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Translation Questions

In the following e-mail exchanges, the e-mailers’ questions and comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.

>Dear Sir I enjoy your web site and I appreciate what you have to say about modern translations of the Bible.<

Thank you for the kind comments.

> Concerning your recommendation of the WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE. I LOVE THE TRANSLATION but I do not believe that their translation of the Greek word monogenes in John 1:14,18,3:16,18, and Heb 11:17 is inaccurate. I believe it should be translated "only begotten." Could you shed some light on this.

Your Servant in Christ,

I'm glad you like the WEB. As for monogenes the last time I looked at the WEB it was translated in several different ways in the passages you mention. At the very least it should be translated consistently throughout. Maybe they have corrected it by now.

I would agree; it should be translated as "only-begotten." That is how am translating it in the ALT. But I will probably use "uniquely begotten" for John 1:14 and "unique" for John 1:18 as alternative translations placed in brackets, along with similar, alternate translations as context dictates elsewhere.

Below are lexical details on the word:
of what is the only one of its kind of class unique; (1) as an only child born to human parents one and only (LU 7.12; 8.42); subst. an only son (LU 9.38); (2) as a child born in a unique way; (a) used of God's Son Jesus only, only begotten; subst. (JN 1.14); (b) used of Abraham's son Isaac only; subst. his uniquely born son (HE 11.17). (Friberg, Timothy and Barbara. Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Copyright 1994. As copied from BibleWorksfor Windows™).

>My name is Todd and I have enjoyed your web site and all the useful information in it.<

Thank you for the kind comments.

> I have a question...in 1Corinthians 13 the KJV translates the Greek word agape to "charity." Other versions like the NKJV translate the word to "love." I would like to hear your comments on the translation on that word.


The KJV uses "charity" 26 times to translate the noun. But it uses "love" many more times to translate both the noun and the cognate verb agapao. The word "love" is the most accurate translation for both the noun and verb and fits in all contexts. I see no basis for translating it as "charity" on occasion. Such a rendering is less accurate.

I have no idea why "charity" was used by the KJV occasionally. Maybe they were just using it for variety. But I believe it is best to translate Greek words as consistently as possible. So "love" should be used throughout and the KJV is simply less accurate than it could be in this case.

>I have been reading the material on your "Bible Versions" site. I was wondering if you could answer a question for me? I also prefer the "NKJV" Bible (although I have 8 different versions in my library), primarily because of the footnotes that point out the textual differences.

What I do not understand is why the NKJV uses the word "Hades" for "Hell." It is my understanding that the word "Hades" is a Greek word. If your doing a translation why would you not translate the word into its English meaning "Hell?"<

You are correct "Hades" is just a transliteration of the Greek letters into English. It is not a translation. The problem is, there are two different words for "hell" in the NT, hades and gehenna (actually there is a third, tartarus but it only occurs once, in 2Pet 2:4).

If both words were rendered as "hell" than any possible distinction between these two words is lost. So the NKJV renders gehenna as "hell" and just transliterates hades (tartarus is also rendered "hell" but a footnote indicates the original word).

Some believe there is a difference between hades and gehenna, others don't. i.e. those that do believe there is a difference believe hades is the place of the dead between death and the resurrection whereas gehenna is the place of the lost after the final judgement. The others believe the words are interchangeable.

So by translating the words differently, I believe the translators are trying not to make a decision in this regard. Maybe a better practice might be to use "hell" for all three words and indicate in footnotes the different Greek words used. But it is the translators decision.

>I am having a Bible study at my house. The material you have on your web site was very useful in helping to explain to why some versions are so different (esp. KJV vs. NIV ).<

I am thankful you have found my materials helpful.

>Thanks, and May God Bless Your Ministry.

God bless you too.

>Hi Gary, I was looking at some web pages concerning mainly Jewish Christians who will only use a translation of the Bible that uses YAHWEH, ELOHIM and other literal renderings for Gods names they actually believe that the gentile church is responsible for generalizing the names of God i.e.: In the beginning God or In the beginning ELOHIM.

I would like to know if this is a valid claim by our Jewish brothers in the faith and, if this is a valid claim then how should the translators of the Hebrew and Greek texts be approaching the translation of the names of God? <

Maybe someone who was raised in a Jewish or possibly even a Christian home might know that elohim means "God" but not every English speaking person does. And I would guess that even many Jews would not know the less well know Hebrew words for God, like el elyon (God Most High; see Gen 14:18).

The point is, the purpose of translating the Bible from Hebrew to English is so that people who do not know Hebrew can read the Word of God for themselves. Now if Jews want to produce a version with the Hebrew words for God that is fine; but I would not in any way say it is the only way it should be done. Why should someone have to learn Hebrew words to read an English Bible?

Now, a case can be made for just transliterating "Yahweh" given that it is a proper name. However, elohim is more a generic word that can apply to the one true God, but also to false gods. I wonder if your Jewish friends think it should be rendered with the Hebrew term in the latter cases also?

If it was up to me, I would use the standard English terms. In the preface of the Bible I might indicate which English words I had used in translating which Hebrew words for God for the more common terms; and for the less common terms I would use footnotes within the text to give the Hebrew words. I am not sure how I would handle Yahweh though. I might follow the traditional English method and render it as LORD or maybe keep it as Yahweh.

>I received an e- mail from J.P. Greene Jr. telling me that the reprinting of the LITV will be using for instance the Tetragrammaton as YAHWEH rather than JEHOVAH in future editions.

Yours in Jesus YESHUA Christ MESSIAH

I find this rather surprising. In previous issues of his publication Christian Literature Word Green has defended using Jehovah rather than Yahweh. I guess he must have changed his mind!

>Thanks for your Web site...as a reader of the New King James I was surprised at the amount of stuff on the Web by the King James only people...I too have noted differences in newer NKJV renderings versus older ones like in Matthew 27:1 ...from what I can tell the Greek supports "taking counsel against" but the latest New King James says "plotted against" ....<sigh>


I assume you saw the page Verse Evaluations: KJV vs. NKJV - Part One where I mention changes in the NKJV from the first edition to more recent editions. I find this frustrating also, especially when the change is from a more literal rendering to a less literal one.

As you indicate, Matt 27:1 reads in older versions of the NKJV, "When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death." But in newer versions it reads "plotted against" rather than "took counsel against."

However, Greek scholar Fritz Rienecker comments on this passage, "sunbouliov consultation. elabon aorist lambano to take. Used with the preceding word, to form a plan, to consult, to plot" (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, p.81). Other lexicons I checked also give "plot" as a possible meaning for the word.

So "plotted against" is a possible rendering of this phrase. So the newer rendering is not wrong. It is just recognizing the importance of context as the final determiner of the translation of a word.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

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