Thursday, September 22, 2011

Galatians 5:6 In The English Standard Version

     In the English Standard Version of the Bible, Galatians 5:6 says, "For in Christ
Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith
working through love."  The sentence in the Greek New Testament reads, "en gar 
Christo Iesou oute peritome ti ischuei oute akrobustia alla pistis di agapes
energoumene." The translation of the phrase is, "For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision  nor  uncircumcision  has any power, but  faith working through love."
(Daly's New Testament Translation)

     I was recently asked," Is the phrase translated 'but only faith working through
love' (Gal. 5:6) in the ESV accurately translated? " The answer is no, it does not
accurately reflect what the Greek text says or means. The addition of the word
"only" is an unfortunate and unjustified rendering. The text simply does not say
"only faith" or "faith only."

     The ESV is a revision of the RSV-1971 and not even the RSV adds the word
"only" to this text. Neither the KJV, ASV, NASB, or the HCSB add the word
"only" in the Galatians' passage. They remain true to the original text in this place,
and they do not reflect a theological slant in their translation of the passage.

     Contextually, Paul warns against being "entangled again in a yoke of bondage."
(5:1) His argument is, it is not works of the law by which one is justified, so the
act of physical circumcision is without power. The hope of righteousness is not
through circumcision or uncircumcision, "but faith working through love." The
Calvinist does not accept the efficacy of Christ's blood through immersion because
he sees it as a work. Yet, the very people to whom Paul wrote had been immersed
into Christ. (Gal. 3:27) Therefore, Paul's teaching about faith, grace, and works
must not be interpreted in a way that excludes immersion in order to be saved from

     Does this mean that the ESV is a bad translation? No. It means that the ESV like
the KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, etc. has passages that need to
be weighed against the original texts and corrected. The goal of Bible translation is
to give mankind the word of the living God in a way that is both understandable and
accurate. We should expect no less.
                                                                                                                 R. Daly
Copyright 2011 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Modified-Literal Translations Are Still Useful

     It is a well known fact that most of the translations that have been produced
during   the  late  twentieth  and early twenty first centuries  are  either  paraphrases  
(Williams' N.T., Goodspeed's N.T. , Good News For Modern Man, The 
Message, etc.) or   idiomatic (NIV,   New  Living  Translation,  TNIV 
NIV-2011).  One reason for this  shift  is  due  to  the  discovery of the papyri
fragments in the late 1800's into the early and mid 1900's. We  have  learned from
the papyri that the language  of    the   New   Testament    was   the   common  
language   of   the first  century  world. It  was  not  classical  Greek, but  koine,
that  is, the dialect spoken  by  the  "ordinary"  citizen of the ancient world. God
wants people to have his word in their language.

     I believe that most modified literal translations are readable and understandable.
It    is    sometimes    said    that    the    paraphrases    and idiomatic versions are
more   accurate  because   they   are   more   understandable.   This viewpoint
assumes   that   understandability   and   accuracy   are   synonymous, or at least
that understandability leads to or implies accuracy. This is not necessarily true.It
is possible for a translation to be "understandable" and not be a faithful representation
of what  the  original  says.  An  example  is  the  New World Translation (of  the
Jehovah's Witness organization). Though  it  is  one of  the  more  literal  English
translations it incorrectly renders John 1:1 in this way, "In the beginning the Word
was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." This is not what the
Greek text says, nor is it what the text means. On the other end of the translation
spectrum is the Contemporary English Version, a paraphrase that renders
Romans 1:17 in the following manner, "The good news tells how God accepts
everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith." This rendering is
understandable, but it  is  not  what  the  Greek  text  says,  nor  is  it  what  the
passage means. It is a misleading commentary on the text, even though it is
expressed in modern English. My point is this, just because a translation is written
in understandable English does  not  ensure  its  faithfulness  to  the  Greek  text. It
is also true that modified literal versions are not necessarily inaccurate just because
they may be more "stiff" or "stilted."

     One of the problems with some modified literal versions is their archaic language.
An example of this is the ASV-1901. It  uses  the  archaic  forms  that are found in
the King James Version. It also has a large number of inverted negatives. For
example,  Matthew 19:17 says, "And  he  said  unto  him,  Why  askest  thou  me
concerning what is good? One there is who is good..." The verse can be translated
in the following way and still maintain its modified literal faithfulness to the Greek
text, "And he said to him, 'Why do you ask me concerning what is good? There is
one who is good...' " Even with its problems with archaic language, the ASV remains
an excellent study bible. The NASB-1977, though not as literal as the ASV is
nevertheless a good study bible  because  of  its  closeness  to  the  Hebrew,
Aramaic,  and  Greek  texts. The  NASB-1977 is generally a better exegetical tool
than the NASB-95 Update because it is closer to the original texts. The NASB-95
has dropped many of   the conjunctions and inferential particles that are found in the
Hebrew and Greek texts, and that are found in the ASV and NASB-1977. This
was done in part to enhance the readability of the NASB, but doing so has made
the NASB-95 Update a less useful study bible.

     The precision of the ASV is its most remarkable feature. It was designed to be
an honest representation of what is in the original texts of scripture. It isn't perfect,
but in spite of its shortcomings, it remains the best of the modified literal versions of
sacred scripture. The NASB-1977 is relatively close to the ASV. When the
translators of the NASB thought a strictly literal translation might be misleading, they
usually have a marginal note or footnote that contains the literal translation, and the
literal translation found in the marginal notes is often what is found in the text of the
ASV. The footnotes of the  ASV and the marginal notes of the NASB are a wealth
of  information! The English Standard Version (ESV) is not as modified literal as
the  NASB, but it is slightly better   in   that  its  textual  choices  are  sometimes
more  accurate.  The   ASV, RSV, NASB-1977, NRSV, ESV,  and to a lesser
extent the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) are probably the best
modified literal     versions   currently  published.    They  compliment  each  other
extremely well, and they can be understood. A person can learn God's plan of
salvation by using one or all of them. (John 3:16; 8:24; Hebrews 11:6; Acts 3:19;
17:30; Romans 10:10; 1 Timothy 6:12; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:58;
2 Peter 1: 3-10)
                                                                                                            R. Daly

Copyright 2011