In my younger days I was a bit of a motor head. I wasn’t into big American muscle but instead my tastes ran towards small European cars that handled well. (This was the seventies and the only Japanese cars that fit this bill were the Datsun 510 and Z cars). My preference was for German machines, and since I was on a National Boh budget this meant Volkswagens and Audis and not Bimmers or Porsches. But Porsches, Audis and VWs were all sisters under the skin and their DNA was good.
Rebuilding the engine on my Sirocco (yet again) I encountered an amusing little lesson on how sometimes things get lost in translation. It was a piston rod and was factory made in Wolfsburg. Inside the box, in typical German orderly fashion, the instructions read;
1.) Take out tool.
2.) Remove fat from tool.
3.) Insert tool.
Fat? Tool? Of course they meant the protective grease that covered the part for shipping. I thought it was pretty funny, especially since Germans are renowned for their precision.
I was reminded of this recently while participating in some theological discussions on the net involving differing translations of the same scriptural text. For example, in 1 Corinthians 6 and in 1 Timothy 1 Paul uses the words arsenokoitai and malakoi. These two words have been translated as ‘homosexual’ yet it is not clear to everyone what Paul meant. In fact, arsenokoitai (a word that Paul apparently coined himself) was for the longest time thought to be about masturbation. It wasn’t that long ago that the modern translations began to use the word ‘homosexual’ here.
I’ve talked before about how the word Sheol has been translated to mean both the grave as well as hell, or hades. There are other places where people, especially those who are critical of faith, point out the obvious contradictions and inconsistencies found in scripture. Usually these contradictions and inconsistencies can be explained as errors in translation or just a case of literary styling. I think it is good to take all this into consideration when presenting small portions of scripture as support for our arguments (which I do all the time, I know). I sometimes wonder if this was how the Bible was even intended to be used. Which might be more meaningful when we remember that for most of its history it was never even a book.
Here are three web pages that provide information on Paul’s use of these words, the last one providing the more traditional Christian position.
And here is a link to one of the better atheist articles concerning biblical inconsistency. I think it’s worth while hearing the other side.