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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rereading Daniel 9:25-27: The Coming of the Messiah

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament: Rereading Daniel 9:25-27: The Coming of the Messiah

In this post Dr. Mariottini addresses the question of theological bias that we bring to the task of interpreting the biblical text. And, of special interest for our blog, he also addresses the prior question of translating the biblical text itself as free of bias as possible. I believe, with Dr. Mariottini, that it is possible to translate as free of bias as possible.

First, of course, we need to become aware of what our own biases are that we are bringing to the translation task. We may need to set these aside for the sake of creating a translation that is as theologically and ideologically neutral as possible. Now, there will still be a lot of theology left in the translation, for one thing, because the Bible contains quite a lot of theology. But it is, in my opinion, not a systematized theology. It doesn't solve the theological tensions we often try to solve through systematic theology such as the tension between a sovereign God and human free will.

May we on the BBB and visitors to this blog be as honest as possible with the biblical text itself. May we refrain from imposing any theological grid of our own upon the biblical text. Let's let the text speak for itself. And let's listen carefully to it. Much of it is rather clear if we read it seeking its "plain text" meaning. And when it is clear, let us submit ourselves to its teaching. Let us also be humble about the things in the text which are not clear.

There is room for godly translators to sincerely disagree about some points. However, in my opinion, there is little room for translators to treat each other in unspiritual ways, questioning their motives and suggesting that they have translated "inaccurately" when there is solid biblical scholarship which supports the translation choices of those with whom we disagree. I would suggest that when we find ourselves tempted to call a translation wording "inaccurate" when it has quality exegetical support, we ourselves may have crossed the line into theologically biased translation.

Thank you, Dr. Mariottini, for your helpful and gracious reminders to us about healthy ways to approach the biblical texts.


At Tue May 02, 09:12:00 AM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

"I would suggest that when we find ourselves tempted to call a translation wording "inaccurate" when it has quality exegetical support, we ourselves may have crossed the line into theologically biased translation."

How do we know if a translation has "quality exegetical support"?

Thanks for the article - it helped put some thoughts into my mind - and I believe I pretty much agree with what Dr. Mariottini said ("A commentator may inject his theological bias on the interpretation of the text and decide who that anointed one was. However, the translator does not have that luxury." - now that is music to my ears).


At Tue May 02, 01:33:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

How do we know if a translation has "quality exegetical support"?

If it is in agreement with the best biblical language lexical and syntactic resources that help us understand the meaning of what it is to be translated. It is possible to weed out quite a lot of theologically-biased interpretations of Bible passages and consider those which remain which have solid support from biblical scholars who have tried to approach the biblical text in as theologically neutral a fashion as possible.

I tend to skim past exegetical comments from exegetes whose comments seem rather shallow in terms of truly interacting with the lexicon, syntax, and pragmatics of the biblical text.

At Tue May 02, 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Dr. Claude Mariottini said...


Thank you for your words of encouragement. I believe that those who contribute to BBB are as concerned as I am with proper translation. Translators have a responsibility to be as neutral as possible in the translation of a biblical text. Since most readers do not know the original languages, they depend on the integrity of the translators to present an accurate translation.

Claude Mariottini

At Tue May 02, 05:41:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks for your post Dr. Mariottini. I would certainly welcome a neutral translation of the Bible. Can you recommend one?

At Tue May 02, 08:33:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

I must confess that Dr. Mariottini's post left me unsatisfied. For one thing the word "bias" is very emotionally charged. I didn't feel that it helped explain anything by stating that one or another translation was "biased." I don't have any familiarity with the Scoffield notes and so perhaps it is hard for me to understand why people with a different "bias" would consider it to be "biased."

The big question I have is with regard to the use of the article in Hebrew. Despite the lack of an "English-style" article, I assume that Hebrew has a way of indicating definiteness. And even if Hebrew used an indefinite article here I don't think that could preclude this refering to one particular person (Christ, Cyrus, or Tim LaHaye for example). Could someone point me to a description of definiteness in Hebrew that I might study?


An indefinite theologian


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