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Apologetic discussions Apologetic Discussions Regarding the Teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee

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Old 01-24-2009, 01:22 PM   #1
OBW
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Default Semantics, Authority, and Translations

I frequent another forum that is intended for the membership of IBC and any others who wish to join in. A couple of days ago a new thread was started by an outsider under the title “Semantics, Authority, and Translations.” It concerned the issue of the authority of scripture and the notion of sola scriptura in light of translated scripture. The post began with the understanding of the place of scripture as stated in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerancy: “WE AFFIRM that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.” He then went on to propose a story:

Suppose that a friend sends me a letter in Arabic, seemingly forgetting that I do not speak the language. I track down a translator in order to have the text deciphered, and then read the version in my own language. As it turns out, the letter is to inform me of a number of distressing facts about her life in the Middle East--facts utterly neglected by news authorities.

....

Now it will also be evident that I presuppose a number of things about the translator: namely, that he truthfully translated, that he has a very developed working knowledge of the language, and that he did not allow his own biases regarding the state of the Middle East to result in an unintentional alteration of the text, i.e., the softening of words, less controversial language, etc. This last addition is paramount in that he may have truthfully translated, i.e., provided the best translation to his knowledge, and yet be unaware of the unintentional alterations.

He then went on to ask the following questions (unfortunately, quite verbosely):

If it is the Bible in its original languages that was given by divine inspiration, then all subsequent translations of the text are only derivatively inspired. In other words, insofar as they correctly interpret the text they are said to be inspired because of this correspondence. Insofar as they do not, they are not to be considered inspired on account that they do not correspond to the text. In short, the translation is authoritative if, and only if, it correctly represents the text as it is in its original form. Now it will be evident that my story just told corresponds well to much of the research done in Biblical interpretation. We seek to know the authorship of the text, how this author was related to the events told, how he is to be trusted as truthfully communicating the message so told, and a number of such equally interesting questions. We also get into arguments about proper interpretations of the text, itself. The choice between "Thought-for-Thought" and "Word-for-Word" translations is of great importance and most seriously minded interpreters, while crediting the thought-for-thought versions with much [insight?], will insist that only a word-for-word translation ought to be consulted in regards to correct interpretations. We also presuppose that those that translate the text know the languages in their original, that they paid attention to all the many different copies we have in our possession, that they seek not to, intentionally or unintentionally, deceive us in any way by doctrinal commitments (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, et. al.), etc.

My question then is: do we also not presuppose another authority, namely that of the translators themselves? When we come to a question over a given text, we can always grab a Greek lexicon or a Bible dictionary and consult these for further insight. But we can all see the shortcomings of this. If I doubted my Arabic translators rendition of a certain sentence and grabbed a dictionary in order to translate it myself, I would probably end up with a worse reading than he gave me. Any student that has seriously undertaken a study of another language will know that a dictionary and grammar book just does not help if one does not have a mastery of the language itself. So in taking a translation at its word, or in comparing translations with the goal of taking one over another, we presuppose the authority of an individual to represent this inspiration of the original texts in the translated versions. This authority violates "sola scriptura" in that the Bible is not the sole measure of faith and the sole source of authority in that we, as laity, only have the Bible as translated by this or that translator. We must then concede authority to such translators in order to take the Bible at its word as we read it in English.

Besides the questions that this poster makes, I would add the following more pointed questions:

1. Does the collaboration of many translators reduce the risk of bias?
2. Would inclusion of translators from more than one doctrinal background further reduce any such bias.
3. Conversely, does a concentration of translators from the ranks of only one doctrinal background create a bias, or an appearance of bias even if none exists?
4. Has the authority of scripture in the LC been usurped by Witness Lee who not only used pet translations, but often supplied his own nuances in translation even though he was admittedly not a Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek scholar in any sense of the word and was not even trained in theology?
5. Are the BBs perpetuating Lee’s errors by failing to take upon themselves the task of ongoing review, contemplation and/or analysis?

These are not designed to be the limiting questions of this thread, but show my questions in light of the history of the LC of which I am aware.

I did respond to the questions in the other forum, focusing exclusively on the notion that a collaboration of many translators tends toward integrity in the translation process. I may post that response later.
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Old 01-25-2009, 11:23 PM   #2
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Default Re: Semantics, Authority, and Translations

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Originally Posted by OBW View Post
Besides the questions that this poster makes, I would add the following more pointed questions:

1. Does the collaboration of many translators reduce the risk of bias?
2. Would inclusion of translators from more than one doctrinal background further reduce any such bias.
3. Conversely, does a concentration of translators from the ranks of only one doctrinal background create a bias, or an appearance of bias even if none exists?
4. Has the authority of scripture in the LC been usurped by Witness Lee who not only used pet translations, but often supplied his own nuances in translation even though he was admittedly not a Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek scholar in any sense of the word and was not even trained in theology?
5. Are the BBs perpetuating Lee’s errors by failing to take upon themselves the task of ongoing review, contemplation and/or analysis?

These are not designed to be the limiting questions of this thread, but show my questions in light of the history of the LC of which I am aware.
Hi Mike,

1) yes
2)yes
3)yes
4)yes
5)and yes...

The doctrine of inspiration and biblical authority can be a massive general topic to tackle, but regarding the recovery version and WL's pet doctrines and unorthodox hermeneutics, I would say that the problem is not limited to the translation alone. The recovery version in itself is not far off when it comes to translation. Rather it's the interpretation and footnotes and life-studies that become a huge problem!

For example, "God's economy" in itself could be considered an acceptable translation. Even though some others translate it God's work, way, administration, ect...they really all mean the same thing. The recovery version is not in error for having "economy" instead of something else. But the problem is in the footnotes, life-studies, and other works that try to revolve everything (and I mean everything) around this one word.

I think the problem with LSM is that they MAJOR in MINOR doctrines and passages to try and be different from everyone else. I mean, if every denomination tried to put together a pet transaltion of the bible just for them with footnotes that use their lingo and teach their own doctrines everyone would agree that would be rediculous...but that is exactly what WL did. He wanted a bible that said "soul-life" and "God's economy" so he created one. Don't get me wrong, every denomination does have books and teachings which reflect the unique measure of grace given to them, but they would never canonize it by re-translating the bible and declaring their "life-studies" (commentaries) as the only "key" to opening the Word and every other book is "poison."

-reece
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Old 01-26-2009, 04:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Semantics, Authority, and Translations

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For example, "God's economy" in itself could be considered an acceptable translation. Even though some others translate it God's work, way, administration, ect...they really all mean the same thing. The recovery version is not in error for having "economy" instead of something else. But the problem is in the footnotes, life-studies, and other works that try to revolve everything (and I mean everything) around this one word.
Just a quick question:

Do you perhaps mean to suggest that everything does NOT "revolve around" God's work, way, administration, etc.?

Maybe I misunderstood you.
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Old 01-26-2009, 08:45 AM   #4
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Default Re: Semantics, Authority, and Translations

YP,

You know that you have gotten onto a pet issue of mine ─ God’s economy, or more correctly, Lee’s doctrine explained in chapter 1 of The Economy of God. But since what Lee does in that chapter and in reference to what COAH said about it does tie into my premise in this thread, I think it is worthwhile to discuss.

While I cannot read COAH’s mind, when he says that everything revolves around “this one word,” he is referring to the way that Lee used his overarching doctrine of only teaching God’s economy (through his gross misuse of 1 Timothy 1:3-4) to refocus so many other things which we are taught by Jesus (and in other parts of scripture) to do into merely receiving the dispensing of God into us.

And we all bought it, at least for a time. Where is it that 1 Timothy says anything about which things are to be taught? It doesn’t. It only says that the results of such teachings would be the administration, works, economy, etc., of God. In other words, everything about the Christian life, the interaction of the believers with each other, with God, and with the world, would progress according to God’s plan if we stick to the sound teachings.

And there are many teachings throughout the NT to be found. They are not all about dispensing.

But we relinquished authority over the interpretation of scripture to a single person of limited true Biblical knowledge and training who redefined words at his whim. To the faithful, anything he said was golden, even if directly opposed to the passage which he claimed supported him.

Besides this, however, I would prefer that this thread remain focused on the questions raised, including the presumption of authority by Lee to redefine as he did. If anyone wants to have a discussion on the meaning of “God’s economy,” there is another thread for that and it has been waiting for such a focused discussion for over a year now. It is enough that Lee ran roughshod over the clear meaning of scripture with some claim of special position with God ─ that of oracle and apostle.
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Old 01-26-2009, 09:31 AM   #5
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Default Re: Semantics, Authority, and Translations

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While I cannot read COAH’s mind, when he says that everything revolves around “this one word,” he is referring to the way that Lee used his overarching doctrine of only teaching God’s economy (through his gross misuse of 1 Timothy 1:3-4) to refocus so many other things which we are taught by Jesus (and in other parts of scripture) to do into merely receiving the dispensing of God into us.
I can't read anyone's mind either.
That's why I asked the question.
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Old 01-26-2009, 03:20 PM   #6
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Default Re: Semantics, Authority, and Translations

Of course I meant Lee's redefinition of God's economy. I don't believe it is the central theme of the NT as WL said it was.
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Old 01-27-2009, 01:38 AM   #7
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Default Re: Semantics, Authority, and Translations

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Of course I meant Lee's redefinition of God's economy. I don't believe it is the central theme of the NT as WL said it was.
Why, yes, of course.

How stupid of me.

Please, go on with your dialog on the thread.

Sorry to have interrupted.
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