And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible’s Original Meaning is a litany of how the mapping from Hebrew to other languages has resulted in a distortion of the precise idiom of the original. I actually thought the best example of this given was a non-Biblical one, the fact that English-speakers are totally clueless as to the implication of the title of the Mexican film Like Water for Chocolate, which sends a rather clear message only intelligible in a Spanish speaking context. English speakers have tended to generate novel meanings from the cryptic title at total variance with the original intent and clarity in Spanish (I actually recall spending some time trying to figure out the deeper meaning of the title when I first watched this film).
This all got me to thinking: what exactly was God thinking in delivering his revelation in verbal form? It seems clear that formal logic would have been much more precise, or even some form of ancient mathematics. The fact that God delivered his revelation in the flexible form of language seems to weigh in on the side of those Christians who are not Biblical literalists, since literalism is pretty much a joke. This sort of assertion by me is a rejection of a position I held several years back whereby non-literalist Christians were slippery types who always attempted to fit the scripture to the context of their times. That may be true, but it is likely true for self-described Fundamentalists as well, except they don’t admit it. Some atheists, myself in the past, are wont to declare that the Fundamentalist despite the falsity of his beliefs at least adheres to an honest “plain” reading of the text of the Bible. The reality is that there is no “plain” reading, for believer and non-believer alike.