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When being introduced, Americans generally ask: “What's your name?” whereas Germans say “Wie heissen Sie?” = How are you called? Interchanging these expressions into the other language would produce awkwardness. Translators must understand these cultural peculiarities. Formal Equivalence (also called Verbal Equivalence) is a much stricter discipline and there are tumultuous presumptions expected of literal word for word translation. Before the profusion of modern versions utilizing meaning-based methods such as Dynamic Equivalence, Paraphrase, and Theme (discussed below), the general approach to translation was the literal method. Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, Douay, Bishops, King James, Revised Version, American Standard, and Revised Standard translations were all produced during the age of Formal Equivalence, and they are still reviewed with a much more critical eye and less forgiveness. One could almost say that during this period, to translate implied that a literal process was involved. Faithfulness and literalness were deemed as common bedfellows and for this reason (with extremely few exceptions) to not be literal was to be unfaithful to the craft. Many scholarly papers have excoriated literal translators over the years for seemingly inconsequential infractions of verb tense, missing a dative, ignoring the genitive, misinterpretation, or inclusion/exclusion of the definite article. Formal Equivalence is an exacting discipline and literal translators should be forewarned - of their peers.
Translation Sentences Published American Standard (ASV) 1 1901 J.P. Green (LITV) 1 1987 Young (YLT) 1 1898 Modern King James (MKJV) 2 1962 King James (KJV) 3 1611 New King James (NKJV) 4 1982 New American Standard (NASV) 4 1960 New Revised Standard (NRSV) 6 1989 J.B. Phillips (PHL) 6 1958 New American Bible (NAB) 6 1970 New English Translation (NET) 7 1997 New International Version (NIV) 8 1973 New Living Translation 15 1996
The specific Greek words or word variants for God and Forbid do not occur in any known manuscript. One might then ask: Would the original phrase, not to be, have sufficed, if translated rigidly? Possibly, but it might also weaken the impact as well as entertain assumptive questions concerning that biblical writer. To preempt such occasions, all literal, word for word translations will infrequently display momentary excursions into the wispy clouds of interpretation - sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity.
- STERGEIN is rooted in obligatory affection for objects of similar nature. It is the natural affection that human parents have for their children and similarly, the protective devotion of animals for their offspring. This word is not found in its root form in the Greek New Testament but does appear twice with an “alpha” prefix which negates the original meaning. Thus, “unnatural affection” is the usual translation of Romans 1:31 and 2 Timothy 3:3. It is also found with PHILEIN in Romans 12:10 to produce a compound meaning “kindly affection.” Stergein is obligatory love.
- ERAN is not found in the Greek New Testament in any word variant. It was used by pagan writers to describe sexual passion, the dynamic enveloping of the conscious mind, to the near disregard of surroundings. Eran is passionate love.
- PHILEIN is used about forty times and is the pleasure love that returns from a person or object. It is often a very normal, “unimpassioned” friendship of one person for another. For example, put two motorcycle riders in the same room at some event and when they discover their mutual interest, they will most likely be lost in their own private world of conversation about chrome and rubber. Put two graduates of the same college in the same work place and they will develop a unique friendship because of the pleasurable memories of life at that college. In each situation, the affection developed because of pleasure, inspite of no other commonality. In the first case, it was the PLEASURE of motorcycles: the roar of hot exhaust, the danger of taking curves too fast, the brilliance of polished chrome, the thrill of aerated freedom that drew these riders together. Philein is a pleasure responsive love (not a love for pleasure).
- AGAPAN is used in its verb, noun, and adjective forms over three hundred times. It is evoked by an “awakened sense” of value for a person or object. Agapan goes beyond the pleasurable response of Philein to recognize the “precious value” in something. In contrasting Philein and Agapan, the former is a love of pleasure and the latter is a love of esteem; the former takes pleasure in and the latter gives value to; the former delights in receiving while the latter excels in giving. Agapan was used grudgingly by secular writers during the Greek Classical period and use of the noun form, Agapesis, was rare. This was true, perhaps, because the human condition did not frequently share in this type of love, plus the other three encompassed the whole human experience (Stergein-Obligation, Eran-Passion, Philein-Affection). Here was a word, nearly dormant, waiting for something to give it prominence, and that happened with the telling of God's love for people through His “esteem” for us. Imputed love that we did not deserve. Agapan possessed the necessary concept to fully expound the love of God. Agapan was made for biblical writers. Agapan is God's merciful esteem for us.
Did Jesus sit down in the boat or in the water? Admittedly, this matter would be irrelevant for a translation following the methodology of Dynamic Equivalent or Paraphrase (discussed below) because each would predictably discard the troublesome phrase and make the sentence convey the meaning that Jesus sat down in the boat. However, literal translations must adhere to a different set of presumptions and the question is not where or how Jesus sat down, but when should translators remain literal and when should they engage in interpretation. When should the reader be encouraged to ascertain unusual or difficult readings by their own abilities and literary resources? Translators and readers fall on both sides of the issue. Some earnestly contend for the manuscripts while others similarly aver for interpretation. Unfortunately, confusion may also arise when the uninformed criticizes a literal translation for making a nonsensical reading when all the translator did was present the manuscript to the reader. Who then is at fault? The informed translator's choice or the uninformed readers misunderstanding?
There is no evidence in biblical or secular literature nor archeological inscriptions that suggest to the slightest degree that any town with this name ever existed. Without context or substantiated grammar this passage often becomes an illusion created by the translators. Interestingly, NKJV inserts the word “like” which suggests that the mystery words are not a town but really a description of how the fugitives were running to Zoar - the Moabite refugees were fleeing like three year old heifers. Amusing but not scholarship.
Blanks / Paradox / Ambiguity
Most translations did not attempt to guess the original numbers, but NASV conjectured from other passages such as Acts 13:21 and extra-biblical works (Josephus' statement that Saul reigned 18 years before Samuel's death and 22 years after it - Antiquities 6:14:9) that the years must have been forty. Thus cross-referencing can solve problems (and sometimes create them). It is interesting to note that NIV did the same thing but then reversed the numbers.
KJV did the same thing in 2 Samuel 21:19 where the text appears to invalidate David as the slayer of Goliath the Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17): There was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam” (NASV). Although many translations ignored the discrepancy and left the text as is, KJV translators cross-referenced the parallel reading in 1 Chronicles 20:5 “And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi THE BROTHER OF Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam” which informs us that Elhanan actually slew Lahmi who was the brother of Goliath. The words “the brother of” were then italicized into the 2 Samuel passage. Thus, the use of italics and cross-referencing can be applied to resolve discrepancies or to highlight a meaning.
Past tense conversation 16 Jesus said unto them ... Switch to Present tense 17 And they SAY unto him ... Revert to Past tenst 18 He said ...
- KJV: “...light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”
- TEV: “...light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ”
- LB: “...has made us understand that it is the brightness of his glory that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ”
They understood the nuances of language well, did not exhibit ignorance of their craft or unawareness of transmission theory, and displayed a profound reverence for the task before them. In a few cases, one might be enticed to argue that the difficulty of reading the King James in the New Testament is frequently a result of the translators following Greek word order too carefully (see 2 Corinthians 6:12 or James 5:1). Objection to its archaisms is noteworthy but generally excusable for words do fall into disuse and frequently change meaning. Arguments persist on what qualifies as archaic, obsolete, or non-current. The following table lists some of the more unfamiliar KJV words and expressions.
Word Scripture Meaning -------------------------------------------------------------- Blains Exodus 9:9 Sores Daysman Job 9:33 Arbiter or judge Fetch A Compass 2 Samuel 5:23 Circle around behind Let 2 Thess. 2:7 Obstruct or interfer Rereward Joshua 6:13 Rear Guard Prevent Psalm 88:13 Precede Tabering Nahum 2:6 Beating on Wen Leviticus 22:22 Ulcerous sore
- NASV: almug, darics, denarius, ephah, fatlings, hin, kors, minas, snuffers, terebinth
- NRSV: buckler, calyxes, coneys, denarius, ephod, freshets, gerahs, handpike, mantelet, onycha, spelt, stacte, terebinth, trigon, weal
- NIV: armlets, breakers, cors, denarii, galled, hoopoe, mina, porphyry, satraps, stadia, terebinth, vaunts
For example, some textual critics have marked doubtful the passage of John 8:1-11. RSV excused it to the footnotes (with explanation) but NRSV restored it to the text. Occasionally upon arriving at controversial passages, scribes might leave blank an entire column of a new manuscript because they were not certain if the passage was genuine or not, thus the basic text becomes a “marginal note.” At a time when the biblical Canon was not yet decided and there already existed a variety of readings, some scribes would allow the opportunity for a future Corrector to fill in the passage if it proved to be genuine.The last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark have been marked doubtful by some scholars, and translators must then decide whether to place these verses in the text or the margin. In either case, the reader usually expects an explanation for these well known passages. Similarly, the original scribe of Codex Sinaiticus did not include the last twelve verses of Mark, but was so uncertain of their possible genuineness that he left enough of the column blank so that a later Corrector may restore the passage if it should prove to be genuine.
Over recent years, many independent authors, especially publishing study bibles, make extensive use of the margin to assist the reader with commentary or invaluable chain-references to many other scriptures containing related information.
For example, the word beauty as used to describe a woman in the modern era generally means a cute face and slender build, whereas in the Roman world it might have implied full-figured or even portly. Sweat is loathsome to the modern career women but aristocratic women of Rome highly prized the sweat that was hand scraped from athletes and gladiators. It was collected in jars and then rubbed over their own bodies. The word “book” meant an expandable scroll in the Roman world, but now generally refers to a collection of sheets glued together at one edge, a structure termed Codex. These differing values must be communicated by the translator or the reader continues under a modern illusion. By using Dynamic Equivalence, translators are free to use more readable expressions instead of being forced to reproduce original language idioms. However, the disadvantage of the Dynamic method is that there is a price to pay for readability. Dynamic Equivalent translations lose precision because they omit subtle cues to meanings which only literal translations can preserve. Additionally, they also run a greater risk of incorporating doctrinal views of the translator into the text because of this greater liberty. In order to address this situation, a few translators have resorted to yet another innovation in translating, the Paraphrase, where entirely different words are used to transmit and highlight concepts through interpretative language which makes the basic text a commentary. By openly admitting to the use of commentary, the translator escapes criticism of the Dynamic method. Used carefully, this greater freedom can enlighten the reader, but unadvisedly it may discolor ancient values and forthrightly obscure historical truths.
"Then Pilate again went into the praetorium and called Jesus, and said to Him, Are You the King of the Jews?" - John 18:33 (LITV)
“JESUS ANSWERED HIM, SAYEST THOU THIS THING OF THYSELF, OR DID OTHERS TELL IT THEE OF ME?”
First noticeable is the greater length because almost every word is translated. Grammar and syntax is caringly observed, verb tense and person are mostly regarded. Word order in the KJV exactly follows Greek texts: 1-Jesus, 2-Yourself, and 3-Others.
“IS THAT YOUR OWN IDEA, JESUS ASKED, OR DID OTHERS TALK TO YOU ABOUT ME?”
Length has been shortened because several different words have been substituted for modern readers who prefer short sentences (first five words do not literally appear in Greek texts). NIV often engages in paraphrasing to stress modern word usage. IDEA does not translate a literal word but suggests mental evaluation to highlight the motive behind the question.
Jesus clause is moved to the middle and is changed into a question which departs from Greek texts where the interrogative begins after the Jesus clause. Syntax, grammar, and word order begin to suffer in Dynamic Equivalence because of its very nature.
“KING, AS YOU USE THE WORD OR AS THE JEWS USE IT? JESUS ASKED.”
Shortest of all examples because the text has been completely redone. KING is borrowed from previous verse to continue same thought but excuse more words in deference to the modern reader. JEWS is not a translation but an interpretation of the unidentified others. Jesus clause is moved to the end and likewise follows the Dynamic by changing it into a question, easier now because the interrogative begins in the second.
These few particulars highlight the major function of paraphrasing which attempts to convey similar meanings by using different and fewer words along with major textual reconstruction. No surprise that grammar, syntax, and word order, suffer most in the Paraphrase because it involves monumental reinterpretation of ancient understandings into modern contexts.
Now the race is on for translators to be the most imaginative and visionary. Indicative of the inquisitiveness of human nature, many are accepting the challenge to produce more sensationally reading bibles that exhibit a greater latitude of imagination. Dynamics and Paraphrases are interpretative by nature and this should be well understood by the reader, because this freedom has often removed the guard rails of safety where not a few verses have leaped from roadbeds of propriety into fields of recklessness.
Modification can elicit new meanings
Luke 1:15 - John being filled with the Holy Spirit before birth has been lost (see also Luke 1:41-44)
NIV - “from birth”
TNIV - “even before he is born”
NRSV - “even before his birth”
NLT - “even before his birth”
ISV - “before he is born”
NASV - “while yet in his mother's womb”
PALMER - “beginning yet in his mother's womb”
COTTON PATCH - “while his mother is still carrying him”
British pastor and theologian John Gill adds this commentary: “whilst in his mother's womb, as the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it: like Jeremiah (1:5), he was sanctified, set apart, and ordained to be the prophet of the Highest, before he came out of his mother's womb.”
John 16:31 - Jesus' words are in the form of a question but the NIV changes it into an answer. Notice that the new TNIV has rejected the previous NIV interpretation.
NIV - “You believe at last!”
TNIV - “Do you now believe?”
KJV - “Do ye now believe?”
NASV - “Do you now believe?”
NAB - “Do you believe now?”
NLT - “Do you finally believe?”
PHILLIPS - “So you believe in me now?”
Hebrews 11:11 - Emphasis on the faith of Sarah has been transferred to Abraham who is not mentioned in this verse from any manuscript. There are variant readings and interpretations on this verse but none that clearly subjugate Sarah from the nominative case with the closest verb being LAMBANO (receive). In other words, Sarah received something. Notice that the new TNIV has rejected the previous NIV interpretation.
NIV - “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age -- and Sarah herself was barren -- was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.”
TNIV - “And by faith even Sarah, who was past age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.”
KJV - “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed...”
AMP - “Because of faith also Sarah herself received physical power to conceive a child...”
NASV - “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life...”
CEV - “Even when Sarah was too old to have children...”
YOUNG - “By faith also Sarah herself did receive power to conceive seed, and she bare after the time of life...”
PHILLIPS - “It was by faith that even Sarah gained the physical vitality to become a mother despite her great age...”
All words appearing in red have been added as commentary by the NIV. There is no mention of Abraham in this verse. The real emphasis is on the faith of Sarah because she believed in what God had promised. Due praise to her has been obscured. Not only does each word lack manuscript support but the added words might easily mislead the reader to believe that Abraham was also barren. He was not - only Sarah was barren. Abraham with Hagar produced Ishmael before this time and with Keturah, six more children after Sarah's death. (Genesis 25:1).
Sentences and phrases are routinely shortened as in Mark 11:22 (Matthew 13:37, Luke 9:13, and others)
NIV - “Jesus answered”
KJV - “And answering he said unto them”
NASV - “And Jesus answered saying to them”
NLT - “Then Jesus said to the disciples”
AMP - “And Jesus, replying, said to them”
CEV - “Jesus told his disciples”
NAB - “Jesus said to them in reply”
Modern readers tend to prefer brevity and might argue that such examples are really a compliment. In any case, this example stands to illustrate how the translators routinely excuse the appearance of numerous words.
Little words are omitted much of the time. BEHOLD occurs 222 times in 218 verses of the New Testament but is usually discarded (e.g., Matt. 1:20, Mark 13:23, Luke 10:19, John 16:32, Acts 20:22).
Repeatedly, biblical writers use the word “foundation” or “upon” or other words that reasonably create an image of this stone being “underneath” a structure. No where in the New Testament do there appear words distinctively linking the past ministry of Jesus or the future ministry of the Church with the TOP of a wall (Ephesians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 3:10-12, 1 Timothy 6:19). No other translation has followed the NIV. In fact, the new TNIV has changed each instance back to Cornerstone.
|In most of the New Testament, we discover the literal Greek words KEPHALEN GONIAS or “head of the corner” (excluding Ephesians).|
Matthew 21:42 - KJV Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read PHILLIPS Head of the Corner in the scriptures, The stone which the NASV Chief Corner Stone builders rejected, the same is become the NRSV Cornerstone head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, EVS Cornerstone and it is marvelous in our eyes? NIV Capstone Mark 12:10 - KJV And have ye not read this scripture; The PHILLIPS Head of the Corner stone which the builders rejected is become NASV Chief Corner Stone the head of the corner. NRSV Cornerstone EVS Cornerstone NIV Capstone Luke 20:17 - KJV And he beheld them, and said, What is PHILLIPS Head of the Corner this then that is written, The stone NASV Chief Corner Stone which the builders rejected, the same NRSV Cornerstone is become the head of the corner? EVS Cornerstone NIV Capstone Acts 4:11 - KJV This is the stone which was set at nought PHILLIPS Head of the Corner of you builders, which is become the NASV Corner Stone head of the corner. NRSV Cornerstone EVS Cornerstone NIV Capstone Ephesians 2:20 - KJV And are built upon the foundation of the PHILLIPS Corner-stone apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself NASV Corner Stone being the chief corner stone. NRSV Cornerstone EVS Cornerstone NIV Corner stone 1 Peter 2:7 - KJV Unto you therefore which believe he is PHILLIPS Head of the Corner precious: but unto them which be disobedient, NASV Corner Stone the stone which the builders disallowed, the NRSV Head of the corner same is made the head of the corner. EVS Cornerstone NIV Capstone
Characteristic of Biblical Writers & NIV Jesus Foundation Stone Capstone ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- INVISIBLE in Heaven INVISIBLE in the ground Visible on top SUPPORTS the church SUPPORTS the building Nothing is supported INTERLOCKS members INTERLOCKS adjacent walls Interlocks nothing (if removed) (if removed) (if removed) Church collapses Building collapses Nothing changes
|OTHER THEMATIC PERSONAGES|
|OTHER THEMATIC LOCATIONS|
Mount of Olives
Peach Orchard Hill
For those individuals whose predilection leans towards the novel or extraordinary, these mythological departures may be slight, but others who fervently regard every biblical word as inviolate, the very concept of thematic interpretation is immediately an unforgivable departure which they are more than willing to abandon. For the benefit of the online visitor, here is an example of a “theme” alteration in Clarence Jordan's, the Cotton Patch Version
6 G. D. Kilpatrick, Atticism and the Text of the Greek New Testament, Regensburg: Pustet, 1963, p. 128.
7 Frederick Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 4th Edition 2 Vols, London: Bell & Sons, 1894, Vol II., p. 264.
8 John Burgon, The Revision Revised, London: Murray, 1885, p. 323.
9 Bruce Metzger, Introduction to: A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Stuttgart: Biblia-Druck GmbH (German Bible Society), 1975, p. xx.
10 Harry Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism, New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 84.
11 Bruce Metzger, Ibid.,, p. xvii.
12 David Fuller, True or False, Grand Rapids: Grand Rapids International Publications, 1973, p. 78.
13 John Burgon, The Revision Revised, p. 12.
14 Herman C. Hoskier, Codex B and Its Allies, London: Bernard Quaritch, 1914, Vol 2, I.
15 D.A. Carson, The King James Debate: A Plea for Reason,, Grand Rapids: Baker House Books, 1979, p. 110.
16 Bruce Metzger, Ibid.,, p. xviii.
17 Bruce Metzger, Ibid.,, p. xx.
18 B.H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, London: Macmillan, 1924, p. 57.
19 F.F. Bruce, History of the Bible in English, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978, p. 151.
20 David Fuller, Ibid.,, (Burgon, Revision Revised) p. 193.
21 F.G. Kenyon, Handbook To The Textual Criticism Of The New Testament, London: Macmillan, 1912, p. 302.
22 Philip Comfort, Early Manuscripts & Modern Translations of the New Testament, Wheaton: Tyndale House, pp. 14-15.
23 Sturz, The Byzantine Text-Type & New Testament Textual Criticism, New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers (four separate chapters), pp. 145-227.
24 Bruce Metzger, Lucian and the Lucianic Recension of the Greek Bible, New Testament Studies, 8 (April, 1962), pp. 38-39.
25 Sturz, Ibid.,, pp. 64-65.
26 Kurt Aland, The Significance of the Papyri for Progress in New Testament Research: The Bible in Modern Scholarship, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965, pp. 334-337.
27 Eberhard & Erwin Nestle and Kurt & Barbara Aland - Introduction to Novum Testamentum Graece, Stuttgart: Biblia-Druck GmbH (German Bible Society), 1979, p. 43.
28 Gunther Zuntz - The Text of the Epistles, London: Oxford University Press, 1953, pp.55-56.
29 United Bible Societies, THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT, Stuttgart: Biblia-Druck GmbH (German Bible Society), 3rd Edition. A few examples are John 1:13,28; 3:25; 4:11; 6:42,55; 7:9,12,37,46; 8:16,38; 10:22; 12:32; 13:18,26; 14:7; 16:22; 17:12; and 20:30.
30 United Bible Societies, THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT Ibid., p. 13. See also Nestle-Aland Greek Text, NOVUM TESTAMENTUM GRAECE, 26th Edition, p. 10.