Get to know your Bible translations

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Dave Gilbert's picture

In a strange way. What I'm confused by is the statement about the KJV not " getting the youth". Is that some kind of ridicule by the cartoonist, or something else? Is "getting the youth" a kind of "feather" in a translations cap? Not sure I understand the objective there.

 

Now, on another note:

 

Here's my take on the translation issue...

 

1) NLT ( New Living Translation ) = English translation using the Critical Text and performed using Dynamic Equivalency. In other words, more a paraphrase than anything else, which is not word-for-word faithful to any text. I see nothing humorous with calling this the word of God.

 

2) KJV ( King James Version, otherwise known by its actual name, the Authorized ) = English translation using the Received Text and using Formal Equivalency. In other words, a clear and word-for-word translation into the English of roughly 400 years ago, which can still be read and understood today...with very little practice IMO. This has been the word of God in English for 400 years, and was THE paramount English translation from about 1630 until 1885 with the advent of the English Revised Version...so around 250 years this stood as the word of God in English with no "competition".

 

3) ESV ( English Standard Version ) = A revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version. It has similarities to the NIV, although the ESV is considered a literal translation using Formal Equivalency. It uses what amounts to the Critical Text as a foundation of its New Testament Greek. The "hottest new thing" to hit the shelves translation-wise, it really isn't that different than its predecessors IMO. " All the popular folks like him "...so?

 

4) NASB ( New American Standard Bible ) = An English translation of the Bible relying on a modified Critical Text for its New Testament and using Formal Equivalency. It suffers from similar problems that the others do, that rely on the Critical Text...missing words, verses and parts of whole chapters when compared to that 400 year old,  " Always thinks he's right " translation.

 

5) NIV ( New International Version ) = An English translation of the Bible using what amounts to the Critical Text for its New Testament and Dynamic Equivalency as a technique...in other words, another paraphrase, not word-for-word faithfully translated. Characteristics of the NIV include this verse, which is almost exactly the same as several others:

Philippians 2:6, " Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; " ( NIV )

                        " who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped " ( ESV, RSV, ASV ( similar ) )

                        " Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: " ( KJV, NKJV, Douay-Rheims )

 

 

My point? Translations vary, depending on who's doing the translating, what type of translation technique is being used, and, most importantly, which text or group of texts is being used. Also, if one is actually serious about believing every word of God, then something is wrong with just this verse above, for starters. One says that Christ did not consider equality with God something to be used to His advantage, another says that such equality was not something He considered able to be grasped ( attained or held to ), and the final one says He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. Three different perspectives and all claim to be the very words of God? What a mess.

Which one or ones am I supposed to believe are God's very words?

 

Yes, Jim...I realize this was a humorous thread about a cartoon...but one in which I saw a forum of sorts opened up and thought it necessary to share my viewpoint, since it's a recent reference to this topic of translations. The only humor I really saw, is considering anything that uses Dynamic Equivalency for a technique as being remotely the words of God. The deeper humor was that any translation using the Critical Text, which represents roughly 1-2% of the extant manuscripts, as a foundational basis for a New Testament translation...was absolutely hilarious.

 

Dave.

Todd Bowditch's picture

Dave, anyone who simplifies Bible translations down to 1) two textual families or 2) two translation philosophies, normally demonstrates a lack of familiarity with both the actual Greek manuscripts and the basics of linguistics.

The critical text is merely a formulation of the "Majority text" that has a larger sample size.

Dynamic equivalence merely recognizes the breadth of syntactic range possible when translating from one language to another.

You must be a brave man to so brazenly suggest that God's Word is not God's Word.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

Andrew K.'s picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

In a strange way. What I'm confused by is the statement about the KJV not " getting the youth". Is that some kind of ridicule by the cartoonist, or something else? Is "getting the youth" a kind of "feather" in a translations cap? Not sure I understand the objective there.

 

Now, on another note:

 

Here's my take on the translation issue...

 

1) NLT ( New Living Translation ) = English translation using the Critical Text and performed using Dynamic Equivalency. In other words, more a paraphrase than anything else, which is not word-for-word faithful to any text. I see nothing humorous with calling this the word of God.

 

2) KJV ( King James Version, otherwise known by its actual name, the Authorized ) = English translation using the Received Text and using Formal Equivalency. In other words, a clear and word-for-word translation into the English of roughly 400 years ago, which can still be read and understood today...with very little practice IMO. This has been the word of God in English for 400 years, and was THE paramount English translation from about 1630 until 1885 with the advent of the English Revised Version...so around 250 years this stood as the word of God in English with no "competition".

 

3) ESV ( English Standard Version ) = A revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version. It has similarities to the NIV, although the ESV is considered a literal translation using Formal Equivalency. It uses what amounts to the Critical Text as a foundation of its New Testament Greek. The "hottest new thing" to hit the shelves translation-wise, it really isn't that different than its predecessors IMO. " All the popular folks like him "...so?

 

4) NASB ( New American Standard Bible ) = An English translation of the Bible relying on a modified Critical Text for its New Testament and using Formal Equivalency. It suffers from similar problems that the others do, that rely on the Critical Text...missing words, verses and parts of whole chapters when compared to that 400 year old,  " Always thinks he's right " translation.

 

5) NIV ( New International Version ) = An English translation of the Bible using what amounts to the Critical Text for its New Testament and Dynamic Equivalency as a technique...in other words, another paraphrase, not word-for-word faithfully translated. Characteristics of the NIV include this verse, which is almost exactly the same as several others:

Philippians 2:6, " Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; " ( NIV )

                        " who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped " ( ESV, RSV, ASV ( similar ) )

                        " Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: " ( KJV, NKJV, Douay-Rheims )

 

 

My point? Translations vary, depending on who's doing the translating, what type of translation technique is being used, and, most importantly, which text or group of texts is being used. Also, if one is actually serious about believing every word of God, then something is wrong with just this verse above, for starters. One says that Christ did not consider equality with God something to be used to His advantage, another says that such equality was not something He considered able to be grasped ( attained or held to ), and the final one says He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. Three different perspectives and all claim to be the very words of God? What a mess.

Which one or ones am I supposed to believe are God's very words?

 

Yes, Jim...I realize this was a humorous thread about a cartoon...but one in which I saw a forum of sorts opened up and thought it necessary to share my viewpoint, since it's a recent reference to this topic of translations. The only humor I really saw, is considering anything that uses Dynamic Equivalency for a technique as being remotely the words of God. The deeper humor was that any translation using the Critical Text, which represents roughly 1-2% of the extant manuscripts, as a foundational basis for a New Testament translation...was absolutely hilarious.

 

Dave.

Yes, but if you read them correctly (your second reading is off; where on earth did you get "able" from?), you'll note that all three say that Christ was equal with God.

As for the rest, it's fine if you don't find the cartoon funny, but a brief attempt at rather benign humor hardly makes a good platform from which to soapbox.

神是爱

Dave Gilbert's picture

It should have read, " did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped", which implies ability or desire.

 

As for the Critical Text being a smaller sample size of the Majority Text, even Wikipedia seems to disagree with you, Todd. :( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_textual_variants_in_the_New_Testament

 

The basis for the Critical Text is rather narrow, and is generally focused on two major manuscripts, which don't even agree with each other in many places...http://www.gotquestions.org/critical-text.html .

 

Anyone who cares to do the research into this subject will find some VERY interesting facts that will come to the surface. I'm sure there are many opinions on just this forum regarding the differences in textual families ( and which translations are based on the Greek from each one ), but one thing is sure...the majority of modern English translations are based on the very narrow Critical Text, which is representative of a very small number of manuscripts. To date, there is only one English translation that I know of that is based on the Majority Text: Young's Literal. The KJV and NKJV are based on the Received Text, while the rest on the Critical Text. What I'd like to know, on a side note, is why more translations are not writtien based on the Majority Text.

 

Something to also think about: Most people don't realize that the KJV and NKJV are based on the Received Text, with agrees with the Majority Text surpassing 90-95% of the time in its readings, while the Critical Text agrees far less. This and the fact that I've posted one verse in Philippians that demonstrates these differences should make anyone at least question what's going on. Notice that the verse in my above post contains 3 readings, two of which completely contradict one another ( KJV and ESV )....you're telling me that this is of God then? That they are both His word?

 

 

Something is wrong in the mad dash to deliver translations in this late hour, IMO.

M. Osborne's picture

Dave, I don't have a comprehensive apparatus in front of me, but the apparatus that I do have suggests that there are no textual variants behind the different translations of Philippians 2:6. If there are textual variants that you're aware of, could you please list them? The best I can tell with a very quick glance is that the translator's questions are these:

  1. Should the participle for being/existing be translated with a concessive meaning ("although"/"even though")?
  2. What is the best way to translate morphe?
  3. What is the best way to translate harpagmon?

Which translation choices do you think best translate this verse, and why?

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Easton's picture

...have a hard time laughing at cartoons - or - they don't get them at all, e.g., the previous comments.

Todd Bowditch's picture

Dave, a number of scholarly works have been written on textual criticism and bible translations. Wikipedia's article is very basic....and it doesn't actually support your statements. I don't really care to spend hours on this because you myopia is evident and I doubt that we have a foundation for rational discussion.

I have done a lot of study on this issue. I used to hold to your position. My study of the "very interesting facts" has lead me to very different conclusions.

You continually reference the critical text as "narrow"...but TR is based off of the fewest manuscripts...I call that an interesting fact.

You suggest some ulterior motive for newer translations...but the TR was originally published with numerous mistakes so that it could be the first printed greek new testament. Erasmus wanted to make money, he reverse translated from the Vulgate so that he could finish. The KJV was translated because an Anglican king wanted to distance himself from Catholicsm. I do not think this is a road that you want to go down.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

Dave Gilbert's picture

Todd Bowditch wrote:

Dave, a number of scholarly works have been written on textual criticism and bible translations. Wikipedia's article is very basic....and it doesn't actually support your statements. I don't really care to spend hours on this because you myopia is evident and I doubt that we have a foundation for rational discussion.

I have done a lot of study on this issue. I used to hold to your position. My study of the "very interesting facts" has lead me to very different conclusions.

You continually reference the critical text as "narrow"...but TR is based off of the fewest manuscripts...I call that an interesting fact.

You suggest some ulterior motive for newer translations...but the TR was originally published with numerous mistakes so that it could be the first printed greek new testament. Erasmus wanted to make money, he reverse translated from the Vulgate so that he could finish. The KJV was translated because an Anglican king wanted to distance himself from Catholicsm. I do not think this is a road that you want to go down.

 

Obviously not....I'd only lose to all the people who have shouted down others before me, it seems. But nobody has answered the question to the problem I've posted above...one passage with 3 differing readings and ultimate meanings...and it seems everyone here considers it NOT A PROBLEM. They don't say the same thing. Right now, there are so many different translations of God's word, it's hard to tell which one is really GOD'S WORD. They can't ALL be, since they don't all say the same things the same way.

 

I won't post any further about this subject, since it's obviously been well-established that I would be wrong before I even get off the starting blocks. But I have learned one thing about being here on this forum: Not all subjects are as open as they seem.

 

Good day sir.

Todd Bowditch's picture

Dave, all three translations are accurate enough attempts to translate a very difficult phrase in Greek. They are well within the semantic range of both languages. There is no substantive difference between the translations. You're mole-hilling.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

M. Osborne's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

But nobody has answered the question to the problem I've posted above...one passage with 3 differing readings and ultimate meanings...and it seems everyone here considers it NOT A PROBLEM. They don't say the same thing.

Actually, I asked a follow-up question a few posts up. You assert, "They don't say the same thing." Very well. You've been talking about manuscript differences. I would like to know where the textual variants are in this verse (Philippians 2:6). Please list them. You assert that they don't say the same thing. Very well. Please explain why one way of translating the participle is better than another, why one way of translating morphe is better than another, and why one way of translating harpagmon is better than another. How can we best get the original meaning of the Greek into accurate and not-easily-misunderstood English?

This isn't a shout-down. This is an invitation.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Dave Gilbert's picture

What I'm interested in, is why many around here seem to be quick to jump on the ESV's "bandwagon", and equally quick to abandon prior translation efforts. Also, I'm interested to find out why the so-called Critical Text is so popular, when the Majority Text is supposed to contain a much wider sample size of manuscripts, and thus theoretically should be a more reliable manuscript base from which to start a translation effort.

 

M. Osborne wrote:

 

Dave Gilbert wrote:

 

But nobody has answered the question to the problem I've posted above...one passage with 3 differing readings and ultimate meanings...and it seems everyone here considers it NOT A PROBLEM. They don't say the same thing.

 

 

Actually, I asked a follow-up question a few posts up. You assert, "They don't say the same thing." Very well. You've been talking about manuscript differences. I would like to know where the textual variants are in this verse (Philippians 2:6). Please list them. You assert that they don't say the same thing. Very well. Please explain why one way of translating the participle is better than another, why one way of translating morphe is better than another, and why one way of translating harpagmon is better than another. How can we best get the original meaning of the Greek into accurate and not-easily-misunderstood English?

This isn't a shout-down. This is an invitation.

 

Mr. Osborne, I'm not a translator, so I don't and can't know the difficulties...but what I'm really looking for, is an answer to this question...in the English, they don't say the same thing. WHY? Would someone please tell me how I'm supposed to memorize God's word, when the "translation-du-jour" is always changing? To top it off, each translation team is changing the English in subtle ways each and every time, it seems. Is this part of some "continuous improvement philosophy" or something?

 

I'll tell you what: Let's use a popular piece of literature that was originally written in Greek, such as Homer's Iliad or Odyssey... How many different ways has it ever been translated into English, and have those differing ways actually amounted to significant changes in the way it reads from one translation effort to the next? I mean, if Greek is so difficult to translate, then how many difficulties have there been in translating Homer's Odyssey into English? Let's put a translation effort done 400 years ago up against one done in the last 100 years..do they read the same?

 

I mean, I haven't really looked, so I'm curious. If so-called scholars can ( hypothetically ) get classic Greek literature to read nearly or exactly the same in one work, why can't they get God's word to read exactly the same? It's a fair question, so it should be an easy one to answer. Is there something I've missed as to why, during the course of my lifetime, upwards of 20 English translation efforts have been undertaken with seemingly no end in sight? Did I miss the "memo"? Does "Christendom" get a final, once-for-all English translation at some point in the future, so that I can point to it and say, "Thus saith the Lord"?

 

On a side note, I find it interesting that at least one group, who many consider a cult ( as do I ), does their own translation ( The New World Translation ) and the majority of people believe it's an unreliable one...but when a well-known publishing house sponsors one, it's accepted with open arms.

 

 

 

 

Todd Bowditch's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

What I'm interested in, is why many around here seem to be quick to jump on the ESV's "bandwagon", and equally quick to abandon prior translation efforts. Also, I'm interested to find out why the so-called Critical Text is so popular, when the Majority Text is supposed to contain a much wider sample size of manuscripts, and thus theoretically should be a more reliable manuscript base from which to start a translation effort.

Dave, if you are as unsure about textual topics as you claim, then perhaps you would benefit from heeding other's alleged preference for the ESV.

The critical text balances out a number of different factors. Every Greek New Testament is a "critical text", the editorial biases of the editor is what determines which of the three major textual families it follows. The most popular critical text is the Nestle-Aland (currently 28th). You can read their discussion of what factors they use in decision making. http://www.nestle-aland.com/en/history/
Overall, one of the biggest limitations of a "majority text" textual family is the lack of inclusion of the oldest extant manuscripts. A majority of opinions is not the only important factors, a simple transcription error could be copied hundreds of times. The mere fact that no two manuscripts are in complete agreement seems to indicate that God wants us to figure these things out.

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Mr. Osborne, I'm not a translator, so I don't and can't know the difficulties...but what I'm really looking for, is an answer to this question...in the English, they don't say the same thing. WHY? Would someone please tell me how I'm supposed to memorize God's word, when the "translation-du-jour" is always changing? To top it off, each translation team is changing the English in subtle ways each and every time, it seems. Is this part of some "continuous improvement philosophy" or something?

The Greek language is very different from English...the words, grammar, and syntax are very different. There is not a one-to-one correlation between Greek and English....sorry...it doesn't work that way. English has also changed significantly in the last 400 years. We can either remain immutable (and increasingly irrelevant) or we provide God's Words in the most accurate way we can. Change for the sake of change is bad. Change for the sake of accuracy is good. Have you ever noticed that pastors have to spend an inordinate amount of time translating King James English to the congregation (i.e. read the Scripture then spend 5 minutes explaining what the English meant; then, finally they can start elucidating principles and applications)? God's Word should not be a mystery to the masses. Every person should be completely convinced of their ability to understand and apply God's Word without someone else having to explain it to them.

Dave Gilbert wrote:

I'll tell you what: Let's use a popular piece of literature that was originally written in Greek, such as Homer's Iliad or Odyssey... How many different ways has it ever been translated into English, and have those differing ways actually amounted to significant changes in the way it reads from one translation effort to the next? I mean, if Greek is so difficult to translate, then how many difficulties have there been in translating Homer's Odyssey into English? Let's put a translation effort done 400 years ago up against one done in the last 100 years..do they read the same?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_translations_of_Homer

There have been about 30 translations of Homer. The changes to translations to Homer are no more significant than the updated English of newer Bible translations. Almost all English translations of the Bible have sought to follow the KJV when they deemed it the most accurate translations. The NIV and a few paraphrased versions have significantly deviated from the tradition of the KJV because they were trying to accomplish different things. The NIV is especially jarring because of its dissimilitude to the KJV, not so much for its translative choices...although I have come across some translative concerns.

Dave Gilbert wrote:

I mean, I haven't really looked, so I'm curious. If so-called scholars can ( hypothetically ) get classic Greek literature to read nearly or exactly the same in one work, why can't they get God's word to read exactly the same? It's a fair question, so it should be an easy one to answer. Is there something I've missed as to why, during the course of my lifetime, upwards of 20 English translation efforts have been undertaken with seemingly no end in sight? Did I miss the "memo"? Does "Christendom" get a final, once-for-all English translation at some point in the future, so that I can point to it and say, "Thus saith the Lord"?

I hope not. That would be completely discordant with the Church's understanding of Scripture for 2000 years. the KJV-only movement is an American invention in the 20th century. Otherwise, the universal church has been happy to receive accurate and faithful translations of God's Word.

Dave Gilbert wrote:

On a side note, I find it interesting that at least one group, who many consider a cult ( as do I ), does their own translation ( The New World Translation ) and the majority of people believe it's an unreliable one...but when a well-known publishing house sponsors one, it's accepted with open arms.

The New World Translation is not a good translation. It makes translative choices that jibe with everything we know about Greek studies. Wikipedia (that scholarly source) summarizes

"Walter Martin identified Nathan H. Knorr, Fredrick W. Franz, Albert D. Schroeder, George Gangas, and Milton Henschel as members of the translation team, writing of them, "The New World Bible translation committee had no known translators with recognized degrees in Greek or Hebrew exegesis or translation... None of these men had any university education except Franz, who left school after two years, never completing even an undergraduate degree. In fact, Frederick W. Franz, then representing the translation committee and later serving as the Watchtower Society's fourth president, admitted under oath that he could not translate Genesis 2:4 from the Hebrew." (However, the court transcript indicates that Franz declined to translate text from English back into Hebrew.[27]) Franz had stated that he was familiar with not only Hebrew, but with Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French for the purpose of biblical translation.[28]"  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_Translation
 

The ESV, NKJV, NASB, HCSB, and to some extent the NIV have all been accepted as faithful translations of God's word. They have made informed textual choices (although the NKJV continued some unsupported textual choices of the KJV) and they have consistently applied the best and most accurate translation practices. They have all had dozens of knowledgeable scholars and theologians on their committees. For your enrichment, I have included a link to the list of ESV translators.

http://www.bible-researcher.com/esv-translators.html

If you are familiar with Greek studies, you might recognize Bill Mounce (author of the definitive textbook on Greek grammar), Packer and Hughes (Longtime Pastors and theologians), Grudem (wrote an excellent systematic), Ryken (widely regarded as the foremost Evangelical authority on Literature). The translation was reviewed by chumps like Clinton Arnold, Greg Beale, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, Gene Gree, George Guthrie, Harold Hoehner, Andreas Kostenberger, Leon Morris, John Oswald, Tom Schriener, Moises Silva, Frank Thielman, Willem Van Gemeren, and Robert Yarbrough....All of these men have made substantial contributions to either linguistics, theology or biblical studies.

I can definitely see the accuracy of your comparison....

If you are as ignorant about Greek and New Testament Studies as you frequently claim, then perhaps you should trust that these Godly, scholarly men know a little bit more than you...

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

Todd Bowditch's picture

Todd Bowditch wrote:

Dave, all three translations are accurate enough attempts to translate a very difficult phrase in Greek. They are well within the semantic range of both languages. There is no substantive difference between the translations. You're mole-hilling.

Some of you might have noticed my use of "between" when referencing three different objects. Plagued by self-doubt I scoured the internet to find grammatical justification for the apparent disjunction. After lengthy research (Google), I determined that "between" was an acceptable word choice.

""These words share more common ground than they used to. Between was formerly reserved for situations where just two things or people were being related--shared between husband and wife--and among complemented it when there were three or more: shared among the relatives. The restriction on the use of between has certainly gone by the board, and Gowers declared it to be 'superstition' in Complete Plain Words (1954). It is not uncommon for between to be used in expressions referring to more than two groups or reference points, as in a balance between deference, quotation and his own critical comment. But among is still reserved for situations where there are at least three parties involved."
(Pam Peters, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004)"

http://grammar.about.com/od/alightersideofwriting/a/Among-And-Between.htm

Please stop direct-messaging me with jeers, chastisements, and belittling comments. Thank You.

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

M. Osborne's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

What I'm interested in, is why many around here seem to be quick to jump on the ESV's "bandwagon", and equally quick to abandon prior translation efforts. Also, I'm interested to find out why the so-called Critical Text is so popular, when the Majority Text is supposed to contain a much wider sample size of manuscripts, and thus theoretically should be a more reliable manuscript base from which to start a translation effort.

Fair enough question. I think the cartoonist himself keyed in on the current "cool" status that the ESV enjoys in Reformed circles. We can interpret the ESV phenomenon unfavorably, that it's just the cool thing to do. Maybe this is the case for some. And we can also interpret it favorably, in which case I think it's the preferred translation by those who want (1) an English translation that uses more contemporary English (i.e., it's not the KJV); (2) uses formal equivalence more or less (i.e., it's not the NIV); and (3) is less "wooden" than the NASB. The ESV seems to fit that bill. The Holman Christian Standard Bible might fit it, too, but my unstudied impression is that the realities of the Christian publishing world are that the ESV "beat" the HCSB. In the interest of full disclosure, whenever I do exegetical studies, I find myself siding with KJV and NASB most often. Yet my family and I have switched to the ESV because (1) it's easier to read than the NASB; and (2) I suspect Reformed circles will pick this as their translation to memorize from in years to come

As far as the popularity of the critical text, sample size, etc., the theory is this: it's not the numbers that count, but the reliability of the manuscripts. Lots of unreliable manuscripts don't make a reliable consensus, especially if the numbers all come from the same parent copy. Whether you think the manuscripts are reliable or not is another question, and very detailed. We are all faced with the existential reality that the manuscript copies differ from each other in small ways, which means that God in His providence allowed some of the copies to be wrong in some details, which means that God expects us to make an effort to sort it out.

Dave Gilbert wrote:

In the English, they don't say the same thing. WHY? Would someone please tell me how I'm supposed to memorize God's word, when the "translation-du-jour" is always changing? To top it off, each translation team is changing the English in subtle ways each and every time, it seems. Is this part of some "continuous improvement philosophy" or something?

Well, they don't use the same words. But they may or may not have the same sense. I think they do have the same essential sense in terms of what the passage is teaching.

  1. I think the participle is best understood as concessive, "Even though." Whether the translator puts "even though" into the translation or not, I think readers will most naturally read it as concessive anyway.
  2. The morphe could be philosophically loaded to talk about Jesus' essence as God...but I don't think so. I think in the context, the emphasis isn't on what Jesus essentially is, but how people saw Him. So I think "form" is a better translation than "essence."
  3. The harpagmon has the idea of a seized prize or stolen prize. I'm reluctant to translate this "robbery" because it sounds like something Jesus might have taken for Himself, but the passage emphasizes what Jesus laid aside. So I think some kind of "grasped" or "held onto" translation communicates the thought best.
  4. Incidentally, moving into the next verse,the other loaded term ekenosen is literally "emptied" or "voided," but I think the KJV does the best job of translating this, "made Himself of no reputation," because I think it captures the emphasis of the passage, as defined by the participle of means, "by taking the form of a servant." I'm not sure how well "made Himself of no reputation" speaks to a contemporary audience, but it's right on.

I think they are all justifiable translations given the range of meaning of the Greek words, and the English words available to translate them.

As far as the translation-of-the-day always changing causing difficulties memorizing...yes, this is a practical problem, especially if you've started in one and your church uses another. Every local assembly needs to figure out that question for themselves, based on their context.

As far as "continuous improvement": in 400 years, the English language has changed quite a bit, so some new translation is justified. Whether the embarrassingly rich array of English translations is warranted when some people groups have no Bible in their own lanaugage...that's a different question.

Dave Gilbert wrote:

I'll tell you what: Let's use a popular piece of literature that was originally written in Greek, such as Homer's Iliad or Odyssey... How many different ways has it ever been translated into English, and have those differing ways actually amounted to significant changes in the way it reads from one translation effort to the next? I mean, if Greek is so difficult to translate, then how many difficulties have there been in translating Homer's Odyssey into English? Let's put a translation effort done 400 years ago up against one done in the last 100 years..do they read the same?

I mean, I haven't really looked, so I'm curious. If so-called scholars can ( hypothetically ) get classic Greek literature to read nearly or exactly the same in one work, why can't they get God's word to read exactly the same? It's a fair question, so it should be an easy one to answer. Is there something I've missed as to why, during the course of my lifetime, upwards of 20 English translation efforts have been undertaken with seemingly no end in sight? Did I miss the "memo"? Does "Christendom" get a final, once-for-all English translation at some point in the future, so that I can point to it and say, "Thus saith the Lord"?

Interesting example you cite. I suspect that the translations of Homer differ far more than the Bible, not less. The reason is that the translator of Homer has to capture not just the sense, but also the mood and feel, since it's poetry. (Now Hebrew translators run into some of this in the OT, and I'm sure even prose works have a "mood" to communicate.) I asked my wife re: translations of Homer, and she's aware of some that choose one meter and some that choose another. I listened to Ian McKellan read The Odyssey as translated by Robert Fagles, and was enthralled with the language and rhythm of the translation, the alliteration, etc. How faithful it was to the Greek I couldn't say (though reviewers gave it high praise).

But you can compare side-by-side Chapman's classic translation of the Illiad with Fagles's more contemporary translation (use the look inside feature). These are separated by centuries. The fact is the English language is a moving target (as is any language). "In my father's house are many mansions" was accurate in 1611 because of the semantic domain of mansion back then; the semantic domain of "mansion" has narrowed to mean "really nice and pricey house," which no longer serves us well.

So moving on with your example of Homer...if you read any one of those translations, and someone asked you, "Have you read Homer's Illiad?" you would say "Yes," wouldn't you?

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Phil Siefkes's picture

Mr. Gilbert, I think your questions on the Philippians 2 passage would be answered if you would read chapter one of Bruce Ware's The Man Christ Jesus. Ware does a stellar job of explaining the text and leading the reader to worship. The issue is neither a translational nor textual in nature.

Discipling God's image-bearers to the glory of God.

Don Johnson's picture

M. Osborne wrote:

As far as "continuous improvement": in 400 years, the English language has changed quite a bit, so some new translation is justified. Whether the embarrassingly rich array of English translations is warranted when some people groups have no Bible in their own lanaugage...that's a different question.

On this point, it might also be helpful to note that the KJV itself has had continuous improvement through the years. In fact, in 1611, two separate editions were published that were not identical. To this day there is a minor difference between Oxford and Cambridge editions of the KJV.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dave Gilbert's picture

Gentlemen,

 

Thank you for your answers. I can see that some of you are genuinely trying to help me understand what the differences are and why there are so many translations in English in the last 100 years. I've listened to both sides of this debate over many years now, and one thing is for sure:

 

I love the Authorized and will continue seeing it as God's word until I die. I also see the very words and their meanings as far more important than some of you appear to...words and meanings being what they are, one small word change can have a drastic effect on how someone understands something. Also,there are far too many changes, subtractions and additions to the text when comparing it ( the Authorized ) to other translations done in recent years, for me to just brush things aside as being necessary for further accuracy and modernization. To me, there seems to be something deeper going on as a foundational basis for the plethora of new English works...the promise of money, perhaps?

 

Verses that popped into my head while writing this ( not sure if they are completely applicable ):

2 Corinthians 2:17: " For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. "

2 Peter 2:1-3: " But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. "

Revelation 22:18-19: " For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. "

 

I surely hope these are not applicable. At the very least, I strongly hope that the translators of Revelation in these new works are taking care not to damage THAT book. It will not be well with them when they are before the Lord. Sad

 

Thanks to all for your patience and candor,

 

Dave Gilbert.

 

 

Todd Bowditch's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Revelation 22:18-19: " For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. "

Somewhat ironic that these are some of the verses that Erasmus reverse-translated from Latin back into Greek so that he could finish the original edition of the Textus Receptus...

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

JohnBrian's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:
Also,there are far too many changes, subtractions and additions to the text when comparing it ( the Authorized ) to other translations done in recent years, for me to just brush things aside as being necessary for further accuracy and modernization. 

Your error here is that you use the KJV as the standard and compare other translations to it. Translations should be compared to the original language texts. Only then can it be determined if the translation is faulty. When all the manuscripts are compared there is no difference that places any doctrine in jeopardy and there are more extant manuscripts of the Bible than there are of any other ancient writing.

The Word has been preserved in manuscripts spread out all over the world. I say Amen to that!

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Dave,

 

An excellent read from an historic fundamentalist pastor that works through in detail some of the very issues you are bringing up here is God's Word Preserved: A Defense of Historic Separatist Definitions and Beliefs by Dr. Michael D. Sproul (2005)

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

MDLeys's picture

Long-time reader and first-time poster who would love to pose some questions relating to this “veering-slightly-off-topic” discussion …

Recently I’ve been studying some about the writing / preservation of God’s Word.  A few points have become clear which not all Christians are alert to and understand the implications of.

  1. Most Christians would agree that the preservation of Scripture is a providential rather than sovereign/miraculous process meaning that God never made the scribal experts or the old guy down the road in 100AD copying one of Paul’s letter infallible in the work that they did.
     
  2. Although there is widespread agreement (on the whole) in terms of word usage & meaning amongst the many NT manuscripts, there are many, many “errors” due to the repeated scribing processes (both intentional and unintentional)
    (BTW, I’d be interested to know if any two pieces of manuscript evidence are in complete 100% agreement with each other …
     
  3. Even if we came across the original copy of Paul’s letter to one of the churches … how would we know it was the original …
     
  4. People’s (even very well informed ones) preferences for particular Greek texts, text types, translation approaches, etc. are founded in philosophical beliefs.
    (e.g do you believe significantly fewer older manuscripts that are in less are agreement with each other are superior to many more recent but consistent manuscripts)

Anyway, what I’m getting around to this is.

Based on both a specific interpretation of passages of God’s Word, as well as the desire for absolute certainty about something as foundational as the Word of God, there are many Christians who see the necessity that God’s words (read “words”, each individual one) be preserved from generation to generation.

The points I’ve outlined above seem to contradict this in numerous ways, and the only way I can really so this being possible is that some unbroken chain of manuscripts were copied word for word time after time through the ages and are still in existence today.  I suspect that those that know the manuscript evidence well and the history of English translations would quickly point of the unlikeliness of this process, and even if it did occur, how would we know which one was “the Word of God”.

So my question is this, in the light of the above discussion, how is a Christian to understand the preservation of God’s Word through the ages, given (as some have pointed out) the numerous discrepancies in the textual evidence and the proliferation of English translations?

Very interested in others thoughts …

Rob Fall's picture

All well and good JB, but what about those of us whose Greek is not up to the job you describe?  For us, the AV 1611 is the version of record.  There are no doubt better and worse translations out there, but for many of us the AV 1611 is the starting point.

JohnBrian wrote:

 

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Also,there are far too many changes, subtractions and additions to the text when comparing it ( the Authorized ) to other translations done in recent years, for me to just brush things aside as being necessary for further accuracy and modernization. 

 

Your error here is that you use the KJV as the standard and compare other translations to it. Translations should be compared to the original language texts. Only then can it be determined if the translation is faulty. When all the manuscripts are compared there is no difference that places any doctrine in jeopardy and there are more extant manuscripts of the Bible than there are of any other ancient writing.

The Word has been preserved in manuscripts spread out all over the world. I say Amen to that!

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

MDLeys's picture

I realise that I am prolonging this thread but I'd really be interested in the understanding of others.

Many Christians I know would find it hard to understand the preservation of God's Word in the light of the points that I and others have highlighted above ...

JohnBrian's picture

Rob Fall wrote:
All well and good JB, but what about those of us whose Greek is not up to the job you describe?  For us, the AV 1611 is the version of record.  There are no doubt better and worse translations out there, but for many of us the AV 1611 is the starting point.

---

JohnBrian wrote:

---

Dave Gilbert wrote:

Also,there are far too many changes, subtractions and additions to the text when comparing it ( the Authorized ) to other translations done in recent years, for me to just brush things aside as being necessary for further accuracy and modernization.

---

Your error here is that you use the KJV as the standard and compare other translations to it. 

[TRIM]

The Word has been preserved in manuscripts spread out all over the world. I say Amen to that!

Recognizing the challenges of translating from the multiplicity of manuscripts; with the desire to make the Bible understood by the reader; rather than insisting (as Dave does) that the English words of a single translation are sacrosanct. All of us do not need to be language or manuscript authorities. We do need to recognize though that the Bible has been preserved in the MULTITUDE of manuscripts.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Dave Gilbert's picture

But the problem is, that anyone NOT familiar with the "translation debate" is not going to understand the underlying arguments with regards to which manuscripts are the basis for all the many English translations. Someone picking up a bible for the first time, and comparing it to another translation will see differences in the English. We know that God ( and by addition, God's WORD ) does not and shall not change...so why are there differences? <------People will ask, and they are ALLOWED to ask, aren't they?

 

So discussing this subject should not be such a MINEFIELD as some would have the rest of us to believe. As for my assertions, I have every right to take the oldest, most widely published English translation of God's word and USE IT AS A BASIS for any following English translations, ESPECIALLY if the words don't "jive" in the English. It's NOT about the plethora of manuscript witnesses, my problem is with the choices of 1) Their very words, and then 2) Their very manuscripts as a foundation.

 

For me, when I see a translation of God's word into English, the first thing I want to know is, what Text are they using as their basis? If it's the CT, then out the window it goes, because as far as I know, the CT is based on two major manuscripts and a smattering of uncials and papyruses, which amounts to roughly 1% of all the extant ( existing ) ones. True, each subsequent revision of Nestle / Aland's USB Greek is getting better ( it seems, or so I'm told ) but it is still based on Westcott and Hort's original Greek Text, isn't it? Which IS the CT. So, in the manuscript / text department, why are the translators NOT using the Majority Text? By the way, the ONLY current English translation, to my knowledge, that uses the MT, is Young's Literal...and virtually nobody that I have ever heard of actually uses it! This is part of why I "defaulted" to the KJV.

 

My stand is on the KJV ( Authorized ) simply because:

 

1) It has existed for the last 400 years AS God's word in English. <----Alongside others, but for 250+ years it was virtually alone in popularity.

2) Its faithfulness to the Received Text, which is all they had at the time of its translation.

3) God's usage of it for at least 250 years without another major translation supplanting it. <------Historical blessing of God?

4) The KJV's underlying Received Text's agreeability with the Majority Text of Hodges and Farstad, compared to the Critical Text's accuracy when compared to the Majority. ( As you can see, the more I learn about this subject, the more I add on "qualifiers" as to why I'm convinced that the KJV is the one for me ).

 

The very real problem is, that when all is said and done, there ARE differences in the words...differences that can and often DO lead to misunderstandings. These misunderstandings may be "small" to someone's initial way of thinking, but when a person's thinking is based on EVERY WORD OF GOD, it can become major....OK?

 

Finally, something you said above picques my interest: " with the desire to make the Bible understood by the reader;" Is not this is the Lord's job and propriety, not something a translator should EVER have enter their heads?...simple and faithful translation of each and every word ( similar to what the Masoretes did ) should be all that is considered...which is often not the case. I've compared bible after bible after bible from the last 50 years, and one thing seems consistent: That there is very little consistency over all, to their wordings of various passages. I posted 3 of them above, just as an example.

 

Now, ( to all that apparently do not "see a problem" )...which one am I supposed to believe?...that Christ thought it not robbery ( in other words, denied that it was thievery / stealing ) to be equal with God, that Christ did not count equality with God something to be grasped ( in other words, did not consider it possible to be equal with God ), or finally, that Christ did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage ( in other words, did not consider the fact that He, being equal with God, should use the fact of that equality as an advantage )?

 

Now, ANY student of even middle school English would see the differences here, and would FAIL English Comprehension if they could not distinguish the differences between these 3 statements...and people are telling me that THIS is what God Himself intended that His children would have to deal with for the rest of their lives?

 

Until this "problem" gets sorted out, I'll stick with the oldest and best English translation currently available, thank you.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I use the KJV in my church, and when I write the occasional blog article. That being said, I find it hard to call the KJV the "best" translation. Consider this:

James 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 

James 3:4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 

Any modern reader will be a bit perplexed by the rendering. Compare it to any newer translation and see the difference for yourself. I shall use the NET (which routinely use along with the ESV for comparison purposes) as an example:

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly. 

James 3:4 Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot's inclination directs. 

I think the difference is obvious. I love and use the KJV. I find, among some fundamental Baptists, that the adoption of a newer translation may be a stumbling block. Not a problem, for that reason I'll keep the KJV and be very happy with it. But, is it the best translation in 2014? Probably not . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Dave Gilbert's picture

I said "oldest and best"...I didn't necessarily say "best"... But, to me, also "best". The reasons? I gave them above. Wink

 

Having used the KJV all my life, I already understand what words like "listeth" and "whithersoever" mean when compared to current, modern English. In fact, it has gotten to the point where I very seldom have to "translate" between Elizabethan English and today's English, because I have done it so many times. However, I'm sure that those who pick it up for the first time would want something that would be a bit easier on their mind ( and have "less of a learning curve" ) than the English used in the KJV... Smile The NKJV was supposed to fill that "gap"...wasn't it?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I know what you mean; I am so immersed in the KJV-English that I don't usually need a translator. I am honestly torn about what to do for newer Christians. I want to give them something easier than KJV, but issuing an ESV gift Bible to visitors may well cause more problems than it solves! That being said, you can't beat Christianbook.com's case of 24 KJV's for $39.99! 

Take care!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Todd Bowditch's picture

Dave, we have already addressed your concerns about the manuscripts....you yourself have admitted that you have limited knowledge. Normally a person defers to people with a better understanding of the topic. Based on our interaction on this topic, you have made it quite plain that your limited knowledge on this topic is a better basis for reasoning than the extensive study, training, education and knowledge of others. The textual theory that you espouse is limited, basic, and misleading. Read some good books on the topic.

I highly recommend the two books that James B Williams edited ( http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Word-Our-Hands-Preserved/dp/1889893870/ref=sr... ) and ( http://www.amazon.com/From-Mind-God-Man-Laymans/dp/1889893382/ref=sr_1_1... ).

The KJV is not the oldest English translation....the definition of "best" is somewhat subjective it appears. Please continue to use the KJV. You're entitled to do so and it is an accurate translation. I'm not at all concerned about that. I am concerned that your limited knowledge gives you the boldness to directly attack God's Word and make borderline blasphemous statements about it. The ESV, NASB, HCSB, NKJV, NIV and other translations are as much God's Word as the KJV. Do yourself a favor and quietly enjoy God's Word in whatever translation you prefer without further demonstrating your ignorance on these topics and your disregard for God's Word.
 

May Christ Be Magnified - Philippians 1:20 Todd Bowditch

Dave Gilbert's picture

Where on earth did you get the idea I was in any way attacking God's word?

 

Might I say, that's also quite a leap from questioning man's translation of it, to actually attacking God's word! Am I correct in saying, that if I question some group of today's learned scholars efforts to translate the manuscripts from Greek and Hebrew into English today, that I am being held in contempt? That I am being looked down upon because every "Tom, Dick and Harry" publishing house is employing their own groups of "learned scholars" to do something that's already been done...what...over a dozen times in my lifetime?

 

Then hold me in contempt, and label me as a blasphemer for asking why...The Lord knows I would not question HIS word, only man's efforts at getting it right. In my opinion, they already have, and it was completed 400 years ago. Except for variations from that English to now, there really is no reason to keep correcting it and re-translating it ad infinitum / ad nauseum...can you tell me of any that are actually legitimate?

 

Also, I did NOT say that the KJV was the oldest English translation...please re-read my posts above; Most people that are familiar with the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation know that John Wycliffe completed the work of translating from Latin into English in 1382, making it the oldest, sir. Now, I sense that you do not like me...am I correct? Sorry to be such a thorn, but all I want are some answers that make sense...not ones that support the current trend in translating and re-translating the work in perpetuity. As for deferring to others with a better understanding on the subject, I've read and listened to many on both sides with a fair bit more understanding than I have...I just happen to side with the ones who don't agree with the usage of the ( Eclectic ) Critical Text. That aside, there is still the surface issue of the actual readings of many passages in the new translations, when compared to the old ones.

 

They are fair questions, and you in particular have given me no real reason to stop asking them. I personally don't believe in a "broad road" of meanings for many passages...I believe when God says something, it doesn't change. But when I look at Philippians 2:6 it says something completely different depending on which translation one reads. When I keep digging, I also find out that Acts 8:37 is missing in most of the new translations, that 1 John 5:7 is mangled or missing, and that Mark 16:9-20 is either missing or held in doubt as to whether the Lord actually SAID it. This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

 

Still no problem??

 

Best wishes to you sir.

 

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