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I am reading a book on exegesis and hermeneutics. It explains the choices that translators make in their decision to translate a certain way. I have not, up to this point, given it a great deal of thought.

So, in your opinion - WHAT IS THE BEST TRANSLATION -AND - MORE IMPORTANTLY - WHY?

Tags: bibliology, translations

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Bravo James!

During the Renaissance-Reformation period the increased emphasis on the authority of the scriptures prompted men to translate them into the languages spoken by common people.  The effort begins with Erasmus who gathers a collection of late Byzantine Greek texts to support his Latin Translation.  Erasmus writes: "But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep."  This Greek text goes through a number of "editions" and eventually becomes our Textus Receptus. In an effort to make the best translation they could they did not merely translate the Latin Vulgate, but they sought out manuscripts in the original languages.  Unfortunately there were very few of these available -- in the case of the so-called Textus Receptus, there were six manuscripts all of which were incomplete ( the "holes" being filled in from the Vulgate).  We now know that these six manuscripts differ in about two thousand instances from the standard form of this text family.  That is to say, they were not even the best examples of their text family. 

Subsequently, a number of older texts have been discovered which have allowed us to begin to understand the history of the transmission of the texts.  As a result there has been an attempt to establish a standard Greek text which is supposed to be as close to the original as we can make it given our current resources.  It is that text that becomes the basis for most modern translations.

I don't understand why some Christians insist on demonizing the efforts of persons who devote their life and energy to establishing the most accurate text.  This isn't a massive Satanic plot to overthrow the Gospel, but it arises for the most part out of a love for the truth.  These persons are doing the same task as the Reformation translators (providing the best possible translation) but they have many more and much better texts to work from.

So perhaps the original question in this discussion should include "translation of what?".  Of six incomplete and defective late Byzantine manuscripts?

So if we really want to keep "study to show thyself approved" (I've always liked that verse) then one should do as the text says.  I think studying is an appropriate extension of "being diligent" (a more exact translation), and above all things I should like to hear the Boss say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Colby, read the whole thread. If you do not agree that the KJV-only discussion immediately prior to my quoted post below is “nonsense,” then I will apologize for to you personally.

Colby Chase said:

E.A. Long: You raised a good question, one worthy of discussion, and I think we can all benefit from sharing our thoughts about the various English language translations of the Bible that are available today as well as the different approaches to translation that they employ (i.e., literal/word-for-word or dynamic equivalence/thought-for-thought).  There are so many modern translations available that I find such a discussion helpful.  Thank you for asking the question.

E. A. Long said:

I won't take, "We’ve gone from vigorous discussions of things like, 'What is the Church,' to this nonsense," personally, James. I do not understand why my question is of so little importance. But I actually appreciated your elaboration on the question of translations.

James Gibbons said:

Man! This discussion is just making me sad. We’ve gone from vigorous discussions of things like, “What is the Church,” to this nonsense.

Thanks Robert.

Can elohim be translated "judges"? Five times--rather idioscratically--the KJV does render it "judge" Exod. 21:6, Exod. 22:8-9 (3 instances), 1 Sam 2:25. Of course the KJVOs will tell us by this that the KJV here is right and others wrong. Perhaps they will be cheered by the fact that even the NASB and NIV follow suit in the four Exodus instances, though not in the 1 Samuel one. Frankly, it is hard to see here how a sense of "judge" is justified. Maybe there is extrabiblical usage to support this.

Unless it is somehow based on Ps. 82:2, 6. However, there it clearly means "gods." Or at least the sense "god" as opposed to "judge" is highly emphasized. If it meant "judges," then the text would be saying "I said you are judges." Which would be pointless and would make Jesus' words in John 10:34 nonsensical. Ps. 82 is using the word in a striking way, to be sure.

The word means divine beings, i.e. gods, and when in reference to YHWH the plural form is used with a singular verb to indicate the true God.

 

Thus it can refer to mythological entities, such as Baal (behind which we understand is a demon) as well as the real Supreme Being YHWH.

 

It's use in Ps. 8 is a crux interpretum. I am not sure we have really well established reasons for understanding elohim to have a sense of "angel." Ps. 8 is the only instance in the OT where this is done (by the KJV, i.e. the basis for Strong's list).

 

Of course, this is largely due to the NT citation in Heb. 2:7-9 which is unquestionably the Greek angeloi.

 

This reflects the LXX rendering. Frankly, I am not sure that the LXX actually understood elohim here to refer to angels, or interpretively rendered it in terms of the angels rather than God, because the latter was so striking. Well, difficult to know, but it is clear what Heb. 2 says anyway.


Whether Ps 8 ought to follow Hebrews 2, in turn following the LXX is a very significant translation problem. It is not at all clear that the KJV translators make the right decision here.

 

As for possible misuses of the text, teaching a new-agey heresy that we are "little gods," false teachers are relentless. We ought to translate the clearest and more accurate way possible however, even if someone can misuse the translation. Nothing is fool proof, because fools are quite ingenious.
Danny Feliciano said:

Any thoughts on the post below? 

Danny Feliciano said:

Here's another can of worms... NASB, NLT, HCSB and a few others that are simple english reading Bibles translates Psalm 8:5 differently and is the reason I believe why many teachers have taught and continue to teach today the heresy that we are little Gods or little gods...

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. KJV

Yet You have made him a little lower than God, 
And You crown him with glory and majesty! NASB

Yet you made them only a little lower than God 
      and crowned them with glory and honor. NLT

You made him little less than God 
and crowned him with glory and honor. HCSB

Elohim can be translated God, gods, angels, judges etc. and in context with the entire psalm it should be translated angels. In fact Hebrews 2:7 backs this up. It is funny though to see how the above mentioned versions translate psalm 8:5 using lower than God but when you turn to Hebrews 2:7 in that version it has it as psalm 8 saying lower than angels... hmmm? This is why I say study and diligently compare.

Also, of course the Latin Vulgate translates it "angels." Make what you will of the KJV following it.

Marv said:

Can elohim be translated "judges"? Five times--rather idioscratically--the KJV does render it "judge" Exod. 21:6, Exod. 22:8-9 (3 instances), 1 Sam 2:25. Of course the KJVOs will tell us by this that the KJV here is right and others wrong. Perhaps they will be cheered by the fact that even the NASB and NIV follow suit in the four Exodus instances, though not in the 1 Samuel one. Frankly, it is hard to see here how a sense of "judge" is justified. Maybe there is extrabiblical usage to support this.

Unless it is somehow based on Ps. 82:2, 6. However, there it clearly means "gods." Or at least the sense "god" as opposed to "judge" is highly emphasized. If it meant "judges," then the text would be saying "I said you are judges." Which would be pointless and would make Jesus' words in John 10:34 nonsensical. Ps. 82 is using the word in a striking way, to be sure.

The word means divine beings, i.e. gods, and when in reference to YHWH the plural form is used with a singular verb to indicate the true God.

 

Thus it can refer to mythological entities, such as Baal (behind which we understand is a demon) as well as the real Supreme Being YHWH.

 

It's use in Ps. 8 is a crux interpretum. I am not sure we have really well established reasons for understanding elohim to have a sense of "angel." Ps. 8 is the only instance in the OT where this is done (by the KJV, i.e. the basis for Strong's list).

 

Of course, this is largely due to the NT citation in Heb. 2:7-9 which is unquestionably the Greek angeloi.

 

This reflects the LXX rendering. Frankly, I am not sure that the LXX actually understood elohim here to refer to angels, or interpretively rendered it in terms of the angels rather than God, because the latter was so striking. Well, difficult to know, but it is clear what Heb. 2 says anyway.


Whether Ps 8 ought to follow Hebrews 2, in turn following the LXX is a very significant translation problem. It is not at all clear that the KJV translators make the right decision here.

 

As for possible misuses of the text, teaching a new-agey heresy that we are "little gods," false teachers are relentless. We ought to translate the clearest and more accurate way possible however, even if someone can misuse the translation. Nothing is fool proof, because fools are quite ingenious.
Danny Feliciano said:

Any thoughts on the post below? 

Danny Feliciano said:

Here's another can of worms... NASB, NLT, HCSB and a few others that are simple english reading Bibles translates Psalm 8:5 differently and is the reason I believe why many teachers have taught and continue to teach today the heresy that we are little Gods or little gods...

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. KJV

Yet You have made him a little lower than God, 
And You crown him with glory and majesty! NASB

Yet you made them only a little lower than God 
      and crowned them with glory and honor. NLT

You made him little less than God 
and crowned him with glory and honor. HCSB

Elohim can be translated God, gods, angels, judges etc. and in context with the entire psalm it should be translated angels. In fact Hebrews 2:7 backs this up. It is funny though to see how the above mentioned versions translate psalm 8:5 using lower than God but when you turn to Hebrews 2:7 in that version it has it as psalm 8 saying lower than angels... hmmm? This is why I say study and diligently compare.

As I see it, the Hebrew of the Old Testament is much more problematic than New Testament Greek because we have very few examples of ancient Hebrew aside from the scriptural text itself.  When I am puzzled by a New Testament Greek usage I can look at secular Greek authors to see how they use the word, but in the case of the Old Testament there is not that body of independent literature to help us. 

Some scholars like Dahood in his Anchor Bible commentary of the Psalms uses Ugaritic to shed some light on meaning, while other scholars like my friend James R. Black, use contemporary Egyptian sources.  From my standpoint this work is very interesting, but to fairly judge it would require a competency in languages that I do not possess.  

It seems to me that at this point the discussion is working on several questions:

How do we decide what will be the standard text of the Scriptures?

Once we have decided on a standard text of the Scriptures to translate, which translation is best?

What does it mean for a translation to be "best"?

There are also a number of puzzles in the text itself where we know the correct words, but we are not entirely sure what they ought to mean in a particular context -- like the "Elohim" stuff.

I have a question for you, Bit.  Have you ever studied and learned Greek or Hebrew?  Have you ever done any translation work?  Have you ever had YOUR words translated in some other country/culture?  Do you know anyone who has actually translated the Bible into a different language?  I can say yes to ALL of these (to one degree or another).  I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't have an opinion unless you have, but I think these kinds of experience DO change your view on the translation process.  I know it did mine.

And, BTW, to answer your question, the reason why there are so many versions is because (1) the language changes over time, (2) the scholarship increases over time, and (3) the focus on the translation (word for word or thought for thought or whatever) differs from one translation to another.  So if you have access to translations in your era of language usage and have multiple translations (some that tell you what was said and others what was meant), you are better prepared to know all that was in the original text.  Multiple translations don't contribute to confusion, they contribute to clarity.

Great point, Marv.  Entire cults have been built on misunderstanding the KJV.  Revision into modern language should not be seen as a bad thing.  KJV itself did it.  And as the translator notes state, they expected that process to continue.

Marv said:

See what I have long said the most significant problem regarding the KJV is is not that people get no meaning from an unfamiliar word (there are dictionaries), but that peole get the WRONG meaning from a familar word.

 

Bit has given us one of the best examples. "Study" today means hitting the books. It's archaic sense was "diligent effort." Nothing to do with books, learning, memorization, lessons. (Of course you may be dillegent at your lessons, and thus in four hundred years the word has taken on that specific sense). But the Greek word spoudazo has nothing of the "learning" sense, only "dilligent effort."  Thus the KJV translators did very well to render this word with the 17th century English equivalent study.

 

So the translation is good here, but it is apparently not so good for speakers of a different English dialect, even KJV advocates, such as Brit, who manifestly misunderstands here the very translation he so eagerly endorses.

 

Also Brit shows us he doesn't understand the 17th century dialect of English at 1 John 4:1.

 

KJV says: "because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

NASB says: "because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

 

He laments the "difference" saying that the KJV has "present tense" and the NASB "past tense."

 

But this is completely false. Both are in the present perfect tense (reflecting the underlying Greek perfect). The English dialect in which the KJV was written formed the perfect of go as "are gone." Today we form it "have gone." The two translations are precisely identical in form and very readily render the underlying Greek.

 

Those of us who appreciate the KJV but understand that it poses unnecessary challenges to the 21st century English speaker apparently need look no further than the very persons who advocate the KJV to demonstrate the barrier that the language differences impose to the modern reader. Those of you who adamantly hold to the KJV, should at least know that version and the language in which it is written well enough not to fall into such basic errors.

 

Bit Brush said:

For example in 2 Tim 2:15, the NASB removes the word "study" and replaces it with the concept of being diligent to be approved by God. Study is direction on an activity to be diligent at.

 

1 John 1 teaches the concept on how to test the spirits to see from where they come. The KJV uses the present tense "is" where the NASB uses the past tense "has." Subtle but significant.

KJV ads an entire clause to Romans 8, and then repeats that clause later, where the source text actually puts it.

KJV ads an entire CONCEPT to 1 John 5

KJV chooses NOT to translate the word “submerge,” but rather transliterates it “baptize,” and does this throughout.

KJV chooses NOT to translate the word shepherd, when applied to an overseer with particular gifting, but transliterates it “pastor.”

In at least one place, KJV translates the same word three different ways within the same passage, not for any reason other than poetic tone (as nearly as I can tell).

WOW! Must be of Satan. Or maybe Satin (for you, char). How can anyone trust this slip-shod mess of a translation!?!?

Bit, el diablo sent you here to corrupt and deceive us, didn’t he?

A word of consolation to Bit.  One does not have to be a biblical scholar to be a good Christian.  If one simply obeys the words of Jesus in almost any translation out there then I think you will do just fine.  (I can tell you at the outset, by my wife's prompting, that obeying the words of Jesus is a much more formidable task than learning ancient languages.) 

The difficulty that I keep running into arises when people, particularly some evangelicals, get all puffed up with themselves and suppose they have some secret insight into the text.  Pursuing the truth is the surest road to humility that I have found.  To do that you need other Christians who are on that same road.  Fortunately I have a good friend who is my better in Hebrew and competent to challenge my Greek -- who will call my bluff when I am going too far beyond the text and wandering from fact to fantasy. 

When I read the Bible in a devotional mode I almost never use an edition bloated with "notes" or "helps" because it detracts from the beauty and openness of the text itself.  If you have a question about a particular text during devotional reading, write it down for later consideration and go on reading -- maybe the answer is in the next verse.  Reading the Bible is the surest way I have found to learn to recognize God's Spirit -- and those things in myself that pretend to be God's Spirit and are not. 

sweet!

Robert Atwood said:

A word of consolation to Bit.  One does not have to be a biblical scholar to be a good Christian.  If one simply obeys the words of Jesus in almost any translation out there then I think you will do just fine.  (I can tell you at the outset, by my wife's prompting, that obeying the words of Jesus is a much more formidable task than learning ancient languages.) 

The difficulty that I keep running into arises when people, particularly some evangelicals, get all puffed up with themselves and suppose they have some secret insight into the text.  Pursuing the truth is the surest road to humility that I have found.  To do that you need other Christians who are on that same road.  Fortunately I have a good friend who is my better in Hebrew and competent to challenge my Greek -- who will call my bluff when I am going too far beyond the text and wandering from fact to fantasy. 

When I read the Bible in a devotional mode I almost never use an edition bloated with "notes" or "helps" because it detracts from the beauty and openness of the text itself.  If you have a question about a particular text during devotional reading, write it down for later consideration and go on reading -- maybe the answer is in the next verse.  Reading the Bible is the surest way I have found to learn to recognize God's Spirit -- and those things in myself that pretend to be God's Spirit and are not. 

First off, you ain't seen a cult like what's going to appear. Second off, has our language changed so radically since the 1970's to justify all the versions we have?

Daniel said:

Great point, Marv.  Entire cults have been built on misunderstanding the KJV.  Revision into modern language should not be seen as a bad thing.  KJV itself did it.  And as the translator notes state, they expected that process to continue.

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