As more people are being exposed to our translation, we are receiving more frequent questions about our translation principles and about specific translations (both likes and dislikes). This, therefore, seems like a good time to begin a FAQ section and to post our rubrics on the public section of our web site. This will encourage study and discussion of translation issues and help us gain feedback on translation choices and tradeoffs that must be made.
You are viewing the FAQs listed numerically
View the FAQs by category
01. Why does Jesus say, “Amen, Amen, I tell you”?
In most recent English translations of the Gospels Jesus frequently says, “Truly I say to you” or “I tell you the truth.” This conveys a clear meaning, but the problem is that in the Greek text Jesus, in the great majority of cases, does not use the Greek word for “truly” [ἀληθῶς / alethos] or “truth [ἀλήθεια / aletheia].” Even though his conversation is being reported in Greek, Jesus consistently is quoted as using the Hebrew word Amen. Jesus is coining a new word for the use of the church. If the evangelists regularly report Jesus saying “Amen I say to you,” is there a good reason why we should not? So although we are not aware of any other contemporary English translation that uses this rendering, we are using this translation because it best honors the literary intent, and perhaps even the theological intent, of the text. Here is some of the data that supports this conclusion.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word Amen occurs 30 times. NIV 84 translates it Amen every time except twice. Two times it is translated truth. In these two cases Isaiah calls the LORD the God of Amen. Is there any reason here to change the God of Amen to the God of Truth? NIV 84 did opt to use “the Amen” (instead of something like “the Truth”) as a name for the Son of God in Revelation 3:14:
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
In the New Testament Amen occurs about 123 times. NIV 84 translates it as Amen only 30 times. The strange thing that one immediately notices is that NIV 84 like many other translations keeps the Amens in the epistles and in Revelation but removes the Amens from the Gospels. It seems strange to keep the Amens in the Old Testament and in the epistles and in Revelation and to remove the Amens from the Gospels, since it is Jesus’ use of Amen in the Gospels that connects the Old Testament use to the New Testament use and establishes the church’s use of Amen which is reflected in the epistles and Revelation.
If we take the Amens out of the Gospels, we break the link from the Old Testament to the New Testament to the worldwide church. In Isaiah the LORD is called the God of Amen. In Revelation 3:14 (quoted above) Jesus is called the Amen. It is through Christ that we say “Amen” to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). Without Jesus’ Amens in the Gospels the links are interrupted. This seems to be a good reason to restore Jesus’ Amens in the Gospels.
There are other good reasons to restore Jesus’ Amens. One of our translation principles is that we try to follow not only the theological intent of the text but also the literary intent. That is why one of our rubrics says, “Hebrew/Aramaic words used in Greek text should remain Hebrew: Amen, Alleluia, Abba, Marana tha, Raca, Talitha, koum, etc.” This seems to be a sound principle, so should we make Jesus’ Amens an exception to the rule? [Other examples of Hebrew/Aramaic words used in the New Testament are: Hosanna, Armageddon, Rabbi, Corban, and “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.”]
Another good reason not to translate Amen as truth is that Hebrew and Greek have other common words for truth (amet, aleth—). If we translate Amen as truth, it creates confusion and blurs distinctions when Amen and emet or aleth— occur in proximity.
Another reason for trying to be as consistent as possible is that a Bible translation is like a sweater. When you start pulling on a loose string, you can unravel a lot of things that are connected. The same principles that apply to the Amen issue apply to a lot of other terms that move from one language to another language like satan/Satan, selah/interlude, diabolos/devil. (That is a topic for future FAQs.) Though maintaining complete consistency of terms is impossible, we want to maintain consistency across the translation unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise. There does not seem to be a compelling reason to take the Amens out of the Gospels.
So all this produces a need to balance two concerns. Though there are very good literary and theological reasons to restore Jesus’ Amens, which have been missing from many recent translations, some readers may, at least at first, be uncomfortable with Jesus’ Amens. How do we bridge this gap?
Perhaps the discomfort is due to unfamiliarity. Amen is certainly a familiar word. We are used to hearing Amens at the end of prayers and declarations. Yet has anyone questioned NIV 84’s rendering of Revelation 7:12 where Amen appears at the beginning as well as the end?
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Recall that NIV 84 also translated Revelation 19:4 by using Amen even though it is not at the end:
And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”
Jesus is unique in his tendency and divine ability to say Amen to a statement even before it is said. Jesus says Amen so often in the Gospels that it is the most notable trademark of his speech. Anyone reading the Gospels in their entirety will soon recognize that this is one of Jesus’ benchmarks, and the pattern will become familiar.
Isn’t that a theological point worth preserving? Is Jesus with his initial Amens simply saying, “I am going to tell you the truth”? Or is he saying more, “I am guaranteeing this will happen”? This may be another good reason not to take away Jesus’ Amens.
This topic is a good one for our first FAQ because it illustrates the principle of our project to do everything we can to carry over both the theological and literary nuances of the text into the translation, even on seemingly small points. First, we ask, “What best reflects the original text?” Then, “Is it clear in English?” Next, we consider the long tradition of Bible translation. In last place come our preferences and likings.
We hope that our FAQs and rubrics will help everyone who is following the progress of the project walk through the same procedure with us and give us your feedback. When you encounter something in the translation that strikes you as new or strange, take time to study the issue more thoroughly. Whenever you do this, the main question must always be “What best conveys the theological, literary, and emotional intent of the text?” What is familiar and what is smooth are not unimportant, but they have to be secondary.
Perhaps if Jesus says, “I tell you the truth” instead of “Amen I tell you” (or as John’s Gospel has it: “Amen, Amen, I tell you,”) the loss is not great. But some things are being lost: the unbroken connection of the Amens from the OT to the Gospels to the epistles to Revelation to the church, the literary style of Jesus’ speech, and the fact that Jesus can say Amen to his promises even before he speaks them.
After weighing all input we kept this formula:
Amen I tell you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not even the smallest letter, or even part of a letter, will in any way pass away from the Law until everything is fulfilled.
Amen, Amen, I tell you: (in John’s Gospel when Amen is emphasized by being used twice).
The footnote regularly explains it this way:
Usually, people say Amen at the end of a prayer. But Jesus used this Hebrew word at the beginning of a statement, which was unique. The inspired writer simply transliterated the Hebrew word that Jesus spoke, instead of using a Greek term. This translation does the same in English. The basic meaning is I solemnly tell you the truth.
Earlier in this FAQ we noted that we were not aware of any other contemporary English translation using Jesus’ Amens. This has led some to say that this translation is an innovation or even “weird.” We wish we could take credit for making a new innovative discovery in translation, but we can’t. In the Latin Vulgate, which was the Bible of the Western church for over a thousand years and is still the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, Jesus regularly says “Amen dico vobis,” which is: “Amen I say to you.” Letting Jesus say Amen is not an innovation. It is just a return to the norm.
02. In the passion history Jesus twice says, “Who are you looking for?” Isn’t that bad grammar?
These are our principles that govern who and whom:
- Do keep distinctions between who and whom, etc., but try to avoid uses that sound stilted or pedantic in contemporary English. “Who are you looking for?” sounds like normal conversation. “For whom are you looking?” does not sound normal in conversation. Try out a few English sentences and see what sounds normal.
- Do the same for the rule “no prepositions last.” In Germanic languages “prepositions” (which often are actually detachable particles that are part of the verb) sound very natural at the end of a sentence.
These principles were based on our feelings about the language not on any specific research. We knew this was a no-win situation. Purists would say the “who are you looking for?” is bad grammar. Most people would say “for whom are you looking?” sounds stuffy. Other terms used to describe “for whom are you looking?” are “formal,” “super-formal,” “pretentious,” “moribund,” “socially divisive,” and “a school teacher superstition.” Since we have started receiving claims that “who are you looking for?” is bad grammar, it seems like a good time to post some of comments of grammarians and editors. It seems to have the ingredients for an interesting discussion. (We hope our FAQs can show that grammatical discussion can be entertaining and maybe even amusing.)
The editor of a major American newspaper, who describes himself as a “moderate prescriptivisit,” summarizes the current situation thus:
In conversation, who appears to have supplanted whom, almost universally. There is no going back.
In formal writing, such as an academic paper or book, whom remains on its precarious perch.
In middle-level discourse, such as journalism, which aims at a conversational tone while adhering to the conventions of standard written English, whom is slowly slipping away, and probably should. …
It may be time to discuss letting go of the distinction in journalism. No doubt my fellow prescriptivists will see this as a counsel of despair, even though I am holding the ground on imply and infer, comprise and compose, even though I continue to use whom in my own writing when the pronoun as object is called for. I am two-thirds of the way toward being a dead white male, and I think that whom will see me out.
But language is tricky, and it defies predictions. Schoolteacher superstitions, such as the supposed prohibition against the split infinitive or the preposition at the end of a sentence, persist despite having been repeatedly exploded.
For now, whom, though it may have seen its best days, is going, going, but not quite gone.
Fowler already foreshadowed this in the 1908 edition:
The interrogative who is often used for whom, as, “Who did you see?” A distinction should here be made between conversation, written or spoken, and formal writing. Many educated people feel that in saying. “It is I or Whom do you mean?” instead of “It’s me, Who do you mean?” they will be talking like a book, and they justifiably prefer geniality to grammar. But in print, unless it is dialogue, the correct forms are advisable.
Fowler’s 1908 rule is pretty much the rule we follow: “In print the correct forms are advisable unless it is dialogue.” Actually, this was “old news” already in 1908 since substitution of who for whom occurs already in Shakespeare.
There are a number of other problems with rigid attempts to enforce the law of who and whom:
- It is a futile attempt at an Amish-style freeze in time which is impossible in a living language. The “correct” form of Jesus’ words to Peter (who do you say I am?) is not “whom do you say I am?” but “whom say ye I am?” If we want to preserve the purity of the English language, we need to preserve not only the cases of who/whom but also the cases of the 2nd person pronouns: thou=singular subject, thee=singular object, ye=plural subject, you=plural object. If the English language can survive the loss of thou, thee, and ye, it can survive the loss of whom. Actually the loss of thou, thee, and ye is much more serious than the loss of whom since it is not the loss only of the subject/object distinction but also the loss of the useful singular/plural distinction.
- It is an ill-advised attempt to impose the grammar of a dead Romance language on a living Germanic language. A partisan of the lost causes of “who/whom” and “no preposition last” explained it this way: “When in doubt about correct English grammar, I always relied on the rules of Latin.”
- When people try to apply dead rules to living language, they over-correct and make awkward mistakes like “a woman whom I think is a genius.” Whom is not the object of I think, as rearranging the words demonstrates: “a woman who is a genius, I think.”
In our project we will try to use language that is both correct and alive and to observe the distinction between written communication and conversation (even conversation recorded in writing).
03. Why don’t you capitalize the pronouns that refer to God? That seems to give more honor to God.
The two most common suggestions that we have received are for a red letter Bible and to capitalize the pronouns that refer to God.
The first suggestion (to use red letters for the words of Jesus) is not a translation issue but it is just a matter of the publisher producing a red letter version if there is demand for one. We would have no objection to such a version.
The capitalization issue, however, touches on our translation philosophy. Since this question is so frequently asked we will give a little more detail:
It has been a recent convention of English usage to capitalize nouns and pronouns which refer to God. This, however, seems to have begun only in the 20th century. It was not the practice of early English translations including the original King James. It also was not the practice of Luther’s German Bible. Though there was a capitalized formal version of the German pronoun “you” Luther did not use this pronoun for God. He used the uncapitalized du as his pronoun of choice to refer to God. As our name Wartburg Project implies we give some weight to Luther’s principles.
Our basic principles are: Capitalization of nouns and pronouns that refer to God is not a feature of the original text, and therefore it falls into the category of interpretation rather than translation. Interpretation is more the task of a study Bible, so it is better not to adopt this as a translation principle.
English style, however, requires titles and proper names be capitalized, so our translation capitalizes all titles of God, especially Messianic titles and proper names that occur in prophecies.
These two principles are in tension. To reproduce the Bible literalistically a translator would have to use no capitalization, but English conventions call for the capitalization of proper names and titles. The practice is to capitalize only the titles and proper names, but not the common nouns and pronouns that refer to God.
Capitalization is not a feature that marks deity versus non-deity. Capitalization distinguishes a title or a proper name from a common noun: the Antichrist or an antichrist (1 Jo 2:18); the Evil One or an evil one, or the evil (Lord’s Prayer); the Church or the church. Capitalization does not indicate deity or reverence: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Great Pumpkin, and I are all capitalized.
Capitalization may also be used to express differences of emphasis. A writer may use “the temple” or “the Temple” to indicate whether he is thinking primarily of the type of building that this structure is or he is emphasizing that this is the unique Temple of the LORD. But all of these distinctions are foreign to the biblical text, so it is unwise to adopt capitalization as a device for marking Messianic prophecy or for distinguishing direct prophecy from typical prophecy. References to the Messiah are capitalized if they are titles. Otherwise they are not.
04. Why does the account of the Wise Men say that they saw the star “in its rising” when many translations say that they saw the star “in the East”?
In Matthew 2:2,9 did the Wise Men see the star “in the east” or “in its rising” ? “In the east” certainly has a lot of support in recent translations, but if the Wise Men were from the East why would they have to tell us that they were “in the east” when they saw the star? We would know that. Or why would they need to tell us they saw the star in the eastern part of the sky? All stars arise in the eastern part of the sky and march across the sky. Since the Wise Men were astronomer/astrologers, it was the appearance of a star at a certain time and place that was significant to them. The study of exactly what the Christmas star may have been is a complicated and much disputed topic that we cannot resolve here, but a translation should recognize the astronomical significance of the text of Matthew. “In its rising” in this passage is a technical term that points to the astrological significance of the appearance or the reappearance of a star in a particular portion of the sky. The term used for “from the East” in verse 1 is ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν (a plural form that is used typically of the rising of the sun), while in verse 2 and 9 the singular ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ is used. This singular here is used of the rising of a star and should not be translated “in the east.” Because of the singular form and the article this phrase in verses 2 and 9 is probably not a geographical expression as it is in verse 1, but it is instead an astronomical term. See the article on anatole in the BDAG Greek Lexicon. Recent translations that recognize the astronomical significance of this phrase are NET, NLT, ESV, and NRSV. To find out more about the “rising of stars” google “heliacal rising.”
05. Did ancient Israel have toilets? (Mt 15:17)
The answer to both questions is “yes.” The facilities Israel had can be called either toilets or latrines.
Latrine is the definition of aphedron in the standard lexicon of New Testament Greek (BDAG). Latrine perhaps is the most technically correct word for what Jesus is talking about because it is the most comprehensive. A latrine can be a ditch or hole in the ground, a structure similar to an outhouse, or a nice public rest room constructed of stone with constantly running water—the Jews had all these. The most famous latrines of Jerusalem were those of the Essenes (appropriately located not far from the Dung Gate). Qumran also had a communal latrine.
Toilet is also an appropriate translation. The readers of the gospels were familiar with large public toilet facilities with running water in the larger cities. The most famous one in Israel is at Beth Shan. The most famous of all is the large public toilet facility at Ephesus. (If you google either latrines or ancient toilets, you will find pictures of these.)
If a toilet is a “fixed receptacle for defecation” (dictionary definition) the Jews also had toilets. There are half a dozen stone toilet seats from the destruction layers of Old Testament Jerusalem. The rich and famous did not use outhouses that were outside the city as the law required. If you google “outdoor toilets” you will find pictures of outhouses not very different from the ones Israel would have had, many of them with the word toilet written right on their wall. The word toilet is not limited to our modern flush toilet. So, yes, it is correct to say the Jews of Jesus’ day had toilets.
The Jews had outhouses, holes in the ground, public latrines that were pit toilets, public toilets with running water, and sewers. Though either latrine or toilet would be a correct translation of what Jesus was talking about, we will probably use latrine because it is the more comprehensive term and some readers might have the mistaken idea that people in Jesus’ day did not have toilets. The problem with latrine is that in modern usage it often is limited to military latrines. Another reason to use latrine is that it will also work in those Old Testament passages which deal with latrines and indoor toilets.
The other choice that must be made is between some sort of word for toilet or a euphemism about passing out of the body. Jesus could have said “out of the body” but he did not. Jesus chose a more jarring word. The reference to a toilet or latrine was even more jarring in Jewish culture because the latrine was an unclean place that was supposed to be outside the settlement. Jesus’ choice of a more jarring term makes his point about the folly of judging people by what kind of food they put into their mouth all the more striking.
Over all, although it has something of an archaic sound, latrine is probably the best choice. Also translators should not censor Jesus by hiding his choice of words.
06. Are you going to make a red letter edition of the gospels, which honors Jesus’ words by putting them in red?
Christians have often made special decorated editions of the Bible, so we would have no objection to a red letter edition of our translation if there is a demand for it. Also if someone wants to volunteer to start converting the text into a version with metric measurements for readers outside the United States, that would be a good idea too. We assume there will be some who will want audio versions of our translation. There may be many other ideas for special versions.
But all of these are publication and formatting questions for the future. Right now our job is completing a translation that people will want to use in multiple formats. If some formats are not feasible as print editions, they may be electronic editions.
07. Why do you capitalize the Devil? Isn’t that honoring the devil?
No, it simply recognizes that the Devil has become a title of Satan. All titles are capitalized even if they are evil figures like Satan, the Devil, Belial, Lucifer, Antichrist, etc.
The Devil comes from the Greek word diabolos, which means “slanderer” when it is used as a common noun. It is already used in the Greek Old Testament as the translation for satan, a Hebrew word that means “the enemy or accuser. Satan or the Satan is a Hebrew name for the leader of the evil angels. Diabolos, the Devil is a Greek name for the leader of the evil angels.
The evil angels who follow Satan, the Devil, are not called satans or devils. They are called demons or unclean spirits. The Devil is a special title of their leader. If Satan, his Hebrew name, is capitalized, his Greek name should also be capitalized.
The Devil is capitalized because it is a Greek version of the Satan. Both started as common nouns. Both are now titles.
08. Will the EHV Bible be sectarian?
The first problem is the meaning of the word “sectarian.” Sectarian is perceived as a very negative word. A search sectarian thesaurus includes synonyms like fanatic, bigoted, and schismatic. The word is so loaded that it would be good to avoid the word when speaking of one another. But even if “sectarian” is used in its mildest sense “belonging to a particular denomination,” it would be untrue to say that the translation of our project will be sectarian.
The main reason that our translation will not be sectarian is that our translators are not sectarians. They are confessional Lutherans. They understand that while it might be sectarian to translate the Bible, “Jesus said this is my true body,” it is not sectarian to confess, “This is the true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The translators understand the difference between presenting a Lutheran understanding of Scripture in a confessional statement and importing that interpretation into the words of a translation.
What if we translate 1 Corinthians 10:16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ?” Though this translation beautifully reflects the biblical Lutheran understanding of Communion, it would not be a sectarian translation. It would accurately produce the meaning of the Greek text. It would be the translation of the King James Version that the whole English-speaking Protestant church used for 400 years. Our translation is not a “go it alone” project. It rests on the foundation of centuries of Bible translation including the work of Luther, Tyndale, the King James Version, and recent Bible scholarship of Lutherans and non-Lutherans. In the Old Testament it often utilizes the best Jewish scholarship on the Hebrew text.
What determines whether or not a translation is sectarian is not how many people produced it or how many people use it or how theologically diverse its translators are or how many reviews it has, but how faithful it is to the divinely intended meaning of Scripture. The Vulgate, which was used by millions of people for many centuries and which was the Bible that nourished Luther, was sectarian when it translated the first gospel promise, “She [Mary] will crush the serpent’s head.” When Luther revised the Vulgate and translated, “He [Christ] will crush the serpent’s head,” his one-man translation was not sectarian but truly catholic (“catholic” means holding to the doctrine Christ entrusted to the whole church). The Formula of Concord is not sectarian. It is catholic and ecumenical because it promotes the unity of the church by faithfully confessing the content of Scripture. The same would be true of a translation made by confessional Lutherans. A translation made by confessional Lutherans would not be “a Lutheran translation” which introduced a Lutheran bias into the text. It would be a translation by Lutherans which honestly set forth the meaning of the text.
We are not intending that our translation will be labeled as a Lutheran translation or that it will appeal only to Lutherans.
For a fuller discussion of this topic read below “A ‘Lutheran’ Translation?? Pitfalls and Potential”.
09. In certain passages of the New Testament some translations have the term “Messiah” where your translation has “Christ.” Why the difference?
Messiah is an English version of the Hebrew word that means anointed. Christ is an English version of the Greek work that means anointed or the Anointed One. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were installed into their office by being anointed with oil, which seems to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
As the fulfillment of the offices of prophet, priest, and king, Jesus is the Prophet, Priest, and King. He was anointed, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38).
A Hebrew-speaking believer who wanted to refer to the coming Savior as the LORD’s Anointed would call him Messiah (meshiach). A Greek-speaking Christian who wanted to refer to the Savior as God’s Anointed would call him Christ (christos).
The New Testament consistently calls Jesus the Christ even when the speakers are Jews. Some translations retro-translate christos back to mashiah when the speakers are Jews. Our practice is that when the New Testament text has Jesus speak a Hebrew word (as in his frequent use of amen) we follow the text and keep the Hebrew word. If New Testament uses the word christos regardless of whether the speaker is Jew or Gentile, we use Christ. Neither practice gives a wrong meaning, but we prefer to follow the literary choice made by the writers, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. If they use a Hebrew-based term, we do too, If they use a Greek-based term, we do too.
A special case is John 4:25. The Samaritan woman says, “I know that Messiah is coming.” The text includes the parenthetical comment that the Messiah is also called Christ. Following the lead of the text we include both Messiah and Christ in our translation. When the Greek text uses only christos, we translate Christ.
10. Your translation sometimes has more words and occasionally even more verses than other recent translations of the New Testament. Why is that?
There are hundreds of handwritten manuscripts of the New Testament. There are many small differences between these hand-written copies. Most of these variants fall into the category of “typos” which do not affect the meaning of the text, but occasionally some manuscripts have words or even verses that are missing from other copies of the New Testament.
Recent English translations fall into two general camps in their approach to the text of the New Testament. Some translations closely follow the so-called Textus Receptus (TR, Received Text) which was the basis of the King James Version. The so-called Majority Text (MT) is not identical to the Textus Receptus, but both reconstructions of the text rely heavily on late medieval manuscripts and are sometimes also called the Byzantine text type. Closely following this tradition results in a longer text of the New Testament.
The second major approach follows a critically reconstructed text which relies much more heavily on older Greek manuscripts with an emphasis on texts from Egypt, where there are more old texts that have survived because of the dry climate. This text type is sometimes called the Alexandrian text. This tradition is summarized in the critical editions of the New Testament known as the UBS/Nestle editions. Overall, it is this tradition that results in a shorter text of the New Testament.
In this brief FAQ we cannot go into the intricacies of the ongoing battles between these two schools other than to note that proponents of the TR/MT end of the spectrum argue that the Byzantine text type is the most carefully preserved text in the main line of transmission of the text throughout the church, and that the Egyptian type texts have significant corruptions and omissions. Proponents of the UBS/Nestle tradition argue that the Byzantine type texts have been amplified by a lot of scribal additions over the centuries.
The NIV, ESV, and HCSB are all translations in the UBS/Nestle tradition. These translations may occasionally follow a Greek text different from the text given preference in the UBS/Nestle text.
The New King James and some of its cousins are examples of translations in the Textus Receptus tradition.
Our approach to the text of the New Testament is to avoid a bias toward any one textual tradition or group of manuscripts. An objective approach considers all the witnesses to the text (Greek manuscripts, lectionaries, translations, and quotations in the church fathers) without showing favoritism for one or the other, since each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses as a witness to the text. In the New Testament, a fuller text than that of the UBS/Nestle should be weighed on a case by case basis because UBS/Nestle tends to lean too heavily toward the theory that the shorter text is the better reading. In general, as we examine significant variants, the reading in a set of variants that has the earliest and widest support in the witnesses is the one included in the text. The other readings in a set of variants are dealt with in one of three ways:
- A reading that has very little early or widespread support in the witnesses is not footnoted in order to avoid an overabundance of textual notes.
- A reading with significant early and/or widespread support but not as much early or widespread evidence as the other reading is reflected in a footnote that says, “Some witnesses to the text read/add/omit: . . . .”
- A familiar or notable reading from the King James tradition (e.g. the addition or omission of a whole verse) whose support is not nearly as early or widespread as the other reading can be reflected in a footnote that says, “A few witnesses to the text read/add/omit: . . . .”
In short, readings and verses that are omitted from UBS/Nestle-based versions of the New Testament, which have textual support that is ancient and widespread are included in our translation. If there are readings where the evidence is not clear-cut, our “bias,” if it can be called that, is to include the reading with a note that not all manuscripts have it. The result is that our New Testament is slightly longer than many recent translations of the New Testament.
11. Is the Wartburg translation of the Bible a literal translation?
The answer to your question is “no” “yes” or “sometimes” depending on what you mean by the word “literal.” There is a lot of confusion about the meaning of the word “literal” as it applies to Bible translations. There are two extreme views in regard to literal Bible translations. Some people think that a literal translation is the only right way to go in a Bible translation. At the other extreme some ridicule the term “literal translation” as meaningless and impossible. Both of these mistakes are due to a simplistic understanding of the term “literal,” which fails to do justice to the complexity of the term “literal” and to the complexity of the art of translation.
But the meaning of “literal” is actually not that complicated. Most people understand the two main senses of “literal” quite well, including how the term applies to understanding and translating the Bible.
The first dictionary meaning of “literal” is “the primary or strict meaning of the word or group of words—the meaning that is not figurative or metaphorical.” The part of this dictionary definition that refers to a word’s “primary or strict meaning” is not very helpful because it is too vague to be useful, but the words “the meaning which is not figurative or metaphorical” gets right to the heart of the matter. Everyone understands that the literal meaning of the word “heart” is the organ that pumps blood through the body. “Heart” also has many metaphorical meanings, including courage and generosity. Metaphorically, a “big heart” is a good trait. Literally, a “big (enlarged) heart” is a bad medical condition. Everyone understands that the primary literal meaning of the word “hand” is a part of the human body. When “hand” refers to “power,” this is a derived or figurative meaning.
The ability to distinguish literal uses of words from metaphorical uses is one of the key skills to understanding any language. But in most cases fluent speakers of a language do it quite easily. Most figurative uses of words that one encounters in the course of a day are very familiar, and the reader or hearer hardly even notices them. Readers understand that the statement, “the performance of the play was so dramatic that the eyes of the audience were glued to the stage” is metaphorical. They would laugh at the not uncommon blunder, “the performance of the play was so dramatic that the eyes of the audience were literally glued to the stage.” The first situation, a metaphorical experience, would be fun. The second, a literal experience, would be painful.
Readers of the Bible distinguish between literal and figurative uses of words all the time. When Jesus calls Herod a fox, readers easily recognize that the expression “fox” is a metaphorical reference to the character of a man, not a literal reference to an animal. This skill of distinguishing the metaphorical from the literal is necessary for understanding any form of communication.
Though this skill is essential for a Bible reader, most of the time it is not particularly useful to a translator, because the statement “Herod is a fox” would be translated the same regardless of whether the use of the word “fox” is literal or metaphorical. When “hand” is a non-literal reference to “power,” it should still, in most cases, be translated “hand.” Otherwise the translator is destroying the literary choice made by the author. The exception to this is when the figurative use of the term means something different in the receptor language than it does in the biblical language. For example, the literal meaning of “heart” is the same in Hebrew and English. In English the non-literal uses of “heart” refer most often to love, courage, and other emotions. In Hebrew heart often refers to mental activity, which in English would be attributed to the mind. So the Hebrew “heart” can sometimes be translated “mind” and the Hebrew “kidneys” can sometimes be translated “heart” since in Hebrew the kidneys are thought of as a seat of emotions.
It is this second meaning of the word “literal” that that creates a challenge for the translator. My dictionary says that a literal translation “follows the words of the original language very closely and exactly as in ‘a literal translation of Goethe.’” Once again the dictionary definition is partly right and partly wrong. We can start by crossing out the word “exactly” from the definition. It is impossible for a Bible translation (or any translation for that matter) to follow the original language word-for-word, because the structures of the two languages are too different. For example, Hebrew does not normally express the verb “to be.” An English translation that followed the Hebrew word-for-word would seldom include the words “is” and “are” which are essential in English. Some languages have no definite articles; others require them. Besides that, the rules for use of the definite article are different in different languages. It is impossible for a translation to follow another language exactly word-for-word unless it is an academic exercise, not intended for reading with understanding and enjoyment.
A translation cannot follow the source language exactly except for very short clumps of words, but it can and should follow the original language closely. What does it mean to follow the text closely? It is answering that question which requires skill and good judgment on the part of the translator. It is perhaps easier to say what a literal translation is not, than to define exactly what it is.
We have already seen that a so-called “literal translation” does not try to follow the original text word-for-word, but thought-for-thought, because it does not look only at single words but at the clusters in which they occur. Even the King James Version which tried for high degree of “literal translation” recognized that it is impossible to translate word-for-word. They frequently had to add words to their translation, but they demonstrated their regret over this undeniable fact by putting the words they had to add into italics.
Nevertheless, a word-for-word translation is very often possible and should be followed if there is no reason to depart from a word-for-word translation. In the verse “Jesus wept” there is no reason not to follow a word-for-word translation. This is true for very many Bible statements, maybe even a majority of them. “Son of Man” and “a baptism of repentance” are two cases where a literal translation is the best option.
There is no reason to belittle the idea of literal or word-for-word translation as some people do. Literal translation is the starting point of a good translation. But it does not work all the time. A translator has to depart from word-for-word translation or literal translation1 when such a translation would be unclear or clumsy, but a good translator follows a very literal translation very often.
Sometimes good translators even translate letter-for-letter. This is called “transliteration.” A number of common biblical words in English are simply transliterated from Hebrew, words like amen and halleluia. The writers of the New Testament also used these and other transliterations from the Hebrew. The writers of the Old Testament occasionally used transliterations from other languages including Sumerian (for example, the Hebrew hekal (temple) is apparently a transliteration from the Sumerian e gal (big house). Transliteration from other languages is a part of every living language. Modern Hebrew transliterates the English word pizza which is itself a transliteration from Italian.
The English theological vocabulary is filled with transliterations, some of them from Hebrew (amen), some from Greek (angel), some of them from Latin (justification, sanctification).2 Where transliterations are an established part of theological English, we are inclined to keep them in our translation because of our respect for the theological traditions of past generations of translators. We see no need to change all the angels to envoys or all occurrences of justifies to declares righteous. We seek to preserve heritage terms like sanctify, justify, angels, and saints, but not to the exclusion of make holy and declare righteous, etc. We make an effort to retain key terms that appear in the creeds, catechism, and hymnal.
Another place in which transliteration has been the rule in biblical English is in personal names and geographic names. Biblical names usually have a literal meaning, but it is customary to transliterate them rather than to give a literal translation of them. WP retains the traditional Bethlehem. We do not freshen it up to House of Bread or Breadbasket. If necessary, footnotes can indicate the literal meaning of the name. In transliterating, we sometimes translate not simply word by word but letter by letter.
To some degree, a translation has to be shaped by contemporary English, but a good translation also tries to remake the meaning of English words to fit biblical content. In some rare cases, this means inventing new English words like at-one-ment. Words in biblical English derive their meaning not just from contemporary English usage, but from the context of Scripture which shapes the meaning of the word. The Bible pours new and fuller meaning into English words. The words derive their meaning not just from contemporary usage but from centuries of use in the context of the Bible. We can look at just two examples: saints and priests.
Saints is a much changed transliteration of the Latin sancti “holy ones.” If we let contemporary English rule, we might conclude that we have to get rid of saints because casual readers might think of Catholic saints, who are deemed to be or are declared to be especially holy people on the basis of their lives. But faithful readers of the Bible will soon understand that the saints are every believer who has been declared holy because of Christ’s death. The proper understanding of saints is worth saving.
An even more complicated example is provided by the word priest. Priest is a much changed transliteration of the Greek word presbyter, which means elder and refers to men who held an office very similar to pastor. The English word priest, therefore, is not derived from the Hebrew (cohen) and Greek (hiereus) words that are commonly translated priest. To gain a good understanding of what priest means, readers of the Bible must do two things. To understand what an Old Testament levitical priest was, a Bible student must read everything the Bible says about Old Testament priests. To understand what a New Testament priest is, a Bible student must read everything that that the New Testament says about the priesthood of all believers. In short, we must base our concept of what a priest is, not on contemporary Catholic usage or on analogies from heathenism, but on everything the Bible says about priests. The word priest can be rescued for its proper use.
Translators have to assume that their readers have the ability and desire to learn new words and to deepen their understanding of important biblical words. Translators should not be condescending or patronizing to their readers, but should be dedicated to helping them grow. Translations should not be “dumbed down.” The Bible was written for ordinary people, but it is a very literary work, with lots of figures of speech and lots of rare words. The Bible is a book to be read, but it is also a book to be studied.
Many, perhaps even most, words have a primary, literal meaning. Nevertheless, it is usually not possible to translate one common Hebrew or Greek word with only one English word. This is because if a Hebrew word has meanings a, b, c, and d, but meanings a and b match up with one English word, but meanings c and d match up with a different English word, it requires at least two English words to translate one Hebrew word. Nevertheless, translators should try to be consistent in the way they render terms. There is no reason to translate the Hebrew kinnor as lyre one time and as harp another time. Translations should not wander all over the map. Though “one Hebrew/Greek word = one English word” is not a viable standard for a translator to apply consistently, the translator should strive to be consistent rather than casual in his renderings of specific words and word groups. Our translation strives to be consistent in the rendering of terms, but not to the degree of never varying if the context calls for it.
So how many of the goals of the Wartburg Project do we think we will achieve? Probably none of them, because they are high goals. There is not much point to setting goals that we can easily achieve. In every area of life our goals should exceed the expectations others have of us and even the expectations we have for ourselves.
In every area of life achievement is measured by three standards: our duty, our goals, and our accomplishments. The highest standard is our duty. In sanctification our duty is perfection. In sanctification, therefore, our goal is perfection. In sanctification our accomplishment on earth will be considerably less than perfection. But that does not mean that our duty is any less than what God has set for us, or that our goals should be any lower than the target God sets for us.
Two years ago when we started the Wartburg Project we stated our duty and our goals in this way:
Thesis 1: The duty of a translator is to convey all the meaning (or the openness to more than one meaning), all the beauty (or the ugliness), all the style (high or low), and all the emotional impact of the original text into the translation.
Thesis 2: Thesis 1 is impossible.
Thesis 3: Thesis 2 is not entirely correct.
Thesis 4: In small bits and pieces a translator can come close achieving the aims of thesis 1. Tetelestai > It is finished. The only major thing wrong with this translation is that it has too many words. Were it not for the weight of tradition, we could probably improve the translation by reducing it to a single word, “Finished!”
We also stated our methodology:
The translator should not be too locked in to any one theory of translation whether so-called “dynamic equivalence” or “literal translation” because:
a. Literal (or more accurately, literalistic, word-for-word) translations sometimes give the wrong meaning or they do not communicate clearly in the receiving language.
b. Dynamic equivalence, though a worthy goal, is not fully possible. We would be happy with any translation that was dynamic and equivalent, but too often translations labeled “dynamic equivalent” are either not equivalent or not dynamic. We would like every translation to be both “meaning equivalent” and “emotional equivalent”.
c. The translator will have to weigh whether a more dynamic or more literal approach best conveys the divinely intended meaning on a case-by-case basis.
It is necessary for a translation to have a set of rules and rubrics to guide the translators, but the relationship between two languages is so complex, that it is hard to imagine a rule or rubric which can be applied without exception. We now have over 240 rubrics, and so far I do not think we have found one that we can follow as a rigid rule. Translation is more of an art than a science.
Though we are always adding rubrics and tweaking our old rubrics, our duty, our goals, and our methodology remain the same. Our duty is to convey all the meaning (or the openness to more than one meaning), all the beauty (or the ugliness), all the style (high or low), and all the emotional impact of the original text into the translation. Our goal is to strive toward these results with the talents, time, and support which the Lord has given us. Where this all ends up of course depends on the Lord’s blessing. For the time being we are content with the spiritual growth we are experiencing through the work of the project and the harmonious spirit with which the participants are working together. We don’t know what the end results will be, but we know that the end results will be if we do nothing. The result will be Nothing! The only sure thing in any venture is that no effort always results in no results. In basketball the lowest percentage shot is not the long-range three-pointer, but the shot that you do not take. The scoring percentage on such shots is always 0%. If we leave all the work of translating to others, we know what our results will be—we will produce nothing for the church. If we faithfully invest the talents the Lord has given us, we know what the results will be—something. Whether the return of investment is ten-fold, or a hundred-fold, or a thousand-fold is in the Lord’s hands. And so we will keep pressing toward the goal, not being distracted from the work of producing sometime purely positive for the church.
1The terms “literal translation” and “word-for-word” translation are sometimes used interchangeably but this is a confusing practice. It would be clearer to call a word-for-word translation “literalistic” or “wooden.”
2Just as literal translation is not always exactly word-for-word, transliterations do not always match letter-for-letter. This would be impossible because the two languages may not have letters that match the letters of the other language.
12. In Psalm 110:1 “The decree of the LORD to my lord,” why is the second occurrence of “lord” not capitalized? It refers to Christ, the Son of God.
The second lord does indeed refer to Christ, but capitalization does not depend on whether or not a word refers to God, but on whether it is a title (then it is capitalized) or it is a common noun or adjective (it is not capitalized). Examples of this kind of contrast are: LORD God Almighty, but God is almighty. God is the King of Kings, but God is a great king.
Titles are capitalized even when they refer to human rulers. The title O King will be capitalized, as will the titles my Lord or Your Majesty when they are addressed to human rulers, whether good or bad. See also FAQ 3.
That capitalization does not mark deity or honor but only the presence of a title is indicted by the capitalization of Baal, Asherah, Zeus, Satan, the Devil, the Antichrist, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Great Pumpkin.
In the polite, formal style of speech characteristic of Old Testament culture, terms like my lord and your servant are used as deferential substitutions for personal pronouns. To say “My lord gave this command to your servant” is considered more respectful than saying “You gave this command to me.” Since these terms are de facto pronouns, we would not capitalize either your servant, a term of humility, or the deferential pronoun my lord.
Capitalization or non-capitalization may also be used to express differences of emphasis. A writer may use “the temple” or “the Temple” to indicate whether he is thinking primarily of the type of building that this structure is (the temple), or he is emphasizing that this is the unique Temple of the LORD (the Temple). There are many cases of this in the Old Testament with choices like the ark or the Ark, the tent or the Tent, the dwelling or the Dwelling. In these situations the translator must make a decision whether or not to capitalize on a case-by-case basis, based on the context. In many of these cases the choice is debatable.
So what about Psalm 110 and other Messianic prophecies? Titles of the Messiah are capitalized. References to the Messiah that are descriptive terms are not.
Our Old Testament rubric for the term lord is: LORD for the Tetragrammaton/Yahweh; Lord for the divine title Adonai; and lord for the common noun adoni, unless it is a title addressed to a person.
In Psalm 110 the second word for lord in verse 1 is pointed as the common noun adoni, not as the divine name Adonai. David says, “LORD Yahweh made a decree to a person who is my lord.” If the passage had said, “Yahweh said to Adonai,” there would be no puzzle for Jesus to pose to his enemies (Mt 22:41-45). The dilemma that Jesus addresses to them is this. We all agree that the Messiah is David’s son. How then can David describe him as “my lord.” The necessary conclusion is that for David’s son to also be David’s lord, the Messiah must not only be David’s physical son, but he must also be David’s LORD God, who created David. In some contexts “Son of David” may be a Messianic title that needs to be capitalized, but in Jesus’ discussion in the gospels “David’s son” is a description of the Messiah’s origin, not a title. In Psalm 110:1 my lord is used as a term describing the Messiah’s nature and not as a title, so it is not capitalized.
There are many other cases in Messianic prophecy in which a word which is at first a descriptive term becomes part of a Messianic title. The description “David’s son” becomes a title “the Son of David.”
Another case is found in the prophecy of Daniel (Dn 7:13) where Daniel sees one who is “like a son of man.” This passage is certainly a basis for Jesus’ title “Son of Man,” but “son of man” is not yet a divine title in this verse (nor is it in Revelation 1:13).
A parallel situation exists in Isaiah 9. “For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the authority to rule will rest on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The word “son” often is capitalized as part of Messianic titles such of “the Son of David,” “the Son of Man,” and “the Son of God,” but here, like the word “child,” it is a descriptive term. The text is telling us that this person who is a son of Israel and a child of Israel is also their God, who is their Everlasting Father.”
In those cases where a word that is at first descriptive, then become part of a title, we should not get the cart before the horse by making it a title prematurely. We should let the prophecy unfold, just as Jesus does in his discussion with his enemies. There are many examples of this in Messianic prophecy.
In such cases we will use footnotes to explain the progression from a descriptive term to a title (for example, from the noun satan, which means “accuser,” to the title Satan). Our first edition is not a full study Bible, but it will have footnotes to explain translation choices. Since capitalization or non-capitalization is a translation issue, footnotes that explain individual decisions would be appropriate.
13. Is the Bible produced by the Wartburg Project going to be a study Bible?
The initial publication will be the “plain vanilla” Bible. For the most part the footnotes will be limited to explanations of translation decisions and textual variants. But it is our goal to produce a confessional Lutheran study bible based on our translation. Translators and reviewers are instructed to save materials that would be useful for producing a study Bible. The People’s Bible will also be a valuable resource. At this stage we cannot predict when it might be feasible to complete this second phase of our project.
Is there a need for such a study Bible? The Concordia study Bible based on the text of NIV 84 was (and, for now, may continue to be) the most widely used study Bible in WELS, but it will no longer be available for publication and purchase. (Get one if you still can.) Under present circumstances it does not seem that it will be possible to produce a Lutheran study Bible based on the text of NIV 2011.
Concordia Publishing House has turned to the ESV as the base text for its Lutheran Study Bible. The LSB is thoroughly Lutheran and includes a devotional emphasis with prayers and quotations from Luther and the Lutheran fathers. For now, it is the “only game in town” as far as confessional Lutheran study Bibles are concerned, and it is recommended for Lutheran Bible students. Its companion products such as the two-volume Lutheran Bible Companion will be very compatible for use with our Wartburg translation.
Nevertheless, we believe there is room for another confessional Lutheran study Bible which meshes with our translation (which we hope will have a more contemporary flavor than the ESV and which in some cases will have a fuller biblical text). Our study Bible would also have a greater emphasis on up-to-date archaeological, historical, and geographic information.
The Zondervan NIV Study Bible based on the text of NIV 2011 has now appeared (Fall 2015). It has a theological emphasis and is thoroughly Reformed/Evangelical in its approach, so theologically it is not suitable for Lutheran students as their main study Bible.
14. Why do you use the terms “inn,” “manger” and “swaddling cloths” in Luke chapter 2? Aren’t these terms outdated?
In some cases, terms that are allegedly outdated are really not outdated. Sometimes this can be rather surprising. We have learned more about each of these terms since we started working on this translation.
Some people have claimed that “manger” is out-of-date and that “feeding trough” is contemporary. We were almost persuaded that this was true until we asked farmers. Farmers told us that they call them mangers. They were very clear about this. We asked more farmers. They agreed. We checked agriculture catalogs. All confirmed that this was true. So we are using the current term. It also happens to be the most familiar term for most Bible readers.
An additional benefit is that our translation of “manger” goes very well with traditional Christmas hymns. “Away In A Feeding Trough” would not be as familiar as “Away In A Manger,” would it?
The term “swaddling” is not outdated. Mothers and doctors still use the term. The Mayo Clinic website offers advice on swaddling a baby. See the link in the footnote here.[a] Swaddling is currently used in infant clothing. Just type in “swaddle” or “swaddling” at Amazon.com for evidence of this.
The term “inn” is certainly not outdated. We use the term all the time. It is possible that this term is so common today that it could give a false impression. We should not picture the “inn” of Bethlehem as a present-day motel with blinking lights and a “no vacancy” sign. Maybe we could think of it as something similar to a modern bed and breakfast.
Some Bible scholars question whether it was really an “inn” or just a “guest room.” The Greek term in Luke 2:7 (katalyma) is quite flexible, but most Bible translations still render it “inn” in Luke 2:7. This same term is correctly translated “guest room” in Luke 22:11.
But in the case of Luke 2:7, we wonder. If it really was the “guest room” at a relative’s house, would they have sent the mother to a stable to give birth?
In his Concordia Classic Commentary on Luke, William F. Arndt writes this about the Greek term katalyma:
Literally it means a stopping place where one “unhitches.” It quite naturally then took on the meaning of guest chamber. It could be used of inns and of rooms in private homes.[b]
Arndt also served as an editor of the Bauer lexicon. He opted for the translation “inn.”
There is some uncertainty as to the exact details of the circumstances of Christ’s birth. In this case, we saw no reason to change from the familiar traditional translation of “inn.”
[b] William F. Arndt, Luke (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), p. 76.
15. Why is your translation called the Evangelical Heritage Version?
Our translation is called Evangelical because its highest goal is to proclaim the good news of the gospel of salvation through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son. Though there are many topics in the Bible, all of them are there to serve the gospel of Christ. All of our work in producing and distributing this translation is directed to the glory of God and to the eternal salvation of people’s souls.
Almost all our congregations have the word evangelical in the name that identifies them. The word evangelical expresses the nature and purpose of the congregations of our church bodies.
Our translation is called Heritage because this word looks to the past, the present, and the future.
Heritage expresses our respect for the generations of Christians and for the faithful translators who have passed the Bible down to us. We are very conscious that we in the present are building on the foundation which they have laid. As the old saying goes: We can see so far because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.
The term Heritage also looks to the future. The gospel is a precious inheritance that is to be passed from generation to generation until Christ returns. It is our prayer that this translation will have a part in that great mission which the Lord has left for his church. Our goal and motto is expressed in the hymn verse:
God’s Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way.
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while worlds endure
We keep its teaching pure
Throughout all generations.
The words evangelical and heritage were two of the words that received the most favorable recommendations during our test of names among our supporters so we are confident that this name will express the hopes and dreams for our translation among our translators, reviewers, editors, and users.
Evangelical Heritage VersionTM EHVTM and Wartburg BibleTM are trademarks of the Wartburg Project.
16. How does archaeology help in Bible translation?
Do archaeological materials and historical records sometimes help correct or improve Bible translations?
Yes, new archaeological information often helps correct or improve translations of terms that appear in the Bible. Here are a few examples.
Older translations often say that the furnishings in the temple were made of brass, probably because the furnishing on the translators’ church altars were brass. But analysis of metal objects from the biblical period, including coins, shows that objects with a copper base were made from some form of bronze. Pure copper is too soft to be used for utilitarian objects such as tools. EHV therefore there calls both biblical coins and furnishings bronze, not brass or copper. So although Hebrew uses the same word for copper and bronze, EHV calls the ore copper and the objects bronze.
Older and even more recent translations often refer to tambourines. But ancient pictures indicate that the instrument in question (Hebrew tof) was not a hollow circle with rattlers on it, which was meant to be shaken, but a small hand drum, meant to be struck. So EHV regularly refers to drums or hand drums. The Israelites did also have rattles, shaped somewhat like a baby rattle. This instrument is called a sistrum. It, of course, would be possible to combine both a drum and tambourine into one instrument.
The account in Exodus of Pharaoh’s army being overwhelmed by the Red Sea uses a word pair usually translated chariots and horsemen. Archaeological evidence is that mounted cavalry was not common until the Assyrian period, so this probably refers to chariots and charioteers.
Many translations refer to the two categories of alcoholic beverages in the Bible as wine and strong drink or some such term. Strong drink tends to make one think of distilled or fortified beverages like brandy or whisky. Evidence is that this type of production of alcoholic beverages was not part of the Near Eastern culture (though some dispute this). The two categories of alcoholic beverages in the Bible appear to be grape-based and grain-based. The current archaeological term for these ancient grain-based beverages is beer. The similarities and differences between ancient beer and our beers which descend from it is a study in itself, perhaps a topic for another FAQ. Since beer is the standard archaeological term for these ancient grain-based beverages, it is the term EHV will use.
Our final example will be given a more detailed treatment because it is a good example of how historians and bible scholars make mistakes and then try to blame the Bible for their mistake.
The Bible calls a people who appear in the patriarchal accounts in Genesis Hittites or descendants of Heth. These Hittites appear to be one of the Canaanite peoples of the land. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries newly discovered texts revealed a new rival of the Egyptians around the time of the biblical judges. They were an Indo- European people from central Anatolia (Turkey), that the historians named Hittites.
Much has been written about the Hittite-Egyptian rivalry, and these Hittites play a prominent role in ancient history books. These people moved into an area of Anatolia that had been called the land of Hatti, so the historians named them Hittites, on the basis of the apparently erroneous conclusion that these people were related to the Hittites in the Bible. They then pointed out that these Hittites rose to prominences in central Anatolia significantly later than the biblical dates for the patriarchal period. It was concluded that the biblical references to Hittites must be anachronisms based on confused memories of the Hittites that were introduced into biblical accounts, which historians claimed were written long after the heyday of the Hittites.
But there is a major problem with this explanation. The problem is that these Indo-European rivals of the Egyptians did not call themselves Hittites. They called themselves Neshians. When they competed with the Egyptians, they were relatively new arrivals in the land of Hatti in central Anatolia, where they displaced an earlier non-Indo-European people called Hattians. The Neshians keep the geographic name land of Hatti but did not call themselves Hattians or Hittites. The Neshians were given the name Hittites by scholars on the basis of the alleged similarity to the name Hatti to Hitti in the Bible. This error produced an apparent discrepancy between the biblical and historical description of “Hittites.” This discrepancy was not produced by the Bible. It was produced by the historians who erroneously stuck the tag Hittites on the Neshians.
About the Hittites the University of Pennsylvania’s archaeological magazine Expedition (January 1974) says:
The first thing to realize about the Hittites is that they are not Hittites. The sad fact is that we are stuck with an incorrect terminology, but it is too late to do anything about it now. This unfortunate situation came about as a result of several deductions made by earlier scholars which, though entirely reasonable at the time, have proved to be false….
We now know that these people we call Hittites were Indo-European. … It is now believed that the Hittites came into Anatolia sometime in the latter part of the third millennium B.C., though exactly when and from where are questions we still cannot answer.…
The Hittites were indeed a major world power in the period 1700-1200 B.C., but they were not Hittites. That is, they did not call themselves Hittites. They refer to themselves as Neshians, “inhabitants of the city Nesha,” and their language Neshian. But so much for that; the scholarly world had already labelled them Hittites and, like it or not, Hittites they shall forever remain. It is just as well, for the term Neshian only calls attention to our ignorance of this early period; we do not even know where Nesha is to be located….
There was the evidence all along: what we call Hittite should be called Neshian and the evidence for this had been available since 1887.
That is the simplified version of a complicated story. In EHV we considered calling the biblical Hittites Hethians to avoid the confusion historians have created. But since the biblical Hittites are the real Hittites and the historical Hittites are the imposters, we decided to keep the term Hittites along with the term descendants of Heth and to explain the problem with a brief note.
17. The spelling of personal names and place names in various Bibles is very inconsistent. Is the EHV going to have a consistent system of spelling?
The short answer is “No.” Here is why.
The problem of the spelling of personal and geographic names is a nightmare for translators, but many users of a translation might never notice it, unless they try to look a name up in an atlas or Bible dictionary as your question indicates.
The problem arises because some letters of the Hebrew alphabet do not always have a good correspondence with one specific letter of the English alphabet, so different people transliterate the names differently. A further complication is that many of the English names have not come directly from Hebrew but via Greek or Latin.
This problem is not unique to the Bible but applies also to many other writing systems, for example Arabic and Chinese. Compare Koran/Quran and Beijing/Peking.
Today the spelling of place names and personal names in the Bible is in disarray with a tension between preserving traditional English spellings and trying to bring the English spelling into closer alignment with Hebrew. An attempt is underway to get closer to a consistent transliteration the Hebrew: k kaph=k, q qoph=q, j chet=ch, x tsade=ts. But tsade is often written as z, and chet is often written as h. Chet really needs a special character which is not an English letter. And this is just a small sample of the problem. There are many other cases.
A particular problem is soft kaph which is also rendered ch in many names. This is a problem because biblical ch is not pronounced like the ch in church. It is a hard guttural xxxhhh sound. EHV generally uses k when we want to prevent a pronunciation like church, but there are some exceptions where traditional spelling is retained.
Some transliterations are so established that we simply must live with the inaccurate reproduction of the Hebrew. We cannot change the inaccurate Jerusalem to the more precise Yerushalaim, or Tyre to Tsur, or Bethlehem to Bet Lechem.
Among the many spelling options are Beersheba/Beersheva, Beth Shean/Beth She’an/Bet Shan/Beth Shan, Acco/Akko, Hebron/Chevron. There is no consistent system in common use. All of the systems are riddled with inconsistencies.
As a general rule EHV retains spellings made familiar by recent translations since this is the spelling in many recent Bible helps such as Zondervan Bible Atlas, which may be consulted as a source for spellings of place names, but this system too is inconsistent.
Consonantal y yod remains j not y in most cases, but there are some special cases like Yarkon, which is a familiar modern place name.
There is also the problem when names are made up of more than one Hebrew word. Beth (house) is a separate word in most place names (Beth Shan, Beth Shemesh, etc.), but these same names are hyphenated in some translations (Beth-Shemesh), and Bethel, Bethlehem, and Bethsaida are exceptions to the rule (they are one word—no hyphen). EHV’s default practice is two words, no hyphen. (Beth Shemesh means “house of the sun” or “Sun City.” Making the name two words follows the normal English practice: Sun City, Bay City, etc.)
EHV uses these names, inconsistent as they are: Acco not Akko, Akkad not Accad, Achor not Akor, Akzib not Achzib, Tannach not Tannak, Meshek not Meshech, Machpelah not Makpelah, Mikmash not Michmash, Lachish not Lakish; Aijalon not Ayalon, Jericho not Yericho, Joppa not Yafo; Aphek not Afeq, Ashkelon not Ashqelon; En Gedi two words but the parallel formation Endor only one word; Elat not Elath or Eilat; Kinneret not Chinnereth.
What a mess! The system is wildly inconsistent, and no solution is in sight. The best we can hope for is to make it as easy as possible for readers to find names in atlases and Bible dictionaries, but these resources too are inconsistent, and some of them offer options for spellings. The best thing readers can do if they don’t find what they are looking for is to look up the name online. This will often show the options for spelling.
The same chaos exists in personal names: Melchizedek but Adoni-Zedek even though it is the same type of formation. EHV spells “king names” ending in melek with a final k not a final ch: Abimelek, Elimelek, but inconsistently it uses Lamech, because we preserve traditional spellings of well-known names.
There are a couple of bright spots in a cloudy sky: the other common systems in use are less consistent than ours, computers make it much easier to get consistency of spelling across the translation, and English speakers already know that English spelling is a really messed up discipline. The most notorious example is ghoti, which is an alternate spelling for “fish”: gh as in enough, o as in women, and ti as in nation.
This is an example of a translation issue which many readers may never notice, but which requires thousands of decisions for translators and editors.
18. Why do you sometimes say “John the Baptizer” and sometimes “John the Baptist”?
Question Why does the EHV say “John the Baptizer” in Mark 6:24 and “John the Baptist” in Mark 6:25? Which one is correct?
Good question! Both are correct. The reason is that there are two different Greek words used here in the original Greek.
In Mark 6:24, the Greek text reads τοῦ βαπτίζοντος [tou baptizontos].
• This is a present active participle from the verb “βαπτίζω” [baptizo].
• In this verse, John is described as “the Baptizer.”
In Mark 6:25, the Greek text reads τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ [tou baptistou].
• This is a genitive form of the noun βαπτιστής [baptistes].
• In this verse, John is described as “the Baptist.”
The EHV shows that there are two different Greek words here. Since the Greek New Testament used two different forms of expression, the EHV seeks to do the same in the English translation. As usual we lean toward respecting the stylistic variations chosen by the inspired authors. That is why it is appropriate to call John “the Baptizer” or “the Baptist.”
19. Why do you often translate the term which many other translations render “horsemen” as “charioteers”?
An interesting issue in the translation of battle scenes and military rosters is at what point of military history we can begin to refer to horseback riders and cavalry. All the way down through the times of Ahab in the seventh century BC, in both biblical and secular sources we have no evidence for any significant action by cavalry. The mobile forces are chariots not cavalry. At about this time, Assyrian reliefs picture soldiers shooting bows from horseback. At first horsemen functioned as mobile, mounted infantry, who served as scouts and perhaps as pursuit forces, but not as attack forces to win pitched battles. It seems clear that battles were fought by chariots not cavalry, though some survivors may have fled on horseback. The first really significant use of cavalry as a major component of winning battles in the ancient Near East was by Alexander the Great. It perhaps significant that Alexander is pictured on horseback, but the Persian king fights from a chariot, which was already becoming obsolete except in parades and on race tracks.
The translation issue then is how we should translate the Hebrew word parosh. When is it charioteers and when is it horsemen? Since the battles recorded in the Old Testament involve chariots not cavalry, it seems that parosh should usually be translated charioteer rather than horseman. The term charioteers includes drivers and the archers or spearmen who fought from the chariot.
1 Kings 20:20 may be the first clear reference to flight on horseback, but verse 21 makes it clear that this battle too was a chariot battle rather than a cavalry battle. It seems clear that the four horsemen in Zechariah 1 are mounted riders, but they are scouts more that attackers. In most texts the ratio of paroshim to chariots is appropriate for the paroshim to be chariot crews. So in the absence of evidence for cavalry action and in the presence of clear evidence for the dominant role of chariots, EHV often translates parosh as charioteer. This case illustrates the need for translators to look beyond dictionary meaning listed for a word to the context both in the text and outside of the text.
20. Does Jesus use bad grammar?
The short answer is “Yes, the Bible does use bad grammar” (at least what some grammarians would consider to be “bad grammar”).
The most dramatic example is Revelation 1:4-5: “Grace to you and peace from him who is, who was, and who is coming, and from the seven spirits that are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ 5 καὶ ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς, ὁ πιστός, ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν καὶ ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς. The key phrase is “from him who is, who was, and who is coming.” In Greek the preposition from (apo) must be followed by the genitive case, but in our text apo is followed by the nominative case (ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος) in flagrant disregard for the rules of Greek grammar. Why do Jesus and his apostle John ignore the rules of Greek grammar? It is clear that they know correct Greek grammar. The following phrases, “from the seven spirits that are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ,” have the correct Greek case. So why does the first phrase, “from him who is, who was, and who is coming,” use bad grammar? It is because this phrase is a commentary on the LORD’s name I AM as it was revealed to Moses at the burning bush. This name teaches the unchanging nature of the LORD and of his grace. In Revelation Jesus expands that name I AM into the three dimensions of time. Past, present, and future, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change, and since Jesus does not change, his name “the one who is and who was and who is coming” does not change, in defiance of the rules of Greek grammar which require it to change. (In a less flagrant departure from grammar Jesus’ titles, “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth,” remain in the nominative case even though they are in apposition to a genitive, Jesus Christ)
The Greek version of Revelation 1:4-5 is bad grammar, but it is good theology and good literature. In this case dramatically expressing the unchanging nature of Christ takes priority over the rules of Greek grammar.
There are other cases in which biblical grammar does not meet the standards of classical grammar books, and some would label it “bad grammar.” Sometimes it violates the conventions of “good style.” Teachers tell us do not be redundant. A classic example of redundancy is “freely by grace.” “Freely” means “by grace” and “by grace” means “freely.” To say both is redundant. But here bad style is good theology. The truth of “freely by grace” is too important to say it just once. Paul has to say it twice “freely by grace.”
The point is not that we are free to ignore the conventions of grammar and style, but that good communicators realize that there are times when literary and theological impact over-ride the conventions of grammar and style.
21. Does the EHV want to be the “official WELS Bible”?
The short answer is No. Let us explain.
First of all, as a matter of historical fact, WELS has never had an “official Bible.” The 1977 Synod Proceedings of the WELS say this:
“The Synod never adopted any translation as the official Bible of the Synod” (p. 74).
In 1979, when the NIV was accepted for use in publications, the WELS in convention passed a resolution that quoted the statement above as a fact and then stated:
“We still concur with the 1977 resolution, ‘That this action should not be construed as the adoption of the NIV as the Synod’s official Bible’ (1977 Synod Proceedings, p. 74).”
The Wartburg Project views its work as an attempt to serve the church at large. Our work is an expression of faith and love and service. We are working to provide the church at large (not just WELS) with the best translation we can produce. It has never been our goal to be “the official WELS Bible.” And we will not seek to be “the official WELS Bible.” We do not encourage anyone to promote or describe our work in those terms.
We hope and pray that the EHV will be a blessing for many. We hope and pray that the EHV will be used by many people. We hope and pray that it will be used in worship, Bible study, home devotions, and Christian literature. We plan to make the EHV available to many churches, authors, and people on the most agreeable terms. We are hoping to share God’s Word widely. We are encouraging our publisher to get copies of the EHV into as many bookstores as possible. We are aiming way higher than just use within WELS.
While we do have many WELS members who are participants in the Wartburg Project, this project is a separate “parasynodical” organization. We are not funded by the WELS at all. (We also have many participants from the ELS. To our knowledge, we have never been asked if we are trying to be “the official ELS Bible.”)
Please look at our work and the EHV as an attempt to serve the Triune God with the gifts he has given us. We are trying to be faithful stewards with all of the abilities we have. We’ve been amazed at how many abilities our participants have as gifts from God. We’ve been encouraged by the progress of the translation work.
Please look at our work and the EHV as an attempt to provide a faithful translation of God’s inspired and inerrant Word to as many people as possible.
From the beginning, we have tried to steer clear of debates or negativity. Our motto has been and remains that we are striving to be: “Purely Positive.” We hope that you will see that in our translation work and the results.
Thank you for asking!
By the way, please also see FAQ #8 Is the Wartburg Project sectarian? Will the Bible it produces be sectarian?
22. Why does the EHV use the term “mammon”?
This term appears only in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:9,11,13. So it is used only four times and in every case Jesus is the one speaking. He says in the Sermon on the Mount:
You cannot serve both God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24 EHV)
In Luke 16:13, Jesus says the same thing:
You cannot serve both God and mammon. (EHV)
Some translations use “money” or “wealth” to translate mammon. However, the Greek language had other Greek terms available for “money” or “wealth.” The term mammon is an Aramaic word used in the Greek text.
The EHV follows a rubric that says:
“Hebrew/Aramaic words used in Greek text should remain Hebrew/Aramaic.”
Here we find a foreign word (in this case Aramaic) in the divinely inspired text instead of a more usual Greek term. As with “Hallelujah” and “Amen,” the EHV chooses to pass that information along as we have received it.
The EHV is not alone in this. Luther, KJV, and NKJV also used mammon in their translations. Translations must make choices. Most translations transliterate the term “Hallelujah” in Revelation 19:1, instead of translating that word into “Praise the LORD” or something like that. Sometimes translations have “Amen,” and in other places it might say “Truly” or “I tell you the truth.” (See FAQ #1 on “Amen.”) These are all translation choices.
What does mammon mean? The EHV has a footnote on Luke 16:9 that says this:
Mammon is an Aramaic word that is transliterated in the Greek. It refers to worldly wealth (sometimes personified). It also appears in verses 11 and 13, and Matthew 6:24. It may also be translated “money,” but a different word for money is used in verse 14.
While it may commonly be translated “money,” it is not certain that “money” is the precise meaning of the term mammon. It often included everything that made up someone’s wealth, such as money, property, servants/slaves, etc. Sometimes it stands for worldly goods personified. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament indicates that mammon appears “always with a derogatory sense of the materialistic, anti-godly and sinful,” and that the background of the term mammon involves a form of idolatry because, “it most likely comes from אמן = “that in which one trusts” (Kittel, Vol 4, pp. 388-389).
In general, mammon seems to refer to wealth with a strong negative connotation. Perhaps when considering the term in context it might means “filthy money” or “worldly wealth.” In any case, it does not seem to be precisely the same thing as the common term “money.” Notice that in Luke 16:13 there is the word mammon, [μαμωνᾷ] but in the very next verse there is a different Greek term for “lovers of money” [φιλάργυροι]. In other passages, there are other terms for money. The EHV tries to make a distinction here.
23. How does EHV deal with so-called “gender inclusive” or “gender accurate” language?
Our basis principle was stated before the project began: In the use of so-called “gender-accurate language” the translator will strive to be inclusive where the original is inclusive and exclusive where the original is exclusive. This means translators are to be guided by the intent of the inspired author as it is indicated by the immediate and wider context of the passage. It recognizes that translation is more of an art or a practical skill rather than mechanically following a rule book.
This principle can be illustrated by the range of usage for the Hebrew word ben, which is glossed by the English word son. Son is the default translation or starting point for a translation of ben, but the context may indicate that the term ben or its plural bnei includes a range of meanings and connotations covered by other English words than the word son.
If the text names the twelve sons of Jacob, it is clear that the translation is sons of Israel. The connotation is clearly exclusive. If the subject is the nation of people descended from Jacob, the traditional translation has been children of Israel. We were very happy with this for 400 years, and it is fine for experienced readers of the Bible. But some new readers of the Bible might be confused and think this refers to young children. So in contexts that refer to the nation the translations people of Israel or Israelites will be clear to all readers. If the text is a list of men being registered for military duty or priestly duty, male descendants would be a good translation.
Sometimes the phrase son of king x refers to a successor of that king who is not a descendant. In this case successor would be a good translation, probably with a footnote: literally son. If a king calls the king of another nation my son, he is claiming that he is the superior in the relationship. This is probably best handled by retaining the word son and explaining with a footnote: the word son here implies a subordinate relationship. The sons of a city may be the citizens of a city whether men or women.
All of these translations may be used by EHV translators to clearly reflect the intent of the author.
A good example of making an exclusive-sounding translation more inclusive is provided by 1 Timothy 2:4. In NIV 84 this was translated God wants all men to be saved. This was not intended to be exclusive, but today some people might hear it that way. The Greek word anthropos frequently refers to groups of people which include men and women. It also is clear from the context of Scripture that God wants all people to be saved, male and female. Since that is the case, the inclusive translation God wants all people to be saved is a better reflection of the Greek and of God’s message and is the direction EHV will go.
For application of the EHV principle (be inclusive where the original text is inclusive and exclusive where the original text is exclusive) to other gender-related terms see the section of the EHV rubrics on gender issues or search other gender-related terms like fathers and brothers in the rubrics.
24. How is the EHV reviewed in order to receive suggestions for improvement?
There are many steps of review, involving a large number of people. These are standard procedures in the process of developing each book of the EHV.
- A translator prepares a draft of the book based on the Hebrew or Greek text. There is already a lot of review built in to this first step. The translators consult many resources from across the span of the Christian church, using the collective knowledge of the church that has been accumulated in translations, commentaries, and other resources. The translators invite further evaluation by sometimes leaving several options in the translation for editors and reviewers to consider. Translators mark these and other passages in which they are inviting critique with red print.
- The editor reviews the draft, checking it against the EHV rubrics. He corrects typos, etc., which he notices, and may mark additional passages in red in order to draw reviewers’ attention to them and he may offer more options for certain translations.
- Four technical reviewers evaluate the translation comparing it with the Hebrew or Greek text.
The reviewers work independently, so we receive four separate evaluations of the translation.
Reviewers are told: Red text means “consider all the options to see if this is the best we can do.”
a. If you think that what is in the red is fine, you can change it to black.
b. If you think the red should be improved, but you don’t have anything better, leave it red.
c. If you have a better translation to offer (either for something that was red or something that was not), substitute it into the text in blue. Briefly explain why your translation is better than what was there. What was weak about the old translation? What is better about yours?
d. If you correct typos or punctuation, etc., mark them in blue, so that they all get transferred to the master.
e. Please consider carefully passages that are more well-known or more quoted than others.
Though the main duty of tech reviews is to check the accuracy of the translation against the original text, they also consider:
a. Would this be appropriate and clear for use in our regular worship services?
b. Would this be appropriate for use in Bible classes?
c. Would this be appropriate for quoting in the catechism?
d. Would this be appropriate for private devotions of laity?
e. Last but certainly not least, are there any doctrinal considerations or concerns to be aware of?
4. The editor enters data from all the tech reviews into the master. Some suggested improvements are accepted immediately without further discussion. Where there are different options suggested or even contrasting opinions, options are left for further discussion with the reviewers.
5. When there is a marked difference of opinion (whether it involves substance or style) the specific issue may be submitted to a panel of reactors in order to gather a wider cross-section of opinions. In a few cases, a question may be submitted to all the followers of our newsletter.
6. We are always checking for the desired level of consistency across books, but in the case of parallel books like Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, there is special attention to a process of harmonization of translations across books.
7. When this process has been completed, the translation is sent to a larger number of popular reviewers. They are reading the translation largely for clarity and readability, but they are free to raise questions about issues of substance.
8. Again, all the information is collated in the master and decisions are made.
9. An English professor critiques the translation for correctness and clarity, including the clarity and helpfulness of the footnotes, and further changes are made to the text.
10. Proof-readers/popular reviewers (often ten or more per book) read the text for errors but also make comments on clarity. Some focus on professional-quality proofreading of the mechanics of the text. Others read the text as part of their devotions and focus on the clarity of the text.
11. The translation is submitted to the publisher for set up. It receives additional proofreading both by the staff of the publisher and by additional volunteer proofreaders from the EHV.
12. Our review process includes pastors, teachers, and laypeople, the future users of EHV.
Many published reviews of Bible translations seem to be based on having one person read and report on a portion of the text. Their suggestions are sifted by a small committee and evaluations and recommendations are issued. In our internal review a minimum of ten people review every section of the text. We have seen many review processes in which reviewers and even translators do not have a guide book that expresses a unified philosophy of translation and a set of guidelines to assist all reviewers. At every stage of the process EHV reviewers have a 30+ pages set of rubrics to aid them in their review. The latest edition of the rubrics is always posted on our web site. (Our reviewers of course are welcome to challenge any guidelines or rubrics they disagree with). When the EHV translation has been completed, users will have a fairly lengthy handbook which explains the philosophy and the individual decisions underlying the translation.
What about external review? We already receive helps and evaluation from outside our immediate circle. When the translation is complete, we will welcome suggestions from external reviewers. Just as Lutherans have been welcomed to comment on translations that originated in Baptist or Reformed churches, EHV, which had its starting point in Lutheran churches, will welcome users of EHV from other churches to help improve the translation.
25. Has anyone proposed the idea of having Lutherans work toward producing a Bible translation before the Wartburg Project?
Yes, there have been many who proposed that idea. Of course, Martin Luther was the first one to propose having “Lutherans” work together to produce a Bible translation for German-speaking people. Martin Luther’s Bible translation served as the most used German translation for many years, even for many non-Lutherans. “His Bible has been read by countless generations of German-speaking peoples, and it has exerted its influence on the translations of the Bible into many other languages as well—to the inestimable benefit of the Lutheran Church in particular and of Christendom in general” (Armin Panning, “Luther as Bible Translator” in Luther Lives, NPH, 1983, p. 83).
Luther first translated the New Testament by himself. Then he sought the help of those with whom he was in church fellowship (Philip Melanchthon, for example). Luther did not translate the Old Testament alone. He formed a translation team that he called his “Sanhedrin.” These were all men who were in confessional agreement with him. According to Mathesius, this group consisted of his fellow professors at Wittenberg: Johann Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, Caspar Creuziger, Philip Melanchthon, and Mattheus Aurogallus. Georg Roerer, the Korrektor, was also present. Frequently other friends, doctors, and learned men came to take part in this important work, such as Bernhard Ziegler and Johann Forster. (See E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times, p. 649).
In essence, Luther’s entire team was comprised of what we would call “Lutherans” today.
Luther’s translation of the Bible was accepted by German speaking people for centuries as “the Bible” they went to first. There were other German translations before and after Luther’s. But, without controversy, Luther’s was the most used German Bible translation, and it was made entirely by Lutherans.
Luther also had significant influence on English Bible translators. William Tyndale was certainly influenced by Martin Luther. He even went to Wittenberg to learn and to translate. Tyndale’s influence on the King James Version leads some to say that Luther had significant influence on the KJV. Miles Coverdale was a Lutheran pastor from 1543-1547 and was an assistant to Tyndale. He also worked on several translations of the Bible into English.
Many Lutherans in the United States of America continued to read and hear the Bible in German until the time of World War I. In that time period, many American Lutherans were making the transition from German to English. There was some concern about the English Bible translation, which was the KJV.
• Professor August Pieper plainly preferred Luther’s translation to the KJV [See “Our Transition Into English,” translated by John Jeske in Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly Vol. 100, #2, pp. 85-106. Pieper’s article was written in German and appeared in the year 1919 in Theologische Quartalschrift, Vol. 16.]. Many other Lutherans preferred Luther’s translation as well. There are many quotations of Luther’s Bible scattered over the years in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly and the journals of the LCMS and ELS. Perhaps more research might reveal what some were saying at that time. Here is just one example of a remembrance from that time period. Professor David Kuske wrote:
I recall a discussion in a pastors’ conference in the early 1960’s of a paper that addressed the subject of the use of contemporary English translations in the churches of our conference other than the KJV. One participant, the 85-year-old Pastor Weyland, reminisced that when our synod was moving to an English translation in the 1920’s, a couple leaders in our Synod suggested doing a translation of Luther’s Bible into English. It seems that Prof. A. Pieper’s article “Unser Uebergang ins Englische” [“Our Transition Into English” mentioned above] had led numerous pastors to translate their sermon texts from Luther’s Bible into English instead of using an English translation such as the KJV. Pastor Weyland recalled that apparently some leaders in Synod felt it would be better to have a uniform translation of Luther’s Bible rather than each pastor doing his own translation weekly. This elderly pastor also ventured the opinion that the only thing that stopped this from happening was the turmoil caused first by the Protestant Controversy and then by the Depression.”
• In 1948, Dr. John Theodore Mueller (LCMS; Concordia Seminary, St. Louis) recommended that there be a translation produced by confessional Lutherans. In “Can We Trust Modern Versions?” in the April, 1948 Concordia Theological Monthly (page 300), he wrote:
Several years ago our Church was memorialized to consider bringing out a modern translation of the Bible by Lutheran scholars. So far the Lutheran Church has not had a translation made by its own members. It has patiently used the translations of the Reformed. Has not the time arrived that we follow in Luther’s footsteps and produce our own? … The objection that we Lutherans should not use a Bible translation different from that of others no longer holds, since the various churches are divided in the use of various translations. Would it, then, not make for unity, rather than disunity, to have a reliable Lutheran Bible translation? Meanwhile, considering the confusion caused by the various versions now on the market, the writer is convinced that it is a matter of wisdom for us in our public ministry to adhere to the King James Version until that new and better Lutheran translation has been produced.”
• In January, 1953, Prof. F. Blume discussed the questions about the Revised Standard Version (RSV) in the Quartalschrift (WLQ Vol. 50, #1). He did not regard the RSV to be the answer to the desire for a translation of the New Testament into modern American speech. He concluded with these words:
This writer has become increasingly convinced that no answer to our people’s inquiries will be completely satisfactory to them or to us until we have given them a version of the New Testament that will do for our generation what Luther’s New Testament of 1522 did for the Germany of his day.”
• The desire for such an English translation produced by Lutherans appears in the Wisconsin Synod Proceedings of that same year. Included in the report of the Committee on Bible Translation, adopted at the Watertown Convention, August 5–12, 1953, was the following suggestion:
Since the appearance of the Revised Standard Version has incited anew the study of Bible translations, also among us, and made us conscious anew of weaknesses in the Authorized Version, which has been in general use in our Synod; and since suggestions have again been made that we proceed with a revision of the Authorized Version: the Synodical Committee at its May meeting adopted the following resolution:
We suggest that the assignment of the Committee on the Revised Standard Version be extended to include a study of some book of the New Testament (e.g., Galatians), that the Committee be encouraged to solicit the cooperation and comment of the members of the Synod, and then to publish the book studied in the Quartalschrift, so that thereby the translation may be rather widely tested as to readability and theological correctness.
Your committee concurs in this recommendation, with the understanding that it be in the nature of a revision of the Authorized Version.” As implied in the above resolution the committee now contemplates undertaking a trial translation of Galatians in the manner indicated, “that it be in the nature of a revision of the Authorized Version,” and herewith invites the members of the Synod to contribute whatever might be of value and help to the committee in carrying out its assignment.
The reasons most frequently advanced for urging at least a trial translation of some book of the Bible are:
1. that existing translations contain archaic words or phrases;
2. that they reveal a Calvinistic influence or otherwise reflect the theological bias of the translators. As to language the Authorized Version, of which the contemplated translation is to be a revision, could undoubtedly be brought up to date with a minimum of change. It is especially in regard to changes involving doctrine that the committee invites comment, but asks that this be of a specific nature, both as to criticism of the translation to be changed as well as to a possible revision of the same. Contributions are kindly to be sent to the undersigned.
Gerald Hoenecke, secretary
Wisconsin Synod Committee on Bible Translation
Box 953, Thiensville, Wisconsin.¹
• In the years 1955-1957, a Galatians “Trial Translation” was produced and published in WLQ (volumes 52, 53, & 54) as an attempt at a revision of the King James Version. There was a general feeling that the Galatians “Trial Translation” had moved a little too far away from the KJV at a time when there were many people who had grown up using the KJV and preferred to stay closer to its way of expressing biblical truths.
• In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Dr. William F. Beck (LCMS) translated the Bible into simple “coffee and doughnuts” American English. His work, An American Translation (AAT), is still used by many Lutherans, but mainly as a devotional/reading Bible.
• Again, in the early 1970’s, WELS considered this very same question … There was a Bible Translation Seminar that met at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary January 2-4, 1974 [Cf. page 12 of “The New International Version Earns Admirers In The WELS,” by Tom Jeske in the WLS Essay file].
In that 1974 meeting, Professor Armin Schuetze listed four options available. The third option was “make our own translation” (page 13 in the paper by Tom Jeske cited above).
At that same 1974 meeting, Professor Wilbert Gawrisch listed a short-term and a long-term need. The long-term need: “we should begin to produce our own translation” (page 13 in the paper by Tom Jeske cited above).
The closing resolution had five points that emphasized requesting that the Seminary faculty study the NIV. But one often overlooked point that was also approved and passed at that Bible Translation Seminar (Jan. 2-4, 1974) was resolution #3:
We embark on our own translation and publication of portions of the Bible as a pilot project.
• Professor Julian Anderson (ELS) translated the New Testament into simplified American English in the 1970’s. His translation is still used in many prison ministries. (Professor Carlton Toppe regularly referred to it in his 1 Corinthians class at Northwestern College.)
• Dr. Siegbert Becker and Professor David Kuske worked for years on a revision of Beck’s translation with other confessional Lutherans. In 1988 this was called, God’s Word to the Nations (GWN). In 1992 it was revised and renamed the New Evangelical Translation (NET). Copies of this Bible were given to professors and students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.
• There was an attempt to produce a translation by an NPH Editor, WELS professors, and some WELS pastors around the year 2003. Galatians and 1 Peter were first produced as test translations. Apparently there was still some desire for a translation produced by confessional Lutherans. At the time, concern was expressed that the NIV could be changing.
• In 2011 and 2013, the WELS spent considerable time considering the question. A committee considered if it was feasible to produce a translation. The WELS Translation Feasibility Committee (TFC) reported in 2013:
In the end, there is disagreement on whether it is feasible to produce a confessional Lutheran translation of the Bible… It would require a large amount of money at a time when funds for mission work and ministerial education are in short supply… In light of all this, perhaps the question should not be, “Can we do it?” but, “Must we do it?” (WELS Book of Reports & Memorials, p. 81).
• President Mark Schroeder wrote a letter, “Thoughts on the Translation Issue” in May, 2013. Here are some quotations from his letter [bold is original].
I believe strongly that we should undertake a project to produce a new or revised translation as a long term solution.
If Option B is chosen, I believe we should also commit ourselves to the production of a Bible translation by confessional Lutherans.
Every translation is produced by someone. The NIV is produced primarily by Evangelicals. The HCSB was produced primarily by Baptists. The ESV was produced by mainline Protestants. None of those translations is considered sectarian. Why would a translation by Lutherans be seen as any more sectarian than those? Luther’s own translation is not viewed as sectarian.
A translation would be open to the accusation of being sectarian if its translation choices were consciously made to support or promote doctrines or terminology peculiar to the group that produces it. Our intent would not be to do that. Our intent would be to produce a translation that accurately and faithfully conveys the meaning of the original inspired languages. If a translation does that, it cannot by definition be sectarian.
We have an opportunity to give a gift to the church. Just as Luther’s translation opened the Scriptures to the masses, and just as the King James Version communicated the Word to English speakers for hundreds of years, so we have an opportunity not so much to solve an immediate problem, but to give a lasting gift to the church that will serve God’s people for a generation or more.
We can do this, with God’s help. I believe for the sake of the church and the message of Scriptures, we should and must do this.
• It was mentioned in the 2013 convention that significant interest was expressed and support offered by Concordia Publishing House as well.
• The 2013 WELS Convention defeated a motion to have the synod praesidium appoint a committee to study the matter further.
After the convention, the WELS Convention Update for August 1, 2013 reported:
“Some delegates noted that those who are interested in pursuing this project could continue it as a parasynodical project—one not supported by the synod budget.”
• In September of 2013, the Wartburg Project began as a “parasynodical project.”
Has anyone proposed the idea of having Lutherans work toward producing a Bible translation before the Wartburg Project? Yes, of course. Over the years, there have been many who proposed such an idea. And some Lutherans have produced translations, the best known being Martin Luther and his team of Lutheran translators.
For balance in answering this question, please also see:
FAQ #8 Is the Wartburg Project sectarian? Will the Bible it produces be sectarian?
We thank God for the gift of his saving Word. We seek to offer it to all people for their eternal benefit. We pray for God’s blessings on our efforts to share his saving Word with as many people as possible all over the world.
26. Why does the EHV use the term “only-begotten” in John 3:16 instead of “one and only”?
John 3:16 might be the best known passage in the Bible. The EHV translation aims to sound very familiar in well-known passages that many people have memorized. Here is the EHV translation of John 3:16:
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
The EHV uses “only-begotten” five times in the New Testament. It is, of course, in John 3:16 (above) as well as in four other related passages: John 1:14,18; 3:18; and 1 John 4:9.
We did not base our decision to use “only-begotten” on etymology (whether it comes from the stem genn- or gen-). Instead we focused on how the New Testament uses the Greek term μονογενής (monogenes) in each context. We do not believe that “only-begotten” is the only option for translating μονογενής (monogenes). We are not criticizing other translations that don’t use “only-begotten.” Yet, in examining how this term is used in each context, we find “only-begotten” to be an appropriate translation in some cases, particularly in the inspired writings of John.
The Greek term μονογενής (monogenes) essentially means “only” in the sense of “unique” or “one of a kind.” The context must reveal what makes the person referred to unique. For example, in John 3:16, what is it that makes Jesus unique? It seems that the uniqueness here is in his being God’s only-begotten Son. No one else is God’s only-begotten Son. That is true only of Jesus. Consider Hebrews 1:5: “For to which of the angels did God ever say: ‘You are my Son. Today I have begotten you’?” (EHV; see Psalm 2:7).
Angels are, in fact, called “sons of God” in Job 1:6. They are sons by creation, but they are not begotten. We are all children of God by creation, but we lost the rights of heirs through the fall. We believers are now children of God and heirs again through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26 says, “In fact, you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (EHV).
But Jesus is unique. The eternal begetting of the Son makes Jesus unique. He is the only one who is the Son of God on the basis of an eternal divine nature. In the Nicene Creed, we confess the truth that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God who is “eternally begotten of the Father” (Christian Worship) or “begotten of His Father before all worlds” (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions). He is “begotten, not made.”
God’s Word to the Nations (a translation of the New Testament) consistently used “only” for μονογενής (monogenes) in the text of the translation. This 1988 book also offered a very balanced presentation of μονογενής (monogenes) in Appendix 6 in the back of the book (pages 542-544). This presentation concluded that “in John’s Gospel where it is used of Jesus… it could mean ‘the only-existing’ (‘the only-one-there-is’ or ‘one-of-a-kind’), or… it could have the special meaning of ‘only-begotten’” (p. 544).
Kittel’s ten volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states: “In Jn. μονογενής denotes the origin of Jesus. He is μονογενής as the only-begotten… μονογενής probably includes also begetting by God” (vol. 4, p. 741). Many other translations have used “only-begotten” as well, including KJV, NKJV, and NASB. So, we are not breaking any new ground here. We are making use of an old and familiar translation.
This familiar translation appears regularly in Christian worship. In the liturgical song called the Gloria of the Common Service, believers sing, “O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.” In Martin Luther’s hymn, “All Glory Be to God Alone” (translated by W. Gustave Polack), Jesus is praised with these words: “O Lord, the Sole-begotten One, Lord Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son.” As already mentioned, it appears in the Nicene Creed. At Christmas, many Christians sing, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.”
If the word “begotten” is regularly used in worship, confessed in the Nicene Creed, and appears in hymns, it is a “heritage term” worth preserving. Many of us grew up memorizing John 3:16 using “only-begotten” too. At this point, we are not aware of a translation of monogenes that is better for this passage.
Yet, the Greek term μονογενής (monogenes) does not always mean “only-begotten” in the sense of referring to an eternal divine nature. Context reveals what is unique. There are different nuances in different contexts. The translation “one and only” is not necessarily the best fit for every context either. Consider, for example, Hebrews 11:17-18. The context is Isaac’s relation to Abraham. Was Isaac really Abraham’s “one and only” or “only-begotten” son? Since Ishmael was already born, that was not really the case. So, here it means that he was the “only” son through whom Abraham’s offspring (the promise of the Savior) would be traced.
27. Why should I try the EHV?
With the recent publication of the EHV lectionaries for evaluation and use, and with the forthcoming appearance of the preview edition of the EHV New Testament and Psalms in 2017, an obvious question is, “Why should I try the EHV?”
The simplest and most important answer to that question is that for dedicated readers of the Bible the opportunity to be a participant in the evaluation of a new Bible translation is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Regardless of what you decide about a specific translation, the opportunity to take a closer look at the process of Bible translation and the exercise of evaluating some of the complex decisions that are involved in Bible translation will be its own reward.
As far as the EHV translation itself, here are a few reasons to give EHV a look.
A key word for the EHV in defining our goals is balance. The goal of our project is to produce a balanced translation, suitable for all-purpose use in the church.
We seek a balance between the old and the new. We respect and try to preserve traditional terms that are well established in the worship life of the church, but the EHV does introduce some new terms in those places where a traditional translation no longer communicates clearly. Such terms will be explained in the footnotes.
We seek a balance between the poles of so-called literal and dynamic equivalent theories of translation. A translator should not adhere too closely to any one theory of translation because literalistic, word-for-word translations sometimes convey the wrong meaning, or they do not communicate clearly in the receiving language. Overly free translations deprive the reader of some of the expressions, imagery, and style of the original.
Translators will strive for a balance between preserving the original meaning of the text and producing English which sounds natural, but the preservation of meaning takes priority.
We seek a balance between formality and informality. The Bible contains many types of literature and different levels of language, from the very simple to the very difficult. For this reason, the translator should not be too committed to producing one level of language but should try to reproduce the tone or “flavor” of the original.
We place a priority on producing a fuller representation of the biblical text that has been transmitted to us than many recent translations. The EHV includes readings which are supported by ancient manuscript evidence but which are omitted in many other recent translations, because they tend to focus on certain parts of the manuscript evidence rather than the whole range.
We place a priority on prophecy, so our translation and notes strive to give clear indications of Messianic prophecy.
The EHV is committed to using archaeology, geography, and history to provide a clearer understanding of the original meaning of the biblical text, and this will be reflected both in the translation and the footnotes.
We hope the Evangelical Heritage Version will prove to be very readable to a wide range of users, but the EHV is designed with learning and teaching in mind. We assume that our readers have the ability and the desire to learn new biblical words and to deepen their understanding of important biblical terms and concepts. Translators should not be condescending or patronizing toward their readers but should be dedicated to helping them grow. The Bible was written for ordinary people, but it is a literary work with many figures of speech and many rare words. The Bible is a book to be read, but it is also a book to be studied. Our footnotes are designed to assist in the process of learning and teaching. Our translation is in that sense a textbook. This concept will, of course, be much more fully implemented in our planned study Bible.
The EHV is a grass-roots translation, which makes extensive use of parish pastors and lay people in the editing and evaluation of the translation.
The EHV is a gift to the church. It is being produced at very low cost because of the abundance of volunteer labor. We have also promised that the EHV will not deny people who have obtained rights to use the EHV in derivative works like commentaries or study Bibles the right to continue to use the version of the EHV which they have adopted, even if new versions of the EHV appear someday.
Over the next year, as the EHV translation is being completed, this article will be expanded to at least booklet length by the addition of more reasons to use EHV and of many specific examples of those principles in practice. This “first edition” deliberately does not include any specific examples so that you can use it as a study guide for making your own discoveries.
In the meanwhile, the FAQs, our rubrics, and articles available in the library section of our website provide many examples of these principles in practice.
28. Why does the EHV read “walk” where some other modern translations say “live”? What does it mean to “walk with God”?
The EHV preserves common biblical expressions and images. One example is a believer’s “walk with God.” Scripture states that “Enoch walked with God” in Genesis 5:22. Then it is repeated in Genesis 5:24. Genesis 6:9 informs the reader that “Noah walked with God.” Enoch and Noah were exemplary believers who lived with God in intimate fellowship by faith.
In explaining these passages, Martin Luther consulted Jude 14-15 to learn more about Enoch. Then Luther said, “Enoch was so equipped by the Holy Spirit that he might be a prophet of prophets and a saint of saints in that first world” (LW 1:344). Later, Luther wrote in the case of Noah that walking with God meant, “to carry on God’s business before the world, to occupy oneself with His Word, and to teach His worship” (LW 2:56).
The biblical expression of “walking with God” refers to intimate fellowship with God as a believer walks through life on the path set out by God. The image of walking through life on a path can be seen in the famous passage, “Your words are a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is in the background of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it. How narrow is the gate, and how difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14).
Quite often in Scripture the term “walk” or “walk around” is used for a Christian’s life of faith and sanctification. It sometimes refers to how you conduct your life. There is a rather common expression in American English that goes something like this: “if you are going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” This idea of “walking” as a description for how you conduct yourself in life seems to have its origin in Scripture.
We often find the expression of “walking” in the epistles of the inspired apostle Paul. He was writing in tune with the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament. The EHV sees importance in preserving this biblical expression which appears dozens of times throughout the Bible.
You can find it in Jesus’ words, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Then in John 12:35, Jesus said, “The light will be with you just a little while longer. Keep on walking while you have the light, so that darkness does not overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.”
The apostle John was led by the Holy Spirit to continue this expression in his first epistle. “This is the message we heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light. In him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him but still walk in darkness, we are lying and do not put the truth into practice. But if we walk in the light, just as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5–7).
The inspired apostle Paul used this biblical expression of “walking” as much as anyone. A few examples follow. . .
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8). Some translations might say “Live as children of light,” but the Greek language had a term for “live” (zao) and the Greek word here is “walk” (peripateo). The EHV seeks to reveal this information to the English reader. It is not wrong to say that this expression means “live” or “conduct yourselves.” But that would eliminate the picture of “walking.” The biblical writers chose to use the picture of “walking” here, and the EHV joins other English Bible translations in trying to preserve this biblical expression.
A similar example can be seen in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Do you sense a connection all the way back to Enoch, who “walked with God”? The Holy Spirit could have moved the inspired apostle Paul to write the Greek term for “live” (zao), but it is the Greek term for “walk” (peripateo). This is useful information to an English reader.
There are many examples of this biblical expression of “walk” in the Bible. When you read through the EHV, we hope that revealing this expression in the text might open up new windows of insight for the Bible reader. Perhaps you will sense a connection to Genesis 5:22,24 and Psalm 119:105 in the back of your mind when you read words like these:
“Walk by the spirit, and you will not carry out what the sinful flesh desires” (Galatians 5:16)
“You are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than when I hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 3–4).
It is not surprising that this common biblical expression has made its way into English hymnody. The hymn “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” includes it in stanza three:
Only Jesus can impart
Comfort to a wounded heart:
Peace that flows from sin forgiv’n,
Joy that lifts the soul to heav’n,
Faith and hope to walk with God
In the way that Enoch trod. (CW 385; also TLH 342)
All Scripture quotations taken from:
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version™ (EHV™) © 2016
The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved.
29. What were the greatest difficulties encountered in producing the EHV?
It goes without saying that producing a Bible translation is a tremendous undertaking. What are the greatest difficulties you encountered in producing the EHV?
The first one obviously is the sheer volume of the project. A typical English translation of the Bible fills more than 1500 pages of text. The original text was written in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). The books were written over a period of 1500 years with all the changes of alphabet, grammar, spelling, and style which that implies. The only solution to this problem is allowing enough time and exercising enough patience to keep working through the mountain of text.
Sometimes the original language of the text, especially in the Old Testament, is extremely difficult. Sometimes the difficulty is due, at least in part, to the subject matter, for example, in the difficult task of translating the description of Solomon’s Temple. Knowledge of ancient temples and of ancient and contemporary building techniques can help resolve some of the translation difficulties, but, at times, the translation remains uncertain. The same situation exists in the translation of the names of musical instruments and other musical terms. The growing amount of information about ancient music can help the translator, but here too there is a big cultural gap that must be bridged.
In some cases, the difficulty is due to the peculiar dialect of the language. The book of Job is written in a dialect that is not standard Judean Hebrew. There are many rare words and difficult passages. One blessing that helps the translator is that most of the book of Job is written in poetic parallelism, in which alternate lines echo each other. Something which is obscure in one line may be expressed more clearly in the corresponding line. In especially difficult cases, translators have to do the best they can, relying on the meaning of the parallel line as their best resource. Job provides a good illustration of the principle that a translator cannot allow a quest for “the perfect” to stand in the way of achieving “the possible.” When commentaries are laden with a half dozen or more options for a given expression in Job (some of which are very different from each other) since the EHV is a Bible intended for general use, it seems wisest for the translator to choose one meaning that fits the context well (and perhaps one other to be used in a footnote) and not to bog down the text and confuse the reader with too many options.
The texts of the Bible were written in a culture (or more accurately in cultures) very far removed from our cultures. This applies not only to material things but to the whole structure of society. Geographical, archaeological, and historical resources can help bridge the gap, especially in regard to material goods and historical events. Ancient documents, such as ancient law codes, can also provide some insights into law, family life, and the structures of society in biblical times, but in this situation there is no substitute for a careful study of the whole biblical text to gain a better understanding of issues such as the relationships of men and women, parents and children, slaves and masters, and so on.
Sometimes this difficulty involves different value systems and different values, but sometimes it simply involves very different ways of expressing the same basic values. The Song of Songs has many expressions of ideal feminine beauty. The lady is like a horse; her hair is like a flock of goats; her nose is like a tower. Many of these pictures do not resonate with contemporary urban Americans, but a translator’s job is not to re-write or update the Bible but to transmit it. Translators should not gut the ancient culture by eliminating its pictures and making its poetry prosaic. In many cases (maybe even in most cases) translators should keep the ancient pictures and leave it to modern readers and teachers to search out the right meaning, sometimes with the help of footnotes. Just as careful listening and thoughtful consideration of what people are saying is essential when we are trying to communicate with someone from a contemporary culture that is very different from our own, this is doubly true when we are trying to communicate with people from a distant time and place.
Sometimes the problem is that it is difficult to find one good translation for a verse (see the comments on Job above), but sometimes the problem is the opposite—there are a half dozen good translations for a given passage. Strange as it seems, this situation can be more time-consuming for translators and editors than the first situation. When translators are struggling to come up with even one really solid translation, all they can do is write it down and move on (at least for the time being). When there are many credible options, it is easy for translators to get bogged down in debating options and going round in circles. This is true, for example, when there are four reviewers for a given passage and each reviewer prefers a different option for the translation (a situation not as uncommon as you might think). Carefully considering which option will communicate most clearly is a valuable exercise and should not be cut short, but once again a quest for “perfection” cannot stand in the way of the “possible.” Even when there is no clear-cut basis for choosing one option over the other, a choice finally has to be made, and only one person will get his or her first choice. The rest have to say, “Well, I can live with that choice, even though mine was clearly better.” Such is the nature of a collaborative translation.
Sometimes difficulties arise due to different structures and practices of the two languages. The interplay of nouns and pronouns is probably the area in which translators most often must depart from a word-for-word rendering of the original text. English often requires a noun where Hebrew might use a pronoun and vice versa. English style does not permit use of a pronoun unless there is a clear antecedent in the near vicinity. In cases in which a Hebrew pronoun does not follow its antecedent closely enough to fit English style, translators often have to replace the pronoun with the appropriate noun to make it clear who is being referred to (for example, “Moses” rather than “he”). English style normally does not permit use of a pronoun before a noun has been mentioned as its antecedent. Hebrew does. On the other hand repeating the same noun over and over again, which is not uncommon in Hebrew, sounds strange in English. So for readability and to avoid a perception of grammatical and stylistic errors, pronoun usage in the EHV normally follows English usage. But if the biblical author is using pronouns to build suspense by withholding the identity of the referent, a translator should keep the suspense.
Sometimes the standard of politeness is different in the two cultures. Me and you is perfectly fine in Hebrew, but you and me is more polite in English. To avoid the impression of grammatical error, the EHV usually follows the proper English order, unless it seems that there is some special significance to the Hebrew order.
English quotation marks indicate a change of speakers in conversations. Because quotation marks are not part of the Hebrew text, they present a special problem for translators. Inserting quotation marks is always an act of interpretation. Sometimes this is quite easy because there are words like “Moses said” introducing the quotation or a word that signals a quotation such as the Hebrew lemor, which means saying. At other times, there are changes of speakers that are not marked in the Hebrew text. At still other times, it is uncertain whether there is a change of speakers.
In nested quotations, in which quotations lie within other quotations, the American English practice is to alternate sets of “ and ‘. Trying to follow this practice in translating the biblical text would lead to many cases that would look like this: “quote”’” or even an occasional “quote”’”’”. This is confusing and seldom useful. To minimize this the EHV treats long speeches, prophecies, etc., as documents in their own right. They are set off by special indentation and they do not begin and end with quotation marks. This greatly reduces instances of.”’”
Another problem is the sentence: “This is what the LORD says.” Many translations treat this as an introduction to a quotation and add another set of quotation marks at each occurrence. But this phrase usually does not function as the introduction of new speech or speaker. It is intended to be an assertion of the authority of the words that follow. It may, in fact, occur several times within one quotation. For this reason, EHV does not treat every “This is what the LORD says” as a signal which triggers another set of quotation marks. The EHV’s practice to reduce swarms of quotation marks will strike readers as different at first, but they will grow to appreciate the absence of the annoying swarms.
A somewhat similar issue is that Hebrew does not have the same structure and differentiation of direct and indirect questions that English does, so sometimes Hebrew direct questions have to be converted to English indirect questions.
Sometimes the simplest things can become time-consuming, for example, commas. It is very common that one reviewer is taking out commas that another reviewer put in and vice versa. In a translation like the EHV, which will be used frequently in public reading, the most important function of commas is to help the reader place pauses in the spots which help the listener grasp the flow of the sentence. This function is more important than conforming mechanically to abstract rules about punctuation. The purpose of punctuation is to help writers convey meaning. It is not the purpose of writers to serve rules of punctuation.
This is true also of other punctuation such as the question mark. These two sentences have the same form but not the same meaning: “What do you know?” and “What do you know!” (Actually, in conversation the second one is often pronounced, “Whadda ya know!” but it can’t be written that way.) Only the writer’s choice of punctuation directs the reader to the right inflection of the sentence. What inflection does the question mark suggest in this sentence: “Really?”
Sometimes the issues are matters of taste not principle, and there can be no disputing matters of taste. To use the theological term, these issues fall into the realm of adiaphora. But people sometimes have strong feelings about adiaphora. One illustration of this problem is the difference between formal textbook grammar and informal conversational grammar. If Jesus says, “Who are you looking for?” many readers will say “Jesus would not use bad grammar.” If Jesus says, “For whom are you looking?” or better yet, “Whom seekest thou?” another set of readers will say, “Nobody talks like that.”
A similar emotional issue arises in dealing with the strongly sexual language in some Bible passages. The Bible in most cases uses euphemistic terms for sexual matters, but some passages are very blunt. English readers are often unaware of these jarring statements because English translations often hide them behind euphemistic alterations of the language. But do translators have authority to censor the Holy Spirit? These two issues are dealt with in our online course and the article, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” in our library section, so specific examples will not be discussed here.
Sometimes grammatical conventions change so abruptly that the translator is caught in a whirlpool. For hundreds of years it was not the custom to capitalize pronouns that refer to God. During the 20th century this became common place, and many people think that this was always the practice. More recently, when there was a return to the practice of non-capitalization of such pronouns, this was interpreted by some people as diminishing God’s honor, but, in fact, it was simply a return to the traditional practice, which agrees with the practice of the original Hebrew and Greek texts. For further discussion of this issue read EHV FAQ #3.
Another emotional issue involves the text to be translated. Because some recent translations that are perceived to be liberal by some readers have shorter texts than the King James Version does, the whole topic of textual criticism is suspect for many Bible readers. But properly practiced, with presuppositions of faith, textual criticism strengthens our confidence in the text transmitted to us. The EHV follows a fuller text than most recent translations, except for those that follow the King James text almost exactly, but since some Bible readers have doubts about any textual criticism, careful explanation is necessary. EHV FAQ # 10 discusses this, and other articles on the topic are forthcoming. The textbook Old Testament Textual Criticism by John Brug discusses this topic at great length, with an emphasis on Luther’s role as a pioneer of textual criticism.
Sometimes a situation is such a mess that no reasonable, consistent solution is anywhere in sight. An example of such a mess is the spelling of place names and personal names in the Bible. A tug-of-war is going on between preserving the traditional spellings, which are largely based on the Greek and Latin spellings rather than on the Hebrew text, and the desire to bring the English spelling closer to the Hebrew. All the systems in use, including ours, are riddled with inconsistencies. To compound the problem there is a lot of inconsistency of spelling within the original biblical text itself. This huge mess will receive its own article, but there is a preview in FAQ # 17.
These are a few examples of the many ways in which translators find themselves between a rock and a hard place, knowing that no matter which option they choose some readers will think it is wrong. But these dilemmas do not discourage them because they know that there is one solution to all these dilemmas: a combination of study, patience, and cooperation. One of the great blessings of a project like the EHV (maybe as great or greater than the end product) is that it prompts Bible readers and translators to a more careful study of the original text and to a more careful study of the principles and practices of Bible translation. An even greater comfort to translators is expressed by a key principle set forth in Lutheran theology: “The essence of Scripture is not the shape of the letters or the sound of the words but the divinely intended meaning.” If a translation conveys that meaning, it is delivering the Word of God, regardless of what the letters look like or how the words are pronounced, whether the language is a bit stuffy or archaic or a bit too casual for the tastes of some. The external forms change (indeed they must if they are to keep communicating), but the meaning, the essence of the Word of God, must remain forever.
This article is just a sample of key issues, for many more examples see our 40 pages of rubrics and guidelines which can be downloaded from our Wartburg Project website.
30. What features of the EHV set it apart from other translations?
Since popular contemporary translations cover a wide range of goals and styles, from the quite literal (NASB) to the very free (The Message), any specific comments we make about features of the EHV in order to contrast it to other translations will apply more directly to some translations than to others, but since we are aiming for a balanced, central position in the spectrum of Bible translations, most of the following comparisons will differentiate the EHV from both ends of the spectrum. Rather than comparing the EHV directly with specific translations, this article will address the more general question, “What are some features of the EHV that might strike first-time readers as different from what they are used to in their current Bible translation?”
A key word for the EHV in defining our goals is balance. The goal of our project is to produce a balanced translation, suitable for all-purpose use in the church.
We seek a balance between the old and the new. We respect and try to preserve traditional terms that are well established in the worship life of the church, but the EHV does introduce some new terms in those places where a traditional translation no longer communicates clearly. These new terms will be explained in the footnotes at the places where they are introduced.
We seek a balance between the poles of so-called literal and dynamic equivalent theories of translation. A translator should not adhere too closely to any one theory of translation because literalistic, word-for-word translations sometimes convey the wrong meaning, or they do not communicate clearly in the receiving language. Overly free translations deprive the reader of some of the expressions, imagery, and style of the original.
Translators will strive for a balance between preserving the original meaning of the text and producing English which sounds natural, but the preservation of meaning takes priority.
We seek a balance between formality and informality. The Bible contains many types of literature and different levels of language, from the very simple to the very difficult. For this reason, the translator should not be too committed to producing one level of language but should try to reproduce the tone or “flavor” of the original.
We place a priority on producing a fuller representation of the biblical text which has been transmitted to us than many recent translations do. The EHV includes readings which are supported by ancient manuscript evidence but which are omitted in many other recent translations, because those translations tend to focus on certain parts of the manuscript evidence rather on than the whole range.
We place a priority on prophecy, so our translation and notes strive to give clear indications of Messianic prophecy.
The EHV is committed to using archaeology, geography, and history to provide a clearer understanding of the original meaning of the biblical text, and this will be reflected both in the translation and the footnotes.
Let’s look at some specific examples that illustrate these principles.
Balancing Old and New
The EHV has a goal of preserving familiar expressions in well-known passages, but if the traditional reading or term is not very precise or clear, we give priority to expressing the meaning of the original text more clearly.
We make an effort to retain key terms that appear in the creeds, catechisms, liturgy, and hymnals. We preserve heritage terms like sanctify, justify, covenant, angels, and saints, but not to the exclusion of explanatory terms like make holy, declare righteous, holy people, etc. EHV keeps traditional names like the Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, the manger, etc. A translation that gets too far ahead of the worship life of the church does not serve well as an all-purpose translation.
We try to reflect common biblical expressions like “the flesh,” “walk with God,” “in God’s eyes,” “set one’s face against,” “burn with anger,” and “listen to the voice.” Our goal is not to preserve Hebrew or Greek grammatical idioms for their own sake, but to preserve important biblical expressions and imagery and, when possible, biblical word-play. We do not, however, slavishly preserve these expressions in contexts in which they sound strange in English.
That being the case, what are some examples of specific cases in which we feel clear communication and a closer reflection of the emphasis of the biblical text requires a change of the traditional terms.
The first EHV distinctive that caught readers’ attention was how often in the gospels Jesus says “Amen, Amen, I say to you.” Readers were used to reading, “Verily, verily or truly, truly, I say to you.” Why the change?
“Truly I say to you” or “I tell you the truth” both convey a clear meaning, but “truly” or “truth” are not the words Jesus uses in the Greek text. Jesus consistently is quoted as using the Hebrew word amen. Jesus was introducing a new word for the use of the church, and Jesus’ use of the term is the basis for the popularity of amen in the epistles and Revelation and in the life of the church.
One of our translation principles is that we try to follow not only the theological intent of the text but also the literary intent. That is why one of our rubrics says, “Hebrew/Aramaic words used in Greek text should remain Hebrew: Amen, halleluia, abba, maranatha, raca, talitha qum, etc.” When the inspired writers use a Hebrew word in a Greek text, they have a reason to do so, and translators should respect their intention.
Our FAQ # 1 provides a more detailed discussion of this issue.
LORD of Armies
The Hebrew Adonai Sebaoth has traditionally been translated LORD of Hosts or LORD Sebaoth. In contemporary English the word host usually refers to a party host or a communion host, but the Hebrew term here refers to those engaged in military service. So EHV translates LORD of Armies. If the LORD rules the army of heaven (the angels) and the army of the heavens (the stars), he rules everything.
The portable sanctuary built by Moses has traditionally been called the Tabernacle, but the only tabernacles around today are the Mormon one in Salt Lake City and the containers in which the host is reserved in Catholic churches. The Hebrew word mishkan means dwelling place, so EHV calls the movable sanctuary the Dwelling (mishkan) or the Tent (ohel) depending on which Hebrew word is used in the original. The term dwelling also helps the reader connect God’s presence in the Dwelling with the many New Testament references to God dwelling with us.
Festivals and Sacrifices
Israel’s autumn festival has traditionally been called the Feast of Tabernacles. The word tabernacle here is not the Hebrew word mishan, mentioned above, but a different Hebrew word, sukkot, which means temporary shelters. The EHV, therefore, calls the fall festival Festival of Shelters (with a footnote: Traditionally, Tabernacles). The older names for the festival, Tabernacles and Booths do not convey a clear meaning. Booths sounds like a commercial structure or a voting booth. The term shelters more clearly conveys the nature of the festival, in which the Israelites lived in temporary shelters, and it more clearly differentiates the two Hebrew words.
For the other festivals EHV uses whatever term most clearly reflects the Hebrew text. The Passover is Passover or Festival of Unleavened Bread, depending on what the original text has. Pentecost is Pentecost, Festival of Weeks, or Festival of Reaping, depending on what the original has.
For the prescribed offerings EHV uses a mixture of old and new terms—whatever term will most clearly indicate the nature of the offering. The four main offerings are the whole burnt offering, the fellowship offering (traditionally peace offering), the sin offering, and the restitution offering (traditionally guilt offering). Though the Hebrew word minchah literally means “gift,” because the minchah always consisted of grain products, we will call the minchah, grain offerings, even though this is not a very literal translation. For the offerings of wine and beer drink offerings is the term used rather than libations, since drink offerings is easier to understand. EHV uses Bread of the Presence for the showbread. Other recent translations also use this term.
Concerning the name of the lid over the Ark of the Covenant, there are two competing traditions. The most recent one is “atonement cover.” The traditional translation “mercy seat” is based on Luther’s Gnadenstuhl, “throne of grace.” Luther’s translation was theologically brilliant, because it recognized that this object was more than a lid or cover for a box—God was enthroned above it, and the blood of atonement was being presented there at the foot of his throne. But “mercy” is not a very precise rendering of the Hebrew kopher. “Atonement” is better. “Cover,” on the other hand, misses an important point. The atoning blood was being presented to the LORD at the foot of his throne. The EHV combines the best of the old and new traditions into “atonement seat, ”since this most clearly brings out the meaning of the text and gets the reader looking in the right direction—not down at the tablets of the law, but up to the throne of the gracious God.
Our names for the high priest’s garments are special vest or vest (with the footnote ephod); chest pouch or pouch; robe; tunic; sash around the waist; band on the vest; turban for the priest; small pointed turban for the regular priests unless we can come up with something better that is also accurate (caps does not do it); and medallion (tzitz) and crest (netzer) on the turban.
Most translations despair of finding any translation for ephod, so they just keep the Hebrew word ephod. But this term communicates nothing. The description of the ephod in Exodus makes it clear this was a vest-like garment (actually sort of like a scrimmage vest), so the EHV calls it a special vest.
Most translations call the rulers of the five Philistine city states the lords of the Philistines, but the word used in the original is not a Hebrew word meaning lord. Seren is a special word used only of the rulers of the five Philistine city states. It seems to be a Philistine term. It may be related to the Greek word tyrant, an autocratic ruler of a city state. (One Philistine inscription, in fact, spells it trn.) Seren is a title like pharaoh or czar, which is applied to one specific class of rulers. Since this is a unique title, the EHV uses the transliteration seren rather than the traditional rendering lord. The Bible uses a unique word here, so we do too.
Children of Adam
The Hebrew BneAdam (sons of adam/Adam) often simply refers to mankind in general, but children of Adam may be appropriate in some contexts, such as those alluding to original sin. It is true that all sinners are properly called mankind or humans, but that is because they are children of Adam.
In dealing with measurements some translations put the ancient measurement in the text and a modern equivalent in a footnote. The EHV, for the most part, uses modern measurements in the text and puts the ancient term in the footnote. This is much smoother for the reader.
Archaeology, Geography, and History
The EHV is committed to using archaeology, geography, and history to provide a clearer understanding of the original meaning of the biblical text, and this will be reflected both in the translation and the footnotes.
Brass or Bronze?
Older translations often say that the furnishings in the temple were made of brass, probably because the furnishing on the translators’ church altars were brass. But analysis of metal objects from the biblical period, including coins, shows that objects with a copper base were made from some form of bronze. Pure copper is too soft to be used for utilitarian objects such as tools. The EHV therefore there calls biblical coins and furnishings bronze, not brass or copper. Although Hebrew uses the same word for both copper and bronze, EHV calls the ore copper and the objects bronze.
Tambourines or Drums?
Older and even more recent translations often refer to tambourines in the Bible, but ancient pictures indicate that the instrument in question (Hebrew tof) was not a hollow circle with rattlers on it, which was meant to be shaken, but a small hand drum, meant to be struck. So EHV regularly refers to drums or hand drums. The Israelites did also have rattles, shaped somewhat like a baby rattle. This instrument is called a sistrum. It, of course, would be possible to combine both a drum and tambourine into one instrument.
In the same way, many translations are careless about distinguishing the stringed instruments kinnor and nebel. It is possible that both of these are four-sided lyres (harps have three sides), but the EHV tries to be consistent in distinguishing kinnors and nebels as lyres and harps respectively. In the same way the EHV tries to consistently distinguish three wind instruments: shofar=ram’s horn or horn, yobel=special ram’s horn, and hatsotserah=trumpet.
None of these issues affect doctrine, but observing distinctions shows respect for the text.
Beer, Liquor, or Strong Drink?
Many translations refer to the two categories of alcoholic beverages that appear in the Bible as wine and strong drink or some such term. Strong drink tends to make one think of distilled or fortified beverages like brandy or whisky. The archaeological and historical evidence is that producing this type of alcoholic beverages was not part of the Near Eastern culture (though some dispute this). The two categories of alcoholic beverages in the Bible appear to be grape-based and grain-based. The current archaeological term for these ancient grain-based beverages is beer. The similarities and differences between ancient beer and our beers that descend from it is a study in itself, perhaps a topic for another FAQ. Since beer is the standard archaeological term for these ancient grain-based beverages, it is the term EHV will use.
Horsemen or Charioteers?
The account in Exodus of Pharaoh’s army being overwhelmed by the Red Sea uses a word pair often translated chariots and horsemen. Archaeological and textual evidence indicates that mounted cavalry was not in general use in the Near East before the Assyrian period in the 8th century BC, so this word pair in most cases probably refers to chariots and charioteers.
An interesting question in the translation of biblical battle scenes and military rosters is at what point of military history we can begin to refer to horseback riders and cavalry. All the way down through the times of Ahab, in both biblical and secular sources we have no evidence for any significant action by cavalry. The mobile strike forces are chariots not cavalry. At about this time, Assyrian reliefs picture soldiers shooting bows from horseback. At first horsemen functioned as mobile, mounted infantry, who served as scouts and perhaps as pursuit forces, but not as attack forces to win pitched battles. One reason is that before the invention of stirrups and treed saddles a horse is not a particularly good battle platform. It seems clear that battles were fought by chariots not cavalry, though some survivors may have fled on horseback. The first really significant use of cavalry as a major component of winning battles in the ancient Near East was by Alexander the Great. It is perhaps significant that in ancient pictures Alexander is pictured on horseback, but the Persian king fights from a chariot, which was already becoming obsolete except in parades and on race tracks.
The translation issue then is how we should translate the Hebrew word parosh. When is it charioteers and when is it horsemen? Since the battles recorded in the Old Testament involve chariots not cavalry, it seems that parosh should usually be translated charioteer rather than horseman. The term charioteers includes the drivers and the archers or spearmen who fought from the chariot.
1 Kings 20:20 may be the first clear reference to flight on horseback, but verse 21 makes it clear that this battle was a chariot battle rather than a cavalry battle. It seems clear that the four horsemen in Zechariah 1 are mounted riders, but they are scouts more than attackers. In most biblical texts the ratio of paroshim to chariots is appropriate for the paroshim to be chariot crews. So in the absence of any evidence for cavalry action and in the presence of clear evidence for the dominant role of chariots, EHV usually translates parosh as charioteer. This case illustrates the need for translators to look beyond the dictionary meaning listed for a word to the context both in the text and outside of the text.
Assyrian “cavalry,” no stirrups, no true saddle Alexander on horseback Darius in his chariot
In geographical references some translations use the ancient name of the place; others use the modern name. In general EHV uses modern names for well-known geographical features like the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean, etc., but provides footnotes to the ancient names. An exception is when one ancient name is explained in terms of another. Then the ancient names have to be in the text and the modern name in the note (Example: the Sea of the Arabah is the Salt Sea. Footnote That is, the Dead Sea). In some ancient stories such as the stories in Genesis, it might be more appropriate to use the old name in the text.
We will call Israel’s neighbors to the north Aram and Arameans rather than Syrians, because that is the name contemporary historians use. We will use Chaldeans as an ethnic name for the Neo-Babylonians where the text uses it. When chaldeans refers to a class of astronomers or astrologers, it should be translated with whichever term fits the context. We translate Mizraim as Egypt because this is the established translation in both testaments.
We try to introduce readers to terms like Negev, Shephelah, and Arabah because they are commonly used in modern discussions of the geography of Israel. Our rule is to do whatever seems best to help the reader understand the biblical text and to work comfortably in modern atlases and modern discussions of ancient geography.
A careful reading of the biblical text combined with ancient historical resources often helps clear up historical issues. In 2 Kings 23:29 Josiah tries to prevent Pharaoh Neco from going up to meet the Assyrian army at the Euphrates River. Translations disagree about whether he is going to the Assyrians or against the Assyrians. Even the Hebrew text has both readings.
The meeting of Hezekiah and the Babylonian king, Merodak Baladan, recorded in Isaiah and 2 Kings, makes it clear that Judah was allied with Babylon against Assyria, and the political and military implications of this move are further clarified by other historical sources from the period. The right translation, therefore, is “Pharaoh was going to help the Assyrians at the Euphrates.”
Our next example will be given a more detailed treatment because it is an example of how historians and Bible scholars make mistakes and then try to blame the Bible for their mistake.
The Bible calls a people who appear in the patriarchal accounts in Genesis Hittites or descendants of Heth. These Hittites are classified with the Canaanite peoples of the land. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, newly discovered ancient texts revealed a new rival of the Egyptians at about the the time of the biblical judges. They were an Indo- European people from central Anatolia (Turkey), whom the historians named Hittites.
Much has been written about the Hittite-Egyptian rivalry, and these Hittites play a prominent role in ancient history books. These people moved into an area of Anatolia that had been called the land of Hatti, so the historians named them Hittites, on the basis of the apparently erroneous conclusion that these people were related to the Hittites in the Bible. They then pointed out that these Hittites rose to prominence in central Anatolia significantly later than the biblical dates for the patriarchal period. It was concluded that the biblical references to Hittites must be anachronisms based on confused memories of the Hittites that were introduced into biblical accounts, which these historians claimed were written long after the heyday of the Hittites.
But there is a major problem with this explanation. The problem is that these Indo-European rivals of the Egyptians did not call themselves Hittites. They called themselves Neshians. When they competed with the Egyptians, they were relatively new arrivals in the land of Hatti in central Anatolia, where they displaced an earlier non-Indo-European people called Hattians. The Neshians kept the geographic name, land of Hatti, but they did not call themselves Hattians or Hittites. The Neshians were given the name Hittites by scholars on the basis of the alleged similarity to the name Hatti to Hitti in the Bible. This error produced a discrepancy between the biblical and historical description of “Hittites.” This discrepancy was not produced by the Bible. It was produced by the historians who erroneously stuck the tag Hittites on the Neshians.
About the Hittites the University of Pennsylvania’s archaeological magazine Expedition (January 1974) says:
The first thing to realize about the Hittites is that they are not Hittites. The sad fact is that we are stuck with an incorrect terminology, but it is too late to do anything about it now. This unfortunate situation came about as a result of several deductions made by earlier scholars which, though entirely reasonable at the time, have proved to be false. …
We now know that these people we call Hittites were Indo-European. … It is now believed that the Hittites came into Anatolia sometime in the latter part of the third millennium B.C., though exactly when and from where are questions we still cannot answer. …
The Hittites were indeed a major world power in the period 1700-1200 B.C., but they were not Hittites. That is, they did not call themselves Hittites. They refer to themselves as Neshians, “inhabitants of the city Nesha,” and their language Neshian. But so much for that; the scholarly world had already labelled them Hittites and, like it or not, Hittites they shall forever remain. It is just as well, for the term Neshian only calls attention to our ignorance of this early period; we do not even know where Nesha is to be located….
There was the evidence all along: what we call Hittite should be called Neshian and the evidence for this had been available since 1887.
That is the simplified version of a complicated story. In the EHV we considered calling the biblical Hittites Hethians to avoid the confusion historians have created. But since the biblical Hittites are the real Hittites and the historical Hittites are the imposters, we decided to keep the term Hittites along with the term descendants of Heth and to explain the problem with a brief note.
We have provided an extended discussion of this relatively minor point to illustrate a too common phenomenon: scholars misread the biblical text, draw an erroneous conclusion, and then blame the Bible for their error.
One of the more sensitive and emotional issues in Bible translation today is the issue of textual variants. Bible readers notice that many recent translations have a shorter text than the King James Bible, and they suspect that editors are subtracting from the Word of God. Especially noticeable are the omission or the bracketing of the conclusion of Mark and the pericope about the adulterous woman in John.
The EHV approach to the text of the New Testament is to avoid a bias toward any one textual tradition or group of manuscripts. An objective approach considers all the witnesses to the text (Greek manuscripts, lectionaries, translations, and quotations in the church fathers) without showing favoritism for one or the other. As we examine significant variants, the reading in a set of variants that has the earliest and widest support in the textual witnesses is the one included in the EHV text. The other readings in a set of variants may be included in a footnote that says: many, some, or a few witnesses to the text have this reading.
The net result is that readings and verses which are omitted from many recent versions of the New Testament, but which have textual support that is ancient and widespread, are included in the EHV translation. If there are readings where the evidence is not clear-cut, our “bias,” if it can be called that, is to include the longer reading along with a footnote that not all manuscripts have it. The result is that our New Testament is slightly longer than many recent translations of the New Testament.
For example, the last phrase of John 3:13 is included in the text of the EHV:
13No one has ascended into heaven, except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.a
a13 A few witnesses to the text omit who is in heaven.
Most modern translations omit the last phrase, “who is in heaven,” but it was included in the King James Version and the New King James Version. EHV includes the phrase and notes that a few witnesses to the text omit “who is in heaven.” The longer reading is a striking testimony to the union of the two natures in Christ. It is easy to see why some scribes might have omitted it. It is hard to see why some would have added it.
The EHV also includes Mark 16:9-20 in the text without raising doubt on its place in Scripture. These verses are included in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts that have been handed down to us. Evidence for the existence of this long ending extends back to the 2nd century. In the early centuries of the church, these verses were read in worship services on Easter and Ascension Day. That seems significant. Yet we also note that a few early manuscripts and early translations omit verses 9-20, and a few manuscripts have a different ending. Strong subjective arguments can be made against inclusion of the long ending, but our default setting is to go with the manuscript evidence rather than subjective opinions.
Sometimes the inclusions are just one word, as is the case in Acts 8:18: “When Simon saw that the Holya Spirit was given.” The NIV and the ESV omit the word “Holy” here. We include the word with the note: a18 A few witnesses to the text omit Holy.
Unlike the KJV and the NKJV, the EHV does not include the so-called comma Johanneum of 1 John 5:7-8, because the longer reading lacks early, widespread support. This is how those verses are translated, along with the footnote:
6This is the one who came by water and blood: Jesus Christ. He did not come by the water alone but by the water and by the blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7In fact, there are three that testify:b 8the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one.
b7 Only a very few late witnesses to the text add: testify in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. 8And there are three that testify on earth…
In the Old Testament the Masoretic Hebrew Text as exemplified by the BHS text is given preference unless there is good, objective evidence for another reading. We consider significant Hebrew variants as well as variants from other ancient versions, especially the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), which was the Bible of the early Christian church.
When there is evidence that something which has been lost from the Hebrew text has been preserved in an ancient version or a parallel passage, the accidental omission may be restored to the EHV translation. A footnote reports the source. The most common type of evidence that would justify the inclusion of the longer reading is when the longer reading occurs between two occurrences of the same Hebrew word, and the shorter reading still makes good sense without the missing words (this would make the reader less likely to notice that words were missing. We will illustrate the problem with three examples.
In 1 Samuel 13 the Hebrew text tells us:
7Saul remained at Gilgal…. 10Samuel met him there…..
15Then Samuel left Gilgal <> and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred. 16Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Gibeahe in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Mikmash.
e16 Two Hebrew manuscripts read Gibeah; most read Geba.
The Hebrew text of verse 15 reads: “Samuel went up from Gilgal <> to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men.”
The Greek Old Testament reads: “Samuel went up from Gilgal. <The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army. They went up from Gilgal> to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul counted the people who were present with him, about six hundred men. 16Saul and his son Jonathan and the men with them were staying in Geba in Benjamin, while the Philistines camped at Mikmash.”
It appears that the eye of the scribe of the Hebrew text skipped from one occurrence of “from Gilgal” to the next. It is Saul and the people who go to Gibeah in Benjamin in verse 15.
Two more examples:
From 1 Samuel 1: Hanna and Elkanah bring Samuel to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.
24The boy <was with them. And they brought him before the LORD, and his father killed the sacrifice as he regularly did before the LORD, 25and they brought> the boy. He killed the bull and presented the child to Eli.
The words in the arrow brackets are not in the Hebrew text, but the Greek Old Testament has these words. The Hebrew text has the puzzling reading the boy [was] a boy, which is usually translated, the boy was still young. The longer reading may preserve evidence of an accidental omission from the Hebrew text between the two occurrences of the word boy.
From 1 Samuel 14: Saul is trying to find the guilty party.
41So Saul said to the LORD, the God of Israel, <“Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the fault is with the men of Israel> respond with Thummim.” Jonathan and Saul were chosen, and the people were not chosen.
The words in the arrow brackets are not in the Hebrew text but are restored from the Greek Old Testament. They give a clearer statement of Saul’s request, which requires the use of Urim and Thummim. The accidental omission from the Hebrew text seems to have been triggered by the repetition of Israel.
42Saul said, “Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. <Whoever the LORD identifies by lot shall be put to death.” But the people said to Saul, “This will not be done.” But Saul prevailed over the people, so they cast lots between him and Jonathan his son.> Jonathan was selected by lot.
The words in the arrow brackets are not in the Hebrew text but are restored from the Greek Old Testament. An accidental omission from the Hebrew text seems to have been triggered by the repetition of the word son.
Readers may notice that EHV spellings of personal and place names may not always agree with those of the NIV and other translations.
The problem of the spelling of personal and geographic names is a nightmare for translators, but many users of a translation might never notice it, unless they try to look a name up in an atlas or Bible dictionary. The problem arises because the letters of the Hebrew alphabet do not always make a good match with a letter of the English alphabet, so different people transliterate the names differently. A further complication is that many of the English names have not come directly from Hebrew but via Greek or Latin.
Today the spelling of place names and personal names in the Bible is in near total disarray with a tension between preserving traditional English spellings and bringing the spelling into closer alignment with Hebrew. An attempt is underway to get closer to a consistent transliteration of the Hebrew: k kaph=k, q qoph=q, j chet=ch, x tsade=ts, but in practice tsade is often written as z, and chet is often h. Chet really needs a special character which is not an English letter, an h with a dot under it.
A particular problem is soft kaph, which has also been rendered ch in many names. This is a problem because biblical ch is not pronounced like the ch in church. EHV generally uses k when we want to prevent a pronunciation like ch in church, but in some familiar names the traditional spelling with ch is retained.
Some English transliterations are so established that we simply must live with the inaccurate rendering. We cannot change the inaccurate Jerusalem to the correct Yerushalaim, or Tyre to Tsur, or Bethlehem to Bet Lechem.
Among the many spelling options are Beersheba/Beersheva, Beth Shean/Beth She’an/Bet Shan/ Beth Shan, Acco/Akko, Hebron/Chevron. There is no consistent system in common use. All of the systems are riddled with inconsistencies.
As a general rule EHV keeps spellings made familiar by recent translations since this is the spelling in many recent Bible helps such as Zondervan Bible Atlas, which may be consulted as a source for spellings, but this system too is inconsistent.
Consonantal y yod remains j not y in most cases (Joshua not Yehoshua) but there are some special cases like Yarkon, which is a familiar modern place name.
What a mess! The system is wildly inconsistent, and no solution is in sight. The best we can hope for is to make it as easy as possible for readers to find names in atlases and Bible dictionaries, but these books too are inconsistent, and some of them offer several options. The best readers can do if they do not find the term in a dictionary is to know the common alternates like k for c and try again. Looking up a name online will often produce a list of options.
The same chaos exists in personal names: Melchizedek but Adoni-Zedek even though it is the same type of formation. EHV spells names ending in melek (the Hebrew word for king) with a final k not a final ch: Abimelek, Elimelek, but inconsistently names like Lamech and Baruch. In general we preserve traditional spellings of well-known names.
In regard to the spelling of biblical names, there is a regression to a pre-Webster era, in which there is no king, and every speller does what is right in his own eyes.
There are a few bright spots in a cloudy sky: 1) the other common systems are even less consistent than the EHV’s, 2) computers make it much easier to achieve consistency of spelling across the translation, and 3) English speakers already know that English spelling is a really messed up discipline. The most notorious example is ghoti which is an alternate spelling for “fish”: gh as in enough, o as in women, and ti as in nation. Messed up spelling is no stranger to readers of English.
This is an example of a translation issue which many readers may never notice, but which requires thousands of decisions for translators and editors. This topic will receive an article of its own in the library section of our website.
The Important Question
How often do translation differences affect doctrine? As a percentage of the whole translation the number of passages in which the different translations have doctrinal implications will probably be relatively small, but they are nevertheless important.
In Genesis 2:24 many translations have something like “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh.” But the Hebrew verb means cling to, and the New Testament rendering reflects the same idea. So the EHV translation, “For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will remain united with his wife, and they will become one flesh” is better than the translation be united with his wife. It better reflects the permanent nature of marriage, which is Jesus’ point in quoting this passage in Matthew 19.
There are some interesting features in the EHV translation of 1 Peter 3:17-21:
17Indeed, it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer f what or doing good than for doing evil, 18because Christ also suffered once for sins in our place,a the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring youb to God. He was put to death in fleshc but was made alive in spirit,d 19in which he also went and made an announcement to the spirits in prison. 20These spirits disobeyed long ago, when God’s patience was waiting in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In this ark a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. 21And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the body but the guaranteee of a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
a18 A few witnesses omit in our place
b18 Some witnesses to the text read us.
c18 Here flesh is a reference to Christ’s state of humiliation. See Romans 1:3; 1 Timothy 3:16.
d18 Here spirit is a reference to Christ’s state of exaltation. See Romans 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:16.
e21 Or legal claim, or assurance
This translation and the notes recognize that the flesh/spirit contrast at times refers to Christ’s humiliation and exaltation, and that baptism is God’s pledge to us, not our pledge to him.
Pastoral reviewers have expressed appreciation for the way the EHV handles texts involving the sacraments. Another example is 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 where the EHV chose the familiar “heritage” term “communion”:
16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communiona of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communionb of the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
16 Or joint partaking
b16 Or joint partaking
Communion has been a common name for the Lord’s Supper for hundreds of years, and this translation helps explain the derivation of that name.
The EHV translation of the Great Commission is unique:
18Jesus approached and spoke to them saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and gather disciples from all nations by baptizing them ina the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and by teaching them to keep all the instructions I have given you. And surely I am with you always until the end of the age.”
19 Or into
This translation recognizes that we gather disciples by using the means of grace through which the Holy Spirit makes them disciples.
Romans 4:25 – the meaning of Christ’s resurrection…
25He was handed over to death because of our trespasses and was raised to life because of our justification.
This translation agrees with other justification passages by showing that Easter is the declaration of an objective justification which had already occurred.
In Bible translations people can get caught up in their likes and dislikes concerning individual passages and lose sight of the big issues of translation: preservation of biblical imagery, clear reflections of prophecy, and clear communication of the theological, literary, and emotional intent of the text.
At the Wartburg Project our motto has always been “purely positive.” We do welcome differences of opinion and discussion concerning every point of translation, but only with a spirit that is based on careful study of the evidence, a spirit of cooperation and compromise on issues that are a matter of style and individual preferences, and the principle that makes upholding the integrity of the text our highest priority, outranking our likes and dislikes.
Luther once commented that he was very happy that he had undertaken the work of translating the Bible, because before he did this, he had been under the delusion that he was a learned fellow. We can paraphrase Ecclesiastes as saying, “Of the making of many translations there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” Part of this is because of the ever-changing nature of language and because of preferences for different styles of translation, but much of it is due simply to the nature of the art of translating, writing, and editing. No matter how many times translators, writers, or editors reread their work, they always will see something to change. They change A to B to C, and then decide A was better after all. It simply is the nature of the discipline.
Among all the manuscripts and resources that we have used in working on the EHV, including the Hebrew and Greeks manuscripts, we have never found any that had no mistakes. So try as we may, we do not expect to be exempt either. Though the inspired authors of Scripture were protected from error, translators and editors are not, so we will always be rechecking our work to make corrections or clarifications and updates.
Translating, writing, and editing have two common enemies. One is carelessness that does not try to produce a clean product. The other is perfectionism that can never bring anything to conclusion and say “I have to go with what I have.” In the Evangelical Heritage Version we are aware of both pitfalls, and we are working to try to produce a good product, but to do it as quickly as possible, so it can be of use to the church.
When the EHV departs from traditional renderings it is not novelty for the sake of novelty but an attempt to convey the meaning of the text more clearly or to get closer to the style and intent of the author.
This article provides a few examples of the many ways in which translators find themselves between a rock and a hard place, knowing that no matter which option they choose some readers will think it is wrong. But these dilemmas do not discourage them because they know that there is one solution to all these dilemmas: a combination of study, patience, and cooperation. One of the great blessings of a project like the EHV (maybe as great or greater than the end product) is that it prompts Bible readers and translators to a more careful study of the original text and a more careful study of the principles and practices of Bible translation. All participants grow from the process. An even greater comfort to translators is expressed by a key principle set forth in Lutheran theology: “The essence of Scripture is not the shape of the letters or the sound of the words but the divinely intended meaning.” If a translation conveys that divinely intended meaning, it is delivering the Word of God, regardless of what the letters look like or how the words are pronounced, whether the language is a bit stuffy or archaic or a bit too casual for the tastes of some. The external forms change (indeed they must if they are to keep communicating), but the meaning, the essence of the Word of God, must remain forever.
31. Did Israelites eat cheese curds like ours? (Isaiah 7)
Answering that question is partly easy, partly hard. The easy part: Did Israelites eat cheese curds? The answer: Yes. The hard part: like ours? The possible answers to that are: yes, no, we don’t know, very likely. (The last answer is probably the best.)
The reason for this dilemma is a principle that is extremely important for Bible translators and Bible readers to remember: Hundreds, more likely thousands, of our translations are not exact matches but only analogies or partial overlaps with the Hebrew terms. One English word almost never lines up as an exact match with one Hebrew word. The words merely overlap to a greater or lesser degree. It may take several English terms to cover the ground covered by one Hebrew word and vice versa. For example, when we lived in Israel, we saw for sale at least four or five different things which we called yogurt, but all of them had different names in Hebrew and Arabic.
When people look at the world that God made and attempt to describe it, they divide it up into categories that make sense to them, but different languages draw the boundaries between categories in different places. For example, we have a category called “blue.” We recognize that the exact boundaries of “blue” are blurry, but we would be quite surprised at the color chips which some people would include or omit from their category which we translate as “blue.” The Hebrew terms which we translate blue, purple, and red are not perfect matches for those terms, but they are the best we can do.
Many, or even most, of our translations for biblical objects like colors, trees, gems, musical instruments, and so on, are only approximations that place us in the right ball park. They do not provide us with a precise picture of the object.
Take musical instruments for example. The Israelites had an instrument called chatsotserah. We translate chatsotserah as trumpet, but without reading study Bibles or commentaries, an English Bible reader will not have the right picture of the priests’ trumpets in his or her mind, because the Israelites’ “trumpet” was a long, straight, metal tube with a small bell and no valves. Our most viable choices for a translation of chatsotserah are trumpet, chatsotserah, or a long straight metal tube with a small bell and no valves. Given these options, trumpet seems to be the best approximation, to give readers the right idea. For further clarification, readers will have to look at descriptions and pictures of the ancient instruments.
Similar issues exist with our translations of harps, lyres, ram’s horns, and drums. These items are discussed elsewhere in our rubrics and FAQs.
In the food category we can consider five items: beer, wine, bread, honey, and cheese.
The two categories of alcoholic beverages in the Bible seem to be grape-based and grain-based. The current archaeological term for the ancient grain-based beverages is beer, not strong drink, which tends to make a person think of distilled or fortified beverages like brandy or whisky. The archaeological and historical evidence suggests that producing distilled alcoholic beverages was not part of the Israelite culture. Some major differences between ancient beer and our beer are that theirs was made from loaves of bread; it did not have hops; it had debris in it, so it was often drunk through straws; and fruit or honey were thrown in to aid fermentation. Contemporary beer-drinkers who sample “beer” made with the ancient recipes and by the ancient processes might say “That is not beer” or “Ancient beer is an acquired taste.” But since beer is the standard archaeological term for these ancient grain-based beverages and beer is the closest approximation to the ancient beverage, beer is the term EHV will use.
Purists would say nothing can properly be called wine unless it is made from grapes, but we, of course, have a proliferation of all kinds of “wine” (cherry, blueberry, dandelion). Without pasteurization or refrigeration, grape juice rather quickly changes from sweet “new wine” to a sour variety of wine. In some translations this is called vinegar, but this term may confuse readers, because there are many kinds of vinegar, and we generally do not drink vinegar but use it for cooking and pickling. So we translate this over-fermented beverage as sour wine, rather than vinegar. Such sour wine was, of course, cheaper and was a basic beverage for the lower classes.
The Hebrew dvash refers to honey made by bees and to sweet fruit syrup, often made from dates. To make it explicit when bee honey is intended, the Hebrew text sometimes adds a term like honey from the comb. EHV usually translates dvash as honey, except in contexts in which it is necessary to specify the other possibility. This is often done by a footnote.
Hebrew has numerous terms for various shapes and thicknesses of baked goods. Sometimes the context or the description of the process enables us to choose a translation like pancakes or flatbread. Older translations often refer to Israelites making cakes, but since this might made readers think of birthday cakes or something similar, for small baked goods a translation like rolls is less likely to give a wrong impression.
Another issue with grain products is the term grits. Grits are grain that has been cut or crushed. Steel-cut oats are a form of grits. When Americans hear the word grits, most will think of Southern-style, cooked corn grits. The biblical grits were quite different—obviously they were not made from maize corn but made from other grains. They were often roasted. Nevertheless, we use the word grits when it is the appropriate word to describe an Israelite grain product. That doesn’t make EHV a Southern or American translation.
So what about dairy products, which precipitated the question? We tend to think of four major categories: milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt. It is very clear the Hebrews did not draw their boundaries in the same places that we do.
If we offered Israelites a drink of some of our so-called milk, they would likely say, “Milk? That is not milk. That is whey.” (Whey is the thinnish liquid that is left after all the “good stuff” is taken out of the whole milk.) For dairy advocates, the term milk raises the same question that wine does. Can a product made from cashews or almonds properly be called milk, or is that honored title reserved for products from cows, sheep, goats, and camels? Language and life are complicated.
It appears that none of the dairy products mentioned in the Bible is a very close approximation of our butter, which we generally do not eat but use as a spread or an ingredient, but the term butter does appear in many older translations. See the further comments below.
There are five biblical expressions that are approximations of the term cheese. Can we distinguish them?
In 1 Samuel 17:18 we find the term that turns out to be the best approximation of our term cheese: David takes ten blocks of cheese to the commander of his brothers’ unit in the army. The literal Hebrew expression is ten cuts of milk. So it appears that a cut of milk is the biblical Hebrew term for what we would call block or sliced cheese.
Another biblical term for cheese is gevinah. It probably refers to more solid forms. This is also the modern Hebrew term for cheese.
The progression of the comparison in this verse is from the liquid of the semen to the solid mass of the embryo. Here the term curd of cheese works better than piece of cheese, because that could be understood as a slice.
The Hebrew word that most concerns us here is chemah and its variants.
In 2 Samuel 17:29, David receives a gift of honey, cheese curds, sheep, and cheese from cow’s milk. Here cheese curds is our translation of the word chemah, which traditionally has been translated butter.
This term chemah appears also in the following passages, which will give a fuller picture of the range of dairy products included in chemah. The second term translated cheese is shephoth, which quite possibly is a form of yogurt made from cow’s milk, but since we don’t know, for now we have kept the term cheese. (Incidentally, today the generic Hebrew term for yogurt is yogurt.) Did you notice the other cultural difference lurking here? We generally assume cheese is made from cow’s milk, and we must label it if it is not—for example, goat cheese. For Israelites it was the opposite—they would assume it was sheep or goat cheese unless it was labeled cow cheese. Life and language are complicated.
Proverbs 30:33 is a passage that might seem to support the translation of butter for chemah. It is sometimes translated: “churning milk (or cream) produces butter, and punching a nose brings forth blood,” but it could also be translated “pressing milk produces cheese curds.”
Chemah (or a related word) occurs in five other passages.
Genesis 18:8: Abraham took cheese curds, milk, and the calf that he had prepared and set it before the visitors. There is no clear indication of the form of cheese here.
Job 20:17: “He will not see the streams, the rivers which flow with honey and cream.” Here the chemah is as flowing as the honey, so cream is better than curds and more appetizing to most of us than curdled milk.
His flattery is as smooth as butter…
His words are more soothing than oil.
Here the comparison requires that the chemah flows like oil, and our idioms of smoothness suggests the translation butter. (A variant form of the root chamah is used here. Perhaps this signifies a distinction from regular chemah.)
Sisera asked for water, but Jael gave him milk.
In a bowl fit for a nobleman she presented cheese curds.
The prose account mentions only milk to drink, so if this poetic couplet is synonymous parallelism, the chemah is liquid enough to be drunk. If that is the case, the translation should be changed to curdled milk. But many of our readers might find cheese curds more appealing than curdled milk, so this maybe is a toss-up.
Ezekiel 34:3: The bad shepherds eat the curds, wear the wool, and slaughter the fattened ones—but they do not shepherd the flock. Here the word translated curds is literally fat. It is not the fat off the meat, but the fat in the milk. (With a slight change of the Hebrew vowels, this verse could be literally translated they eat the milk.) Since they are eating the milk, it must be in solid form, as the blocks of milk were in the passage cited above. If we elsewhere translate solid forms of chemah as cheese curds, using the simple term curds here will distinguish the two Hebrew terms. Some translations use the more literal rendering fat in this verse. This brings out another problem. In the Bible, fat is the best of foods, worthy of being offered to the LORD. Because of the feeling against fat food in some parts of our culture, EHV generally translates fat food with something like rich food or the best food.
Isaiah 7:15 Immanuel eats cheese curds and honey. This is the passage that raised the question.
So what do we conclude?
- The Hebrew term that most closely matches our term cheese is cuts of milk.
- We do not know the exact difference between gevinah and We generally translate gevinah as cheese since gevinah is the modern Hebrew term for cheese. Quite possibly gevinah is less liquid than chemah.
- Chemah has soft, flowing forms and more solid forms. We translate the liquid forms as cream, curdled milk, or some such term. It includes forms we would call cottage cheese. We translate the solid forms as cheese curds or some such term. A factor is whether people are eating or drinking the chemah.
- When the Hebrew term fat refers to a solid dairy product that is eaten, we call it curds.
So how does chemah compare to the cheese curds most familiar to us? Sometimes it is more liquid and more like yogurt. If it has been dried for a long time, it is probably harder and more crumbly, to the degree we might not call it cheese curds any more. We expect cheese curds to be fresh and squeaky.
Why do we sometimes use cheese curds as a translation for chemah instead of the short form curds? Curds would be fine in many contexts, since most (but not all) curds are curdled milk, but cheese curds may sometimes be clearer for some hearers for a number of reasons. It is more specific for hearers who are aware of other kinds of curds, such as bean curd tofu. (British curds, for example, are made with eggs and butter and flavored with fruit.) It is also clearer for people who are not familiar with curds as part of their food vocabulary (more people than Wisconsinites might think). The addition of cheese to the translation immediately signals the category to the person who is listening to a read text. Most important, cheese curds is a standard term on menus, packaging, and advertising from Quebec to California. The first time I searched the term buy cheese curds I got hundreds, even thousands of offers. When I searched buy curds, I got many offers to buy cards. But Google is a fast learner—from then on it could also find curds when I searched that term. We are confident EHV readers will quickly pick up new terms because they understand that words are used many ways, and we can’t confine them to our pigeon holes. They will understand that language is so horribly (or should we say so marvelously) complex, that every term has many nuances to different people in different places, but if readers pay attention they will pick these up.
Cheese curds, for example, may conjure up different pictures to different people. Quebec is second to Wisconsin in producing cheese curds, and there the term cheese curds is used in recipes for poutine, the popular way of serving cheese curds in French-speaking areas—a pile of French fries, topped by white cheese curds, drenched with gravy. No, cheese curds are not just breaded, fried, orange, cheddar cheese clumps. Fried cheese curds are kind of a Wisconsin thing (though catching on elsewhere)—cheese curds are not. In fact, since the terms cheese curds and fried cheese are sometimes distinguished, technically fried cheese curds are no longer cheese curds. Sorry, Culvers J. As long as readers know what cheese curds look like when they are the raw ingredient, the term will give readers the right picture whether they eat them battered and fried, or drenched in gravy. If they don’t know what curds look like, the added word cheese will help them understand. Life and language are complicated, and we have to be open-minded and alert to figure them out.
Cheese curds is a standard term in contemporary usage, and our practice is to use the best contemporary terms even when they are only analogous, not exact matches. Making more precise matches is the work for the study aids.
This principle of analogy also applies to terms of doctrinal significance. The LORD is a jealous God, but his jealousy is not identical to ours. The Bible often uses terms to describe God that are only analogous to the application of the same terms to humans. In these cases, explaining the points of similarity and difference in the analogy has doctrinal implications. The analogy between ancient dairy products and our dairy products does not, but we still try to get the closest match-up, leaving it to the thoughtfulness and good will of our readers and hearers and to the various study aids to elaborate on the points of comparison.
Who would have thought simple daily food could be so complicated!
32. Isn’t the term “aliens” confusing or offensive?
An inescapable feature of living languages is that words have particular (or we could even say peculiar) meaning and different emotional impact in different contexts. An essential part of being literate is that readers have to adjust to different meaning in different contexts.
Some people have misgivings about the translation “aliens” because they think of ET. A stronger argument against “aliens” is that it may become politically incorrect if “illegal aliens” become “undocumented workers.”
We will first comment on the words aliens and foreigners in the Bible as a whole. This is an important issue in the Old Testament, in which the distinction of these terms expresses an important legal concept. The terms foreigners and aliens and temporary residents are not synonymous or interchangeable. They are overlapping but distinct categories.
The key Old Testament term in question is ger. Here is the EHV’s Old Testament rubric: Ger should be “resident aliens” or “aliens residing among you” in its first occurrence in a context, and “aliens” thereafter, particularly in political and legal contexts. Gerim were aliens permanently living in a land other than their place of origin. The term “foreigners” is not precise enough, because it is too inclusive a term. Not all foreigners were gerim. “Temporary residents” and “sojourners” are not precise enough either, because many gerim intended to stay in Canaan permanently, but they could never become “citizens.” Take the case of Isaac—he was native-born to Israel and was not a temporary resident, but he was still a ger in the view of his neighbors.
Early in the translation process for the EHV, we were almost convinced by the ET argument to move away from the term “resident aliens,” but when we were filling out some legal documents for our project, we accidentally discovered that “resident aliens” is still the legal term used in contemporary U.S. government documents. Even as I am writing this, the dispute over President Trump’s restriction on visitors from certain countries is very heated. The relevant laws governing the dispute, which are being read in the news media, repeatedly mention “aliens.” The term still describes a recognized legal category (for how long, who knows?).
In most cases, therefore, our translators should stick with “resident aliens” or “aliens” for gerim; and use “foreigner” for combinations with nakri; “strangers” for zar; and “settlers among you” or “temporary residents” for toshav. The importance of preserving these distinctions is illustrated in the last verses of Exodus 12:
Foreigners and temporary residents could not eat the Passover; circumcised resident aliens could. NIV, NRSV, and now CSB, are almost the only other translations observing this distinction in Exodus 12, but they do not follow it consistently elsewhere. In some contexts, foreigner is not as precise as alien, so both terms must be used.
The legal distinction is less important in New Testament passages like 1 Peter 2:11, which is making a comparison rather than a legal distinction: “I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”  Even here, the terms “aliens” and “temporary residents” express a Christian’s relationship to the world more precisely than terms like “strangers” and “refugees.”
There are many terms that might initially be confusing to readers because of the use or misuse of those terms in other contexts, but when it is necessary to observe precise distinctions, a translation must use the proper term and, if necessary, use footnotes to help readers understand. Fuller explanation sometimes must be left for study Bibles.
 In this U.S. Law Code, the term “alien” is used 355 times: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1182 For example, the President of the United States read this paragraph to the press: “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” The term “alien” is a proper legal term, a technical term of law.
 This is the only place the term “alien” is used in the EHV New Testament.
33. Why is “koinonia” translated “communion” in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17?
How is the EHV going to handle the Greek word koinonia in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17?
After considerable discussion, the EHV chose to retain/return to the familiar heritage term “communion,” which was the translation of the King James Version and which has become an important part of our theological vocabulary.
16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communiona of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communionb of the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
a16 Or joint partaking
b16 Or joint partaking
The biggest reason to restore the traditional translation communion is that, on the basis of this passage, the term Communion has been a common English name for the Lord’s Supper for hundreds of years, and we regularly refer to the recipients of the sacrament as communicants. If the term communion is not used in this passage, the link between the use of the term communion in Scripture and in our worship life is broken.
This use of the term is still standard English usage. A standard dictionary definition of the term communion includes these elements:
- the service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared.
- the consecrated bread and wine so administered and received.
- common participation in a mental or emotional experience or in a thing.
Another reason to use the term communion is that this term is embedded in the creeds and hymns of the church in a variety of uses. We regularly confess that we believe in the “communion of saints,” and we sing, “Oh blessed communion, fellowship divine.” The term communion is at home in the worship life of the church.
The translation communion, nevertheless, is not an easy or automatic choice in this verse, because koinonia is a complex term that has a number of shades of meaning and a number of applications. Common glosses for the term koinonia are communion, association, fellowship, close relationship, sharing, participation, and joint participation.
The creedal term “the communion of saints,” more literally, “the koinonia of the holy,” is itself an ambiguous phrase. It may refer to the fellowship of holy people or to the sharing of holy things. In the translation, the fellowship of holy people, the term is a description of the church of all believers, who are holy through the complete forgiveness they have in Christ. In the second translation, the sharing of holy things, communion refers to joint participation in the means of grace, especially the sacraments, the holy things.
Even in the Lord’s Supper, there are at least three different but related communions. One is the fellowship expressed between all the communicants who participate in the sacrament together. “Because there is one bread, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The second communion expressed in the sacrament is the fellowship we have with the Triune God for and through the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ. “We are proclaiming what we have seen and heard also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. … If we walk in the light, just as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:3, 7). The third communion in the sacrament is the close relationship (or we may even say, the union) between the bread and the body of Christ and between the wine and the blood of Christ. “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the Lord’s body and blood (1 Corinthians 11:27). The passage we are discussing here, 1 Corinthians 10:16, is also relevant to this third communion. These three communions make Communion a fitting name for the Sacrament.
But before we take a further look at this, let’s see how some other translations have handled this verse.
1 Corinthians 10:16 is a key passage concerning the nature of the Lord’s Supper.
Literal: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a koinonia of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a koinonia of the body of Christ.KJV The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
NKJV The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
EHV The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion* of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion* of the body of Christ?
*Or joint partaking
Luther Gemeinschaft des Blutes; GW: sharing the blood; GWN: a communion with the blood
NIV Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
ESV The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
HCSB The cup of blessing that we give thanks for, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?
CSB The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?
AB The cup of blessing of wine at the Lord’s Supper upon which we ask God’s blessing, does it not mean that in drinking it we participate in and share a fellowship (a communion) in the blood of Christ (the Messiah)? The bread which we break, does it not mean that in eating it we participate in and share a fellowship (a communion) in the body of Christ?
MSG When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ?
LB When we ask the Lord’s blessing upon our drinking from the cup of wine at the Lord’s Table, this means, doesn’t it, that all who drink it are sharing together the blessings of Christ’s blood? And when we break off pieces of bread from the loaf to eat there together, this shows that we are sharing together in the benefits of his body.
- Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the translations “communion,” “participation,” “joint participation,” “sharing,” and “fellowship.”
- Do the terms “participation” and “sharing” tend to focus attention on the actions of the recipients rather than the relationship of the elements?
- Does “communion” focus attention more on the relationship of the earthly elements with Christ’s body and blood?
- Does “blessing” focus more clearly on the consecration of the elements than the term “thanksgiving” does?
- Is there a difference between “sharing in the blood” and “sharing the blood” and between “communion with the blood” and “communion of the blood”?
- Do some of the translations import extraneous interpretation into the text?
The Living Bible transfers the blessing from the cup and its contents to our act of drinking. It changes “sharing the blood” into “sharing in the blessings of the blood.” The Message interprets “the blood” as a figurative reference to “the life of Christ.”
The Amplified Bible recognizes some of the difficulty of coming up with just one word to express the full meaning, by its translation that collates or blends two (or even three) thoughts: participate in/ and share a fellowship (a communion) in/ the blood of Christ. The translation joint participation also may allude to two communions.
So what are some to the factors that favor the translation communion from among the options available to us?
- It restores the connection between 1 Corinthians 10:16 and the name Communion, which is an important term in the church’s theological and liturgical heritage.
- It does not important any denominational interpretation into the text. It was the accepted rendering in all parts of the Protestant church for more than 400 years. It seems to have been introduced by the Geneva Bible, a predecessor of the KJV.
- It indicates more clearly that the text does not say that our action of partaking of the cup is a koinonia of the blood of Christ, but that the cup is a koinonia of the blood of Christ. It most clearly recognizes the close relationship between the contents of the cup and Christ’s blood. The two parties in the communion of the Lord’s Supper are, first of all, the cup and Christ’s blood, not the action of the communicants and Christ’s blood.
- Translations like participation introduce three parties into the koinonia: the act of participating, the blood of Christ, and the cup as the means of koinonia. While this is not wrong, it is not the direct meaning of a literal reading of the text.
- This translation is open to the understanding that this verse alludes to the sacramental union.
The translations participation and communion can both be understood correctly, and both have been understood incorrectly, but communion best points to the simplest meaning of the text and best connects it with the historical language of the church.
Resources for further study:
34. Blessing God
I noticed that the EHV translation sometimes refers to believers blessing God. I thought that God blesses us. Can we bless God, who needs nothing from us?
The Hebrew and Greek words for “bless” express the general meaning “to speak something good.”
The subject of these verbs is most often God. When God blesses us, he does not merely speak or promise good things to us. He provides good things to us.
Yes, you bless the righteous, LORD. You surround them with your favor as a shield.
|Psalm 65:9-11||You visit the earth and water it. You make it very rich.
God’s stream is filled with water.
You provide grain for them, just as you planned.
10You drench the land’s furrows. You flatten its plowed ground.
You soften it with showers. You bless its crops.
11You crown the year with your goodness.
God’s blessing us consists of three main steps: 1) God promises blessings; 2) God produces blessings; 3) God provides those blessings to us. The first use of “blessing” in Scripture is that God gives good things to believers.
But there is a second common use of “blessing” in Scripture, especially in Psalms. Believers are encouraged to bless God.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
In Psalm 103 we bless God especially for spiritual blessings. In Psalm 104 we bless him for the blessings he gives us through creation and providence.
This second sense of “blessing” is very closely related to “praising” and “thanking,” but it cannot simply be interchanged with them. Hebrew uses distinct verbs to express each concept: bless is barak; praise is halal; thank is yadah. The EHV tries to preserve the distinction of these terms, so that we do not water down the rich variety of terms that the Spirit has provided in Scripture.
In short, God blesses us by giving us gifts. We bless God by praising him.
Closing Doxology of Psalm 72:
Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Blessed be his glorious name forever.
May the whole earth be filled with his glory.
35. In Philippians 2:6 should “morphe” be translated “form” or “nature”?
Is there a reason why the Greek word morphe in Philippians 2:6 is not being translated “form” and instead is rendered “nature”?
Here is the EHV translation:
In the study of Christian doctrine, Philippians 2 is one of the most challenging passages to teach, not only because the related topics of Christ’s two natures and his two states of humiliation and exaltation are so challenging for our reason to grasp, but because, although ancient and Reformation-era church fathers agree on the doctrine of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation, they do not agree on the handling of certain terms in Philippians 2.
They agree that when Christ was on earth all the fullness of the deity (the divine nature) dwelt in him, but Jesus did not hang on to living like God, but gave up the full and constant use of his divine attributes. (Jesus said that he, the omniscient God, did not know the day of judgment. He did not use his power to come down from the cross.) While he was on earth, Jesus took on the appearance of an ordinary, human man, and he lived like an ordinary man, not displaying his divine glory (except for rare exceptions like the Transfiguration). When he returned to heaven, he did not lay aside his human nature, but now that nature appears in the glorious form we see in Revelation 1.
Putting it another way, since the incarnation, Jesus has always possessed a complete human nature and the complete divine nature united in one person. He always possessed all the divine attributes, but he did not always use or display them. How this can be is a mystery.
Where there is a difference of exegetical opinion among various commentators on Philippians 2 is in the handling of the Greek word morphe. Should it be translated form or nature?
The best book on the person of Christ is The Two Natures of Christ by Martin Chemnitz. This is what he says about the term morphe.
The well-known passage in Phil. 2:6–9 is also pertinent here. It deals with “the form of God,” “the form of a servant,” “the likeness of men,” and “the high exaltation of Christ.” The “form of God” by the unanimous testimony of the ancients is the divine nature or essence itself, according to which Christ by nature is equal with God, but not by robbery, such as Satan and Adam attempted. Furthermore, the term “form” (morphe) is used to designate a nature or essence endowed with peculiar attributes and conditions, divine or human, which is covered and ornamented with them, so to speak, as Augustine says … ad Petrum, “You must understand the ‘form of God’ as the natural fullness of God.” (Two Natures, p 326).
It seems wise to follow that opinion of Chemnitz, which is based on the consensus of the ancient fathers, even though Luther and others sometimes explain the term in a different way in some of their writings. When some Lutheran writers say that the morphe of God is not the divine nature, they are assuming that the morphe of God is the object of the verb “he emptied himself,” and they are correct to say that we cannot say that Jesus emptied himself of the divine nature. But in the Greek text the term the morphe of God is not the object of the verb “he emptied himself.” The text supplies no object for the verb, so we must deduce it from Scripture. What Jesus emptied himself of was not the divine nature, but the full and constant use of the attributes of that nature. Putting it another way, if the term the morphe of God was the object of the verb “emptied himself,” the morphe of God could not mean “the divine nature,” but this term is not the object of the verb “emptied himself,” so this objection to understanding the morphe of God as a reference to the divine nature, which was the unanimous opinion or the orthodox Greek fathers, is not necessary.
At the heart of the problem is that the Greek word morphe is often translated by the Latin word forma, and forma in turn is often translated or glossed by the English word form. The problem is that Latin forma and English form are false cognates. In dogmatics forma almost never means form. It usually means essence. The statement that “the forma of Scripture is the divinely intended meaning” cannot properly be translated “the form of Scripture is the divinely intended meaning.” It must be translated “the essence of Scripture is the divinely intended meaning.” Form and essence here are contrasted. In English, the “form” of Scripture refers to the outward form, the letters, the words, the sounds of the words. Even when the form (the Latin word is materia not forma) of Scripture (the sounds, the shape of the letters, even the language) changes, the essence (the divinely intended meaning) remains the same. That is why accurate translations convey the Word of God.
Since Latin forma and English form are false cognates, English readers are apt to read the word “form” as something less than the full divine nature. The term nature (or even essence) is better for conveying the meaning of the passage. Since the common English usage is to speak of the two natures of Christ, the term nature commends itself here, and it has no doctrinal downside as form does.
The problem word in this passage from a doctrinal point of view is the verb “emptied himself.” False teachers called the kenoticists (the emptiers) taught that Jesus emptied himself of some of the divine attributes. “Emptied himself” is indeed the expression in the original text, so we keep it. The fact that some false teachers misuse the term does not lead us to remove the term from Scripture or from our translations. Instead, we retain the scriptural term, but we explain the correct scriptural sense and reject the false interpretation of the term by the heretics.
36. Why does the EHV use “through” instead of “by” in John 1:3, 10, and 1 Corinthians 8:6?
The first verses of the Gospel according to St. John clearly state that the Son of God is true God. He is the Second Person of the Triune God. He always “was God” (Jn 1:1). He was eternally “with God” (Jn 1:2). He participated in the work of creation. The EHV translates John 1:3 this way:
3Through him everything was made, and without him not one thing was made that has been made.
The second half of the sentence reinforces what the first half is saying: Nothing was made without him. He participated in all of the work of creation. The English word “through” is the usual translation for the Greek term “dia” when it is paired with the genitive case. The EHV consistently translates this term that way. This translation of “through” is not incorrect. Anyone who accuses this translation of being incorrect is actually accusing Dr. Martin Luther who translated it that way in his 1545 German Bible (“durch”). Many others have offered the same translation in the verses you mention in your question. One was the Lutheran commentator, R. C. H. Lenski.
The EHV offers the same translation [of dia + the genitive] when it refers to God the Father in Hebrews 2:10, “Certainly it was fitting for God (the one for whom and through whom everything exists), in leading many sons to glory, to bring the author of their salvation to his goal through sufferings.” So we are certainly not somehow downgrading the deity of Christ. There is nothing wrong or incorrect about this standard translation. Quite often, the translator needs to distinguish between different prepositions in the immediate context.
Most translations use the term “through” [for dia + the genitive] in Matthew 1:22. EHV translates it this way: “All this happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:”… In this particular passage a translator must distinguish between two Greek prepositions. The phrase “by the Lord” is the Greek hypo + the genitive. Consistently, the EHV renders hypo + the genitive with “by…” Here are a few examples from the Gospel according to St. Matthew:
Matthew 2:15 (EHV) This happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Matthew 2:16 (EHV) When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Wise Men, he was furious. He issued orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under. This was in keeping with the exact time he had learned from the Wise Men.
Matthew 3:13 (EHV) Then Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John at the Jordan.
Matthew 4:1 (EHV) Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.
The translation of “through” in John 1:3, 10, and 1 Corinthians 8:6 is not incorrect. It’s actually correct. We simply need to grasp more clearly what the Bible is teaching in these passages. According to Scripture the work of creation is preeminently ascribed to God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity. Consider how this is taught in 1 Corinthians 8:6:
… nevertheless for us there is one God—the Father, from [ex + genitive] whom all things exist, and we exist for him—and one Lord—Jesus Christ, through [dia + genitive] whom all things exist, and we exist through him (EHV).
Scripture teaches that God the Son (Second Person of the Trinity) and God the Holy Spirit (Third Person of the Trinity) cooperated in this work of creation. The “external works” of the Triune God are indivisible. Consider the working of the Triune God according to Hebrews 1:2, “In these last days, he has spoken to us by [en + dative] his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through [dia + genitive] whom he made the universe” (EHV). Martin Chemnitz serves as a reliable guide in the matter of these prepositions. He wrote:
Now we must not engage in arguments motivated merely by curiosity as to the difference of the persons in the work of creation, but rest content with that revelation that all things have been created by the eternal Father through the Son with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is what Gregory of Nazianzus has concluded from Rom. 11:36, “There is one Father “from” whom are all things, and the Son “through” whom are all things, and the Holy Spirit “in” whom are all things.” These points are not to be drawn in to suggest the inequality of the persons, as the Arians blasphemously asserted when they said that the Son was an instrument of God in the creation, as a woodsman uses an axe. “For these prepositions, ‘ “from,” “through,” and “in” says Nazianzus, “do not divide the nature, but express the properties of the one and unconfused nature.” [Martin Chemnitz and Jacob A. O. Preus, Loci Theologici, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989), p. 157.]
Johann Gerhard sounds very similar:
Therefore we conclude that creation is an undivided act of the one true God alone, namely, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… We should not dispute too inquisitively about the distinction of persons in the work of creation, but let us be content with the simple truth that the eternal Father created all things through His Son in the Holy Spirit. The fathers gather this proposition from Rom. 11:26. However, Nazianzen is correct in adding that those short words “ ‘from,’ ‘through,’ and ‘in’ do not divide His nature but express the properties of the one, unconfused nature.” Observe also that in Col. 1:16 all things are said to have been created “in the Son.” Chrysostom (on Hebrews 1, homily 2): “It is not as a heretic foolishly suspects, that the Son is some instrument of the Father, nor is He said to have created through Him as though He Himself could not create. Rather, just as the Father is said to judge through the Son because He begot the judge, so also He is said to work through the Son because it is clear that He begot the workman.” [Theological Commonplaces: On Creation… (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2013), p. 14.]
These quotations clearly show that the fact that a heretic might misuse a proper translation does not lead us to remove the translation from Scripture but to explain that translation in a proper way.
A fuller study of the doctrinal implications of prepositions will be presented in our forthcoming article “Those Pesky Prepositions.”
37. In Isaiah 55:1 the EHV says, “Hey, all of you who are thirsty, come to the water.” Isn’t “hey” too slangy?
Here is the full EHV translation with its footnote:
“Hey,1 all of you who are thirsty, come to the water,
even if you have no money!
Come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Footnote: 1The English word hey expresses the same urgency as the Hebrew word hoi. It is the cry of the street vendor who is eager to sell his wares.
The first Hebrew word in Isaiah 55 is not the Hebrew word for “come” which is used three times later in the verse. The Hebrew word here is hoi, which is not a verb but an exclamation that even sounds like the English exclamation hey, so the EHV rendering is following a literal understanding of the Hebrew word hoi and differentiating it from the three instances of come that follow later in the verse.
The Hebrew word hoi is often used in contexts of sorrow or grief (though the proper word for that is oi). Here hoi is simply trying to get attention, perhaps with a touch of sympathy.
The English word hey serves the same sort of functions: to attract attention, to express surprise, interest or annoyance, or to express agreement. It covers a wide range of moods: Hey, what’s going on? Hey, what’s up? Hey, that’s great! Hey, how are you doing? Hey, look at me now. All these have their own shade of meaning, often depending on the tone of voice. Hey is also regaining its old use as a synonym of hello, which is used across the Germanic languages. Here we are interested only in the first use of hey, to gain attention.
The imagery of the text is that of a street vendor, urging the crowd to buy his wares. Though we did not have this example in mind when we translated Isaiah, a recent visit to Miller Park in Milwaukee, demonstrated that hey is the right choice here. Almost universally, the vendors were shouting, “Hey, cotton candy,” “Hey, ice cold beer here,” “Hey, lemonade,” or whatever cry was appropriate to their wares. So it seems that hey catches the right tone here—the urgency of a vendor. The reason that we did not follow those translations that ignore the difference between hey and come is that they diminish the imagery and urgency of the text. We found only one other English translation that has the translation hey (the NET), but several British translations use the interjection ho, a Britishism that would not work here.
So the reason that the EHV uses hey is to preserve the imagery of a vendor’s cry. If anyone has a better word than hey to reflect that, we would be happy to consider it, but we could not think of one. An important goal of EHV is to reflect the tone of the text. The tone of this text is not the polite address of a student to a teacher, “Excuse me, Miss Smith,” rather than “Hey, Miss Smith,” but the aggressive shouting of a vendor.
There is an even bigger problem with the imagery of the text than the word hey. It is the word buy. The water, wine, milk, and bread here are the gospel of salvation. Can we buy salvation? Scripture makes it clear that we cannot. It is a gift. But here the word buy expresses the urgency of obtaining it. This imagery is not limited to the Old Testament. Jesus tells us, “I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich” (Rev 3:18). The same idea is reflected in the parables of the pearl of great price and the treasure hid in a field. One thing is needful. Everything depends on getting it.
In every image we have to ask what is the point of comparison. The two imagery words in our text hey and buy both make the same point: nothing is more important than obtaining salvation. Perhaps the word buy also carries some of the connotation of the colloquial English “Hey, I’ll buy that,” which means “I agree with that.”
38. Why does the EHV translate the Greek term “dia” as “because of” in Romans 4:25? in the words “for our justification”?
You’ve asked an important question. Here is the EHV translation of the verse with the key terms you are asking about underlined:
Romans 4:25 He was handed over to death because of our trespasses and was raised to life because of our justification.
In using because of in Romans 4:25, EHV is not going it alone. Other translations that use because of include NKJV, NASB, and GWN.
Many people are probably used to the NIV translation (again the key terms are italicized):
Romans 4:25 (NIV) “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
By using the word for” the NIV (1984, 2011) and other Bible versions (ESV, HCSB, CSB) are not as helpful as they could be. Clearly, the common meaning of this Greek term (dia + accusative) is “because of.” Some translations might intend to indicate the idea of “cause” by using the term “for.” Unfortunately, the causal meaning of “for” is not at all clear in our common use of the English language. It would be unlikely that an English reader would understand that “for” really means “because of” in this verse. Would you say at the end of the day, “I am going home, for I am done”? We usually don’t talk that way anymore. So, English readers might misunderstand and think that “for” here means something else, for example, purpose. (Dictionary.com lists “because” as the 34th meaning of “for.”)
Another reason why this word here means “because of” is the clear parallelism in this verse:
|He was handed over to death||because of||our trespasses|
|and was raised to life||because of||our justification.|
This passage answers two questions:
|Q. Why did Jesus die?||Jesus died “because of our trespasses.”|
|Q. Why did Jesus rise?||Jesus rose “because of our justification.”|
Siegbert Becker explained this passage this way:
We could also translate, “He was delivered over to death because we had sinned and was raised to life because we had been justified.” Some Lutherans who deny universal justification insist that since the previous verse speaks of believers, therefore the truth expressed in this verse must be limited to believers, because only believers are justified. But surely there is no Lutheran who would hold that Christ was delivered over to death only for the sins of believers. He died for all. He paid the ransom price for all. He took away the sin of the world. He is the propitiation or the cover for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. His resurrection is the proof that the sins of the world are cancelled and forgiven.
When Paul says that Christ was delivered because of our transgressions the “because of” [διά] is without doubt retrospective. He was put to death because our sins had been imputed to him. And while it is true that “our” in this context refers to believers and only believers can say what Paul says here, yet it is crystal clear that what Paul asserts here of believers is true of all men… It is clear that “was delivered over because of our transgressions” [παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν] stands in exact parallelism to “was raised because of our justification” [ἠγέρθη διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν]. If “because of” [the διὰ] is retrospective in the first member of the parallelism it is very natural that we should understand the second “because of” [διὰ] as retrospective also.
How many sins were laid on Jesus when he died?
Isaiah 53:6 (EHV)
We all have gone astray like sheep.
Each of us has turned to his own way,
but the LORD has charged all our guilt to him.
How many people did Jesus die for?
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (EHV)
One died for all; therefore, all died. 15And he died for all….
Jesus died, because the LORD laid on him the sins of all of us (all people). Then on the third day, God the Father raised Jesus to life as a public verdict of justification for all of us (all people). The resurrection demonstrated that God the Father had accepted Jesus’ payment for all sin and that Jesus was absolved of all of our sin that had been charged to him.
In his classic commentary on Romans, Georg Stoeckhardt explained Romans 4:25:
Since God raised Jesus from the dead, he has in fact declared that the death of Jesus has fulfilled its goal, that sin has been atoned for, that he has accepted the atonement, and thus the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—this glorious victory over death and sin—is also at the same time the actual, solemn, formal absolution which God has pronounced on sinful people. Just as the atonement for sin is, so this verdict of justification is universal and applies to the whole world of sinners.
In the People’s Bible Commentary, Armin Panning explained Romans 4:25 this way:
Because we had sinned, we deserved to die. Instead of requiring our death, however, God sent his Son to earth to live the perfect life we could not live and die the death we should have died. By his life he earned righteousness for us, and by his death he paid for our sins. In Christ, God now views us as righteous; in him we have been justified. The sinner’s justification is an accomplished fact, punctuated by Christ’s cry on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And to show that he had accepted his Son’s sacrificial death for the justification of all sinners, God raised his Son from death on Easter morning. In doing so God made a statement to all the world…. We might paraphrase that in this way: Christ had to die because we had sinned, but he could be raised to life because we had been justified by his death.
In his Romans commentary, David Kuske explained the “cause” relationships:
Paul is not saying Jesus’ resurrection was the cause of our acquittal. Just the opposite, our acquittal was the cause of Jesus’ resurrection. Our acquittal was established by Jesus’ paying the ransom price for us on the cross (3:24). Because this was an established fact, God brought Jesus back to life. Or to put it another way, by raising Jesus, God was assuring us that Jesus had indeed accomplished our salvation.”
Franz Pieper reflected the teaching of C.F.W. Walther (the first president of the Missouri Synod), while explaining Romans 4:25:
Now, then, if the Father raised Christ from the dead, He, by this glorious resurrection act, declared that the sins of the whole world are fully expiated, or atoned for, and that all mankind is now regarded as righteous before His divine tribunal. This gracious reconciliation and justification is clearly taught in Rom. 4:25…. The term δικαίωσις [justification] here means the act of divine justification executed through God’s act of raising Christ from the dead, and it is for this reason called the objective justification of all mankind. This truth Dr. Walther stressed anew in America. He taught that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the actual absolution pronounced upon all sinners. To refer the words: “Who was raised again for our justification,” to the so-called subjective justification, which takes place by faith, not only weakens the force of the words, but also violates the context. Calov, following Gerhard, rightly points out the relation of Christ’s resurrection to our justification as follows: “Christ’s resurrection took place as an actual absolution from sin…. As God punished our sins in Christ, upon whom He laid them and to whom He imputed them, as our Bondsman, so He also, by the very act of raising Him from the dead, absolved Him from our sins imputed to Him, and so He absolved also us in Him.”
Note on the terms objective justification and subjective justification: In this context, the term objective refers to something that happens outside of us, something that does not depend on our knowledge or feelings. Objective justification is the declaration of God that he has accepted Christ’s payment for all of the sins of the world. The key passage is 2 Corinthians 5:18-19: All these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And he has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, inasmuch as God is making an appeal through us. We urge you, on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. Objective justification is the act of God by which he has declared that the sins of the world are forgiven because Christ paid for them in full. When the gospel is preached to people, they appropriate this verdict to themselves by faith. This justification by faith is called subjective because it involves our minds and hearts. We are saved by grace through faith.
 Gk: διὰ + accusative = cause. BDAG, p. 225 (B 2); Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 368-369.
 Siegbert Becker, “Universal Justification,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, vol. 83:1, pp. 16 (Winter 1986).
 Siegbert Becker, “Objective Justification,” p. 10 (WLS Essay File). Translations were inserted for this audience.
 Translated especially for this paper by James L. Langebartels, from: Georg Stoeckhardt, Römerbrief: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Römer, p. 214 (CPH, 1907).
 Armin Panning, Romans, p. 78 (NPH, 1999).
 David P. Kuske, “A Commentary on Romans 1-8,” p. 237 (NPH, 2007).
 F. Pieper, vol. 2, Christian Dogmatics, p. 321 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953).
39. Why do you include the long ending of Mark as part of the text?
Why does the EHV include the long ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20)? Other translations question whether these verses belong in the text.
It is helpful to begin with a statement of our general policy concerning textual variants. We follow an objective approach which considers all the witnesses to the text (Greek manuscripts, lectionaries, translations, and quotations in the Church Fathers) without showing favoritism for one or the other, since each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses as a witness to the text. We then report the textual evidence in this way:
The reading in a set of variants that has the earliest and most wide-spread support in the witnesses is the one included in the text. The other readings in a set of variants are dealt with in one of three ways:
- A variant reading that has very little early or widespread support in the witnesses is not presented in a footnote in order to avoid an overabundance of textual notes.
- A variant reading with significant early and/or wide-spread support but not as much early or widespread evidence as the reading in the main text of the translation is reflected in a footnote that says, “Some witnesses to the text read/add/omit: . . . .”
- A familiar (e.g., KJV or NIV reading) or a notable reading (e.g., the addition or omission of a whole verse) with support that is not nearly as early or widespread as the other reading can be reflected in a footnote that says, “A few witnesses to the text read/add/omit: . . . .”
The handling of the end of Mark is simply an application of this objective principle. This is the EHV footnote on this textual question:
This translation includes verses 9-20 because they are included in the vast majority of Greek manuscripts that have been handed down to us. Evidence for the existence of this long ending extends back to the 2nd century. In the early centuries of the church, these verses were read in worship services on Easter and Ascension Day. However, a few early manuscripts and early translations omit verses 9-20, and a few manuscripts have a different ending.
We believe that this footnote states the textual evidence accurately and concisely. But there are many details behind it. A brief summary of the evidence can be found in an article that was published in Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly (Vol 102:1), which is posted at our WP website.
If someone wants make a more detailed study of the issue, there is a lot of evidence to examine. We encourage you to examine the evidence on both sides of the argument.
In doing this, it is important to understand that the UBS textual commentary by Bruce Metzger is not an attempt to present a comprehensive study of the textual evidence but a defense of the decisions the committee made in creating the UBS text. In its four-page discussion of the ending of Mark, this commentary concludes that it is obvious to its editors that the longer ending of Mark has no claim to be original, but it concludes, “out of deference to the evident antiquity of the longer reading and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel, the Committee decided to include verses 9-20 as part of the text but to enclose them with double square brackets to indicate that they are the work of an author other than the evangelist.” The UBS committee in this way acknowledges that there is significant and important ancient support for verses 9-20.
When comparing the UBS approach with the EHV approach, we encourage readers to ask which approach presents a more objective summary of the textual evidence and which includes more subjective opinion.
Then to complete your study, read a book that presents a fuller summary of the textual evidence and which argues that the UBS approach does not present a full and fair consideration of the evidence. An example of such a book would be Authentic: The Case for Mark 16:9-20 (2016 edition) by James Snapp Jr. Used copies can sometimes be purchased on Amazon for as low as 99 cents.
Study both points of view and evaluate the fullness of their presentation of the evidence and the degree to which they make an objective evaluation of the evidence.
As a bottom line, remember that the EHV approach to textual issues is to present an objective summary of the amount of early and widespread support which a reading has and to minimize subjective judgments.
40. Do variants and typos affect the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy?
FAQ 40 How do we reconcile the presence of variants and typos in the biblical text with the teaching of Biblical inerrancy?
The EHV NT has been available for more than six months now, and so far readers have spotted two to four typos. We do not know how many more will be spotted, but one of the few things we can be sure of is that the EHV will have considerably fewer typos than the Hebrew text which was the foundation of our translation. The BHS printed Hebrew text is an attempt to reproduce the hand-written Leningrad Codex of the Hebrew Bible, but it is the practice of the editors not to correct “typos” which they spot in the hand-written Leningrad Text but to preserve them in the printed edition and to label them with the tag sic L (which means “this is what the Leningrad Text reads”). There are well over 350 such footnotes in the BHS text and well over 200 of them are what we would call “typos” in the simplest sense of the term. In his Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible Emanuel Tov spends several pages discussing the many discrepancies between and within all of the hand-written and printed editions of the Hebrew Bible (see pages 3 and 4 for starters). He concludes that there are no completely identical versions of the biblical text unless they are photocopies or printed from the same electronic file. In fact, to a large degree, textual criticism is simply the practice of proofreading, the practice of finding and fixing typos.
Should this be a cause for concern? Not really—as a study of the following famous biblical typos will show. So that no one thinks we have an ax to grind with any particular Bible translation, we will limit the examples below largely to the venerable, venerated King James Version.
The Bible is generally read with more care than newspapers, which means that even relatively harmless blunders in Bible translations have been assured a place in typographical history.
We might as well start with the most notorious example of all—the so-called Wicked Bible or Adulterers Bible of 1631. In this printing of the King James, the sixth/seventh commandment in Exodus 20:14 came out, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Authorities were outraged, and the offending printers were fined and imprisoned.
Surprisingly, this type of error involving the omission of the crucial word not, which makes such a huge difference in the meaning of a verse, is in fact one of the most common copying variants in the Bible. A variation between the Hebrew word al (loa), which means not, and the Hebrew word wl (low), which means to him, is another one of the most common textual variants in the Hebrew Bible.
Sometimes a passage can be understood as a true statement regardless of whether or not the word not is present. For example in Ezekiel 5:7 there are two readings: The reading, “You have acted according to the standards of justice followed by the nations around you,” is a strong condemnation of Israel. The other reading, “You have not [even] acted according to the standards of justice followed by the nations around you” is an even harsher condemnation. The same is true of very many of the al wl variants. Unless both could somehow be understood as correct, they would not have been recorded as variants.
“How can such an error happen?” you ask. “How can several proofreaders miss such a big error as a missing not?” It happens because our eyes and minds are trained to read what should be in a text, not what is there.
Most proficient readers of English can read the following selection quite quickly.
I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Actually there are several untruths and half-truths in this quotation, but it does demonstrate the basic point that interests us here: Because the mind of a reader does not focus on letters but on the meaning of words and whole groups of words, readers can without any great difficulty correctly read texts that have even a large number of typos. If you can read the text above, you can correctly read a biblical text with a couple of typos.
The amazing thing about the missing not in the Wicked Bible was not that the printers of the Wicked Bible got into trouble with the self-righteous royal authorities, but that it took a year for them to be caught and prosecuted. Purchasers of the Bible were apparently either buying the Bible and not reading it, or they were reading it and not noticing the error because they were autocorrecting it as all competent readers do. (One of the chief challenges for a proofreader is to turn off his or her built-in autocorrect app.)
The time lag of a year in the Wicked Bible case is not particularly surprising nor is it anywhere near a record for uncorrected errors. Once when editing an English translation of a German version of a Luther letter, both the translator and the editor ran across a sentence which absolutely required the presence of the word not, but in tracing the letter through all the printed editions back to the 1560s, there was no edition that included the necessary word not. Apparently these two were the first editors in 250 years to notice and to correct the missing not. (We later found out that the original Latin letter written by Luther was in a library in Latvia, and there at last was the missing not.) It is not unthinkable that our best Hebrew manuscript somewhere has a typo that originated in the pre-Christian era.
We could easily chalk up this notorious scandal of the missing not in the Adulterers Bible to proofreader incompetence or to readers with built-in autocorrect turned on, if it were not for another extremely wicked error in the Wicked Bible, an error so bad that it would seal the lips and close the eyes of the genteel English ladies who were reading the Bible. In Deuteronomy 5:24, the doubly-wicked Wicked Bible said that “the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatasse.” (It was supposed to be greatnesse.) The error of the missing not in the commandment could very likely have been caused by operator error, but this second wicked reading reeks of sabotage, and it lends credibility to the rumor that the errors in the Wicked Bible were not mistakes but were the result of a wicked plot by a rival printer to ruin the publisher so that he would lose the license to print the King James Bible and the villainous rival printer could then get the license. Conspiracy theorists even name a likely suspect, a chap named Bonham Norton, who perhaps deserves the title “the first hacker.”
Besides the peril of hackers, modern producers of electronic Bibles face three other perils. Spell-checkers will sometimes change a fine word like pericope into periscope. Too close a pass of a finger near the touchpad can delete a word or even a line several pages away, without the operator even noticing it. A blip in the electronic data flow can introduce an error like the visual errors that regularly occur in your streaming programs.
Such a software/hardware error produced the glitch in the printed Owl Bible, a 1944 printing of the King James. “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your owl husbands,” This error was not a typo but the result of a damaged metal printing plate. The right side of the “n” in the word “own” was chipped off. Then the base of the letter appears bent to the left slightly. This results in the lower case letter “n” looking exactly like a capital “L.” Since both the “o” and “w” appear the same in lower case and capital letters, the word ends up looking exactly like “OWL.”
The EHV may have had one or two such a software-induced errors. In the first printing, in Matthew 5:16, the verse number is not superscripted as it should be but is regular size. The numeral is correctly superscripted in all the galleys and printouts, so this blip may be the result of a software error in the printing process. If your copy of EHV has this blip, you have a genuine first printing. Save it and pass it on to your grandchildren, though they may not be able to sell it for the high five-figure payout that you can collect by selling a really wicked Bible.
A few more examples illustrate the point:
In a 1653 printing of the King James Bible, 1 Corinthians 6:9 reads: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?” Those pesky missing negatives are not that rare.
In a 1763 printing, Psalm 14:1 says: “The fool hath said in his heart there is a God.”
In a 1716 printing of the King James Version, Jeremiah 31:34 says “sin on more” instead of “sin no more.” This has recently been dubbed the Partyers Bible.
A glaring mistake can be found in an 1807 printing. Hebrews 9:14 declares, “How much more shall the blood of Christ …purge your conscience from good works to serve the living God.” Apparently the error was not quite glaring enough.
In a 1682 printing, Deuteronomy 24:3 was supposed to read, “If the latter husband hate her.” The unfortunate dropping of a single letter led to this edition being dubbed the Cannibal’s Bible. It apparently sold well in the South Pacific.
In the second edition of the Geneva Bible of 1562, Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the placemakers,” rather than “peacemakers.” I suppose the 21st century edition would be “blessed are the pacemakers.” In the same edition, the chapter heading for Luke 21 says “Christ condemneth the poor widow,” rather than “Christ commendeth the poor widow.”
Bible typos don’t have to be old. In the 1966 first edition of the Jerusalem Bible, Psalm 122:6 read, “Pay for peace” instead of “Pray for peace.” In the 1970 first edition of the King James II, John 1:5 reads “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcomes it.” This was corrected to “the darkness does not overcome it” in the second edition, in the following year after the error was brought to the attention of the publishers. That pesky missing not again!
The presence or absence of a comma is probably more an editorial glitch than a typo. In some editions of the King James version, Luke 23:32 says that there were also two other malefactors crucified with Jesus. The lack of an “s” at the end of “other” and the lack of a comma after “others” makes Jesus a malefactor. The text was supposed to read: “And there were also two others, malefactors…
In a 1612 printing of the King James Bible, Psalm 119:161 says, “Printers have persecuted me without a cause.” The text itself seems to be crying out here.
Typos can be costly. A missing hyphen in the programing of a Venus probe caused the rocket to blow up, costing the space program millions of dollars. We have all read stories about a missing or misplaced decimal point causing big problems at the bank. In 2007, a US car dealership came up with a brilliant plan to boost sluggish sales. They sent out 50,000 scratch cards, one of which would reveal a $1,000 cash prize. But the marketing firm messed up the printing, so that ALL the cards were grand-prize winners. Unable to honor the debt, the dealership offered a $5 Walmart gift voucher to every “winner.” At least it was not a Starbucks card.
But mostly typos are just an embarrassment to the publishers and a delight to the whistle blowers.
A recipe in an Australian publication advised seasoning the pasta with “salt and freshly ground black people.” We are confident no one followed this misguided recommendation.
A newspaper reported that after a storm a man was seriously injured by contact with a high-voltage wife.
There is an old editorial rule that any article containing the word public must be read at least four times to check for a missing letter. (This typo is known as the proofreader’s worst nightmare.)
A travel company sued the newspaper when their ad for exotic vacations became an ad for erotic vacations. It seems that they would have been hard-pressed to prove the ad hurt their business.
Was the prize winner rewarded with a plaque or a plague? Few readers would have any trouble correcting such mistakes, but editors are still eager to avoid them, more to avoid embarrassment than to prevent any significant damage. It is the same with Bible typos, even with those that are embarrassing. Besides the jailing of the unlucky printer of the Wicked Bible very few biblical typos have ever done any serious harm. Nevertheless, it is highly desirable to avoid them to the degree it is possible for humans to do so. Electronic publishing should make it easier to gradually winnow out errors, but probably never completely because every opening of an electronic file creates the possibility of a new error being introduced by a wayward touch. The perfection of Scripture remains in God’s act of giving it, not in our act of transmitting it. But the minor flaws of transmission do not prevent the truth reaching the reader. Just as the rough or squeaky voice of the preacher does not remove the power of the gospel, flaws in the printing and writing of the text does not dim the message and meaning of the text.
It is important to take note of this, because, besides Bible collectors and British journalists, the biggest fans of biblical typos are unbelieving critics of the Bible, who claim that these typos take away from the inerrancy of the Bible. The grand total of all of the variants in the biblical texts do not bring into question any teaching of the Bible, much less the minor typos that characterize human writing.
What about the EHV?
There were two blips that appear to be computer glitches:
Besides the superscript number glitch in Matthew 5:16 mentioned above, 2 Peter 3:17 has a superscript “5” before “through” – It seems that this is a computer-induced mistake that was not in our final manuscript, so it is like the Matthew 5:16 blip.
The following three typos have been reported in the first printing of the EHV New Testament.
Luke 19:27 – Insert “of” before “me”
Ephesians 4:32 – “other” should be “another” as follows… 32Instead, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us.
1 Thessalonians 2:7 the footnote needs an “s” on “infants” to agree with the plural children in the main text,
7Some witnesses to the text read infants. This variant would change the translation to: we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, but we were infants among you. Like a nursing mother taking care of her own children, 8we yearned . . .
It is not always agreed among proofreaders and readers what is a typo.
Acts 10:25 – We added a “p” to “worshiped” so it is now “worshipped,” Many people regard “worshiped” as the correct American spelling, but computer studies show that “worshipped” is the standard spelling on both sides of the Atlantic, and this is the standard spelling elsewhere in the EHV.
Psalms has three additional fixes
Psalm 13:6: insert the verse #6 as follows:
5But I trust in your mercy.
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
6I will sing to the LORD
because he has accomplished his purpose for me.
Psalm 38:7 – A period is missing at the end of the first sentence in the verse (“Even my back burns with pain”). Perhaps the footnote masked the absence of the period.
Psalm 113:1 – should have a small “p” on “praise” at the beginning of the third line.
1Praise the LORD.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
But is this correction really correct? See the next example.
What is a typo?
Psalm 29:1 gives another example that demonstrates that some situations do not fit neatly into pigeon holes:
The EHV text now reads:
1Ascribe to the LORD, you sons of God,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name.
This is a triple parallelism that is one thought-unit of the poem, and the punctuation and capitalization reflect that. Each of the three lines is a discreet independent musical unit of the song that together form one larger unit. Here, as often in Hebrew poetry, one of the members of a poetic unit is grammatically incomplete. In other words the grammar and the poetry do not neatly match. Going purely by English grammar the second line should begin with a small a (though even in English there is another competing rule that poetic lines can begin with caps independent of the grammar). From the poetic and musical perspective it would look odd to have the first and third lines with capital A but not the second line. This is what we call “a case of casuistry.” There are two or more rules that apply to the case, and it is not possible to follow all of them. In grammar as in practical theology this is not an uncommon occurrence, and the writer has to decide which rule to follow.
So which capitalization do you like best? The version above or this version:
1Ascribe to the LORD, you sons of God,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name.
Both are correct, but they give priority to different rules.
 The variant number two to four will be explained at the end of the article.
 In the term typos we are including hand-written or printed mistakes.
 Incidentally, most of the information in this article comes from the websites of Bible-collecting societies. They are always on the lookout for good (or preferably really bad) typos which can earn big money. The other main sources are articles in British papers like the Guardian and Mirror. Fascination with Bible typos seems to be a British thing. Google Bible typos and you will get lots of examples.
41. In Matthew 28:19 why do you translate “gather disciples” instead of “make disciples”?
FAQ 41: Why does the EHV translate Matthew 28:19, “gather disciples” instead of “make disciples”?
The first question we have to ask is “what is a disciple?” A random online dictionary defines “disciple” as “a personal follower of Jesus during his life, especially one of the twelve Apostles” or “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.” It seems that the two main synonyms of “disciple” are “follower” and “student,” or in some cases something like “trainee” or “apprentice” or “adherent.” That definition is okay as far as it goes, but it seems that it should go further in distinguishing two main uses of the term “disciple” in the Bible.
In the Gospels the disciples are most often a group of men that Jesus has called in order to prepare them for serving in the ministry of the Word. Jesus called his first disciples from among the disciples of John the Baptist. They were already believers in the promised Messiah, but now they were called to recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ promised by God. They are called to follow him and to learn from him. They were not immediately called to leave their homes and professions behind in order to enter a full-time ministry. After a time Peter and his fishing partners were called to leave their businesses behind (Luke 5:8-11). From now on they will be fishers of men. Now they have a permanent divine call to ministry, and they leave their nets and boats and homes and follow Jesus. Jesus’ disciples were first called, then trained. Later Jesus selects twelve men from among a larger group of disciples to be apostles (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; compare Matthew 10:2). Some of the disciples who were not called to be apostles were later sent to serve as members of the Seventy.
When we meet the term “disciple” in the Gospels, we have to determine from the context whether the term refers to the Twelve or to a larger group, which at times may include all believers. Sometimes the text may say something like: “the twelve disciples” or “the eleven disciples” so the choice is clear. In some passages like Luke 14:26-27 and John 8:31, the characteristics of “disciples” refer to traits of all believers. In Acts, the term “disciples” very often serves as a name that can be applied to all believers. “Disciples” means “Christians” (Acts 11:26). The term does not refer to limited class or to higher status. In the epistles, the term “disciples” no longer occurs as a common title for believers, as it does in Acts. It is replaced by terms like “saints” or “brothers.”
One of the places where this question “Who are these disciples?” arises is in Matthew 28:16-17. The eleven disciples are mentioned in verse 16. In verse 17 some of the people who are present, believe; some of them doubt or hesitate. Some commentators believe that only the eleven disciples were present when Jesus spoke the Great Commission. Many commentators connect the giving of the Great Commission with the meeting with 500 disciples mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:6. In either case it is clear that the commission was given not just to the eleven (soon to be twelve again) apostles, but to the church, and that it extends to the end of time.
The related Greek verb (μαθητεύω / matheeteuo) is most often used intransitively with the meaning “be or become a disciple.” Twice it is used transitively with a direct object (Matthew 28:19 and Acts 14:21). It should be noted that this verb consists only of the root for “disciple,” with no indication of what other verb, if any, should be supplied to fill out the thought. The most literal translation would to be to use “disciple” as a verb, and some have suggested this: Go and disciple all nations.
There were two fairly well-established translations in use when the EHV was being translated:
- “make disciples” NIV, ESV, and many others
- “teach/instruct” Vulgate, Luther, KJV, and others
Both of these are acceptable translations. Both can be understood correctly, but in some situations both have been misunderstood.
The translation “teach” has the disadvantage that it will lead English readers to miss the fact that later in the verse there is another Greek verb (didasko) which can also be translated “teach. It seems useful to use two different English verbs to render these two Greek verbs in order to bring out the distinction in the text. Hence, the value of the translation “make disciples” for the first verb and “teach” for the second. There is nothing inherently wrong with the translation “make disciples,” and it is very widely used, but it has sometimes been misunderstood or misapplied or wrongly criticized. In an article in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly David Kuske offered a helpful caution:
The broad expression “make disciples” can easily be misunderstood. Therefore, when we use or explain these words, we always need to make sure that we clearly distinguish our part in carrying out Jesus’ command from God’s part. Only God the Holy Spirit can turn people from unbelief to faith and constantly increase that faith. Only God the Holy Spirit can create a living faith that clings to and willingly does all that Christ commands. But we also have a part in this work because God has chosen to use us as his agents to proclaim the Word through which the Spirit does his work. Therefore, God does speak of human beings having a part in bringing people to faith (for example., Acts 26:17 where Paul is described as opening people’s eyes and turning people from darkness to light, from Satan to God). But whenever we cite such passages we need to speak carefully so that the part we have in this action, what we do, is never confused with the Spirit’s work, with what he does.
The following are some of the passages that speak most boldly in proclaiming the human role in making disciples:
1 Timothy 4:16 “Pay close attention to yourself and to the doctrine. Persevere in them, because by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (EHV)
1 Corinthians 9:22 “To the weak, I became weak so that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all people so that I may save at least some.” (EHV)
The apostle Paul certainly did not mean to indicate that he or Timothy could take the place of Jesus as Savior or even assist in Jesus’ work of being Savior! Rather, believers may serve in an instrumental or ministerial role by proclaiming the message of salvation which tells people what Jesus has done to save them. Jesus said that he would make his disciples “fishers of men.” How did Jesus seek to “catch” men? “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom” (Mt 4:19, 23). The method that he gave to his disciples was the same. God works faith through his chosen means, the gospel in Word and sacrament (Rom 10:17). The difference is that Jesus is both the provider and messenger of salvation. His disciples are only the messengers who deliver the means through which the Spirit works.
So there is no inherent problem with the term “make disciples,” and the EHV will include it in a footnote in the EHV Study Bible, because the term is so widely used and to indicate that we do not object to this rendering.
But terms which in themselves are proper can be misunderstood when they have been misunderstood or misused by other people. So sometimes translators may choose to avoid such a term to try to anticipate and prevent predictable but erroneous misunderstanding or criticism.
In the sixteenth century, as far as we know, Luther never found it necessary to wrestle with the choice between “teach” and “make disciples” in Matthew 28:19 when he was translating the New Testament. He had no reason to depart from the time-honored rendering of the Latin Vulgate, which translates μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη as docete omnes gentes, “teach all nations.” But as the Anabaptist movement arose, some of the Anabaptists interpreted the traditional rendering of Matthew 28:19, “teach…baptizing…teaching,” as a chronological series and exploited it as an argument against infant baptism. Jesus, they said, commanded that teaching should precede baptism, and that cannot happen in the case of infants. In response, some exegetes of the Greek text argued that a more precise rendering of μαθητεύσατε was “make disciples of” all nations, and that the rest of the sentence showed how it takes place: by baptizing, etc. According to that exegesis, infants are not excluded from baptism. We do not know who was the first scholar to use that argument against the Anabaptists, but it quickly caught on among Lutherans, beginning already in the sixteenth century. We find it in the writings of Aegidius Hunnius, Johann Gerhard, and Johann Andreas Quenstedt. Erasmus Schmidt continued to defend the traditional rendering of μαθητεύσατε as “teach.” He acknowledged that the verb literally means “make disciples,” but he said disciples are made chiefly through teaching, and for that reason he still likes the translation “teach.” In a similar way, Georg Stoeckhardt in the 19th century does not hesitate to use Luther’s translation of Matthew 28:19 (lehret, “teach”), but he adds that “make disciples” is more precise. Interestingly enough, though these scholars saw the weakness in Luther’s translation, they apparently did not change Luther’s Bible.
Is it possible in light of all this to come up with a tweak of “make disciples” that might avoid some misunderstanding?
After study and discussion, the EHV came up with “gather disciples.” This tweak seemed to have two advantages. It might alleviate some of the unnecessary baggage that has become attached to the term “make disciples” for some people. (Though we do not doubt that some people will find fault with “gathering disciples,” for example asserting that “making disciples” requires a deeper relationship than merely “gathering” them.) That brings us to the second advantage of the term “gather disciples.” The term “make disciples” is understood in two main senses: the evangelism sense of bringing people into the church or the nurturing sense of leading them deeper into the Word. Which is it in the first verb of Matthew 28:19? The context of the Great Commission, which speaks of going into the all the world suggests that the gathering of the Christian church is in the foreground here. The ongoing nurturing of disciples is more prominent in the second verb of the series, “teaching them to obey everything.” The translation “gather disciples” seems to more clearly indicate the evangelism thrust of the first verb and thereby to help remove one ambiguity from the translation.
One of the comments we have received about the translation “gather disciples” is that it is an innovation. At first we thought that might be true, but whenever translators think they have discovered something new, their hopes are quickly dashed and they again realize the truth of the statement, “There is nothing new under the sun.” While following up on the question, we found that we were not the first to tweak the term “make disciples.” One translation that preceded us in the concept but not in the exact wording of tweaking the term “make disciples” was the NIV.
Consider Acts 14:21
- They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. (NIV)
- After they preached the good news in that city and had gathered many disciples… (EHV)
Since the EHV does not use the NIV as a resource for our work, we were not aware of the NIV’s tweak of “make disciples” until we stumbled upon it, after the fact. Each translation reached the idea of tweaking “make disciples” independently and each made their own tweak. We have no objection to their tweak “win disciples,” but we like our idea of “gathering disciples” a little better in the context.
Christians can “make disciples” or “win disciples” or “gather disciples” without a significant difference of meaning as long as they understand that this cannot mean that we are the ones who really convert people or create faith, because only God can do that through the means of grace. And if we use the translation “teach” in English, it does not mean that babies should not be baptized. And if we use “gather disciples,” it cannot mean that people become disciples on their own. Only God can create faith, and he has chosen to do this work through his means of grace which are delivered by his messengers (Romans 10:17).
The most important part of the testing process for EHV is not the testing in the ivory tower of academia but in the worship life and daily use of the church. Every new expression in a translation requires some explanation and some getting used to. After a few years of congregational use, we will know if readers find the tweak useful. We will then revisit this and other issues, giving the congregations an opportunity to have their voice heard in potential revisions.
 The Greek text here uses the word “brothers,” a word which in this context may include men and women.
 Kuske, “Exegetical Brief: The meaning of μαθητεύσατε in Matthew 28:19,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly (Vol. 94, no. 2, Spring 1997, p 115-121). (Also available from the WLS online essay file.)
 It would be interesting to check through the multi-volume collection of minutes of Luther’s translation revision committee to see if this verse was ever discussed. Present editions of the Lutherbibel still use “teach.”
 This paragraph is a summary of research from a WELS Committee study: “Matthew 28:19 and the Mission of the WELS,” (§. 50-51). That study provides references to the original sources. For more of their discussion read also §.43-49 of that study.
 We are thinking of the many controversies around the terms “make disciples,” “discipling,” etc. It does not seem necessary or edifying to catalog them here. Readers can easily gain access to them by searching terms like “discipling controversy” etc. You will quickly find more than you want to know, even a link to “discipling a dog.” I think it’s a typo for “disciplining a dog.”
 An additional search will show that the term “gathering disciples” is not at all uncommon in Christian writing.
 Other translations of course continue to use the terms “make disciples” and “teach” also in this verse.
42. Why is there so much confusion concerning the spelling of “Peniel” and “Penuel?” (Genesis 32:30-31)
FAQ 42 Genesis 32:30-31 refers to a place which some translations call Peniel in its first occurrence and Penuel in the second occurrence. The EHV calls it Peniel in both occurrences. Why?
This question is an excellent example of how a question that looks very simple at first really is not simple at all. There are a few complications involved in answering this question. (Make that a lot of complications!)
The main Hebrew manuscript that we use to translate the Old Testament calls this place Peniel the first time that it occurs (v 30) and Penuel the second time (v 31): “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip” (ESV). (The name peniel means face of God.)
The first version of the EHV read: “Jacob named the place Peniel,1 because he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life has been spared.’ The sun rose as he crossed over at Peniel, and he was limping because of his thigh.” (Note 1Peniel means face of God.)
How did we get this translation? A study of a concordance of place names in the Bible showed that some recent translations favored Peniel as the place name and used Penuel as a man’s name. Since many recent Bible atlases could be expected to reflect the spellings of the most popular translations, it seemed that EHV readers would have less trouble consulting Bible atlases if we used the same spelling that would likely appear in recent atlases, so we called the place Peniel. It seemed that to avoid confusing readers, we should use just one spelling of the name. Two different spellings of the same place name in such a short span would look like a typo to many readers. Since the spelling difference did not have any effect on the meaning we used just one spelling.
But another check of atlases shows that our assumption was wrong and that atlases, like translations, are a mixed bag in their spelling of this place. In fact, our cartographer for the EHV Study Bible used the spelling Penuel on our map for the patriarchs. So choosing the consistent spelling Peniel would not resolve the issue of finding this place in atlases.
(The inconsistent spelling of biblical place names is a very pervasive problem. Maps that we would like to refer to in EHV articles often use a different spelling of a name than the spelling in the EHV. Do we redraw all the maps, alter all the translations, or do we educate readers to the issue with appropriate footnotes at the right spots in the text? We are inclined toward the third option, because there is no solution in sight on the variety of spelling of place and personal names in the Bible. We have a longer discussion of this spelling problem, for which there is no resolution in sight, in our introduction to the EHV and in our FAQ 17.)
Is it possible to figure out how this spelling discrepancy arose in Genesis 32?
At first glance this might seem to a simple copying error, switching a Hebrew u for a Hebrew i. This variant between the Hebrew letter yod (i) and the Hebrew letter vav (u) is an extremely common variant in the Hebrew text. At some stages of the Hebrew script yod and vaw are virtually indistinguishable. In many cases, with common words, the reader can tell which letter is intended because he or she recognizes the word in context. But in the case of a proper name that occurs only once or rarely in the Bible, in reading handwritten manuscripts it is sometimes impossible to tell which letter was intended. This problem occurs very often in the lists of personal names in Chronicles, and the EHV often notes the variant spellings in the footnotes. EHV did not, however, footnote every vaw/yod variant in Chronicles so as not to bog down the reading of the text too much, but it lists enough examples to illustrate the problem.
But that simple explanation of a copying mistake is suspect here. Because the two versions of the name stand side-by-side, regardless of which spelling he chose, wouldn’t a scribe have written the word the same way both times? If this variant originated as a copying error, it could only have occurred fairly late in the history of the copying of the text (more than a thousand years after the writing of the text) because in the oldest forms of the Hebrew alphabet the two letters vav and yod look significantly different.
Furthermore, there are other interesting yod/waw interchanges in the Pentateuch. The yod/waw interchange here in Genesis 32 is parallel to another one in Genesis 4:18 where the variant spellings (Mehujael/Mehijael) are right next to each other. The same thing happens with the name Abigail in 1 Sam 25:14 and 18. Something may lie behind the way these letters were used at the time of the earliest written Hebrew which allowed them to be written interchangeably, and for which the explanation may never be recovered.
(It’s worth noting that the third person feminine pronoun in Genesis is often spelled with a waw in the middle like the third person masculine pronoun, and yet the Masoretes always pointed it to be pronounced as “hee” (הִוא) rather than “hu” in cases in which it clearly refers to a woman. Does this strange situation indicate a spelling variant, a copying variant, or an updating of the grammatical form? It seems that perhaps the third option is most likely.)
In Judges 8:8, 9, 17, the other main story involving this place, Penuel is the regular Hebrew spelling of the name. So maybe the first spelling of Peniel in Genesis was just a mistake, and we should make them all Penuel?
Not so fast. It may be more complicated than that. In the Waltke O’Conner Hebrew syntax book, in paragraph 8.2, it is suggested that a possible explanation of the variant is a survival in Genesis 32 of two of the archaic case endings of old Hebrew: The theory is that the i in Peniel is accusative plural (the Hebrew word for face is plural) and the u in Penuel is nominative plural. (Or maybe one of them is an old construct ending.) If an archaic case ending was involved, this would help explain the confusion of later copyists, who no longer knew the ancient case endings. (There are some other possible archaic endings in the Pentateuch and Psalms.) But in the grammatical structure of these verses, this argument does not seem particularly convincing.
The new BHQ volume of Genesis provides information about how early versions handle this problem variant: The Old Greek translates the name in both 32:31 and 32:32 as Εἶδος θεοῦ face of God. Of the other Greek versions, Aquila also translates the name into Greek, but Symmachus does not. All other references to this place in the Old Greek (Judges 8:8, 9, 17; 1 Kings 12:25) do not translate the term but rather render it as Φανουηλ. The Targums Jonathan and Neofiti keep the spelling Peniel in Genesis 32:31. All the other versions (Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, Syriac, Targum Onqelos) transliterate the occurrence in verse 31 as Penuel, evidently assimilating it with the spelling in v. 32. So it appears that most of the early versions want to harmonize the spelling of the two occurrences in these two successive verses, even though the copyists in the Masoretic tradition retained the two distinct spellings in their respective places. (In other words, these ancient versions did the very thing that EHV and NIV did, though they harmonized in the opposite direction). Or (and this seems most likely) the evidence may simply indicate that the translators of the ancient versions were as confused as we are by the whole situation. (A fairly good rule of thumb is that if the ancient versions are confused, our chance of becoming unconfused is not very good.)
Another approach for us would be to go by majority vote. In the Hebrew Old Testament, Penuel is the most common spelling. This would suggest changing all the occurrences to Penuel as some of the ancient versions did. Though the standard Hebrew text has the two different spellings in the two verses, other ancient versions have the spelling Penuel also in the first occurrence.
So what are the possibilities?
- There may be a copying mistake here. But we have already said that this would be a surprising mistake to make with the two words so close to each other. But anyone who has been an editor knows that astounding mistakes happen, and typos sometime remain uncorrected for centuries. The Masoretes, in fact, deliberately did not correct obvious mistakes in the Hebrew text but only called attention to them in marginal notes.
- The earliest copyists of Genesis, or perhaps the author of Genesis, had reason to spell the name two different ways. The most likely reason for this is that the spelling Peniel is intended to reflect the name and pronunciation of Jacob’s time and the spelling Penuel is intended to reflect the name and pronunciation at Moses’ time or a copyist’s time. There are in fact some other updatings of place names in Genesis.
It seems the best solution for the EHV in Genesis 32 is to spell the name Peniel the first time and to spell it Penuel the second time and add this footnote: “Penuel is an alternate spelling of Peniel,” and to offer no explanation since any explanation would be a guess.
Oh, one more complication. In Genesis 32 the Hebrew verse numbers do not match the English verse numbers, so if you want to look this up in the Hebrew text, you have to look at Genesis 32:31-32, as you may have noticed in the textual evidence above.
The lessons to be drawn: Bible translation is tremendously complicated. A single letter can generate a lot of data and a lot of theories. There are features of the Hebrew text for which we do not have a clear explanation and which seemingly already stumped the ancient translators. However, these difficulties do not prevent us from conveying the meaning of the Hebrew text. The lesson to be learned from Jacob’s encounter with the LORD is the same whether the place is called Peniel or Penuel or both.
 This occurs very often in Genesis: 2:12; 3:12 & 20; 4:22; 7:2; 12:14, 18 &19; 14:7 & 8; 17:14; 19:20; 20:3 & 5 (2x); 21:22 & 24; 22:20; 23:2, 15 & 19; 24:44; 38:21
43. What is the difference between the EHV translation and the EHV Study Bibles?
We have been asked about the relationship of the Evangelical Heritage Version of the Bible (EHV) and the study Bible which the Wartburg Project is producing. The two are related, but they are distinct products that serve distinct purposes. The EHV is the basic translation of the Bible, together with its accompanying translation notes. It simply is the whole Bible of the edition which is already available in the paperback preview of the New Testament and Psalms published by Northwestern Publishing House. Developers can obtain permission to use this EHV translation in any number of derivative products: study Bibles, commentaries, catechisms, etc. The material that they develop to accompany the EHV text in such products is the responsibility of the developers, and they publish it through whatever outlet they choose.
The study Bible that the Wartburg project is producing is such a derived product. In addition to the basic EHV translation, it will include more detailed introductions to each book of the Bible as well as supplemental appendices on subjects such as weights and measures, Israel’s neighbors, biblical chronology, and so on. It will include maps and charts. Its additional notes will focus on archaeological, historical, and geographic information about the text, but it will also include doctrinal notes. This study Bible is written from a Lutheran perspective, so the doctrinal notes on topics like the sacraments, the millennium, etc., will reflect a Lutheran understanding of these topics. We do not think this will limit the usefulness of our study Bible to Lutherans only, since the archaeological, historical, and geographic information is not dependent on any denominational understanding, and non-Lutherans may appreciate including in their study Bible collection a study Bible that helps them understand the confessional Lutheran perspective on various issues. This Wartburg/EHV Study Bible does not have a name yet, but when we advertise it, we will make it clear that it has a Lutheran perspective, so potential buyers have a clear idea of the approach of the study Bible and do not have false expectations for the book.
We certainly hope our study Bible will not be the only study Bible based on the EHV, because we do grant licenses to use the EHV translation in study Bibles, catechisms, and other derived works. In a Lutheran catechism that uses the EHV translation, the comments on the text would be Lutheran. If a Presbyterian church, for example, used the EHV text in their catechism, the text would be the EHV translation, but the comments would be those of the editors of the catechism. The same would be true for study Bibles that are licensed to use the EHV text.
This situation is the same as that which exists for study Bibles based on other translations. There are, for example, many different study Bibles, from a variety of perspectives and purposes, that are based on the NIV text, including a Lutheran version of the NIV study Bible, which was produced by Concordia. Another example would be the Lutheran Study Bible published by Concordia, which is based on the ESV text, but there are also other study Bibles based on the ESV text from other perspectives.
If producers of existing study Bibles wanted to produce an EHV version, they could seek a license to do so.
Since study Bible notes are now sometimes published as electronic modules separate from the text of the translation, it will also be possible for people to use our study Bible notes with other translations such as ESV or NKJV. The first versions of these study notes will probably be in various electronic formats because we can get those out much closer to the time when the complete, printed EHV appears next year.
So there is a difference between the EHV translation, which has a duty to say no more or less than the text says, and derived products that use the EHV translation, which will include the perspective of their producers. Most of the notes in any study Bible could be the same regardless of the denomination of its producers (notes on Herod, on dating, on geography, etc.), but on some topics such as the Lord’s Supper or the millennium, the notes would likely vary with denominational perspective. In the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, for example, the comment on 1 Peter 3:21 says, “Baptism saves only in the sense that it represents what Christ has achieved.” It is to be expected that this comment would be different in a Lutheran version of an NIV study Bible if there was one.
To summarize: The main version of the EHV translation, which will simply be called the Holy Bible: Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV), will not include the many additional notes and helps that will be contained in the study Bible. It will be similar to the EHV version of NT and Psalms that has already been published. The EHV Bible and the study Bible (or, hopefully, study Bibles) based on it will be separate publications with different names and very likely, in some cases, different publishers.
44. How are the locations of biblical sites identified?
The footnotes of the EHV sometimes discuss the location of biblical places. How do geographers identify the locations of ancient cities so they can place them on a map?
There are about 475 places named in the Bible, and the locations of about 270 are well identified.
The simplest and surest identification is for those cities that have been continuously occupied since biblical times under the same name that they had in ancient times. This includes such major places as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, Athens, Rome, etc.
When the ancient identification of a site has not been preserved until modern times, there are a number of methods that are used to rediscover the ancient locations by investigating the ancient ruins that remain visible in the land. This science or art is called toponomy (a fancy word that means place names). The general location of the place is generally clear from the biblical account. The identification can then be pinpointed by evidence discovery during a study of the ruins in that area.
In very rare cases, the name might be found on the site in inscriptions, letters, boundary stones, potters marks, or other written records. For example, jar handles inscribed with the name of the site Gibeon were found during the excavation of the site. Boundary stones with the name of the site were found at Gezer.
There are written records of ancient travelogues and ancient itinerary lists from military campaigns, commercial journeys, and pilgrimages. If we do not know the location of place x, but an ancient itinerary lists places w x y and z as successive stops on a trip, and we know the locations of w y and z, we can look for the ruins of x between places w and y.
The most important method, however, is studying the Arabic place names attached to the ruins or to nearby geographic features. Extensive mapping of these place names was done by American and British explorers during the 19th century. Arabic and Hebrew are similar languages, and the Arabic names often preserve echoes of the ancient name of the place. Examples of such echoes are Ain Shems—Beth Shemesh, Beit Lahm—Bethlehem, Taffuh—Tappuach, Wadi Yabis—Jabesh, El Gib—Gibeon, El Kadi—Dan,  Seilun—Shiloh, Beitin—Bethel. These transformations follow fairly predictable rules. These similarities are not fool-proof because sites may have moved.
In spite of this evidence, the locations of some important biblical places remain unknown or disputed. Among them are Gadara/Gerasa/Gergasa/Kersi, Emmaus, Cana, Dalmanutha, Bethsaida, and Bethel and Ai. We will discuss these debates at appropriate points of the study Bible.
Appendix: Meaning of Some Hebrew Place Names
Many Biblical place names have a meaning in Hebrew. In some cases, the meaning may provide a hint at the identification of a site, but for the most part they are too generic to be very useful. Sites are named after:
Land forms: Gibeah—hill, Geba—hill, Merom—height, Ramah—height, Sela—rocky cliff, Tzur—rock
Agricultural featured: Tob—good, Ophrah—fruitful, Shapir—beautiful, Goren—threshing floor, Gan—orchard, Kerem—vineyard, Gath—wine or oil press
Crops: Rimmon—pomegranite, Tappuach—apple
Water sources: En, Beer, Aphek
Fortifications: Migdal—tower, Hazor—enclosure, Geder— enclosure
Plants: Shittim—acacia tree, Tamar—date palm, Anab—grapes, Soreq—vines
 Kadi means judge in Arabic, Dan means judge in Hebrew.
45. Can the exact calendar dates of biblical events be determined?
I have noticed that the footnotes in some Bibles date biblical events to exact dates in our calendar, such as January 11, 678 BC, but the dating formulas in the EHV notes are generally more vague, such as January/February 678 BC. Why don’t you use the more precise dates?
None of the systems for translating Old Testament events into exact dates in our calendar are valid because the ancient calendars were based on subjective observation not on mathematical calculation.
The problem starts from the fact that Jewish calendar years do not match up evenly with our solar years of 365 (or 366) days, which begin in January.
The historical books of Kings and Chronicles and the prophetic books dated kings’ reigns in terms of two different calendar years: one of which began with the month of Nisan at the time of the spring equinox and the other which began with Tishri near the autumn equinox. These years did not have a uniform number of months or days. Because twelve lunar months, which total approximately 354 days, do not equal one solar year, the Jewish lunar calendars had to occasionally add a thirteenth month to a year in order to bring the lunar calendar back into line with the solar year and to keep the agricultural seasons in the right months. The result is that a calendar year with 13 months could have as many as 383 days. This problem perhaps could be overcome if the insertion of 13th months had been done on the basis of a regular mathematical rule, but the beginning of both their months and their years were not determined by a set mathematical formula but by observation, so their months and years did not follow a set mathematical pattern as our modern calendar does.
On the evening of the 29th day of a month, an observer looked for the new moon. If he saw it, the day that was beginning on that evening was the first day of a new month, and the old month was a month of 29 days. If he did not see the new moon (maybe it was there but he did not see it because it was cloudy), the new month started at the end of the next day, and the old month had 30 days. (In the traditional Muslim way of setting the start of the fast of Ramadan, the worshippers do not know what day Ramadan will start, until the actual day arrives and the observer makes his ruling.)
In ancient times, the decision to add an extra month of Adar (called Adar I) before the real Adar (which became Adar II), was based on observation: the Sanhedrin (or whoever was the authority at that point of history) observed the conditions of the weather, the crops, and the livestock, and if these were not sufficiently advanced for it to be considered “spring,” then the Sanhedrin inserted an additional month into the calendar to make sure that Passover would occur in the spring. Such a year of thirteen months was called a “pregnant year.”
Because of the irregular method of this inserting days and months into the calendar, we do not know which years in ancient times had twelve months and which had thirteen. For this reason, all systems of trying to link days of the month in these biblical books to an exact day in our calendar by mathematical calculation are not valid. Mathematical calculations perhaps can determine when that date should have occurred on our calendar. They cannot determine when it actually did occur.
In a synagogue, a young worshipper asked one of the elders, “What date is Chanukkah this year?” To which the elder replied with a smile, “It is, of course, the same date that it is every year—the 25th of Kislev.” The dates of the Jewish holidays are always the same in the Jewish calendar, but they bounce around when translated to our calendar. In modern times the correlations can be calculated mathematically. In ancient times they could not.
Another complication of calendar correlation is that throughout history, calendar systems have had occasional corrections and adjustments, and we are not necessarily aware of all of these adjustments. This problem of calendar correction is not just an ancient phenomenon. George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731, according to the Julian calendar in use at the time of his birth. So if he had a birth certificate, February 11, 1731 would be the date listed on it. However, in 1752, Britain and all its colonies switched to the Gregorian calendar, a change which moved Washington’s birthday a year and eleven days to February 22, 1732. Another recent problem caused by calendar shift is the question whether the Russian Revolution of 1917 happened in October (Julian calendar) or November (Gregorian calendar). Adding to the calendar confusion is the fact that to this day Western Christians, Eastern Christians, Jews, and Muslims each follow their own religious calendars, plus the Gregorian calendar. To complicate things further, the Gregorian, Jewish, and Islamic calendars number years from different starting points; for example, Gregorian 2018 is the Jewish year 5778, and the Islamic year 1439.
For more information on calendar complications see the appendices on chronology and the note at the beginning of Ezekiel in the EHV study Bible.
46. How should the term “men and brothers” be handled?
In the book of Acts, assemblies of the church are sometimes addressed with the special term “men and brothers” (andres adelphoi). How does the EHV handle this?
A much-discussed issue concerning some recent Bible translations has been the rendering of the Greek word adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” in those translations. The gist of the problem is that adelphoi is not strictly equivalent to the English word “brothers,” since in some contexts it may be addressed to mixed groups that include men and women. On the other hand, adelphoi is not strictly equivalent to the English term “brothers and sisters” or “siblings” since those expressions explicitly include females, whereas adelphoi does not. This is an issue which deserves its own article. Here we will address only those cases in which the term adelphoi (brothers) is reinforced by the addition of the term men (andres).
One such passage is Acts 1:16, in which those who are to participate in choosing a replacement for Judas, are addressed as andres adelphoi, “men, brothers.” It is very likely that women were present in the crowd, but were they asked to participate in the selection of the new apostle?
The NET translates brothers but adds this footnote: “Grk: ‘Men brothers.’ In light of the compound phrase ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί (andres adelphoi) Peter’s words are best understood as directly addressed to the males present, possibly referring specifically to the twelve.”
NIV84, ESV, NLT, BBE, and HCSB are among the other translations that read “brothers.”(ESV has the footnote “brothers and sisters.”)
NASB has “brethren.”
KJV and NKJV read “men and brethren.”
MSG and NRSV have “friends.”
NIV11 and CSB read “brothers and sisters.”
NIV11 has the note: The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family; also in 6:3; 11:29; 12:17; 16:40; 18:18, 27; 21:7, 17; 28:14.
CSB also has “brothers and sisters” in Acts 2:29; 6:3, 13:26, 38; and 15:7, 26.
In Acts 6:3 the same pattern holds. NET has this note: “It is not clear from a historical standpoint (but it is unlikely) that women would have been involved in the selection process too. For this reason the translation ‘brothers’ has been retained, rather than ‘brothers and sisters’ (used in contexts where both male and female believers are clearly addressed).”
Acts 22:1 has the triple masculine ανδρες αδελφοι και πατερες (men, brothers, fathers) for which all the translations retain the masculine.
In Acts 1:16 the EHV reads:
In those days, when the group there numbered about 120 people, Peter stood up among the brothers and said, 16“Gentlemen, brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David about Judas…. 21Therefore it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us during the entire time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from his baptism by John until the day Jesus was taken up from us, become a witness with us of his resurrection.
The EHV agrees with the rationale presented by the NET that the text does not provide clear evidence that the assignment to choose an apostle was addressed to both the men and the women. For that reason the translation should remain relatively literal to avoid prejudging the discussion concerning the relative roles of men and women in the early church.
47. What does it mean to be clothed in Christ or to put on Christ?
In Galatians 3:27 should the translation be “Indeed, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” or “Indeed, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ”?
Grammatically both translations are possible. The Greek verb form is a so-called middle/passive, so it may translated with a passive sense in which the subject acted on by another agent— in baptism God clothes us with Christ. Or it may be translated in a middle sense—baptism is an act through which we put on Christ, who covers us throughout our lives like a garment.
Translations are divided on the issue, but of the sixteen translations consulted for this FAQ, thirteen have a middle or reflexive sense, you clothed yourselves (the middle sense in English may come out as an active verb, put on, since the middle sense is often not made explicit in English.) It seems that a middle sense is the most common sense for this verb.
The less-common passive sense seems to fit best with baptism, which is a gift we receive from God. Baptism is God’s work for us. Scripture often speaks of us being clothed with Christ or with his righteousness.
The middle does seem to be by far the most common sense of the verb. This is probably the reason so many translations use it here. But does the middle sense here create a problem by implying that we co-operate with God in our conversion or that we earn any of the gifts we receive from God?
The middle here describes the result of God’s action, a result which visible to observers—we have put on Christ. The passive sense stresses that God the Holy Spirit is the invisible cause that brought this change about. These two ways of viewing the one action are very common in Scripture.
For example, Scripture teaches that we do not cooperate in our conversion. We are turned to God by the Holy Spirit. But Scripture also uses active language of people turning to God. The interplay between the passive and active is best expressed by Jeremiah 31:18:
“Cause me to turn and I will certainly turn.”
The first verb is hiphil causative. God is the cause of our turning.
The second is emphatic qal. We are seen to be turning from sin to God.
A literal translation is best in this verse because it provides us with a basis for understanding the other passages that speak of people turning to God. We may say, “I see a car turning at the corner,” but we understand that a driver is causing the car to turn. We see a person turning to God, but we understand that we can see him turn only because the Spirit turned him.
The situation is similar with putting on Christ. God clothes us with Christ. The visible result is that we have put on Christ and that he covers us our whole life long.
The verb in question and its synonyms may describe a variety of situations.
Sometimes the verb simply describes a result without specifying how it occurred:
Acts 12:21 Herod, dressed in his royal robes and seated on his throne, delivered a public address to them.
Herod likely had an attendant who helped him put on his robes, but the only concern here is that Herod is wearing them.
The same situation applies to spiritual uses of the term.
Revelation 19:14 The armies in heaven, which were clothed with white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses.
Sometimes both aspects of the situation may be expressed in one passage.
2 Corinthians 5:2-3 In fact, the reason we groan is that we long to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. 3If we do indeed put it on, we will certainly not be found naked.
In some cases it may be argued whether the sense should be active/middle or passive.
1 Corinthians 15:53 For this perishable body must put on [be clothed with] imperishability, and this mortal body must put on [be clothed with] immortality.
The Bible often speaks of us putting on virtues and putting off vices. We know that in all these cases the change is worked by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace.
Ephesians 4:22-24 As far as your former way of life is concerned, you were taught to take off the old self, which is corrupted by its deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed continually in the spirit of your mind, 24and to put on the new self, which has been created to be like God in righteousness and true holiness.
Colossians 3:9-10 Do not lie to each other since you have put off the old self with its practices, 10and put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in knowledge, according to the image of its Creator.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can stand against the schemes of the Devil.
1 Peter 5:5 Clothe yourselves with humility.
Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s elect, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Romans 13:12 So let us put away the deeds of darkness and put on the weapons of light.
Colossians 3:5 So put to death whatever is worldly in you: sexual immorality, uncleanness, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.
The interplay of active, middle, and passive verbs becomes especially sensitive when the doctrines of conversion and repentance are involved. But we should remember that the Bible often describes the same event from two viewpoints: the visible change we see in a person and the invisible underlying cause. The Bible often speaks in paradoxes. (A paradox is two statements that seem to be contradictory but really are not.)
Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him
Romans 8:13 But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live.
Our old self has been put to death, but we are to put it to death. Both sides of the paradox express spiritual truths.
48. Why Does the EHV Have So Many Psalm Headings?
In the translation of Psalms you have added a lot of headings that divide the individual psalms into thought units. I like to read the psalms with few headings to disrupt the flow of the reading. Why do you have headings?
You have raised an issue for which there is no single solution that everyone likes. That issue is how should translators format the biblical text, particularly for a study Bible which is designed to help readers understand the flow of the text.
The original Hebrew and Greek texts were, for the most part, unformatted as far as margins, headings, punctuation, capitalization, etc. These features were added to the text in the process of copying and translation. So almost all aspects of formatting, including chapter and verse numbers, are editorial additions to help readers follow the flow of the text and locate specific passages.
These features are all a matter of editorial and reader preference. Some readers like the two-column-per-page format that has been used in many Bibles. A significant majority of our readers like the one-column-per page format that was used in the EHV edition of the New Testament and Psalms. Most readers like the formatting of the poetry of the Bible according to poetic lines, even though this was not part of the original text. Some readers like a lot of headings and notes. Some like fewer.
In regard to the headings of the psalms, there are two, or perhaps three, issues.
The first issue is that some (seemingly a significant majority) of our readers like the topical headings in psalms, just as they like the headings in the other biblical books regardless of genre. These headings not only help the readers outline the text, but they help them locate specific passages. Some readers, however, like few or no headings.
The headings in psalms are perhaps more conspicuous than the headings in historical books, because the many of the psalms are quite short, so the headings in psalms are often closer together than the headings in historical books.
We have approached the decision “How many headings should we include?” like the decision about how many clothes to take to a spring sports event in Wisconsin. If you take too many clothes, you do not have wear them all. If you did not take enough clothes with you, you can’t wear them when the cold, driving rain arrives. We have worked with this approach, because readers who do not like headings can skip them, but they are there for those readers who want them. It is relatively easy to by-pass the headings. In numerous passes through the Psalms, I have sometimes read them with headings, sometimes without. Readers can easily exercise their preference.
The second issue is that there are two or three different kinds of “headings” in each psalm. (Some of these do not appear in the pew Bible, but will be present in the study Bible, which we hope will appear late next year, at least in electronic editions. The formatting in the pew Bible is set up in a way that will transfer easily into the study Bible.)
The first type of heading consists of the captions that are part of the Hebrew text. They are even given verse numbers in the Hebrew text. All the EHV does is translate them.
The second type of heading is the type you have asked about. These are the section headings that divide the text into topical units. These headings will be a great space saver for the study Bible, since it will be unnecessary to comment on the outline of the text in the footnotes, since it is already indicated by the headings. These headings are not part of the Hebrew text, and this is indicated by printing them in italics or a different font.
In the study Bible, there is a third type of “heading.” These are the short introductions to each psalm, which are not part of the original Hebrew text, but a feature of the study Bible.
Here is a sample of a psalm with red comments inserted to explain the type of “heading.”
It is clear at that there is no one formatting solution that everyone prefers, because the preferences of readers are so dramatically different. So as we create the EHV, we are producing a fuller set of reader helps, like special formatting, headings, etc. Once we get past the first edition, we can print some editions with minimal or no headings or notes and some editions with lot of headings, and readers can choose their preferred style. It will be easy enough to remove captions and notes to produce a more vanilla edition. It would be more difficult to go back and create more headings after the fact. In the meantime, readers can use the helps they like and skip those they do not.
49. Evangelical? Is This a Pro-Trump Bible?
I love your translation of the New Testament and Psalms and look forward to the whole Bible coming out. I have a concern about the name “Evangelical” in your translation. I understand the historic roots of the name, but living in Southern California as I do, the term takes on a pro-Trump slant, since many American Evangelical leaders have been so supportive of the President. Using your translation with “Evangelical” in the title is a stumbling block to some people reading and using your good translation.
Thanks for the feedback on the EHV. It was quite a surprise for us. When we chose the name, it never crossed our minds that the use of the word evangelical (which means for the Gospel) would be interpreted by some readers as pro-Trump. When we chose the name evangelical, President Trump was barely on the horizon politically. I suppose this situation is evidence of the state of polarization we have reached in our society.
Every Bible we print includes a definition of the term evangelical, which should help guard against the misunderstanding about which you are concerned.
Our translation is called Evangelical because its highest goal is to proclaim the good news of the gospel of salvation through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son. Though there are many topics in the Bible, all of them are there to serve the gospel of Christ. All of our work in producing and distributing this translation is directed to the glory of God and to the eternal salvation of people’s souls.
The members of the board of the EHV have the word evangelical in our churches’ names, but our churches are not engaged in political endorsements. There are a lot of good words, including ecumenical, orthodox, catholic, even welcoming, that have been appropriated by advocates of a particular doctrinal view or agenda. I am a Lutheran. Some people associate the names Lutheran or Methodist with a liberal political activism, ignoring the diversity of the churches who use those names. The solution is not to throw out the names, but for people to explain their name and what it means to them.
We cannot do anything to change the name now, because the full Bible is ready to print, but we can continue to show by our words and actions what evangelical means. Not all people who are evangelical are Evangelicals, and not all Evangelicals have the same political views. Not all are pro-Trump, in spite of some outspoken people who appear on TV as alleged spokesmen for Evangelicals. Thoughtful Christians need to look at the diversity behind various labels and not lump apples and oranges together. The best way to show what evangelical really means is by words and actions that proclaim the one gospel to all people, regardless of their race, gender, age, economic status, or political view.
If evangelical is misunderstood as pro-Trump in the minds of some people, this will not likely be a lasting problem for our translation, which will quickly be known as the EHV (to a large degree it already is). Rarely does anyone ask whether the NIV is really new or international. It is simply the NIV. No one, or at least very few, think the ESV is actually the standard version for English speakers (same for the CSB).
An easy solution for users of the EHV who are concerned that a segment of their audience might be put off the term Evangelical and not give their message a fair hearing is to simply call it the EHV and to show by their works and actions what the word evangelical really means.
It was very interesting and eye-opening to get your perspective, so we are sharing it in this FAQ in order to reach a wider audience of potential users of the EHV.
For more information on the name Evangelical Heritage Version, see FAQ 15: Why is your translation called the Evangelical Heritage Version?
51. The Term “The Jews”
In John’s Gospel the enemies of Jesus are frequently called “the Jews.” Won’t this foster antisemitic
hatred of Jews? Could the term be translated Jewish leaders so that blame is not placed on all Jews?
Our EHV rubric concerning the use of the term Jews states: The New Testament territory is Judea. Judeans are the residents of the province. Jews are the ethnic/religious community in the post-exilic period.
This translation issue is especially prominent in John’s Gospel, so the EHV treats the topic in the introduction to John. This FAQ is adapted from that article.
The Gospel of John repeatedly calls the bitter opponents of Jesus simply “the Jews.” (5:18; 7:1-10; 8:1-22, 8:40; 10:29-33; 11:8; 18:14; 18:28, and others). As a result, fears have been expressed that this common usage in John’s gospel will encourage anti-Jewish bias or hatred when it is read in the context of modern antisemitism. It is certainly possible that the New Testament could be misused in that way unless its context and intent are understood. It, in fact, has been misused that way by some people. The question then becomes what is the best way to combat this danger: changing John’s terminology or explaining his theological point?
John’s use of the term is balanced by a number of points: Of the approximately sixty times John uses the term, many of the examples are in positive or neutral contexts. There are many positive statements about Jews. Jesus’ loyal followers were called Jews (8:31; 12:11). Only John’s Gospel reports that Jesus says that “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Jesus, the King of the Jews, was buried by Jews according to Jewish burial customs (John 19:40). In short, John, who was himself Jewish, often uses the term Jews in a neutral sense of Jewish people in general (2:6; 4:9; 11:19; 12:9; compare Matthew 28:15, Luke 7:3). The term Jews is also used this general sense in other biblical books, such as Esther. Context determines whether the term Jews is used in a context which is negative, neutral, or positive. For John, the term itself is not negative.
Yet it must be granted that in the majority of his uses of the term, John is speaking about those Jews who opposed Jesus. John’s reason for doing this is to reflect on the tragedy that he states already in the opening of his book: “He came to what was his own, yet his own people did not receive him” (1:11). At times, John’s use of the term the Jews is intended to make this specific theological point, the tragedy of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, whom God sent for them.
John records a number of instances in which the hostility toward Jesus was expressed in terms of his relationship to the Jewish religion. Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah were declared to be non-Jews by being put out of the synagogue (9:22). Jesus himself was labeled as a Samaritan, that is, an outcast from Judaism (8:48). In John 11:54: “Jesus no longer walked about openly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew into a region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim. And he stayed there with his disciples.” If our identification of the location of Ephraim is correct, Jesus had to leave Jewish territory for the time being and move to Samaritan territory to escape the hostility against him.
If John has an anti-Jewish agenda, it is striking that he does not record the curse that Jesus’ enemies pronounce on themselves in Matthew 27:25. This curse is reported in Matthew, the most Jewish of the Gospels. John’s concern is with the tragedy of Israel’s rejection of Jesus the Messiah. John has no ethnic, anti-Jewish agenda. His message is not the anti-Jewish bias of a Gentile. It is a continuation of a warning already stated by Hebrew prophets such as Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah.
The problem is not the use of the term Jews. My experience living among Jews in Israel and belonging to societies with a large percentage of Jewish members from every part of that religious spectrum is that changing the translation of the term the Jews will not remove the offense. The objection to the Gospels (partly justified) is not to the term “Jews” but to a fear that the words, “His blood be on us and our children” has been and will be used to justify persecution of the Jews as a race. A second objection is to the Christian belief that Christianity is in one sense the continuation and completion of Old Testament Judaism. Removing the term the Jews would not address either of these issues.
The proper attitude of Christians toward Jews is discussed at length in Romans 9–11. It is summarized in the statement, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God on behalf of the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). John was deeply grieved, as was Paul, about the tragedy coming upon the people of Israel, but they both confronted the problem in a two-fold way. They stated clearly, “Salvation was from the Jews and is still for the Jews” but they also dealt honestly with Israel’s rejection of Jesus and the fact that this brought judgment on them. There are two poles of danger to Jewish people today from Christian attitudes: One is hateful attitudes of some Christians, which embitter Jews against Christianity. The other is the attitude of liberal Christians who try to silence the Bible’s testimony against the tragedy of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah and the need for faith in Christ for both Jews and Gentiles. We have to keep both the law and the gospel in our testimony. We have to energetically oppose antisemitism but also to state clearly that Christ is the only way to salvation and that rejection of him brings judgment. This belief will be offensive to many Jewish people no matter how the term the Jews is translated in the New Testament.
Some years ago I was participating in what was becoming a rather emotional debate/argument among Bible scholars and archaeologists about Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. Those who hated the movie the most were liberal Catholics, who thought that the movie gave the impression that God was an angry judge against sin and that the movie put Catholicism in a bad light. Jewish participants were concerned that the movie could foster antisemitism. I commented that Christians who paid attention to the quotation from Isaiah 53:5 at the start of the movie (he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed) would see this account of Jesus’ Passion as a condemnation of their own sins, and also as an affirmation of forgiveness for all people. An elderly, well-respected Jewish scholar responded to me, “You seem to be saying that the message of the film is that a holy God cannot tolerate sin. I agree with that.” The Old Testament prophets vehemently warned of the judgment flowing from Israel’s rejection of the Lord. John is simply following in the same tradition. The quotation from Isaiah 53 sets a balanced tone for the whole movie. We cannot lose that prophetic perspective.
When all these factors are taken together, it seems best, not to re-write the Gospels, but to understand them correctly in context. A good tool for understanding this issue is Paul’s thorough, balanced treatment of the topic in Romans 9–11. Paul, who was himself a Jew and a former enemy of Jesus, wrestles with the tragedy of Israel’s history. Both his love for Israel and his sorrow at the rejection of Christ by the majority of Israel are very clear. We can try to be careful in our language and use appropriate footnotes to the text to guard against misunderstanding or misuse of the biblical text, but we cannot censor its message. We cannot remove what God’s law says in warning against unbelief, and we cannot fail to make clear that the gospel is for all.