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Monday, September 17, 2007

Is calling a Bible translation a "Perversion" blasphemy?

I have previously posted on Kent Hovind, here and here. I have been mostly critical of him, and I'm not alone in this. Some of the criticism comes from a leading Young-Earth Creationism organization, Answers in Genesis.* Hovind spoke in many churches, on young-earth creationism, and his group has produced several videos on this subject.

*Correction, September 19, 2007. See the comment below. A more correct statement would be "came from." Here's a direct link to a detailed criticism of Hovind by three prominent young-earth creationists.

I encountered Mr. Hovind again recently. I was using the Blueletter Bible, an excellent reference, which has, among other things, several Bible versions which can be compared, Hebrew and Greek text, and links to various commentaries. I was preparing to teach a Sunday School class on the Fall, and noted that a video by Hovind was included in the list of commentaries. (The particular tape was the 2nd one in the list on the page, and shows Hovind presenting a seminar at a church in California.) I didn't watch all of this video. There were reasons why I didn't.

A few minutes into the presentation, Hovind, who is a young-earth creationist, made light of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible. (Hovind says that he uses the King James Version, but looks at what other versions say.) He called the RSV the Reversed Standard Perversion. I was offended by that. He was taking issue with the translation of Genesis 1, which, he said, was favorable to the gap theory, which he opposes. He gave some Biblical reasons for this opposition, and it is possible that the opposition is valid. I didn't appreciate his attitude.

No doubt, the RSV has its problems. There is no perfect translation of the Bible, and there may be legitimate reasons to question the treatment of various passages in the RSV. But to call a version a "Perversion?" That strikes me as dangerous, and bordering on blasphemy. It probably isn't, but it seems close.

In Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, and Luke 12:8-10, Jesus said that His Jewish opponents were committing a sin of blasphemy that could not be pardoned, when they accused Jesus of serving Satan, instead of God. I don't guess Hovind did that, but I suppose that many people have been inspired, and even brought to conversion, through the RSV, and it strikes me as a dangerous and irreverent thing to ridicule that translation.

The Blueletter Bible offers the RSV as one of its versions. I don't know if they are aware of what Hovind had to say about it.

A few minutes later, Hovind said, correctly, that language has changed. He gave the example of "cool," which, as he said, used to mean "not hot," and now, as he said, we aren't sure what it means. Yes, language does change. So why make a Bible translation that was made nearly 400 years ago your main translation?

My second objection was to his sources. Hovind seldom, or never, used scientific literature in dealing with supposed scientific discoveries, such as the claim that humans used to be larger than they are now. He used newspaper articles, instead. Newspaper articles may impart correct information, but they are not refereed like scientific papers. I suspect strongly that there were no credible scientific sources for many of his ideas. (And most of them, as far as I can tell, are not central to his main thesis, namely that the earth is but a few thousand years old. They are peripheral.)

I'm sorry, but this video gave me two more reasons to criticize Mr. Hovind.

Thanks for reading.


elbogz said...

Good points, Martin.

I always wondered about this argument when you translate a bible into Chinese or Russian. Translations are never “word for word”. They always involve translating “meaning to meaning”. I guess all those people reading Farsi bibles are doomed too.

Martin LaBar said...

As I believe I said, no translation is perfect. Almost all of them, I think including the RSV, have enough information to get God's message for us across.

Thanks for commenting.

Nathan Zamprogno said...

I am the author of the section of the Wikipedia article you quote where you mention that Answer in Genesis have been critical of Hovind. I need to correct a small point: When AiG had an acrimonious split with their sister ministry in Australia, one of the noted changes in their behavior was their more muted response to criticising Hovind. The Australian organisation (Creation Ministries International) still have their anti-Hovind piece online, but AiG seem to be endorsing Hovind and his disreputable practices by failing to take him to task any more.

In my mind this makes AiG just as bad as Hovind and takes the Creationist "high moral ground" away from them absolutely.

My other commentary on Hovind appears .here

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Mr. Zamprogno. I have modified my original post to reflect information in your comment.