The Thomas Pages homepage
Beware Inadequate Translation
— Translation requires more than just a dictionary —
There nothing in the history of any literature that even comes near the incredible degree of divine inspiration in the Bible text, letter by letter, as was originally written.
In the wonderful wisdom of God, the timing of Abraham's calling to go out from his Mesopotamian homeland to an unknown, which, after the death of his father in Haran (ancient north Syria), turns out to be Canaan/Palestine,
specifically at the time after the Canaanite civilization has invented alphabetic writing.
The northern branch of Canaanites (the Phoenicians) spread their alphabet use through their trading colonies to the Greeks, who modified it and passed on the method to the Romans, from whom our modern English alphabet is derived. The Russian Cyrillic alphabet is from a modified Greek alphabet used by the first missionaries to Eastern Europe to translate Holy Scripture.
to this development all writing was pictographic, telling a story with pictures, as is still visible in Egypt today.
The existence of our Bible required alphabetic writing to record words!
Our Bible's Old Testament was principally written in the Old Hebrew which is significantly different to modern Hebrew (based on medieval Mishnaic Hebrew), but certain passages in it are originally in the Aramaic language of the old Middle East.
Our New testament was written in the international (koine) Greek of Roman Empire times, which is very different from modern Greek.
It is
not enough to even know the original language, for it was written to real people in a specific cultural context, who would have also understood the idiomatic usage of their language.
An example of modern misunderstanding is the word often translated as "soul". It is sometimes treated in translation as though it is an entity which exists in itself, and so some have therefore mistakenly thought that the New Testament statement in First Thessalonians 5:23 –
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
" (ESV)
means that a human being is a 'trinity' and that this is what was meant when it said in Genesis One that humans were made in God's "image" – which is completely untrue.
The word "image", as used in Genesis One, means to represent God, therefore humans were given dominion over all.
New Testament word translated as "soul" is the Hellenistic Greek word ψυχή or psuchē, which simply means life and nothing more. Paul, the author of this Thessalonians letter had a Jewish cultural background, although he held dual citizenship (Roman and Jewish) as reflected in his two names. And, whereas in Greek culture of the time there was an analytical tendency (to break down an issue to its parts), the Semitic culture of the apostle Paul's background tended to synthesize their descriptions (group and overlap descriptions), hence the term "life"/soul above simply describes the effect of a human spirit in its biological body (as per Paul's Semitic background) and is not as a separate existing entity from the human spirit.
meaning of biological "life" for this term is clearly demonstrated and proven for us in Revelation 16:3 of the coming world-judgment with reference to the widespread death of fishes in the sea, etc... –
"And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea;
and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.
" (KJV)
In our modern English culture the term soul has tended to be used for the human spirit which has helped the misunderstanding.
There are some other mistranslations which have seriously misled Christian understanding worldwide, such as:
Genesis 6:3 of the word yadûn 
as 'strive', when it really means to protect*, which led to a misunderstanding of
the natural cause of the world Flood of Noah.
Daniel 9:27 of the word gâbar
 as 'make', when it can only mean to confirm, which led to this prophecy of the
public ministry and atonement of Jesus the Christ of God being seen foolishly
as a prophecy of the future Antichrist.

*From a natural threat
(probably a close-passing
comet which caused a
global tsunami).
Revelation 1:20, the word ἄγγελος, translated as 'angels', actually means messengers within its context. The seven messengers are shown as seven stars held in the right hand of Jesus as part of the reassurance of their safety to the seven congregations (the seven golden lamp-stands) that their messengers sent to visit the apostle John on the island prison of Patmos, by whom the letters to the seven congregations would be taken to them, would be safe in Christ's care in putting themselves at risk through their visit to that Roman prison,
term which has received inadequate attention in the Church's thinking as expressed in its translations of Holy Scripture is the phrase απ αρτι in Matthew 26:64, in which Jesus, facing public crucifixion after His humiliation and interrogation concerning His claim to be Israel's Messiah, addresses Israel's high-priest concerning his official priestly representative capacity ("you") that "from now on..."
"You have said so (concerning Jesus being Messiah). But I tell you, from now on... you
will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
In other words, His public humiliation at their hands is the turning point in human history in which He will then become the executive of the power of God (right hand) which culminates in His public second coming to Israel in glory.
The phrase "Son of God" is an Old Testament title of Israel's Messiah (Psalm 2:7) and has nothing at all to do with the trinity doctrine.
accuracy of Holy Scripture is such that it is even greater than the rules of grammar in which that particular revelation is given.
For instance, in Revelation 1:8 the sentence translated as –
"I am the Alpha and the Omega", says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
is ungrammatical in its original language. Strictly speaking the text should have been grammatically "who was and will be" but that would have implied change on the part of God, which is not true. So, the Spirit of God through the apostle John deliberately violates the Greek grammar to give us the accurate "who is to come" rather than the more grammatical 'will be' (which would imply change on the part of God).
The inspiration
of Holy Scripture
transcends language!
as important as it is to understand terms and expressions as understood by the people to whom the text was originally written, it must not be thought that the inspiration of Holy Scripture is in any way 'limited' by the level of understanding of its first readers, such as when teachers/preachers explain the water above the atmosphere as merely being rain, as per the Second Day of the six of creation in Genesis One's description of the creation of earth's atmosphere.
That is a serious error of perspective concerning the inspiration of Scripture.
The water above the atmosphere, which collapsed to earth in the first 40-days of Noah's 370-day Flood was a distinct situation very unlike anything in our present world. As a consequence, the loss of that protective layer above the atmopsphere from the cosmic radiation of our galaxy reduced human longevity by about 52% after the Flood. Today, for the same protective reason against cosmic radiation the astronauts in the international space station line their sleeping quarters with plastic bottles of water.
'Probable Cause'
Example of Mistranslation
So remember: the inspiration of Holy Scripture was NOT limited to the 'intellectual level' of its first readers, even if it uses the terminology and idioms of their particular time.
An adequate translation requires not only a thorough knowledge of the culture of the time in which it was written but also of
the historical context within which its first readers lived.
For God is a
good communicator!
The Bible is utterly unparalleled in its level of inspiration and deserves unique treatment in the level of accuracy when translated into the language of any particular cultural group.

See: Her Heart's Unknowing
A short poem in metaphor of the unique relation between Christ and those who are His by His merit
Bias in Bible Translation SEE ALSO Understanding the Bible

Return to Church Life Issues menu
Copyright © Lloyd Thomas 2017. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included.