By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Boise, ID. March 14, 2004)
Translation is usually quite easy and a straight-forward matter. Most wording in the New Testament scriptures lends itself to a literal word-for-word rendering. But there are exceptions. Sometimes the Greek is almost un-translatable. So the translators attempt to give the sense. That is wherein the danger of interpretation enters.
Scholars are men who must set aside all politics, fear of men, and preconceived ideas and set forth the word of God faithfully and honestly, rendering what the words actually say. But sometimes our culture or bias is just too great, or our doctrinal commitments are too powerful for us to render certain words in a manner that flies in the face of what we, or our institutions hold as an established matter of doctrinal faith. So there are instances in every translation where we can catch our, oh so scholarly translators with their bias showing. Some examples that we are familiar with are, for instance:
I ) Sarx
The NIV translating the word sarx, "sarx", in Rom.8, as "our sinful nature", instead of the term "flesh", which is what it means and which every other translation in history so rendered it, so as to make the NIV translator' bias toward Calvinism not only evident but blatant "on the stage with the spotlights glaring" - exposed.
So instead of a translation, or exegesis, where we get out of the text what is already there, we have an interpretation, or an "eisegesis", where what the translators believed already is put into the text.
II ) Baptism
Another example is where most translations render the word baptisma, (baptisma) as baptism. This is not even a translation but a refusal to translate. Why?
Latin, and a Roman-Celtic dialect was spoken in Europe and Britain in the first century. Around AD 157, the Old Latin Version was translated from the Greek. When the Latin transliteration of the koine (common) Greek word (baptisma) was introduced into the west, it meant to immerse. Why it was transliterated, I don't know. Latin has "immersus" that would have served well as a translation. But the word "baptism" lent, I suspect, a mysterious connotation of a powerful religious ceremony. So, of course it became corrupted in practice into pouring and sprinkling. Whether the transliteration caused the corruption or was so rendered to serve its corruption, I don't know. But today translators have no excuse. When the denominational pastors and priests say, "baptism", they are speaking Greek and the common people are left without any understanding. And as a result, no one gets immersed for the remission of their sins.
III ) Church
The word "church" is Anglo Saxon and is based on the Greek word kurioV, (kurios) lord, which gives us "kuriakon", (a lord's house, or a god's temple), then it became "kirk" (god's house), then "circe", then "circh", then "church". These were holy buildings or temples.
When the Catholics evangelized Europe, one of their short-cuts was to take over existing cults and "christianize" them. Thus many pagan temples were converted into "cirches", retaining the original word.
Wickcliffe, in 1380, used the word in his translation. Tyndale (1526) knowing that the real Greek word, ekklesia (ekklesia), meant, not a building, but the people, rendered it as "congregation". The King James translators (1611) retained "church" even though they knew better. In Acts 19, they translate the same word as "assembly" three times for a town meeting - but still retained the word "church" for a meeting of Christians.
IV ) Mello
The fourth term that I would like to look at is mellw (mello), found 107 times in the NT scriptures.
A.) Defined by Thayer, Greek - English Lexicon of the New Testament.
Prim. "to be about to do anything", used
1. of things that are future, things to come
2. to be on the point of doing (about to)
3. to intend, have in mind
4. of those things which will come to pass, by fixed necessity or divine appointment, (are to be, destined to be)
5. In general, of what is sure to happen
6. to be on the point of doing without ever doing (delay, Acts 22:16 only)
B.) Where mello is translated simply and literally by the NKJV.
These are a sampling.
12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.
22 Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men..
But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"
31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
44 "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."
After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.
And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.
And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.
And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you."
Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?" He replied, "Can you speak Greek?
And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing.
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them."
However, none of these texts are prophetic in nature.
C.) Now we'll look at texts where the bias of the translator's of the NKJV starts showing.
These are a sampling.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will (is about to) seek the young child to destroy him."
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath (about) to come?
About to come because we understand that John is talking about the wrath that came on the Jews to the uttermost in the destruction of their temple, capital city and nation. (1Thess.3:16)
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age (about) to come.
"Age about to come", we can understand because the Apostles talk about the end of the ages in the first century. (1Cor.10:11)
Mt.16:27 <> 17:12, 22
16:27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
17:12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands."
17:22 Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men,
These are the same words translated simply and literally when what is about to happen can be conceived of happening shortly, but when it cannot be so conceived, then they give the nebulous reference to a vague future, instead of the simple and literal rendering.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Again, a vague future reference used when Mt.24 cannot be accepted as having reference to the very near destruction of Jerusalem but instead believe it is referring to the end of the world.
Lk.21:7, 36, 32
7 So they asked him, saying, "Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?"
36Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.
Verse 7 is simple and literal when the fulfillment can still be the vague future. But verse 36 is translated vaguely again because they cannot accept verse 32.
D.) Could the writers talk about the vague future without using the word mello?
Yes. Look at 1Thess.1:10 "wrath to come" or "coming wrath".
E.) Well, is their bias justified?
Are there no references to Jesus coming soon? Yes, there are.
Jesus himself taught that his coming to judge the world would take place at a very early date. This was without using the word mello.
1.) Mt.16:26-28 To many people, it was to be in their lifetime.
26For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each according to his works.
Jesus Transfigured on the Mount
28 Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
Notice here how Nelson Publishing company purposely interrupted Jesus with their biased subject heading, attempting to suggesting that verse 28 has nothing to do with the previous two sentences. If they cannot inject their bias into the translation they will do so by their format.
2.) Jno.21:23 It would be before the apostle John's death.
Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?"
3.) Mt.10:23 It would be before the Apostles' work would be finished.
When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
4.) Mt.24:29-31 It would be immediately after the destruction of the Jewish capital.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
F.) The Apostles confidently entertained this expectation on the authority of Jesus. All without the word mello.
11Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
Rev.22:7, 10, 12
7 "Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
10 And he said to me, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.
12 "And behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every one according to his work.
G.) To Christians in the first century, there was something exciting about to happen, something wonderful. Notice my literal translation of the word mello.
... and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age (about) to come,
For the law, having a shadow of the good things (about) to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one (about) to come.
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will (is about to) be revealed...
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall (is about to) be revealed in us.
It could very well be that what they expected in the first century did indeed happen in their lifetime and is still our inheritance today - which we do not understand or enjoy because we believe it has not yet come to pass or been fulfilled. But there is ample evidence from the Lord and those who heard him, that all that he promised then, has been fulfilled and we can now appreciate the results in his eternal kingdom.
~ Invitation ~