Advocating Minor Translation Tweaks To Major Portions Of The Bible

Translation is not just technical work. It is an art form, filled with nuance, personality, preference, unique flavor, and subtlety.

For instance, when one word in a given source language has more than one meaning (usually based on context), the translator has to make a choice. Ultimately, whatever is decided determines the accuracy, supremacy, and poignancy of the translated text (e.g. consider the Spanish word adoración. As a cognate, it appears to mean adoration in English. And it does. But actually, within a religious context, adoración means worship. So which word should be used in the target language? Each word suggests something slightly different, and depending on the choice made by the translator, the impact upon the reader will vary, perhaps greatly).

Translating the Bible is no different. Currently, there are thousands of different translations. Bible translation is an ancient practice, going back to at least the Septuagint 150 years (or more) before the birth of Jesus Christ.

So, with this in mind, it may seem that another translation borders on overboard. Isn’t the market saturated, as the saying goes?

Well, yes, perhaps. But, be mindful: each translation is something new, unique, and may, in the right hands, do wonders to renew the sense of awe and love one has for the Word of God.

Some changes are drastic. These are mostly unfortunate. They cause controversy and division (and are essentially paraphrases, not translations). This is not what I have in mind. Some translations are overly verbose or attempt too many dramatic flourishes, as if the translator thinks to add their personal commentary to make the Bible a book more worth reading (this lends itself to private interpretation). I am not advocating this, either.

But I am advocating some slight variations, which, when compared to the source language, in some ways will be more accurate. And in other ways, the ideas I intend to share from here on out (just a survey, not exhaustive) may resound with the reader and change their perspective of the texts in a positive, uplifting, faith affirming way. Or so I hope.

So, without further ado, my survey of changes I would make IF I were commissioned to write a new translation of the Bible (Note: I am currently limiting the scope to the New Testament only).

CHANGE #1

Gospel.

Gospel is an old English word dating back from before the 9th century A.D. It is a compound word, made up of two parts: god + spell. Note, however, that when you see the word god you should not think God, as in the Deity. Rather, it’s pronounced like good, and is actually the root derivation of the word. The same with spell. Don’t think spell, as in to arrange letters to make a word. It actually means news or tidings.

As such, it would seem that gospel, as it’s come down to us, is an excellent, literal translation of the Greek word euaggelion. And it is! So why make a change? For a few reasons.

1.) Gospel is an antiquated word with less literal force than it once held. Now, when one sees the word gospel, they don’t think good tidings. It just means Gospel, and that means 10,000 different things to 10,000 different people. Ask the average person what the word Gospel means, and if they aren’t a Christian, the chances of them knowing are pretty slim. Therefore, I advocate a change to this word to bring back the power of the original meaning of euaggelion, the Greek source word of the New Testament.

2.) As a noun, gospel is now a catch all word that is used to refer to whatever the speaker or writer wants. It sometimes is used to include the entirety of the Bible. But this should not be so. The Gospel has a much defined, even narrow reference in the Scriptures. There are massive portions of God’s Word that don’t necessarily relate to what we mean when we say or think gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 teaches us that THE Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what that means for those who obey (And for those who disobey? See 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

So how does the number of animals offered by each tribe to dedicate the Tabernacle (See Number 7) or the nine chapters of genealogies as found in 1 Chronicles relate? Tenuously, at best. We might say such offerings point typologically to the Ultimate Sacrifice on the cross or that the genealogies eventually lead us to the history of the Messiah’s ancestors, but that’s about it. Doesn’t mean those chapters aren’t the Word of God, though. Other examples abound. God’s wrath, condemnation, demonic possession, the second death, eternal death, etc. are not good tidings in and of themselves, either. Rather, the good tidings, i.e. the Gospel is the good news that these can be avoided through the Son of God’s atonement at Calvary. Related? Yes. But not “gospel”. And yet, still God’s Word, right?

3.) The word gospel has lost any sentimental ring to it. When one thinks gospel, does one automatically tear up as they think about what God did for them to provide salvation? Perhaps some do. But I submit that it’s become a use-word, a mere tool that, through the using, has become too common/normative, and therefore has lost almost all emotional impact on the world, and even the church. Consider: even certain kinds of so-called Christian music is called gospel, even if none of the songs sung have to do with Jesus dying, being buried, or resurrecting from the dead. See what I mean? It’s now just a bland noun used generally to describe whatever, instead of being a concept with power used specifically to relate to how souls are saved by God in Christ.

So what’s my suggested replacement? How would I translate euaggelion? Simple: benevolent message.

Benevolent is a more than adequate synonym for good (Greek eu-), and actually implies that not only is the message good, it’s actually willed by God to be so, since benevolent literally means to wish or will good for or to someone. Certainly it is the will of God that no one perish, and to achieve that end, God foreordained the Gospel as the means whereby that will can be accomplished. So, it’s obvious that the Gospel, as we think of it, including the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is truly a benevolent message. It inspires hope, peace, spiritual rest, and the desire for eternal life in heaven with the Creator. And the word benevolent inhabits that inspiration.

Secondly, regarding message. The word which we speak and preach really is a message. Yes, it is news, it is tidings, but in reality, in greater detail, what we share regarding the Gospel is a message from God to humanity, a message of love and hope for a better tomorrow, if not also a better today. It’s not just box scores from the national newspaper. It’s not supposed to be relegated to the Headline News clicker at the bottom of the screen, even if what’s there is considered good news. It’s the ultimate message of the ages. In Revelation 14:6 this benevolent message is called the “everlasting gospel”. So let’s put power into the word and re-translate it.

Finally, the –aggelion portion of the compound word is derived from the root aggelos, which is the equivalent of our word angel, and means messenger. What does a messenger do? Relays a message!

CHANGE #2

Jesus.

Please don’t panic. I call upon and pray to God in the name of Jesus daily. But let’s admit it. It’s not really His name. Jesus is the modern English equivalent (the letter “J” didn’t exist in English until the 16th century) of the Latinized version of the Greek version of the Aramaic version of the Hebrew name Y’hoshu-a. No, I’m not going Sacred Name (though the presence of the first syllable of the Tetragrammaton in the Lord’s name is too important to overlook). That’s not what this is about. Rather, I only submit that a person is known by his or her name.  If your name is James and I call you Jacob, would you appreciate it and be okay with it, even though I’m not addressing you by the name given to you by your parents? If not why not? After all James is the Anglicized version of the Greek name Iago, which is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Ya’akov, who is better known to us as the patriarch Jacob. It’s the same name, isn’t it? So why can’t I call you Jacob if your name is James?

For the same reason we perhaps shouldn’t be calling Yeshua Jesus. It removes His Hebrew descent, His Aramaic linguistic heritage and makes the Christ look and seem too much like the Western archetype of the blue eyed, blonde-haired hero instead of the humble stone mason from a little Jewish village near the Sea of Galilee. Not to mention His parents (God the Father and Miriam *wink-wink*) gave Him that name.

And that brings me to my next one.

CHANGE #3

Christ. Christ is a perfect word. Yet I advocate change. Why? Christ is actually just a calque, or loan translation. That is, it’s a borrow word from Greek. But the Greek word is not pronounced the way we say it. It’s not supposed to be said with a long i sound. Rather it’s said with a short i sound, like the name Christopher. So we don’t even say it correctly. That’s one strike against it.

Secondly, Christ is not only a borrow word from Greek, but is also an accurate translation of the Hebrew word maschiach. But what does maschiach mean? What does Christ mean, for that matter?

We know WHO the Christ or Maschiach (from whence we get the word Messiah) is, but do we know WHAT the Christ or Maschiach is?

That meaning is often lost to most, even to church folk. So, for the lack of meaning, I suggest we make a change. Where the Greek manuscripts have christos, I submit we translate it to The Anointed or The Anointed One.

The words Christ, Messiah, and/or mashiach all mean to be anointed, i.e. to be smeared with oil. When we read of someone being anointed, especially in the Old Testament (such as a priest, a king, or etc.), we see it suggests God’s special choosing of that person, His equipping of that person for a special commission that no one else but that chosen individual can accomplish. The Lord Jesus, as God’s “Beloved Son”, is the especially chosen, equipped, and commissioned Savior of the World. No one else but Yeshua can fulfill that role.

Lastly, since we are called Christians, a vague catch-all used by over 2 billion people, the vast majority of whom are not saved (and so, nothing much like Christ) and since to be like Christ means to have the same anointing as He did (Compare to Acts 10:38 and 1 John 2:27), it incorrectly allows people the world over to call themselves something that they are not.

But only a select few in this world have the right to be called the Anointed Ones (the real meaning of the word Christian). And changing the translation to reflect that would do wonders to separate God’s Sheep from Satan’s goats.

Hence, why I recommend a change.

Now then, since this is only a survey and not exhaustive, I’m going to end here. While there may be other words that need renewing, I’ve singled out the ones that matter most to me, the three that have the most import to our faith. You may disagree or may not. That’s fine. I’m not being overly dogmatic about any of this. These are suggestions only based in personal ruminations. I’m not re-writing anyone’s Bible. But for the sake of clarity, this I will do:

The following is a list of some key verses that demonstrate the changes I’ve advocated. They are all based on the King James Version. As mentioned, they are all accurate and reliable changes to the text, so I’m not adding to or taking from the Word. Let them serve as illustrations of this post, to help point out what I’m after. If after reading them, they don’t persuade you of my case, then, well, I tried my best!

Mark 1:1,

1. The beginning of the benevolent message of Yeshua the Anointed One, the Son of God…

Romans 1:16,

16. For I am not ashamed of the benevolent message of the Anointed One: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4,

1. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the benevolent message which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2. By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that the Anointed One died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…

2 Thessalonians 1:8,

8. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the benevolent message of our Lord Yeshua the Anointed

2 Timothy 1:10,

10. But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Yeshua the Anointed, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the benevolent message

2 Timothy 2:8

8. Remember that Yeshua the Anointed One of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my benevolent message

There you have it. Just some of the many possible examples. As you can see, these verses contain examples of all three words given in this post (and their new translations). As I said, they are accurate translations, so no sin is being committed against God and His Word in offering these verses this way.

While I can’t ask you to approve or disapprove (that’s entirely up to you, the reader), I do hope that I’ve helped and inspired a renewed interest in what the Bible really has to say, and how it should be best presented in our native language of English.

Peace and God bless.

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~ by votivesoul on 05/30/2013.

6 Responses to “Advocating Minor Translation Tweaks To Major Portions Of The Bible”

  1. Interesting. I began using Hebrew names about 1983. As you said mostly in prayer. I may have been the first Pentecostal Preacher in modern times to begin baptizing in the Hebrew name that year.

    I will always cherish the name of Jesus. Yet I would support going to Yeshua. Among Apostolics I have found almost NO support for it. Moreover most are downright opposed to it.

    We may be waiting a long time for that change!

    • I don’t understand the problem. I think maybe there are those who are terrified of being associated with the Sacred Name movement (a somewhat valid concern, I suppose). Some are just resistant to any change whatsoever. Good enough for Peter and Paul, and all that.

      We have had success in the Hispanic community where I live, and of those that I’ve personally baptized, I’ve offered the option: English or Spanish?

      Since I studied Spanish as my major in college, I’m quite comfortable using Jesucristo when immersing a believer. If I thought it would be more acceptable, if and when I baptize again, and if the candidate wanted it, I would have no argument: I would immerse them in the name of Yeshua haMoshiach.

  2. These words are so strongly on my heart, as well. I believe that ‘church’ should also be changed to reflect its meaning, the body gathered. Otherwise we have our identity stolen. Our identity given to us from God (He alone can tell us who we are) whose Son (our savior, Yeshua) bought our redemption.
    Peace and blessings to you also.

    • I agree, Anna, that church should be the next word of the list of re-translations. Thank you for suggesting it. Too many people say, hear, or think the word church, and it’s just a building, or the people + a building, and etc. It’s never and only solely about the people of God, as separated unto Him to be His temple on earth.

      Maybe you can supply a few key verses with the new translation?

  3. Matthew 16:18, one of many versus: could better be understood that He is speaking of building His body if it was an updated translation with today’s English; Upon this rock I will build my body, those who believe and yield to Me. This verse shows the author and finisher of our salvation and faith (the rock) while stating the object of love (we the temple). Also, it occurs to me that a name meaning would be helpful as well (like a study bible)…”Peter” from Simon. Name change is common throughout scripture and has great meaning, if only we knew it.

    Your blog is blessing me. Thank you. Your first two blog teachings were on hate. Thank you, what a blessing. I thank my God for ears to hear and eyes to see. He is equipping me to please Him…precious salvation.

    • I am glad that you are getting so much out of the blog. May God continue to bless you and grow the fruit of the Spirit in your life!

      Also, thanks for sharing your view of Matthew 16:18. I think it may be the most important verse in the entire Bible regarding Ecclesiology. So it’s a great example how a better translated text for the word church can make a big difference in a believer’s understanding of the words of our Savior.

      Thanks, again.

      Aaron

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