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.