Discordant Bible Study

by A.E. Knoch

THE MULTITUDE of Bible translations has led many devout and earnest students to use a method of Bible study which seems very attractive and interesting, but which, we are convinced, has little to commend it when it is carefully examined. We may call it the Babel method, for it is based rather on the discords between various translations than on positive evidence. Like the mob at Ephesus, some of our translators cry one thing and some another, and the trick seems to be to find one who suits your own prejudices. This is the subconscious reason for preferring one rendering above another. Consciously it may be that we place our confidence in a majority, or a happy phrase, or we seek to make a composite picture out of all. Whatever our method, the result is confusion, not confidence, bewilderment, not satisfaction. At best it seeks to get at God's revelation through fallible human minds, which, by their very variety, proclaim their incompetence to guide us into the truth.

When translators agree, it is often the result of following an ancient tradition, rather than a harmonious consensus based on actual independent investigation. When they disagree, it is evident that all but one must be wrong, and, as we have no choice between them, and dare not take the judgment seat ourselves to decide which are false, we are compelled to the safe conclusion that all may be wrong. In all of this we are concerned with human opinions, human judgments, human authority, and are rightfully unsettled, for it is not God's intention that we should be satisfied with human reflections of His revelation. Many students have spent years in consulting various versions without making nearly as much progress in the knowledge of God as the effort warranted. If they had remained with one supposedly inspired translation they would at least be firm, whether right or wrong, but, having seen how diversely men may interpret the original, their ideas have become hazy and their convictions confused.

We invite the saints and students of God's Word to an entirely different method. Do not simply add the Concordant to your collection of translations, or you will be more unsettled than ever, for, in many places, it differs radically from all others. If you judge by majorities, it is only one against many. If you are swayed by your prejudices, which you will be slow to admit, you will probably reject its renderings, for your prejudices have their source in the same place as the translations you have used, if they have not been formed by them. The Concordant is not another, but a different version. We do not ask you to accept our report of what we have seen, but you are taken to view the originals yourself. Versions will vary, but the three ancient codices will not be altered. Dictionaries will continue to lack definition in defining Greek words, but if you get your impression of their significance from their usage and etymology, your studies will stand and every step will be a foundation for further progress.

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