After highlighting a difference between the way the NRSV, ESV, NASB, KJB, and WEB translate a particular text of Scripture versus the way the NIV, NLT, and God’s Word “translate” it (This is according to the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, but note that the second list of versions provided are not all translations. Some are paraphrases, and it can make a difference to this particular objection, but for the sake of brevity I will move on.) Justin Scheiber of Reasonable Doubts writes:
I should perhaps presume that the ‘real’ Christians have their ducks all in a row – that they have some external standard for knowing which translation, if any, is the correct translation. Clearly, It is not as though relying on translations made by humans, scholarly ones at that, subjecting God’s word to their totally depraved reasoning abilities is going to be sufficient.
Given his remark about how “‘real’ Christians have their ducks in a row,” Justin is apparently dismissive of any response to his alleged difficulty of how one is to understand what the text says at the verses in question. Justin seems unwilling to consider that “real Christians” perhaps do have their “ducks in a row.” Perhaps the problem is just that “reasonable” atheists are too quickly dismissive of their responses. Unfortunately, the remainder of Justin’s comment is not very clear.
For example, Justin refers to an “external standard for knowing which translation, if any, is the correct translation.” But external to what? External to Scripture? External to the Christian? External to something else? I have no idea. Translation is something which is “external” both to Scripture and the individual Christian. Justin’s comment appears to imply that Christians are solo Scriptura or occasionalists with respect to the translation of Scripture, but neither is true.
It is also not clear what Justin means by “standard” in this context. Obviously the text of Scripture in its original languages would be the “standard” by which one judges his or her work in translating the text. In this sense the “standard” in question is “internal” to the text of Scripture, and not “external,” though again it is not as though the Christian (or whoever else) does not move outside of Scripture in order to translate it.
Further, Justin insinuates that there may not actually be a correct translation of Scripture (at least, according to the hypothetical Christian). Really? I do not mean to be rude, but perhaps language was not offered in Justin’s schools. That would be the most charitable assumption given Justin’s apparent doubt that a text can be properly translated into a different language.
Next, Justin strangely asserts that, “Clearly, [i]t is not as though relying on translations made by humans, scholarly ones at that, subjecting God’s word to their totally depraved reasoning abilities is going to be sufficient.” Huh? What exactly is Justin trying to say here? I will grant that translations are made by humans. I will likewise grant that translations are made by scholars. But I fail to see how human scholars translating the text of Scripture is in any way “subjecting God’s word to their totally depraved reasoning abilities” (emphasis mine). Why does Justin think that no one can translate a text while recognizing it as authoritative? I have done that very thing, and I know many, many others who have done so as well.
Finally, Justin apparently believes that the doctrine of total depravity precludes the possibility of a sufficient translation of Scripture, but I have no idea why Justin would believe this to be the case, or where he is getting such an idea from in historical theology. He most likely just does not understand the doctrine of total depravity, how it functions, and where it fits in relation to other Christian doctrines. Totally depraved people are capable of translation (even “sufficient” translation) and a host of other intellectual activities as well. Justin appears to be exceedingly confused about the doctrine in question.
Now, I am not trying to be mean here, but when the other Choosing Hats contributors saw Justin’s comment they wondered whether Justin was really being serious or just making a joke. For what it is worth, I think that Justin is dead serious. And that is sad. Really sad. Because frankly, this is one of the most ill-informed remarks, or questions, or objections, or whatever it is supposed to be that I have ever seen offered by someone who represents some of the best of what atheism has to offer. Yikes.
Comments are closed as I plan to be away for some time.