Guy N. Woods
It is being said with ever-increasing frequency that inspiration is characteristic of the original autographs only and that it does not extend to the translations of Scriptures in use among us today. “No translation is inspired,” we are told. The conclusion which follows from this premise is quite obvious. Most people are without an inspired Bible today.
If the truth of the premise be granted, this conclusion irresistibly follows—fewer than one percent of the people in this country today have access to, or could read if they did, the original texts. The logic is unassailable. Only those who read the Bible in the original languages have access to an inspired text. More than 99% of the population today cannot read the Bible in the original languages. Therefore, more than 99% of the people are without an inspired Bible.
This conclusion we unhesitatingly reject. We reject it because the major premise on which it rests is wholly and utterly false. It is not true that most people are without access to an inspired Bible today. Moreover, it is grossly incorrect to assert that “No translation is inspired.” What is true, and what may properly be asserted, is that we have no inspired translators today. This is far—very far indeed from saying that we are without inspired translations today.
The popular notion, “no translation is inspired,” results from a mistaken concept of (1) what inspiration is, (2) to what inspiration extends, and (3) how inspiration was achieved. Inspiration, noun form of the verb inspire (in + spirare, to breathe into), denotes the result of the Spirit’s infusion into the words, of sacred writ. Thus Paul affirmed, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Tim. 3:16). Similarly, he wrote to the Corinthians: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13).
From the foregoing it will appear to the observant reader that the “inbreathing” was into the text of Scripture rather than into the men who penned the Scripture, though they were, of course, under divine guidance in what they wrote, a fact we learn from 1 Peter 1:11-12, and often elsewhere in the Bible. Inspiration thus consisted of the “inbreathing” of Truth into the Word selected to bear the message. Inspiration actually resulted from the injection of Truth into the words they were prompted to write. Words, signs of ideas, thus became the vehicles to bear the ideas presented. Why were these words inspired? Because they were the vessels of the revelation of the Spirit, because they reflected exactly the “mind of the Spirit.” This they did perfectly since the words were selected by the Spirit for precisely this purpose. They may properly be said to be “inbreathed” (inspired) because they achieved the design of the Spirit in reflecting the Spirit’s message. This is verbal inspiration.
What difference would it make whether the words embodying the Spirit’s message were English, German, French, or some other modern language if, in any given instance, the word expressed as fully and as clearly the idea involved as did the original Greek word, since the inspiration consists in the full embodiment of the idea and not in the nationality of the word?
If the Word, in the second instance, reflects as accurately and as fully the meaning of the Spirit, why is not it as much inspired (inbreathed) as the former? It does, indeed; and there should be an end to the loose and thoughtless and obviously incorrect declaration so often heard these days that we are without inspired Scriptures today except as they exist in original manuscripts. This conclusion will not bear the test of either reason or revelation. Paul often quoted from the Septuagint (a translation of the Old Testament into Greek) and designated it as Scripture because the passages cited exactly represented the Truth of the original text though a translation of that text. To those who so freely assert that no translation is inspired seriously believe that the Bible which Paul read from, and often quoted, along with Christ and other apostles, was uninspired?
The test of any translation is, “Does it reflect fully and accurately the mind of the Spirit as revealed through those chosen by the Lord to make known His will to man?” If yes, the words, whatever the language, embody the meaning of the Spirit and are as inspired as the original presentation.
We may, therefore, find much comfort in the fact that the Scriptures, taken from a dependable text and accurately translated, are infallible, inerrant, all-sufficient, the full and complete revelation of God to man.