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).
One really simple example is the word "let." The original meaning of "let" was the same as "hinder," as in "If they are able to work, and refuse, then they may go hungry without let." Later this word's meaning changed to "allow".
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.
|New Term||First Developed||Potential Uses in a Bible Retranslation|
|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.|
|homeschool||1980s||relevant to Jesus teaching the younger Apostles|
|media||1841||relevant to prohibition against false idols|
|welfare (by govt)||1904|
|work ethic||1951||Relevant to the parable of the talents|
|Original Term||English Translation||Usage||Lack of Clarity||Real meaning||Suggested Improvement|
|Hebrew יהוה צבאות transliteration:"YHWH Tsvaot"||"LORD of hosts"||"Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever." Malachi 1:4 (KJV)||The word "Tsvaot" means "armies" in Hebrew. While the words "hosts" was used as "armies" in the seventeenth century, many people do not perceive that word in such a manner today.||LORD of armies.||LORD of armies.|
|Hebrew בני ישראל transliteration:"Bnei Israel"||"Children of Israel"||"And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one." Exodus 9:6 (KJV)||The word "Bnei" means "sons of" in Hebrew, not children.||Sons of Israel, sometimes used to refer to the literal sons of Jacob, most of the times used as a title for the entire nation of Israel.||Sons of Israel. When used as a title for the nation of Israel, always capitalize the word "Sons". In the rare instances in which is refers to the literal sons of Jacob, the word sons should not be capitalized so long as it does not appear in the beginning of a sentence.|
|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"|
|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. Dominion, perhaps?|
|Greek εἰρήνη transliteration: "eirene"||"peace"||"... Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'" John 20:19 (NIV)||"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. Response: The Hebrew "Shalom" and Greek "Eirene" mean the same thing, which can be either a political state of peace (not at war) or a personal state of peace. If someone says "I'm at peace now", that means more than just they're not at war. So I object to the premise. We do need a better word to distinguish the two, but that word doesn't exist in Hebrew, Greek, or English (at least not as one word).|
|Greek πλούσιος transliteration: "plousios": "abundantly supplied"||"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.|
|"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. Response: A lot of Hebrew names in the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Ruth, have translations. For instance, Esau means "hairy". We can't really translate all of them. The Book of Ruth is full of these more so than any other book. Naomi ("my delight") asks to be called Mara ("the bitter one"), Orpah means "gazelle" and comes from the root meaning "back of the neck", appropriate given how she turns her back on the people, Boaz means "fleetness", and Obed means "servant". We really can't translate all of these or it becomes nonsense. Where do we draw the line? I prefer footnotes, at least in the Old Testament which is so ripe with these names with literal meanings.|
|"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)||"gave up" has a newer meaning, attested in the OED since the eighteenth century: 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? Answer: Since this is the only mention to my knowledge of India in that time period's Hebrew, I don't know about historically. But in modern Hebrew, it has always referred to India. I'm guessing that's from this verse. It's the best answer we have.|
|בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם--כְּשֶׁבֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ עַל כִּסֵּא מַלְכוּתוֹ אֲשֶׁר בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה||in those days, when the king Ahhashverosh sat on his throne, in the city of Shushan,|| is "his throne" OK for kise malkhuto? I've gone with "capital" for בִּירָה which I think reads neatly. (Would it be alright to translate Shushan as Susa, or is that too much of a leap?)
Response: Kise malkhuto literally means "royal chair". I think we can understand that to mean a throne. Also, Shushan was not the capital, it was where the King lived in the summer when the capital got too hot. Updated response: That Hebrew word my computer is incapable of typing means "in the city", so I'll replace my palace edit with city. "Iyra", (Ayin - Yud - Resh - Hay) means a generic city, but "Be'er" or "Berah" refers to a specific city. See multiple Israel cities such as Beer Shevah.
|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 for all his ministers and his subjects. The warriors of Persia and Media, the aristocrats, and the ministers of the provinces were in his presence,||(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||when he showed the wealth of the glory of his kingdom and his glorious splendor and magnificence for many days, 180 days.||("glorious splendor and magnificence" - HALOT s.v. יְקָר entry 1; ref. Est 1:4)|
|וּבִמְלוֹאת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה עָשָׂה הַמֶּלֶךְ לְכָל-הָעָם הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה לְמִגָּדוֹל וְעַד-קָטָן מִשְׁתֶּה--שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בַּחֲצַר גִּנַּת בִּיתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ||And when these days were fulfilled (completed), the king gave, to all the people that were found in Shushan, from the greatest to the least, a drinking party seven days long in the court of the garden of the king's palace.||Something along the lines of "when this period ended" should work, instead of "when these days were fulfilled (completed)". ("palace" - HALOT s.v. בִּיתַן; ref. Est 1:5, 7:7,8; three usages total, all "palace.")|
|הוּר כַּרְפַּס וּתְכֵלֶת אָחוּז בְּחַבְלֵי-בוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן, עַל-גְּלִילֵי כֶסֶף, וְעַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ; מִטּוֹת זָהָב וָכֶסֶף, עַל רִצְפַת בַּהַט-וָשֵׁשׁ--וְדַר וְסֹחָרֶת||There were white and violet linens held by purple linen ropes on silver rings and marble columns; couches of gold and silver on a flagstone pavement of (red stone), marble, (mother-of-pearl or a stone like pearl), and precious (black) stones.||This is going to be hard to say, but a lot of this stuff is certainly not modern. Although the white and violet linen and purple cords, the silver rings and the marble (possibly alabaster) columns, and the silver and gold couches (or beds) all work (I think...the silver and gold couches might present a problem.) The real problem arrives when you get to the stones. The בַּהַט, דַר, and סֹחָרֶת are all used only once in Esther. The usage of שֵׁשׁ as "white marble" only occurs three times, all in Esther. All other times it is used as "linen" or "fine linen". If you want, you can go ahead and reduce the flagstone pavement to "multicolored", if it suits you.|
|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|
See the Book of John for a synopsis of its history.
|Verse||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.|
- Harry Ritter, Dictionary of Concepts in History, 419.
- 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.
- James never used the term plousios to describe a believer
- 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.
- http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50094974/50094974se136 sense 64c
- Textus Receptus