Talk:Bible Translation Issues

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For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

Taking command

Attention everyone:

Under the authority of Mr. User:Aschlafly and the administration, I, User:TerryH, am taking command of this Project.

My qualifications are these: I can read ancient Greek almost as fast as I can read modern English, I've begun a study of Biblical Hebrew, and I own certain "off-line" (actually, hardcover) resources that allow me to function as a translator.

I am forming my Committee on Translation right now, as I sound people out as to their qualifications. In the meantime, I have certain positions on the translation issues mentioned on this page:

I believe that we should capitalize any and all references to God and Jesus, on account of Who They Are, not on account of what any given speaker might think They are.

I believe that we should refer to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes by those specific names. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were two opposing factions among the Jewish intellectual elite, and were united only in their opposition to Jesus, though for diametrically opposite reasons. But the two articles describing those factions are of stub quality and badly in need of expansion. I'll put it simply: the Pharisees' problem was one of adding to the Bible as they understood it; the Sadducees had a problem with taking away from it.

Concerning Herod Antipas' stepdaughter, call her "girl" when she is so described according to the ancient manuscripts, but make clear in our commentaries that she was indeed playing the part of a temptress. (In fact, she was playing the part of every over-passionate stepdaughter playing up to her step-dad in order to trade, shall we say, favor for favor. And Herodias knew it and used her. That dysfunctional family dynamic deserves an entire article by itself, but one that we should tread carefully while writing, in order to keep things family-friendly.)

Concerning πνευμα αγιος (literally, "Holy Breath"): I've seen the discussion about Divine Guides and Forces. In fact, the Holy Spirit played both roles. "Force" is too impersonal for my taste, and also reminds me just a bit too much of a certain motion picture franchise that I now know was a thinly-disguised anti-American screed in six parts. I do know this: let's get away from "Holy Ghost." A ghost is an apparition; hence my translation of the cry of the men in the storm-tossed boat as "It's a ghost!"

I believe that "Son of man" is accurate. We don't want to capitalize "man."

The Greek word μαθετης or mathetes means, literally, a student. That's what I prefer to call the disciples: students. The Twelve Apostles were His best students. "Apostle" is a literal Greek word, and it means "one sent out."

Concerning "first shall be last, and last shall be first": for now, I prefer to translate that literally. But a lot of Greek idioms deserve translation into English idiom. I believe in using idiomatic English wherever possible. Thus, "What is that to us? See thou to it" becomes "So what? That's your problem, not ours." Or: "The last error will be worse than the first" becomes "If that happens, we'll have a worse problem."

The eighth issue I covered earlier: "Pharisees" are "Pharisees." In point of fact, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were both incumbents. They were like the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress today. Worse yet, I have seen Pharisaical and Sadducee-like tendencies in many fellow churchmen whom I have known in my fifty-one years. (Pharisees like to add their own traditions and regulations to the Bible, while Sadducees like to take scissors and snip out parts of the Bible that they do not like. God warns against both attitudes; cf. Revelations 22:18-19 .

Comments, anyone? Reply here or on my Talk page for now.--TerryHTalk 22:07, 13 October 2009 (EDT)

Terry, your comments and leadership are superb, but we are a meritocracy. One is "king of the hill" only as long as he is the best. Let's expect and welcome talented contributions by many others, and perhaps even a run at your position at the top of the hill! This will get even more interesting.
Qualifications? I've studied ancient Greek, modern English, political bias and, perhaps most importantly, the effective communication of ideas to students. All four are important components of this project. But I concede and welcome your expertise in the ancient languages, which is invaluable.
I agree completely with your view towards capitalization, and add an additional reason for it: often there are multiple pronoun references (to Jesus and someone else) and use of capitalization is an efficient way to avoid repetition of the names for clarity.
I think your other points are open to more discussion and debate. Taking one, I feel the term "Pharisees" means nothing to people today, and their biblical views seem irrelevant. I'm intrigued by calling them "incumbents" because that gets at the real issue and conflict, doesn't it?--Andy Schlafly 22:57, 13 October 2009 (EDT)
Further thoughts: it appears that the original meaning of an "incumbent" was an ecclesiastical position!
The more important translation is the "first shall be last, and the last shall be first." People don't understand that English phrase, and think greater clarity in the English would be helpful. I made a suggestion in one of its appearances after some thought, along the lines of the "highest position among men shall be last, and the last the shall be first." But suggestions are welcome, as the essence of this project is to bring out the best from many to obtain an optimal translation as of 2009.--Andy Schlafly 08:51, 14 October 2009 (EDT)

Proposed man -> businessman

In Mark's parable of the vineyard (12:1...), I've translated man as businessman, highlighting clarity which was absent in the greek. Does this seem reasonable? DouglasA 20:01, 14 October 2009 (EDT)

Looks brilliant to me. Thanks for the insight.--Andy Schlafly 20:32, 14 October 2009 (EDT)

Kyrios vs. Theos/Lord vs. God

I have seen several places on the CBP where "Lord" is used as a synonym for "God." (See Luke 9, for one example.) I think it would be good to be more precise with those terms. Whereas we all probably use "Lord" and "God" more or less interchangeably in our personal prayer lives, theologically the two terms are quite distinct. I think it would be a good idea to be a bit more consistent, and always check the original Greek. I'm pretty sure, when the King James uses "Lord," it accurately translates the Greek κυριος (lord), and when it uses "God," it's translating θεος (God). --Cory Howell 16:29, 21 October 2009 (EDT)

Your point is well-taken, except note that this is not a strict word-for-word translation. Rather, this seeks the original intent. It seems possible that one could use θεος intending the concept of "Lord". Perhaps more discussion and analysis of this would be helpful.--Andy Schlafly 17:03, 21 October 2009 (EDT)
I can see your point as well, Mr. Sclafly. However, I think it would be good to approach each case with a good amount of sensitivity. It can be exceptionally difficult to discern "original intent," when it comes to the inspired Scripture. I am open to the idea that "God" could somehow convey the deeper sense of "Lord" in the right context, but at the same time, when you come to a statement like Thomas's "My Lord and my God!" it would be completely misleading to simply translate it either "My Lord!" or "My God!" "Kyrios" has more of the sense of a supreme Master, to whom allegiance is owed, whereas "Theos" is a very specific noun for God, the creator of the universe. I'm not familiar off the top of my head with any place in the New Testament where "Lord" would actually convey the full sense of Godhood. But there may be such a usage somewhere!--Cory Howell 12:24, 22 October 2009 (EDT)
It is important for the Word of God to be understandable today, however if the Bible is God's word, and has been faithfully preserved, to alter or abolish words, even if done for the best intentions, is to set a horrible precedent for future readers and translators, which indeed, the "Message" bible has done so and wrecked great abuse on the Bible. its word of choice was "master" in place of "Lord" .Michael Wolfe 23:27, 7 December 2009 (EDT)

Gospel or Good News? Translation of ευαγγελιον

There has been a bit of confusion on the Talk page for Luke 1-9 about how to translate the Greek word ευαγγελιον. There were several verses where it had been rendered as Truth, which doesn't seem to be very accurate to me. TerryH indicated that "good news" would be better, and that seems to be how it stands right now in Mark. But I saw several places in Matthew where it is still "gospel." Have we come to any consensus on this? My own feeling is that "good news" is a more descriptive phrase to translate the Greek, but "gospel" is certainly a term with some rich heritage. Has any official decision been made on this one?--Cory Howell 12:06, 22 October 2009 (EDT)

Preservation of "grape juice"

One commentator has questioned whether grape juice could be preserved by the ancients as wine could be.--Andy Schlafly 12:07, 28 October 2009 (EDT)

General question about this article

Do we raise issues on the main article page but discuss them here, or also include concise responses on the main page as well. I'll move my recent comment regarding "master" here if it was put in the wrong place. --ChrisY 19:00, 20 February 2010 (EST)

We're flexible, but perhaps it would work best if the extended talk occurred here? Of course, feel free to include concise counterpoint in the entry also. I'll try to do that now for your and Alex's comments.--Andy Schlafly 19:04, 20 February 2010 (EST)

Issue of "master" or "teacher" or ... "lord"

Because this is supposed to be a modern conservative translation, and the term "lord" doesn't really have any valence beyond the divine in modern times. House of Lords? Please, outdated nonsense. "Master" reeks of something with no relevance to the contemporary reader and evokes slavery and other relationships that are decidedly non-conservative in nature--today, we might use the term "boss," but if that's too colloquial, and if "supervisor" is too clumsy, "patron" perhaps? (Alex)

Agreed that "Lord" can be confusing when not referring to God, as in the passage "a man cannot serve two masters". The word "master" actually works better than almost any synonym in most contexts; "patron" means something different, and "superior" is clumsy. (Chris)
I prefer master, except where you can clearly use "employer." DouglasA 23:25, 20 February 2010 (EST)
I don't know the best answer, but "master" seems archaic today to me. I rarely hear anyone use it in speech now.--Andy Schlafly 23:37, 20 February 2010 (EST)
I'd think there are two litmus tests for these types of questions:
  • First, is the replacement word clear and intuitive to the modern-day reader?
  • Second, does the word properly capture the original meaning in the context of the Biblical setting(s) it's being used in?
The use of 'master' is definitely archaic today, but that's because the social structures between people have changed as well. If we were describing the lord/serf relationship of feudal times, it would be hard to convey that using only contemporary terms, because we're describing a system that doesn't exist today.
In working with the four Gospels of the New Testament, we're looking at descriptions of what happened in the places Jesus passed through at that point in history. Preserving the original intent and messages means that we may need to rely on the frequent use of terms that seem archaic, but really aren't if they are the best way to describe things that don't exist today. My two cents, anyway. -ChrisY 11:31, 21 February 2010 (EST)
I agree in principle, but wonder if "master" was ever used in the manner proposed by many Bible translations. I think it works with the expression "a man cannot serve two masters," but it does not seem to best convey the original intent in today's language in many other contexts. Use of the term "lord" is also imperfect, but has had widespread usage in English throughout history and conveys an image of both employer and master. Do you agree that the same Greek term can and should be translated differently for different contexts?--Andy Schlafly 11:37, 21 February 2010 (EST)
I agree with you - having a richer vocabulary at our command today allows a new version of the Bible to be improved by using various different words to convey the original meaning of a single ancient word that was repeated many times. They key is that the meaning is preserved, and in just about every instance in this project that's what's being done, leaving very few ambiguous cases. I'm not qualified to answer your question about translating Greek, so I'll have to defer to someone like TerryH, who is. --ChrisY 14:04, 21 February 2010 (EST)


Still no scholarly source for a translation of ἰδού as "at this moment" is presented. AugustO 10:26, 11 June 2011 (EDT)

There is no need for one, it is easily translated. The word means Look/behold. Ιδου is the Koine Greek interjection meaning: look / behold. Koine is Greek for 'Common' as in the commonly spoken dialect of Greek. It would make sense that Koine Greek is used as the Gospel was written most likely by Matthew's student who would not be educated in the more uncommon Greek dialect. MHarris
Words -- and particularly a word indicative of emphasis like "ἰδού" -- should not be translated in isolation from their context. In English it is impossible to explain what the word "get" means unless its context is also analyzed. Sometimes it means "understand"; in other contexts it means "fetch" or "retrieve".
If words could be translated without reference to context, then computer translations would be perfect. Instead, they are typically terrible.--Andy Schlafly 00:46, 12 June 2011 (EDT)
First off, 'Get' is a poor choice of a word. It has only two meanings as a verb. Come to have or hold (something); receive or Experience, suffer, or be afflicted with (something bad). Ether way, 'Get' means to acquire something in some manner. Secondly, we have the context and the word only has TWO possibles meanings. Look or Behold. Both of which in this part of the scripture has the same meaning. "This is important! Take Notice!" What problem is there?
The problem is that it is all important, so translating the word merely as "this is important" is no better than simply ignoring the word altogether. And ignoring words is not a favored approach to translation, or interpretation either.--Andy Schlafly 09:42, 12 June 2011 (EDT)
"this is important" is something else than "at this moment". You are taking liberties in the same way as the modern liberal translations do.
I agree with MHarris that "behold" is an adequate translation of ἰδού, IMO possibly the best one. It shows how words were stressed before punctuation (and text-formatting) was common place.
I didn't propose "wow" as a translation of ἰδού, I just wanted to illustrate that both words fulfilled the same function in speech.
AugustO 10:12, 12 June 2011 (EDT)