Is there such a thing as too conservative or too zealous when it comes to religion?

Small disclaimer: It’s late, I read this article a few weeks ago, then again earlier today, and it is STILL bothering me.  So much so that I had to put my thoughts in some sort of rambling order and try and see if I was making sense, making something out of nothing, or making a fool of myself.  Thus the reason for this rambling essay . . . .

This article, and the fact that this is a serious movement, really does frighten me.  I don’t know why, but it does.  I don’t have a problem with different translations in theory, whatever floats your boat you know?  We all have our personally favored translation that we use regularly because we identify with the style of speech, type of writing, etc.  I just have a feeling that if a translation such as this proposes were available it would lead to all sorts of behavior by the extremists, some of which already have their own interpretation of the version in use today.  The simple fact that they consider the KJV to be ‘liberal’ at best to me indicates that they are already skewed in their thinking, not to mention approaching this from an extremely biased perspective–albeit the opposite perspective than the one they currently believe exists in error.

Currently this group feels that the translations out today show a lack of accuracy in both modern language and the original texts as well as a disconnect that has occurred during the translation process, and the group is trying to correct these issues.  I don’t have a problem with some of their requirements for a new translation, such as the logic of hell or open-mindedness.  Nor do I care about gender-inclusive language; in most spoken languages (English being the exception thanks to the PC movement) the plural form of any group of objects is masculine, regardless of the number of females or feminine objects present.  One masculine presence, and the plural form is masculine.  To my knowledge this is only an issue here, in English, but it has never bothered me.

I do take issue with other points.  The NIV is written at a 7th grade level for a reason–many people cannot read past that level, and those that do may not want a literature lesson along with their sermon or study.  Many people may be able to read at a 7th grade level, yet still have a time interpreting the meaning.  Just because you can read the words does not always mean that you comprehend the meaning of the collective passage, and seeing how there is so much that is already an allegory or symbolic of a deeper meaning having a higher reading level would only lead to greater confusion and conflict.  Increasing the reading level means you’re also going to increase the number of people who misinterpret because they do not take the time to understand the language, and therefore act in an incorrect manner and not in the way of God.  Same for the desire to be concise instead of wordy.  While I admit that it is a concept I have never mastered in my personal speech or, as this meandering stream-of-consciousness ramble illustrates, in my writing or thoughts, I understand the ‘less is more’ concept.  Yet at the same time I don’t think it is the responsibility of the translators to pull out the red pen, mark through huge chunks of text, and write “WORDY” in the scroll margins like Ms. Frasier, my sixth grade english teacher, used to do.  The multiple illustrative passages are there for exactly that reason–using language and words to expand a theory in several different ways, with the hopes that one or more of those methods would be in a form that resonates with you in a personal manner and therefore impart a lesson that is understood because of its relevance and personal attachment to your present circumstances.

A strong framework is a good idea in theory, but wouldn’t it provide the same problem they are protesting now–corruption in the opposite direction?  And wouldn’t the ‘utilization of powerful conservative terms as they develop’ indicate that they are intentionally interpreting the original texts in a manner befitting their position–something they have already decried as improper by their ‘liberal’ counterpart?  Their reasoning behind using modern terms in order to combat addiction contradicts the desire to have an exact interpretation of the texts, as they then want to put contemporary terms in wherever they feel it’s appropriate.  Same for the Free-Market Parables–again it’s not a literal translation of the sanctified texts, it’s a cause-befitting translation of the stories, yet again a contradiction.

And finally, I strongly disagree with the desire to use consistent use of the word “Lord” exclusively instead of “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God”, and for more than one reason.  The word god itself is generic and refers to a diety.  When capitalized, God, it is usually inferred that it is the Lord God mentioned in our scriptures, but in fact can be any God including those that are false and the only way to clarify whom is intended is for more descriptive terms: “Lord God”, “Father God”, etc.  Yes, just using the word Lord may tell us the intended meaning, but the word god may not–especially in old testament passages when false gods or idols are being discussed.  Combining Lord and God as a singular name leaves no doubt as to whom the writer is referring.  In the Jewish (and therefore Old Testament) tradition, it is not permitted to speak the name of the Lord aloud.  Therefore YHWH is the term found in many Hebrew texts, this in keeping with the practice of removing the vowels of a word that is not spoken.  In later years, English translators of the Hebrew did not know what the missing vowels were and added the A/E because when the word was sounded out sans vowels, the phonetic spelling was Yahweh.  Some observant Jews will not even speak this word, using Adonai or other less incriminating words aloud for fear of potential misuse of the name of God.  In keeping with accuracy of translation, this is why many translations (including the version that I personally use) use the word Yahweh in the Old Testament scriptures as an effort to remain as accurate as possible to the Hebrew meaning.  In some earlier translations, a different set of vowels were used which led to the word Jehovah.  While it is commonly accepted that this is not an accurate translation of the word it is also continually used because of its familiarity, and is an example of a word that takes on an additional meaning over time due to the extend of its use in a particular context.

Taking away such examples of descriptive names and terms for God not only invalidates the heritage and history of the scripture, it also neutralizes the impact of the passage itself.  The fact that there are so many different names we can call the Lord, the Heavenly Father, the Father God, the Almighty is one of the things that make Him unique and reinforces the all-encompassing nature of his power.  Negating such scripture to use the simplistic identifier “Lord”, for me, detracts from the wonder and depth of His abilities and purpose.  And while the ‘guidelines’ that were given only listed the words Jehovah, Yahweh, and Lord God as ones to be substituted I have no doubt that it would carry on to any number of the hundreds of words that are used to describe Him.  Can you imagine if one of the most beautiful, descriptive, and oft-quoted verses found in Isaiah 9 was changed from “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” to “His name will be Lord”? It becomes a verse with little impact.  Or if the writings of Paul, resplendent in descriptive names for his Heavenly Father, simply told us of Jesus Christ the Lord instead of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Deliverer,the Head of the Church, the Image of God, and the Lord of Glory?

Look, I’m not a Bible scholar.  I have grown up in the church and am a Christian woman.  I attend services every week.  I do Bible Study, both with groups and on my own.  I do not STUDY the Bible, with a text on the history of Hebrew or Greek on one side, a theology dissertation on the other, and my bible in between.  It has, in fact, been over 15 years since I have taken any sort of in-depth Bible history class or course designed to teach the reasons behind the inclusion of specific verses and words found in the scripture.  I do not consider myself a liberal, nor do I consider myself a conservative.  I know many of my friends are frustrated with what they feel to be my conservative views on behavior, ethics, and belief while at the same time I know my mother often mourns the fact that she has such a flamboyantly liberal daughter and wonders where she went wrong.  I am not an expert.  I am also sure that I have gotten some of my facts wrong here, and jumbled up my history lessons in my attempt to explain my frustration and fears over what could be essentially a tool to reinforce ultra-conservative interpretations and viewpoints.  I may have misinterpreted the motivation behind the project altogether.  All I know is that what I read, and how I understood it, scared me.

So am I completely off my rocker?  Have I totally missed the ledge and flown over the edge?  Do you think that it is a project with merit and long overdue?  Or do you think that this is perhaps a project that is not born of a desire to accurately interpret scripture but is instead an attempt to bend scripture to an already existing viewpoint?

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