Lecture 31: Principles 5-9
Course: Why We Trust Our Bible
Lecture: Principles 5-9
5. Principle Number 5 – Implicit to Explicit
Sometimes translations want to move from what is implicit to what is explicit. There are going to be things that are in the Greek but not in the English. It is not like we are making up things, but there are grammatical things going on in Greek which is really difficult to show in English. And anyone who knows Greek or Hebrew will look at it and see the connection and see what it means. But, if we just translate the words into English, we lose all that deep meaning. And what happens at times, you will take what is implicit in the text and you will make it explicit in the English. Ephesians 1:22 is an example of this. It reads, ‘he has put all things under his feet and has made him head over all things for the church.’ What is the problem with this? Who is the subject of the sentence; who is he? He is a he, his and him and they are two different people. The first he, we know is God, God the Father; the pronouns, his and him are Jesus. We know because of internal Greek linkages, that he is referring back to God. So we take something that is implicit in the grammar and we are explicitly replacing ‘he’ with God so there is no confusion. God is placing all things under Jesus. In 1st Timothy 3:16, Paul has been talking about why it is so important that Timothy do all the things to get the problems of the Ephesian Church sorted out. He is trying to emphasize what is at stake; how important the church and the Gospel are. So he is summarizing the Gospel in this passage. So he says, ‘great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on the world, taken up in glory.’ You will see a footnote saying ‘Greek – who.’ This is a relative pronoun. The problem is that Paul is quoting something where there is no antecedent. So, who is the who? We believe contextually that it is Jesus and so we took what was implicit, this relative pronoun, that refers to Jesus, and we just said, ‘he’. Now if you have a King James Bible, it will say God. This is a different issue which we will talk about later, if we have time.
6. Principle 6 – Filling out the Story
There are some places where the translators want to fill out the story. You need to ask, do you really need to complete the story? This is a rather innocuous one which we see in 2nd Timothy 2:3. It says, ‘share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’ The actual Greek word says, ‘share with’. It doesn’t
say with whom, which is the problem. So who is Paul calling Timothy to share the Gospel with? You can see the ESV under-translates this. It says share but it doesn’t give any idea as to whom. The NIV 1984 says to endure hardship with us, meaning Paul and his group of travelers. NIV 2011 shifted it to ‘join with me’, which is what the NLT does. The NASB says to ‘suffer hardship with me.’ So, the Greek says, ‘share with’ and there is no clue who the ‘with’ is. So, this is kind of filling out the story. Another example is in 1st Corinthians 10:10 where it talks about the Exodus story and afterwards. It reads, ‘nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.’ So what does this mean? Who is the destroyer? It is in lower case, destroyer, not a capital letter, ‘D’. Most of us know that the destroyer was the destroying angel and so there is no word angel and not even any linkage to angel. There is absolutely nothing about angels in this verse, but the NIV reads, ‘by the destroying angel’ in order to make it understandable. Is this bad to do? It all depends as we are in the dividing point in translation. In Matthew 10:29, we have, ‘are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.’ The translation that I know which I think is from the King James, reads ‘apart from my Father’s will.’ That is an important difference, isn’t it? Is it so grand that God wills that every bird that dies, dies as a result of his will? You might say yes to this, but the Greek doesn’t say that. It simple says, ‘apart from your Father.’ The NIV says, ‘outside your Father’s care’, whereas the NLT says, ‘without your father knowing it.’ They are looking at the context of Matthew 6 and saying what is the point, which isn’t God’s will. That is not in this passage. This is a passage about living and eating and what we are going to wear, things like that. But there is nothing in the Greek after the word, Father. Are you going to fill out the story to make it understandable? I would argue by using the word ‘will’ has creating more problems than it ever solved. This created an issue in the God debate that was unnecessary. So we fill out the story.
7. Principle Number 7 – Misunderstanding
This is really a big thing with the ESV. If there were any serious suggestions that a word for word translation was going to cause someone to significantly misunderstand, we got very interpretative. But it didn’t happen much, but yet, we were very comfortable to do it. The NIV and NLT are very sensitive to
this. In the last NIV committee, we apparently had not had any suggestive changes to the Book of Deuteronomy for a long time. Bruce Waltke came with a hundred and forty or so suggestions on Deuteronomy and we argued for several days on these suggested changes. Half of them were in the headings. Did you know that large sections of Deuteronomy parallel with the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments)? I didn’t know that. Bruce wanted to make it really clear what Moses was doing within the headings in parallel with the Decalogue. Bruce was around 85 years of age and has more energy than all of us put together. I watched these people labor over verses that no one ever reads in the Bible. Ladies! Some of you put the little things around your ankles. Well, there is a verse in Deuteronomy that talks about something that you are not supposed to wear because of the religious association to the Canaanite worship. Is it an anklet or footie? I finally called Robin up, one of the other guys who had a younger wife and we put a pole on facebook to find out what they were. Around the age of fifty, the word anklets meant something else. You know, the NIV has been really attacked by people saying things like, ‘Oh, they don’t really have a high view of God and only word for word translations show a high view of God’s word. These dynamic translations interject too much of the translator.’ This is just foolishness. I watched these guys spend forty-five minutes on what to call this thing on a women’s foot in Numbers. I watched Bruce argue for two and a half days on headings for Deuteronomy. This is an unbelievable high view of Scripture. So don’t believe this ‘garbosh’ that dynamic translators have a lower view of God’s word. That is simply, not true. I sat in both committees; no one has a higher love or a deeper appreciation of God’s Word. Everybody is concerned about this idea of misunderstanding, as it is God’s Word and we want to faithfully communicate what God intended by those words.
An example, the NIV Matthew 5:28, ‘but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ I want to be really careful with this illustration because I don’t want to give any impression that I think lust is okay. My concern is the distinction between temptation and sin and it is not the thought that goes through out mind but instead, it is the cherished things that we think and reflect on. That is when you go from temptation to sin. Temptation isn’t sin. The Greek is explicit that Jesus says to look with the intention of lusting. We did this on the ESV; one of my great victories, ‘anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent.’ That is exactly what it says in Greek. I was concerned with all the young men who struggle with this distinction and every time a lustful thought goes through their head because they live in an evil world and sin is still active in their being and their minds and they fall off this deep end. And that is not what it is. It is with lustful intent. So this whole thing of misunderstanding is a big thing and we really wanted to get this one right. In Matthew 6:32, Jesus says, ‘for the gentiles who strive for all these things and, indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.’ He is going to give you all of these things, so you focus on the things you need to focus on. Well, what is a gentile? A gentile is a non-Jew is the way we use that word normally. So, what about non-believing Jews, would Jesus be saying that this verse is about anyone who is not a Jew? Within the verse’s context, it seems highly unlikely; because the division is between those who follow Jesus’ teachings and everyone else. It doesn’t matter whether they are Jews or Romans or Persians or whatever. It is those who follow Jesus and then this word, gentiles, is used of everyone else. And the minute you say gentiles, you don’t realize that he is including non-believing Jews. But contextually, he has to be including non-believing Jews.
The NIV says, ‘for the pagans run after these things.’ They are trying to get away from racial distinction. The NET says, ‘the unconverted’ which is actually fairly good. So Jesus is saying that they were his group of followers and they had a relationship with my Father and part of that relationship includes not worrying about these things. Everyone else worries about these things but my followers don’t. If you have a dictionary on this particular word, the first definition says that it is a body of people united by kingship, culture and common tradition and in the gloss, it says nation or people. Or it is a people group foreign to a particular people group. We have Jesus’ followers who have a special relationship, a nurturing and caring relationship with God the Father and then there are all the others who do not fit into this category. The most interpretative position in the ESV is 1st John 3:6, talking about being born of God and the role of ongoing sin in their lives; it reads, ‘no one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.’ We came into this discussion and I’m thinking that knowing the committee as I do, there is no way we are going to be able to change this. I was trying to change it to, ‘abiding’. I was shocked on how quickly they voted to be interpretive and put ‘abides in’. They were all familiar with perfectionism. They all had interactions, one way or another, with people who think that there is a second work of grace where God actually removes your ability to sin and therefore you never sin. By the way, Wesley never taught this; don’t connect this kind of perfectionism with Wesley. He actually preached against perfectionism; it was Wesley’s followers that pushed perfectionism, if you are familiar with this debate. So basically, if I sin, I have lost my salvation. That would be the most natural reading of the verse. So it was decided, ‘that no one who abides in him keeps on sinning.’ We are not talking about perfectionism; we are saying that the person who lives in Christ doesn’t keep sinning in these major ways.
8. Particular Number 8 – Sensitivity
There are a lot of things in the Bible that you can’t say in church. The sexual language of the Bible is so explicit. There is a reason that the Song of Solomon was not read by any Jewish boy under the age of thirty. For example, Psalm 19 is a great Psalm saying, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.’ This is a very common passage. But then in verse 4b and 5, we have, ‘in them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.’ That is not what it says. This is a newlywed leaving after his honeymoon night, explicitly that. We have to be sensitive to these kinds of things; we can’t say this in church. Another example is in regards to the shipwreck in Malta where it says that the natives showed us unusual kindness for they kindled the fire and welcomed us.’ What do you see when you see the word native? Yeah; you see Native Americans and all kinds of things. The word means an indigenous person; that is all it means and it is repeated four times in the passage. You can’t just repeat it over and over. The King James says barbarous; they weren’t barbarous; they just weren’t Roman. The NIV refers to them as Islanders and that has to be changed. You need to be sensitive to what people have with different words.
9. Particular Number 9 – Theological Biases
I’m surprised how little this actually happens. I thought that there would be a much bigger theological biases in regards to the different translations. The National Council of Churches isn’t known for being an evangelical group, highly-qualified translators. But it was amazing how the theological bias wasn’t that much within the text. When the NET Bible came out which was done by a group of professors in Dallas, I expected to find dispensational aspects to it but it isn’t there. They really worked hard to let their theological bias to come in. Two examples of theological biases, one being Romans 9:5 where it is talking about the advantage of the Jewish Nation and it is all about punctuation. It reads, ‘to them belong the patriarchs, and other race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God, who is over all be blessed forever.’ The RSV caught a lot of flak over that translation. Why? It doesn’t call Jesus, God. But the ESV reads, ‘to them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.’ This is one of the strongest affirmations of the deity of Christ in the Bible. It is all a matter of punctuation. Perhaps the most famous example though is in Isaiah 7:14. This is what sunk the RSV in evangelical circles. This is a prophecy Isaiah makes to the king, but the king wouldn’t do what the prophet said. In response, Isaiah says, ‘behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a child, and call his name Immanuel.’ There is a chance that it’s Isaiah’s wife he is talking about here. When you see the child is born, you will understand that the prophecy is true. The problem is though; this is what Matthew picks up for Jesus virgin birth. The RSV translated it as young woman. The NIV translated it as virgin in the New Testament. Here is what is hard; the Greek word pornai was used for temple prostitute. The word doesn’t mean virgin. It means a young woman of marriageable age. Matthew and how he quotes the Old Testament understands that there is a deeper meaning in Isaiah. And it is prophetic of a virgin having a child. You either have Isaiah talking about his wife as a virgin or you have Mary to be a young woman? The RSV chose the worst translation possible.