Bible Retranslation Project

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The Bible Retranslation Project recognizes two fundamental aspects of a modern language that causes it to be a constant state of flux or change:

  • familiar terms change their meanings, so text using them becomes misinterpretable
  • new, more precise terms appear at a rate of about 1000 per year.

Terms that were clear and meaningful to one generation are often unclear and less meaningful to the next; meanwhile, entirely new terms are constantly emerging, some of which may facilitate more precise translation from the Biblical Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic in the case of parts of the books of Ezra/Nehemya and Daniel).

Both effects above -- due to culture and the emergence of new terms -- may be increasing as communications increase. If a word inevitably alters its meaning after an approximate number of uses, then the time period for the change in meaning will shorten due to improved technology, just as the length of a sound bite likewise shortens. Likewise, the rate of emergence of new terms may be directly correlated to the frequency of communication. In the internet era, combating the effect of language degradation and creation on the understanding of the Bible becomes more important.

But there is an economic obstacle to developing a translation of the Bible that remains current with changes in language. Book sales have been declining sharply due to the internet, and it is probably not easy to recoup the substantial costs ($10 million for the Holman Christian Standard Bible) that are required to develop a new translation. With the need to recoup and enormous investment, publishers of a new Bible are probably overly cautious in changing familiar terminology despite erosion in their meaning, in fear of criticism and a poor reception. A lower-cost and more dynamic approach is needed to combat the effects of persistent degradations in language.

As a first step to the Bible Retranslation Project, it is useful to identify modern terms having changing, unclear or altered meaning, which appear in important passages in translations of the Bible into the corresponding modern language. This will help avoid cliché and the repetition of culturally-familiar but suboptimal passages while producing a superior rendition from the original Hebrew and Greek into idiomatic modern English.

Emergent New Terms

Powerful new terms develop that were unknown or underutilized at the time of prior translations of the Bible into English. The English language, relatively weak at its beginning, continues to develop by adding insightful new terminology. These more precise and meaningful concepts should be utilized by English translations of the Bible. The King James Version was written in the early 1600s, and powerful terminology has been added to the English language since then, some in the past decade.

Examples include:

New Term First Developed Potential Uses in a Bible Retranslation
censor 1882
conservative 1831
gamble 1775 After Jesus released His spirit at the Crucifixion, English translations should now state that the Roman soldiers "gambled" to win his clothing, rather than the less clear statement that they "cast lots." See Matt 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24.[1]
homeschool 1980s relevant to Jesus teaching the younger Apostles
media 1841[2] relevant to prohibition against false idols
moral majority 1979
self-centered 1764
socialism 1827[3]
status worship
welfare (by govt) 1904
work ethic 1951 Relevant to the parable of the talents
unprincipled 1644


Original Term English Translation Usage Lack of Clarity Real meaning Suggested Improvement
Greek λόγος transliteration:"logos" "word" "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1 (NIV) "Word" now means a short utterance of a single concept, which can include a vulgarity or a falsehood underlying logic or profound statement of the truth replace "Word" with "Truth"[4]
הָֽאָדָם (note the definite article!) "Adam" Gen 2 &c. It's often transliterated into Adam rather than just kept as the man/person/human being. The connotation needs to be that of humanity rather than maleness; anthropos rather than aner; homo rather than vir. I feel this loses the sense of הָֽאָדָם as an Everyman, a universal figure prototypical of humanity. One might note also that חַוָּה "Eve", whilst it is undoubtedly a name, needs the connotaion of life (חָֽי) to adequately convey meaning to a reader. The man/person/human being
χάρις "grace" "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." John 1:16 (NIV) "grace" has become a female name and a sports term to refer primarily to smoothness in style spiritual and majestic gift-giving replace some instances of "grace" with "boundless generosity"
Tahhash "badger" Describing the skins used in the construction of the Tabernacle It's now thought that this is certainly not a badger (or not a Melis one) Possibly "Hirax", though I'm not up on the most recent theories on this. One for an expert, I think.
מִּשְׂרָה "government" "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. ... Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV) "government" now means officials paid by mandatory taxes and accountable to a democratic vote spiritual kingdom replace "government" with "kingdom" - I dislike this - I don't think that monarchy metaphors are really as strong or as relevant as they used to be in the days of the ubiquity absolute rulers. Also "kingdom" is an area of land, I think we want something like "rulership"? Though that sounds a bit ugly.
Greek εἰρήνη transliteration: "eirene" "peace" "... Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'" John 20:19 (NIV)[5] "peace" now means an absence of war an inner peace and lack of personal fear or anxiety replace "peace" with "tranquility" - but this then gives possible issues for verses like I Kings 20:18, which now reads And he said, Whether they be come out for tranquility, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive. Perhaps we could keep "peace" for shalom, and "tranquility" for eirene? Except Jesus, saying "Peace be with you", is presumably using shalom alechem, or Aramaic cognate, which leads to some interesting issues of consistency.
Greek πλούσιος transliteration: "plousios": "abundantly supplied"[6][7] "rich" "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:24) nearly everyone is "abundantly supplied" today with food and entertainment, and "rich" has come to mean relative wealth without any absolute significance; continued use of "rich" is misleading in justifying laziness and socialism miserliness to the point of laziness and being unproductive "fully fed and entertained" or "idle miser," or something similar. [8]
"behemoth" Job 40:15-24 beasts (sing. behemah)
"kill" "Thou shalt not kill" Exodus 20.13 (KJV) In Biblical times, as today, the bearing of arms to defend ones family and society was the hallmark of Judeo-Christian civilization. The commandment referred to unjustifiable homicides - murder and manslaughter - rather than advocating blanket pacifism, as many Leftists today interpret it. to murder or take up arms without sufficient justification replace "kill" with "commit murder" depending on the original text and the context - it'd not be sensible to use murder in the context of an animal doing it, for instance!
עֲנָו (`anav ) "meek" "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" Matthew 5:5 (KJV) / Ps 37 "meek" now means excessively mild, passive, pathetically submissive. showing humility before God replace "meek" with "God-fearing"
"Mahlon" and "Chilion" (e.g.) Ruth 1:2 Mahlon and Chilion The Hebrew forms mean nothing to a modern reader "Weak" and "Sick" I think we could afford to be bold and translate these names. Footnotes are a cowardly choice. If we had the name of his two sons were Feeble and Poorly, it'd make much more of an impression.
"liberal" "The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself" Proverbs 11:25 (KJV) "liberal" now means adhering to leftist or socialistic political or social doctrines showing generosity replace "liberal" with "generous", in line with most modern English versions
Greek ᾅδου transliteration: haidou, "Hades" "depths" "No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day." Matthew 11:23 (NIV) "depths" is now understood to mean the ocean. "Hades" was used by Matthew to help Greeks comprehend Christianity's Hell. The LXX use "haidon" in Psalm 115 to translate the hebrew "dumah", so it's applicable to other concepts as well. Hell/depths of Hell replace "depths" with "Hell" - "shall be brought down to hell." (KJV) How then do we distinguish between haides and geenna (sticking to the Gk. for the moment)? Perhaps keep haides for the general realm of the dead, and geenna for a place of punishment? That seems to me to be the difference in nuance.
Greek παραδίδωμι transliteration: paradidōmi "gave up" "... he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." John 19:30 (NIV)[9] "gave up" has a newer meaning, attested in the OED since the eighteenth century[10]: it now means to quit and stop trying, or surrender. It has acquired a negative connotation. "relinquish" is a term that avoids ambiguiity and possible negative connotation. replace "gave up" with "released" or "relinquished"

The project begins: Esther א

See the Book of Esther for a synopsis of its history.

Verse Translation Discussion and notes
וַיְהִי בִּימֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹש הוּא אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ הַמֹּלֵךְ מֵהֹדּוּ וְעַד-כּוּשׁ--שֶׁבַע וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה מְדִינָה And it was, in the days of Ahhashverosh - this being the Ahhashverosh reigning all the way from India to Ethiopia, a hundred and twenty-seven provinces How do people want to transliterate אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ? We could do with someone up on Persian history, really. Anyone? I've used "provinces" for מְדִינָה, though I'm very open to suggestions! Also is "all the way from... to" too colloquial, and is it justified by the text? Does הֹדּוּ really signify India, historically?
בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם--כְּשֶׁבֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ עַל כִּסֵּא מַלְכוּתוֹ אֲשֶׁר בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה In those days, when the king Ahhashverosh sat on his throne, which was in the capital, Shushan is "his throne" OK for kise malkhuto? I've gone with "capital" for בִּירָה which I think reads neatly.
בִּשְׁנַת שָׁלוֹשׁ לְמָלְכוֹ עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל-שָׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו חֵיל פָּרַס וּמָדַי הַפַּרְתְּמִים וְשָׂרֵי הַמְּדִינוֹת--לְפָנָיו In the third year of his reign, he made a drinking-party in his presence for all his ministers and his subjects, the warriors of Persia and Media, the aristocrats, and the ministers of the provinces. (Media here refers to the region of that name, not to the plural form of medium)
בְּהַרְאֹתוֹ, אֶת-עֹשֶׁר כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ וְאֶת-יְקָר תִּפְאֶרֶת גְּדוּלָּתוֹ יָמִים רַבִּים שְׁמוֹנִים וּמְאַת יוֹם
וּבִמְלוֹאת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה עָשָׂה הַמֶּלֶךְ לְכָל-הָעָם הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה לְמִגָּדוֹל וְעַד-קָטָן מִשְׁתֶּה--שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בַּחֲצַר גִּנַּת בִּיתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ
וּר כַּרְפַּס וּתְכֵלֶת אָחוּז בְּחַבְלֵי-בוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן, עַל-גְּלִילֵי כֶסֶף, וְעַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ; מִטּוֹת זָהָב וָכֶסֶף, עַל רִצְפַת בַּהַט-וָשֵׁשׁ--וְדַר וְסֹחָרֶת
וְהַשְׁקוֹת בִּכְלֵי זָהָב, וְכֵלִים מִכֵּלִים שׁוֹנִים; וְיֵין מַלְכוּת רָב כְּיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ
וְהַשְּׁתִיָּה כַדָּת, אֵין אֹנֵס: כִּי-כֵן יִסַּד הַמֶּלֶךְ, עַל כָּל-רַב בֵּיתוֹ--לַעֲשׂוֹת כִּרְצוֹן אִישׁ-וָאִישׁ
גַּם וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה, עָשְׂתָה מִשְׁתֵּה נָשִׁים--בֵּית, הַמַּלְכוּת, אֲשֶׁר, לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ.
בַּיּוֹם, הַשְּׁבִיעִי, כְּטוֹב לֵב-הַמֶּלֶךְ, בַּיָּיִן--אָמַר לִמְהוּמָן בִּזְּתָא חַרְבוֹנָא בִּגְתָא וַאֲבַגְתָא, זֵתַר וְכַרְכַּס, שִׁבְעַת הַסָּרִיסִים, הַמְשָׁרְתִים אֶת-פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ.
לְהָבִיא אֶת-וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה, לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ--בְּכֶתֶר מַלְכוּת: לְהַרְאוֹת הָעַמִּים וְהַשָּׂרִים אֶת-יָפְיָהּ, כִּי-טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִיא.
וַתְּמָאֵן הַמַּלְכָּה וַשְׁתִּי, לָבוֹא בִּדְבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, אֲשֶׁר, בְּיַד הַסָּרִיסִים; וַיִּקְצֹף הַמֶּלֶךְ מְאֹד, וַחֲמָתוֹ בָּעֲרָה בוֹ.
וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ, לַחֲכָמִים יֹדְעֵי הָעִתִּים: כִּי-כֵן, דְּבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ, לִפְנֵי, כָּל-יֹדְעֵי דָּת וָדִין.
וְהַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו, כַּרְשְׁנָא שֵׁתָר אַדְמָתָא תַרְשִׁישׁ, מֶרֶס מַרְסְנָא, מְמוּכָן--שִׁבְעַת שָׂרֵי פָּרַס וּמָדַי, רֹאֵי פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, הַיֹּשְׁבִים רִאשֹׁנָה, בַּמַּלְכוּת.
כְּדָת, מַה-לַּעֲשׂוֹת, בַּמַּלְכָּה, וַשְׁתִּי--עַל אֲשֶׁר לֹא-עָשְׂתָה, אֶת-מַאֲמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, בְּיַד, הַסָּרִיסִים.
וַיֹּאמֶר מומכן (מְמוּכָן), לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים, לֹא עַל-הַמֶּלֶךְ לְבַדּוֹ, עָוְתָה וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה: כִּי עַל-כָּל-הַשָּׂרִים, וְעַל-כָּל-הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר, בְּכָל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ.
כִּי-יֵצֵא דְבַר-הַמַּלְכָּה עַל-כָּל-הַנָּשִׁים, לְהַבְזוֹת בַּעְלֵיהֶן בְּעֵינֵיהֶן: בְּאָמְרָם, הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אָמַר לְהָבִיא אֶת-וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה לְפָנָיו--וְלֹא-בָאָה.
וְהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה תֹּאמַרְנָה שָׂרוֹת פָּרַס-וּמָדַי, אֲשֶׁר שָׁמְעוּ אֶת-דְּבַר הַמַּלְכָּה, לְכֹל, שָׂרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ; וּכְדַי, בִּזָּיוֹן וָקָצֶף.
אִם-עַל-הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב, יֵצֵא דְבַר-מַלְכוּת מִלְּפָנָיו, וְיִכָּתֵב בְּדָתֵי פָרַס-וּמָדַי, וְלֹא יַעֲבוֹר: אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תָבוֹא וַשְׁתִּי, לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, וּמַלְכוּתָהּ יִתֵּן הַמֶּלֶךְ, לִרְעוּתָהּ הַטּוֹבָה מִמֶּנָּה.
וְנִשְׁמַע פִּתְגָם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה בְּכָל-מַלְכוּתוֹ, כִּי רַבָּה הִיא; וְכָל-הַנָּשִׁים, יִתְּנוּ יְקָר לְבַעְלֵיהֶן--לְמִגָּדוֹל, וְעַד-קָטָן.
וַיִּיטַב, הַדָּבָר, בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ, וְהַשָּׂרִים; וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ, כִּדְבַר מְמוּכָן.
וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים, אֶל-כָּל-מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ--אֶל-מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה כִּכְתָבָהּ, וְאֶל-עַם וָעָם כִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ: לִהְיוֹת כָּל-אִישׁ שֹׂרֵר בְּבֵיתוֹ, וּמְדַבֵּר כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ

John 1

See the Book of John for a synopsis of its history.

Verse[11] Translation Discussion and notes
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It is curious, though not necessarily meaningful, how the Greek inverts the order of God and the "Word" at the end of this all-important sentence.


  3. Harry Ritter, Dictionary of Concepts in History, 419.
  4. The same Greek term of "logos" is used in other contexts disjointed, or even against, God, and translating the term as "the truth" in those very different contexts would not work. For example, And whoever speaks "logos" against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him (Matt 12:32) and But he did not answer her "logos".(Matt 15:23) Current translations already draw a distinction between these very different contexts by capitalizing "Word" in John 1:1, but not in the contrasting uses.
  7. James never used the term plousios to describe a believer.[1]
  8. Often this term was used by Jesus (assuming he spoke Greek) to criticize unproductive, self-absorbed people who inherit wealth, as in the encounter with the rich young man who walked away, and also the Prodigal Son. - but N.B. When the evening came, there came an idle miser of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple. It could work, though.
  10. sense 64c
  11. Textus Receptus

See also