HCSB changes in John

In my continuing work on the Gospel according to John (translating and now preaching) I have come across a couple of changes that are noticeable to those who have used a “traditional” translation. I use the term “changes” to indicate that the HCSB choices in translation differ from traditional renderings (i.e. KJV, RSV, ESV, NIV). Thus, it is not a negative term to describe HCSB choices.

John 3:16 (οτως — “so” vs. “in this way”)

Greek: οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν ⸆ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

ESV: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

HCSB: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

The Greek word (οὕτως) can be translated as “so” or “thus,” or “in this way.” Notice that ESV translates this as “in this way” in Matthew 1:19 and “thus” in John 5:21. So context is critical (as always) in determining the meaning of a specific word.

It appears that the traditional rendering comes from an antiquated understanding of the English word “so.” In contemporary English “so” used with “love” indicates “so much.”  Thus, the understanding is “God loved the world so much…” But is that consistent with the context?

In the preceding section Jesus tells Nicodemus that the person who is born again/from above (3:3) by the work of the Holy Spirit, namely this is how it is done. Nicodemus ushers in the next section with his question:  “How can these things be?” (3:9) In other words, he is not questioning the magnitude of what is being done, but “how” it will be done.

The example Jesus points out to Nicodemus confirms the manner in which God saved the people. Moses raised up the serpent in the wilderness (3:14). Now the “Son of Man will be lifted up” [Jesus] (3:14b). John 3:16 continues that thought about “how” God will do this. Namely,  “For God loved the world in this way: …”

I think that HCSB (and GW) have a better translationjohn

John 11:33 (so also 11:38) ( νεβριμσατο —”angry” or “deeply moved”)

In BDAG* we see three possible glosses (translation choices) for ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimeœsato);

1. insist on something sternly, warn sternly Mk 1:43; Mt 9:30.

2. As an expression of anger and displeasure in Mk 14:5.

3. to feel strongly about something, be deeply moved J 11:33, 38

Note how the translations are divided on how to translate 33, 38

HCSB: He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved.

NLT: a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.

ESV: he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.

NAS: He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,

NKJV: He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.

GW: he was deeply moved and troubled.

NET: he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed.

The NET has this footnote:

Or (perhaps) “he was deeply indignant.” The verb ἐνεβριμήσατο (enebrimeœsato), which is repeated in John 11:38, indicates a strong display of emotion, somewhat difficult to translate — “shuddered, moved with the deepest emotions.” In the LXX, the verb and its cognates are used to describe a display of indignation (Dan 11:30, for example — see also Mark 14:5). Jesus displayed this reaction to the afflicted in Mark 1:43, Matt 9:30. Was he angry at the afflicted? No, but he was angry because he found himself face-to-face with the manifestations of Satan’s kingdom of evil. Here, the realm of Satan was represented by death.

I struggle to see which is the best way to translate and understand this text. Both HCSB and NLT use the anger imagery. Studying the word and my research indicates the depth of emotion displayed by Jesus. But the question is: is “anger” appropriate in this text? For me, anger is definitely a negative emotion, while I also understand that God expresses His anger in Scripture. But is this the best translation choice in the text?. Further, the challenge is to determine where Jesus’ anger is directed. HCSB footnote has this explanation:

The Gk word is very strong and probably indicates Jesus’ anger against sin’s tyranny and death. (HCSB footnote for vs. 33)

While that is likely or may be true theologically, does that come from the context? There is no specific sin to which Jesus is angry. And death was around Him in other contexts, in some of them Jesus also raises them from the dead. Note that in John’s Gospel the second sign is healing the official’s son (4:46-53) while Jesus seems harsh, he is directing it to the unbelieving generation, not the son nor the official. So also John 9 with healing the man at the pool of Siloam.

Consistent with that, it seems better to have a more neutral translation for the Greek word, with the strong denotation (ESV, NAS, GW, NET), without the negative connotation of “anger.” Thus, Jesus’ response in 11:35 is weeping, which matches the others who grieve. This choice then follows #3 in BDAG.

*BDAG: Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon


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