As a pastor I have often been asked about the plethora of translations and how a believer can be certain that he has the Word of God, especially if he doesn’t know Hebrew or Greek. I am often asked basically, “Have I really missed something important if I don’t know Hebrew or Greek?”

Well, after warning the person about the dangers of some versions – such as gender neutral or dynamic equivalence translations – I take them next to the doctrine of the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture as stated in the Baptist Confession of 1689, chapter 1.7:

7. All things in Scripture are not alike (m) plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for Salvation, are so (n) clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them.

m 2 Pet. 3. 16.
n Ps. 19. 7. and 119. 130.

I agree with this doctrine, of course, and I think a similar thing could be said about the use of several good, formal equivalence translations. Perhaps I can adapt the wording of the 1689 Confession in order to make my point more clearly:

All things in a good English translation are not necessarily translated as well as they could be, and thus do not necessarily give the full sense of the underlying Hebrew or Greek texts in many instances; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for Salvation, are so clearly propounded and properly translated, and opened in some place of the English translation of Scripture or other, that not only the learned in Hebrew and Greek, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means – including the use of commentaries, dictionaries, concordances, and Bible encyclopedias, may normally attain to a sufficient understanding of them.”

I have often found such a use of this passage of the Confession to be helpful to believers who are struggling with these questions, and I submit it for your consideration as a way to help encourage the brethren.

One thought on “The Doctrine of Perspicuity and a Plethora of Translations

  1. Well said Pastor Throop, I think it’s a question we have all had at one point in our walks with Christ, and your answer is exactly what we need to hear. Especially in this day, when, again, the authority, in-errancy, and infallibility of Scripture are under attack by the liberals and non-believers…this is a word in season. “Sola Scriptura”!-Josh

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