Is “acknowledge” enough?

In my translation work for our Sunday morning Bible study (Matthew), I was working on 10:32-33 this morning. 

32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν °[τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς·  33 ⸂ὅστις δ᾿ ἂν⸃ ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι ⸉κἀγὼ αὐτὸν⸊ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν °[τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς.

My first step in translating is to examine each word, then the relationship between the words (where the real action takes place!). The two highlighted words indicate my focus in this post. Over the past 30 years I have always translated the word in most contexts as “confess” (see BDAG, #4 under ὁμολογέω).

As usual, after translating and thinking about it, I began looking at translations for these two verses. Then I discovered two primary English words to translate this word in the Matthew passage: confess and acknowledge.

Matthew 10:32

NAS  “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”

NKJV “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”

ESV “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,”

HCSB   “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven.”

NIV “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

NET “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” (“confess” in footnote)

NAB “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.”

NLT  “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”

GW “So I will acknowledge in front of my Father in heaven that person who acknowledges me in front of others.”

NJB  ‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

As I thought about this, I wondered whether “acknowledge” in English is strong enough to carry the sense of the word. The Greek word seems to have more intended than a recognition, especially in light of 10:33 where the opposite is denial. That is, are “acknowledge” and “denial” opposites?

For instance, If I walk into a room and look around and see someone I know on sight, I may acknowledge the person. That may be nothing more than a tip of my head to acknowledge that I recognize the person. But my denial would be unmistakable in the room. (Consider another illustration of how “acknowledge seems to be weaker: “acknowledgement of receipt.”)

I also observe that “confess” is used infrequently in this sense in every day English. While I might be understand the word, many may not. It appears that NJB offers a viable alternative for this verse.

Interestingly, when we examine other similar texts, such as Romans 10:9-10, several of the above translations then use “declare” as the translation of ὁμολογέω, and a couple switch to “confess” (ESV, HCSB, NAB, and NLT).

Romans 10:9-10

NAS that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

NKJV  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

ESV because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart othat God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

HCSB If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

NIV If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

NET because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.

NAB  for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

NLT  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

GW If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. 10 By believing you receive God’s approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved.

NJB that if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. 10 It is by believing with the heart that you are justified, and by making the declaration with your lips that you are saved.

Interestingly, not one translation uses “acknowledge” in Romans 10:9-10. It appears that “confess” and “declare” are the preferred translations. It seems that either choice would also be better in Matthew 10:32–33. Jesus is preparing his disciples for the opposition they will encounter as he sends them out. The persecution will not be based on a simple or mere acknowledgement, rather on a positive statement: confessing or declaring Jesus before others.

If anywhere, the translation choice in Matthew 10:32 should be a stronger one than “acknowledge.” Notice I am not advocating the practice of having one Greek word translated identically everywhere. Rather, the two passages (Matthew 10 and Romans 10) offer very similar contexts. See also the following passages:

John 9:22; John 12:12; 1 Timothy 6:12

1 John 2:23; 4:2; 4:15; Revelation 3:5

About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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4 Responses to Is “acknowledge” enough?

  1. Matthew 10:32 (TEV) 32 “Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven.

    Matthew 10:32-33 (CEV) 32 If you tell others that you belong to me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you are my followers. 33 But if you reject me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you don’t belong to me.

    Matthew 10:32-33 (MSG) 32 “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. 33 If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?

    I kinda like the last one – comes closer to homologia

    Like

  2. but where is the “omo” in declare publicly?

    Like

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