The one thing we hear regularly is that the Bible is so easy to read even a child can understand it. This of course begs the question: why do we create children's Bible's with lots of pictures in them and why do we tamper with the original words?
This last one is an important question, because we are told only the original words carry authority (whatever that means). So, why do we take the words and tell the story in our own words to children? Isn't it because we know that it's not the words that matter, but the ideas conveyed by those words? It is here that it gets tricky, because by changing one or more words the meaning is changed, and when the meaning is changed, so is the idea behind the meaning.
It appears words are equally important.
It is only natural that a translator must often make difficult choices to correctly convey the meaning of a text that is being translated from one language to another. And sometimes ideas get lost and are found several centuries later to everyone's amazement. This is a natural part of a process that depends on fallible humans and languages that evolve over time. But since we know that errors are common in Bible translations, why do we still insist anyone can read the Bible and understand it without any problems? How does an average reader know where the errors are and how they have affected the text?
Some suggest people should read more than one version of the Bible to get around the issue of errors. Others say people should stick to one version, and one version only to avoid confusion. How do people choose which Bible translation they should read? It depends on what church they go to, because every church has its own theology. It is theology that decides what you think is in the Bible before you even open it. It is theology that tells you what you should expect to find and what you shouldn't be looking for. This is important to recognize, because theology decides the words translators choose, and theology tells us that they are correct. It becomes even more important when we realize that every theology is biased in some direction.
Reading the Bible isn't as simple as, "Just pick a translation, any translation!" While it's true that it's better to read something rather than nothing, what we read has a profound impact on what we believe. And what we believe influences how we read the text in the first place. What we are supposed to do is to check our beliefs against the text and the text against our beliefs to see if they match, but to do so we need to make sure that the text is accurate.
And we're back at the question, "How can we know if the text is accurate."
Reading the original text can be difficult, especially since most of us have never studied Greek or Hebrew and probably never will. But it's not impossible. Computer softwares allow us to read the text with the help of a translator that explains the word for us. It's cumbersome and time consuming, but so is studying calculus and chemistry. Very few people think that our young should forgo studying just because it's time consuming. We insist they should spend over a decade in school studying subjects they may never use in the future. Education is important to us, because we know the cost of ignorance. But suddenly when it comes to the Bible, the one book that tells us how we should live, no in-depth studying is required. It is "elitist" to expect people to acquaint themselves with the original words, although only the original words are considered to convey the true meaning.
And there is a reason for this.
As long as people don't read the Bible in the original languages, they have only one choice: they have to believe what the church tells them. They have no way to verify what is being said, especially since the translation they are given was created by the church and contains therefore the specific bias the church wants people to adopt. "A faithful translation" is one that follows theology, not the original wording or intent.
And so we find that, "Just read the Bible!" isn't about following God's word as God intended it to be read. It's about protecting a certain way to read the Bible that has more to do with power structures and hierarchies than it has to do with obeying God. And because reading the Bible has to do with conformity, new findings that support a modification of theology are rejected by those who say the Bible is so easy to read even a child can do it. We're not supposed to challenge the beliefs of the church, because if we do, we won't obey the church. And if we don't obey the church, those in power won't get to keep their power. And power is what, "Just read the Bible!" is ultimately all about.