It’s been a while since I’ve posted – not because I’m not working but because I’m working on what I think is a more accurate translation of the apostle Paul’s letters. Why the heck am I doing that? I don’t know. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to do this. I’ve got fish to catch. But I also am convinced translators for King James had a particular perspective that wasn’t helpful when they converted the Vulgate and Greek versions to English.
You can see my opinion of how they did not properly translate the texts on divorce and remarriage in the book I released in the spring. I’ve worked on retranslating the texts of the Gospels, but then it seemed like I should do the earliest writings of Paul before the later writings of the Gospels. So let me give you a sample of what I’m finding in his letters to the Corinthians. First, take a look at five verses in 1 Cor. 4:6-10 as it was translated for the NKJV:
6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
8 You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! 9 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!
Okay, so what did you learn from this? Are you inspired to be a better Christian? The part that gets me is in verse 6 that I underlined. Paul wants us not to think beyond the written words of Scripture (Old Testament)? Just listen to the religious authorities. They know best.
And what does the rest mean? It’s rather useless.
One thing that has been helpful to me is reading Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink. He argues convincingly that the term “world” is more limited in its understanding by Paul than we in the 21st century understand. First century writers didn’t think of the “world” in cosmological terms. They thought of it in terms of the system in which they were existing, the religious system, the power structures of domination, etc., that were oppressive.
But what affects the translation most is the perspective and opinion of the translators – what they believe, what they’ve been conditioned to believe. I don’t hold the same theology, nor am I under the same danger they faced if they disagreed with the established Latin translation. I also have the advantage of four centuries of people who have suggested additional options for the meanings of Greek words.
Remember that Paul was addressing specific questions and problems going on in the church in Corinth. We don’t know the exact issues that had caused friction. As I worked with it, it began to appear that they had been arguing back and forth about what the Scriptures meant. Imagine that. Some couldn’t accept what Moses said about certain things and others couldn’t depart from what Moses said. Sound familiar?
Therefore, take a look at how I have retranslated these same five verses:
4:6 Now these things, friends, I have applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes to the end that because of us you may learn this — nothing has been written concerning this — that no one writing may be inflated one against another. Truly, this divides you. 7For you hold fast a certain scripture; you do not accept a certain scripture; and even though accepting a certain scripture, you flaunt it in the same manner as the scripture not having been accepted. 8Are you satisfied yet? Have you had enough yet? Without us, did you exercise control?a Indeed, I anticipate that you have exercised control, and that we might oversee things together with you! 4:9 Truly I think God displayed us, the apostles, lowest, as doomed to death because we have been made a spectacle by the religious system, both by divine agents and by human beings. 10We are impiousb on account of the Anointed One, but you are prudent in the Anointed One! We are without influence, but you are powerful! You are reputable, but we are dishonored!
areign: a verb indicating the manner in which a leader governs or oversee a kingdom or territory.
bfools: by human standards, especially religious standards of that time.
How could these two varying translations come from the same Greek text? Perspective. That’s how much translation depends upon the opinions of the translator. What amazes me is the inability of modern day translators to follow Greek grammar when it varies from what KJ translators decided four hundred years ago. Something’s got to change.
I’m working on it.
On another note, I am releasing a new book that explains the REAL meaning of aionios zoa, which has been translated as “eternal life.” Jesus wasn’t speaking about Paradise when he spoke of aionios zoa, and this is good news! It’s available for preorder here. It will be delivered to your Kindle app on October 31.