You don’t often hear this. In fact, I often hear the opposite, something like: “Bible Scholars stifle our faith;” “they only complicate the Bible so that the common person is confused;” “you don’t need to be a scholar to understand God;” and on and on.
There’s some truth to this. Some scholars I know do complicate the meaning of the text, or they simply don’t communicate their scholarly findings in a clear manner. Both are pretty lame. However, we all need scholars. The church would not exist without scholars. In fact, you wouldn’t be able to do another devotion in your Bible if it weren’t for scholars!
Take a look at your English translation. Where did it come from? Not from Paul, nor from Jesus; your English translations exist—and thus you are able to read the Bible—because God raised up hundreds and hundreds of scholars to put it into your hands. And think about the process. In order to know Greek and Hebrew well enough to translate the Bible into English, you’ve got to spend literally thousands and thousands of hours reading dusty old Greek/Hebrew grammars, flipping vocab cards, studying cognate languages (Ugaritic, Aramaic, Phoenician, Syriac), looking up words in a lexicon—no, 5 lexicons—flipping more vocab cards, going back to the grammars, etc. etc. And then you’re only scratching the surface! Then you have to study all the ancient manuscripts of the Bible, like P46, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the LXX, the different versions of the LXX, and hundreds of other documents that unless you do translation you will never here of. You have to understand where these manuscripts came from, their origin, who wrote them, the common mistakes that tend to exists in each manuscript and why. You have to study translation theory and all the vast debates that arise. Does meaning reside in words, in phrases, in sentences, or larger units of thought? And what about the target language? Transferring meaning from one language to another is very complicated. It’s more than just decoding one language into another; it involves getting into the mind of the “target audience” and finding the best set of words and phrases that convey the meaning of the original language.
And all of this is just scratching the surface.
So the next time you open up your English translation, just understand that hundreds of Christians (and some non-Christians) have devoted their entire life, much of which is spent in a small lonely office, doing the tedious work of Bible translation in order that you could do your devotions this morning. Let’s not rape the knowledge of these scholars and then think we can condemn them for not doing more important things for the kingdom like church planting, counseling, and missions.
We are a team; we need each other—we need Bible scholars, who sacrifice much and often get little credit for the painstaking work they do!