Review

In my previous post, I outlined both the Goal and Purpose of Bible translation. In part 2 and 3, I will offer some concrete examples of how translators can make the original text comprehensible to modern readers without losing the essential historical context.

Key Translation Features

1. References to God 

a. Capitalizing the Personal Pronouns for God

It is most helpful to follows the tradition of capitalizing the personal pronouns which reference God; He instead of he. Returning to this once common convention helps clarify the proper subject in longer passages. This is especially helpful in the Gospels which have many long sections without any mention of Jesus by name.

EXAMPLE: Matthew 27:27-37

27:27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around Him.
27:28 They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe around Him,
27:29 and after weaving some thorns into a crown, they put it on His head. They put a staff in His right hand, and kneeling down before Him, they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
27:30 Then they spat on Him and took the staff and repeatedly hit Him on the head.
27:31 And after they had mocked Him, they took off the robe and put His own clothes back on Him. Then they led Him away to be crucified.
27:32 Now as they were coming out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they compelled to carry His cross.
27:33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means ‘Place of the Skull’)
27:34 they offered Him wine mixed with gall to drink. But after tasting it, He would not drink.

b. Restoring the personal name of God

In the Old Testament, all references to the personal name of God should be restored. The Holman Christian Standard Bible has adopted this proposal, but the overall trend in translations is to use the term LORD. The King James Version also erred by using the artificially created name “Jehovah.” Both translation traditions fail to preserve the relational intimacy of God’s revealed name of YHWH.

EXAMPLE: Psalms 23:1-6

23:1 YHWH is my Shepherd, I shall not diminish.
23:2 He makes me repose in lush pastures; he leads me beside refreshing waters.
23:3 He restores my whole being; He guides me along right paths for His name’s sake.
23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they bring me comfort.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the full view of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup overflows.
23:6 Surely goodness and covenant-love will pursue me all the days of my life, and forever I will dwell in the house of YHWH.

2. References to Men & Women & the Community of the Way

a. “Man” is the special name given to God’s creation of both male and female

A translation should hold onto God’s special name without any concern for modern “gender” convention or the all too common linguistic ignorance. When the reader sees “Men” or “Man” starting with a capitol “M“, he can know the context is referring to the male and female sexes. If the readers sees “men” or “man” starting with a lower case “m“, he can know the context is referring to males only.

b. The name of family community

Brethren is another one of those NT words that can create some confusion.  In some instances it refers to men and in others it refers to both men and women.  By simply capitalizing those references which refer to both men and women, we are able to maintain the integrity of the Greek text and help the modern reader understand the context and make a right application.  Therefore, “Brethren” would include men and women and “brethren” would refer to men only.

EXAMPLE: Galatians 1:10-12

1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of Men or of God? Or am I striving to please Men? If I were still trying to please Men, I would not be a bond-slave of Christ.
1:11 For I want you to know, Brethren, that the gospel which I preached is not according to Man.
1:12 For I neither received it from Man, nor was I taught it, instead it was through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Notice how the words Man and Men are, in context, referring to both male and female sexes and are capitalized. This keeps the translation faithful to the original inspired text and helps the modern reader determine the intended meaning. It also makes clear the distinction between Jesus as Divine and thus superior to the created race of Men.

c. The Title of Inheritance

Some modern Bible translations have tried to remove the masculine reference to “Sons” by using terms such as “children” which are not present in the original text. In pandering to modern feminist conventions, these translations strip the text of its historical meaning.  Still, because the way language has changed, there is genuine concern that some readers may think the term “Son” only refers to males. In an effort to be faithful to the revealed text and to offer the highest level of reader comprehension, translations should capitalizes all references to “Son” or “Sonship” when it means both male and female. In summary, the term “Son” can and does include both male and female who are adopted into God’s family and the term “son” will only refer to the male child. The term children, will be used only when it is used in the Greek.

EXAMPLE: Galatians: 3:25 -3:29

3:25 But now that faithfulness has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond-slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

In this sample, the term Son is important because it lets the reader know of our special standing, both male and female, inside of God’s family is based on inheritance (Sonship). A proper understanding of inheritance only comes from the context of Old Testament, Roman, and Mediterranean culture.

The ultimate irony of gender inclusive translations, is that by using more culturally relevant and meaningful terminology, they make the historically radical inclusiveness of the NT Gospel less comprehensible. (ie. it was revolutionary to for the NT to say that a woman had the legal right of full inheritance –Sonship– and when translators abandon this term they deprive the reader of understanding the radically inclusive nature of the NT Gospel).

Consequently, by keeping the term Son, and eschewing the common gender neutral translation, we can then emphasize the truly countercultural meaning of adoption with full rights, both male and female, by God

Summary

Once again, let me pause here and get some valuable feedback.  In Part 3, I will conclude the series and share my final key translation features.

POSTS IN THIS SERIES

Part 1Part 2Part 3

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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