In my first post, I outlined both the Goal and Purpose of Bible translation. In part 2, I shared my first two translation keys.  In this 3rd and final post, I will give the last key translation feature.

Key Translation Features (cont.)

3. Textual Keys

a. Textual Authority

Modern scholarship has contributed much to our understanding of Scripture, but in some specific cases the Majority text is still superior in both clarity and authority.  This paradigm will be reflected in the content of a good translation on a case by case basis.

EXAMPLE:  Compare these two translations:

Matthew 19:16–17 (ESV)

19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
19:17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

These textual tradition simply makes no sense when you compare Jesus answer with the actual question being asked.  In contrast, the textual tradition for the Majority text is far more comprehensible.

Mark 10:17–18 (AV 1873)

10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

b. Old Testament Quotes

In all cases where the New Covenant quotes the Old, the text has been bolded, italicized, and CAPITALIZED to look like THIS.

EXAMPLE: Matthew 2:13-18

2:13 Now, after they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph saying, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”
2:14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the Child and Mary, His mother,
2:15 He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: “I CALLED MY SON OUT OF EGYPT.”
2:16 Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. And sent soldiers to kill all the boys from age two and under, according to the time he had ascertained from the wise men, who lived in and nearby Bethlehem.
2:17 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying,

c. References to the Torah

When the New Testament refers to the Torah, I propose the English translators use a capitol “L” for “Law” (Torah). In instances where another law is in mind, a lower-case “l” should be used.  In addition, when referencing the Torah, translators should resist the urge to use the definite article ‘the’ when it is not used in the Greek. By changing this translation paradigm to use a capital ‘L’ and excluding the definite article ‘the’, the translation does create a mild linguistic awkwardness for the English reader but it ultimately heightens awareness to the original meaning of the text by creating a stronger contrast between governmental law and OT Law (Torah).

EXAMPLE: Galatians 3:21

Is Law then opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have been based on Law.

d. The Historical Present

One of the most mistranslated potions of the New Testament are passages which use a historical present narrative. See this example from the book of Matthew.

EXAPLE: Matthew 8:18-23

8:18 Now when Jesus saw the great crowds around Him, He gave instructions to cross over to the other side of the sea.
8:19 But a certain scribe came to Him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
8:20 And Jesus says to him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
8:21 And another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
8:22 But Jesus says to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
8:23 Now when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.

Note the words in red. These words are written in the present, active, indicative and commonly translated in the past tense to conform to modern English sensibilities. However, this does not take full advantage of the artistic, and poetic, imagery within these narratives. Notice in contrast how the words in blue are in the context of the aorist, active and are translated using the past tense. The disciples “said”, but Jesus “says.” This mixed use of tenses may seem odd at first to the English reader (and that is why most translations don’t do it), but in an age where the narrative is all important, a proper translation of the preset active indicative in juxtaposition to the aorist active can help bring the words of Jesus to life and help transport the reader into the very presence of Jesus’ in history.  Read the text out loud to yourself, or have someone read it to you, and you will feel the difference.


This is a good starting point, but there is a lot of work that should be done.  I cannot promise a reply to every comment, but I am open to reading your ideas


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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