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Bible verses about Translation Difficulties
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:8

Adam and Eve "heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden." This is not a figure of speech; it is simply a bad translation. The word used here simply means "sound." The same word is translated as "crackling" in Ecclesiastes 7:6 and as "steps" or "footsteps" in II Samuel 5:24; I Kings 14:6; and II Kings 6:32. Here, it simply means that they heard the footsteps of God walking in the cool of the day in the garden.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 4)


 

Genesis 6:9

The first of this verse's two problems is that the KJV translates two different Hebrew words as "generations"! The first occurrence—"These are the generations"—is rendered from toledoth (Strong's #8435; note that it is plural), meaning "descent," "history," or "genealogy." The NKJV corrects this first error by using the word "genealogy"—"This is the genealogy of Noah"—although this is still a singular word. Other translations read:

» "the records of the generations" [New American Standard Bible (NASB)]

» "the account" [New International Version (NIV)]

» "the story" [Revised English Bible (REB)]

» "the descendants" [Moffatt translation (MOF)]

» "births" (Young's Literal Version)

» "the family records" [Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)]

The second occurrence of "generations"—in the phrase "perfect in his generations"—is from the Hebrew word dôr (Strong's #1755), which means "properly, a revolution of time, i.e., an age or generation." The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) adds:

Generation. By a thoroughly understandable figure, a man's lifetime beginning with the womb of earth and returning thereto (Gen 3:19) is a dôr; likewise from the conception and birth of a man to the conception and birth of his offspring is a dôr. A special use . . . is to mean simply "contemporaries," . . . cf. Gen 6:9 . . . "in his own generation and those immediately contiguous."

In Isaiah 53:8, this word, dôr, is used similarly to Genesis 6:9:

[My Servant, Jesus] was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

This is better rendered, as in the English Standard Version: ". . . and as for His generation [or, contemporaries], who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?"

Generation (dôr) simply means a period of time, in the same way we use the phrases "the life and times of Ronald Reagan" or "the Age of Napoleon." The Hebrew implies the context or milieu of a person's life, the situations and events that occurred during his lifetime, including, as TWOT shows, his "contemporaries." Thus, many modern translations have rendered in his generations as:

» "in his time" (NASB)

» "at that time" (The Living Bible)

» "of his time" (Today's English Version; REB)

» "among the people of his time" (NIV)

» "among his fellow-men (The Modern Language Bible)

» "among his contemporaries" (HCSB)

» "among the men of his day" (MOF)

The two generations in Genesis 6:9 are quite different words and should be translated to distinguish them and to rule out misunderstanding.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'


 

Matthew 28:1

Matthew 28:1 provides additional proof of two Sabbaths occurring that week. However, the Bible's translators, confused by the Greek wording of this verse, have consistently mistranslated it. Matthew writes, "Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn . . . ." The wording of the original text, though, reads, "after the Sabbaths" - plural!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

Mark 16:9-20

A highly controversial point in religious circles is whether Mark 16:9-20 is actually part of Scripture. Although it appears in the King James and New King James versions, many other translations either label this section as an appendix or leave it in the footnotes, as does the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The Moffatt translation, together with the Goodspeed translation and others, not only has the long ending found in the King James Version, but it also has another shorter ending.

In A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (1971), Bruce Metzger, a noted authority on textual matters, writes:

The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (itk), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written AD 897 and AD 913).

Yet, he also notes, "The traditional ending of Mark, so familiar through the AV and other translations of the Textus Receptus [Received Text], is present in the vast number of witnesses" (our emphasis). Despite this, he concludes that the longer ending is "secondary," meaning "that the section was excerpted from another document, dating perhaps from the first half of the second century." To bolster his conclusion, he cites "internal evidence": non-Markan vocabulary and style within the section and the "awkward" connection between verse 8 and verses 9-20.

Contrary to this, the longer ending to Mark's gospel is quoted extremely early in church history as Markan. Between AD 182 and 188, Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, quotes Mark 16:19 as a part of Mark's account (Against Heresies iii.10.6). There are allusions to these disputed verses in even earlier writings, although not as true quotations.

Not only did Irenaeus accept it as a part of Mark's gospel when arguing with "heretics," but, says James Hastings:

No writer before Eusebius [(c. AD 260-340) court favorite and church historian in the days of the Roman emperor Constantine] is known to have rejected them, and their presence in all later MSS [manuscripts] shows that the successors of Eusebius, in spite of his great authority, did not follow his judgment in the matter.

In addition, records of the traditional liturgical calendars of several churches (for instance, the Greek, Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic churches), originating before the fourth century, include these disputed verses without reservation as part of the services. These facts point plainly to the great antiquity of the longer ending as preserved in the common English versions.

In his exhaustive study, "'The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to St. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Objectors and Established" (1871), Dean John William Burgon evaluates these verses on stylistic and historical grounds and comes to the exact opposite conclusion to Metzger. He finds that the claim of their non-authenticity rests on shoddy scholarship and an over-reliance on the Western texts, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which, though early, are at variance with most other biblical manuscripts. He even asserts that Vaticanus contains a blank column where Mark 16:9-20 should be, left there by a scribe to show that it had intentionally been excluded.

If these last verses of Mark's gospel were left out, the book would not come to an orderly conclusion, as does every other book of the Bible. In fact, it would end on notes of fear and failure: "And they [the women who visited Jesus' tomb] said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid" (Mark 16:8)?hardly a fitting ending for an account of hope and salvation.

Further, no Christian doctrine rests on the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20. Every point in Mark 16:9-20 ?except for "if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them"?has scriptural backup elsewhere in the New Testament, and even the exception parallels the spirit of the surrounding promises to the disciples. Therefore, even if this concluding section were a later addition, no Christian doctrine is in any way affected.

As for the vocabulary and style differences, in the end they turn out to be highly inflated guesses. Several words are used for the first time in the book, and a few others are used differently than elsewhere. However, these variations are no worse than the style and vocabulary differences between, for example, Paul's Pastoral Epistles and his other letters, John's writing in Revelation and his gospel and epistles, or Peter's two epistles. Authors are not bound to what scholars assume to be the limit of their vocabularies and styles.

Even with all of this proof, the decision comes down to the faithfulness of God. Is God able to preserve His Word or not? Human writings are filled with error, but the Bible is complete, inspired, and wholly preserved through the power of God. We can trust that these verses are an inspired part of the Word of God.

Mike Ford
Should Christians Handle Snakes?


 

Luke 16:16

Another word plays an important part here—the word "into" in Luke 16:16. The Greek word behind it, eis (Strong's #1519), a common preposition, is indeed frequently translated as "into." However, depending on the context, it can also be translated as "against" or "toward."

So, the Greek allows for the subdued translation of "everyone is pressing into [the kingdom]," but it could just as accurately be translated as "everyone is behaving violently against it." The Douay-Rheims Bible, which predates the King James, renders the last part of Luke 16:16 as "everyone use[s] violence towards it." In this way, it matches perfectly with Matthew 11:12: "the kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force


 

Luke 17:21

"Within" is translated from entos, used only twice in the New Testament. Its primary meaning is "inside," as it is rendered in Matthew 23:26: "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." However, when used in conjunction with a plural noun, entos means "among" or "in the midst of." In Luke 17:21, entos is used with "you," and from the context, we can see that Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Pharisees, who had come to question Him about the Kingdom of God (verse 20). "You," then, is plural. "The kingdom of God is among you" is best.

Most modern translations have recognized this grammatical error and translate entos as "among" or "in the midst of." Some texts, like the New King James and the New International versions, persist in using "within," though they note in the margin that "among" is an alternative.

Even without this technical knowledge of Greek, we could have easily understood that "within" is a poor and misleading translation. Christ was answering a question posed by the Pharisees, and He replied directly to them: "He answered them and said, . . . 'For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.'" But how could the Kingdom of God be within His most bitter enemies? How many times did He reveal them to be hypocritical and misleading the people? Theologically, it is quite impossible to think that His Kingdom would be in the Pharisees.

It is only after He had made this remark that He turned to His disciples (verse 22) and explained what He meant. The subject of the entire section (verses 20-37) is stated most explicitly in verse 30: "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." All along, He had been explaining His second coming! When He returns, He will set up His Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:9).

If the Kingdom is still future, how could He say that "the kingdom of God is among you"? To answer this, we must return to the four common traits of a kingdom: a king, who rules by law over a number of subjects who live within a certain territory. The primary trait is that a kingdom must be ruled by a king; otherwise, the country has some other form of government. A king of any nation is the chief representative of that nation. And the King of the Kingdom of God is none other than the living Jesus Christ!

Pilate specifically asked Jesus, "'Are You a king then?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth'" (John 18:37). So as the King of God's Kingdom, He could truly tell the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

Luke 17:21

This sadly mistranslated verse has led many sincere people astray. Without even knowing the Greek language, we can see that Jesus could not mean that the Kingdom was some ethereal quality in the hearts of the Pharisees! To the contrary, He castigated them often for their unbelief! Entos, translated "within," should be translated "in the midst of" or "among." Jesus, the coming King of the Kingdom of God, was in their midst or among them! The thrust of His teaching in this section is that unbelievers will not recognize the working of God's Kingdom among them, just as the Pharisees had not recognized their Savior among them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel


 

 




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