German also! No one would sign a contract in Chinese if they couldn’t read it in Chinese. It’s not the same thing.

We are talking about bringing a document written in a language that is no longer in use and bringing it into a language that is in use, separated by 2,000 years! It’s a completely different exercise. Clarifying isn’t the same thing as changing. What Driscoll is doing is downright unfair to excellent translations like the NIV and the NLT and borderline unethical. He’s not promoting faith in the word of God as originally written. He’s promoting faith in the ESV as the word of God.

There are some people within Christendom who believe that the word of God is the King James Version of the Bible. That God preserved his word through the KJV. Now there is all kinds of evidence that disproves that stance. It’s called King James Onlyism (KJVO). But the arguments that they make for exclusive use of the KJV are the same kinds that Driscoll is using for the exclusivity of the ESV. He is dangerously close to what I would call English Standard Version Onlyism (ESVO). That’s not a healthy line to walk. I don’t think he goes all the way. He has advocated the NASB and the HCSB and has okayed the NIV or NLT as commentary only. But Driscoll is very dangerously close to creating a false view of the ESV.

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~ by hankimler on September 5, 2013.

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