This got said yesterday in the comments, and it deserves some treatment on the front page, since this is a one-man show this week:
Wordplay in the Hebrew and Greek is almost always lost in translation. The current translations we have of any philosophy, always copy too much from older English Bibles in deference to their alleged expertise. Worse, any political agendas in the older translations are also slavishly copied.Which, for all its good intentions, is pure bunk. For a litmus test, as someone with a very sincere love of the KJV how “slavishly copied” any of the translations produced in the 20th century are.
All this makes the case for JUST TEACHING THE ORIGINAL, so you can get all the delicious wit in the Bible as God intended. My pastor taught us that way, so now I can read Bible in those languages easily, within BibleWorks. Why not make a new practice of teaching Bible the way it was actually written? Frankly the original words are far more easy and fun to remember, once you know them.
Alternative: take a translation and correct it as you go along. If the congregation gets used to it, there will be no angst. Again, that's the approach my pastor took, so one doesn't have to fault past scholar errors, but rather one comes to appreciate the difficulty of translation. :)
You know: my wife and I were discussing the Bible last night, and Titus 2:13-15 came up. I know this isn’t the Hebrew, but stick with me here. Here’s what the KJV says:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.Right? “A peculiar people”, borrowing the language from Deuteronomy. Now, we know in English that this is borrowed from Deuteronomy because the translation recognizes something Paul is doing through allusion, and makes sure to use the word used in Deuteronomy in English again here in Titus.
But we have a problem with the ol’ KJV: this word doesn’t mean what you think it means. We see (and most of us remember) the phrase “a peculiar people”, and we think, “huh: ‘peculiar’. It means ‘unusual’, or ‘unique’,” and we then get sort of knee-capped when we open the trusty ESV and find this:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.What happened to “peculiar”?
The problem, as usual, is you. You don’t speak the same language they spoke in 1611 – and in 1611, the word “peculiar” did not mean “unusual”: it meant “one’s own possession”, coming from its Latin roots relating to the ownership of cattle. So the KJV actually says, “a people for his own possession” just like the ESV does – it just uses an obsolete word meaning to do so.
And I point that out to say this: this is why it is critical to continue to have a vital, ecumenical (meaning: having a consensus among English-speaking churches, as we are talking about translations in English) effort to maintain the translations of the Bible from the original languages into the contemporary tongue. Foundational to the reformational way of thinking about the Bible is that it ought to be accessible to all men, and that translations are not inadequate vehicles.
I said I yesterday that I had three points to make, and that’s my first one: it’s a bogus point of view that a translation of Scripture is inherently faulty or inadequate; translations are sufficient vehicles through which to receive God’s revelation. There are probably a dozen reasons why this is so, but here are the two which I think should matter most to us:
 We have to have confidence in God’s word when it is handled by men. If we don’t, we have to reconsider what we mean when we think about preaching.
 This is not a perspective evident in Jesus or the Apostles. That the earliest church used the LXX without controversy as the word of God should give us some confidence that even a bad translation possess what God intends for His Word to possess.
That said, here’s my second point: while it is both interesting and in some ways useful to “JUST TEACH THE ORIGINAL”, this work in practice degrades the common man’s confidence in the text, which is an unjustified consequence inherent in the “preach from the Greek/Hebrew” perspective.
I have a very hard time with the phrase “lost in translation”, especially in this context, because frankly it is far more smug than it intends to be, and far less useful than it needs to be. Think about this: let’s imagine that there is some kind of high-octane literature genre which is somehow only able to be communicated in the Hebrew. Maybe it’s only a pun or a rhyme or maybe it’s a tone which is generated by a form of expression. And let’s say that there is actually no way to convey this in the English – that when we translate Ps 103 or something from the Hebrew all we get is wooden prose.
Is the point of our Bibles to titillate us with word-play, or is it to reveal to us the plan of God in Christ?
I don’t want to be a minimalist here because I do think that the Bible is actually great literature, not just words but words used (in a very real sense) in an inspired way. But the idea that we have to “get” all the Hebrew puns and word play in order to get how Moses and all the Prophets spoke of Christ is simply incongruous. I don’t want to call this pursuit idolatry, but there’s a massive difference between studying the Scripture to know that it is true and studying it as if its greatest purpose is as an aesthetic artifact. There is overlap between these two pursuits, but when we say that we have to mistrust translations and “JUST TEACH THE ORIGINAL TEXT”, especially for the sake of noodling out all the lit geek (and I speak as a lit geek) fairy dust, we have gone off the path which is really intended when we sloganeer the phrase “sola scriptura”.
Third and finally today: You are, for better and worse, stuck with English as your mother tongue. Ultimately, you personally have to speak to others in English. That means that at some point, you have to agree with someone about what, for example, the book of Romans says in English in order to tell others about it. You are far better served from a body of Christ (read: local church) perspective to have a common translation which serves as a basis for discipleship and catechesis, rather than demanding, absurdly and in a very suspiciously-Galatian manner, that someone first learn the Greek and/or the Hebrew before he can be a proper disciple and student of the word.
There is nothing wrong with learning Greek and Hebrew if you are so gifted and inclined. But it turns out that nowhere in Scripture is the ability to read Hebrew a requirement for the elder in spite of the requirement that he be able to rightly-handle the word of God. And for us to either feel like we are second-class for not being Hebrew readers, or to imply that English translations as a class are inferior to the point of being useless from the pulpit, makes us people who really don’t understand the Gospel very well.
The Gospel is proclaimed so that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will worship and give glory to God, and enjoy Him forever. In the Kingdom – in the New Earth – there is no indication that we will all be speaking Greek. If that’s the case when Christ finally has all his enemies as his footstool, maybe we should see some value in the tongues which then praise him today when we are declaring to them that they should.
That’s the context for Leland Ryken’s book, and we should be grateful to God that he cares enough about this subject to be passionate about it. And whether we agree with his philosophy of translation or not, we should be that passionate that all people have the word of God in their own language – because even in translation, it is the word of God.