Thursday, February 2, 2017
A few years ago the Christian world went through a period where the “tried and true” King James Version was touted as the standard text for all others. Its value was based upon its years of existence and its popularity among the English speaking. Its wording of “thee,” “thou,” “thine,” and other 17th century usage was deified. Prayers and most songs were based upon that archaic verbiage as if it was given from heaven. Claims were attributed to the KJV which were false but accepted as truth. One of those claims was that it is a “word for word” translation from the original languages.
Actually, no translation is a “word for word” rendering of either the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. A “word for word” translation means one Greek word equals one English word. In the KJV there are several examples which show that thinking is false. In Mark 5:41, Jesus is approached by Jairus. Jesus goes to his house to heal his 12 year old daughter. When they arrive, she is dead. Jesus takes three of his apostles, with the parents, and enters the room where the body is. Jesus stated two Aramaic words. Two! They are “Talitha cumi.” Yet, the King James renders these two words into six – “Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.” That’s two words multiplied by 3! That is not word for word. It’s multiplication. The New King James Version is accepted by many King James owners as a preferable substitute. Yet, it renders those two words into seven! “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” That is two words multiplied by 3 plus 1. That is not word for word! The translations using less words are the New Revised Standard Version, the New Living Bible, the New Living Translation, and the Message with “Little girl, get up.” None of them are word for word translations! If less is better, then these modern translations did a better job of translation than the older versions!
In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the same events in the others contain descriptions that are not word for word! In fact some used different words altogether! Yet, each was inspired by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26)! For example, in Matthew 8:26, Jesus says, “You of little faith why are you so afraid?” However, Mark 4:40 states, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” There is a difference between “little faith” and “no faith.” One puts the word “afraid” after “faith,” the other switches them. If someone thinks this is only a scribal error, there are thirty-nine more. Such examples destroy the false idea that the KJV or any translation is word for word.
When Jesus spoke in Hebrew and Aramaic, with Mark giving us an illustration of that in 8:41, then the translation will not always be word for word. Sometimes a translation is more, sometimes less than the language it is being translated from. Such is necessary to make the thought understandable in the language it is being translated into. Some words in one language cannot be adequately translated with one or even two words in another. Therefore, five, six, or seven words may be necessary!
The next time someone tells you that their favorite translation is the only one that is valid because it is a word for word translation, be gentle!