Translating confuses connections

Translating any text from one language to another faces many challenges. Simplisticly some want one word in language A to match perfectly with language B. Some might be tempted to say this is the most “literal” translation. Interlinear translations follow this technique. However, it doesn’t take more than a couple examples to demonstrate why this approach fails.

Another approach claims a “general gist” of the original work, commonly known as “paraphrases.” These translations remove any semblance of translation (word context). Perhaps the two most common are The Living Bible from the 1970s and The Message of more recent vintage. Neither would be good for serious study.

In between those extremes we have two general groups of Bible translation approaches:

1. Formal Equivalence (sometimes called Word-for-word, but that is a misnomer)

The following translations represent this approach: NAS, NKJV, ESV, RSV, NRSV, HCSB, NET

2. Functional Equivalence (or meaning based)

The following translations represent this approach: GW, NLT

Some translations are difficult to categorize. Probably NIV is the best example. Sometimes the translation follows the Formal Equivalence and sometimes Functional Equivalence. Unfortunately the translators provide no basis to understand which approach is being used in a specific context and why the change. In that sense, NIV fits somewhere between the two groups.

Translation choices and connections made by the reader

This post is specifically about how a translation choice may be acceptable, but cause confusion about the connections between the thoughts of the text. I have chosen 1 Peter 3:21 as an example of where the connection can fail based on translation choices.

Greek: ὃ καὶ ⸁ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, δι᾿ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

I have given several translation choices and grouped the translations based on that word choice.

“antitpye”

NKJV: There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

“corresponding to”

NAS: Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

HCSB: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

ESV: Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

NJB: It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now—not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience given to God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

GW: Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a request to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life.

“prefigured”

NRSV And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

NET: And this prefigured baptism, which now saves you–not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

NAB: This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

NLT: And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“symbolizes”

NIV: and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God

REB: This water symbolized baptism, through which you are now brought to safety. Baptism is not the washing away of bodily impurities but the appeal made to God from a good conscience; and it brings salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

WEB: This is a symbol of baptism, which now saves you – not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

As we look at each of the translations, it is apparent that word choice is not skewed based on the translation philosophy. Formal Equivalence and Functional Equivalence translations fall into the same choice (i.e. NAS and GW, or NIV and NET).

So what is the text in Greek saying? The Greek has ἀντίτυπον, transliterated as “antitype” in NKJV. Thus, something in the Old Testament serves as a “type” and points ahead to a greater fulfillment in the New Testament, the “antitype.” There are several examples:

David the Lord/King (type) —> Jesus as Lord/King (antitype) (Matthew 22:42)

temple in Jerusalem (type) —> Jesus is temple of God (antitype) (John 2:19-21)

Atonement sacrifices (type) —> Jesus is perfect sacrifice (antitype) (Romans 3:24-25; 1 John 2:2; Hebrews 9:23-26)

So, in the context of 1 Peter 3:21, we find that Peter is giving us the type as the saving of people through the water at the time of Noah.

For Christ also died for sins bonce for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (1 Peter 3:18-20 NAS)

Thus our diagram would look like this:

Saving of eight people through water (type) —> Baptism now saves (antitype)

So, “Baptism now saves…” and is the antitype, which is a greater thing than the saving of the eight people in the flood. Note this from BDAG: “A Platonic perspective is not implied in the passage.”

So where is the confusion?

The confusion is exemplified by the NIV translation choice (“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also.”). But because of the popularity of the NIV it  reflects a misunderstanding even for those who use other translations.

The text is often read this way:

Saving in the flood (type) —> baptism, which is a symbol of saving (antitype)

The conclusion is that baptism does not save because it is only a symbol of saving, not the real act of saving. Having taught this passage for the past 30+ years, I found everyone coming from a “baptism is a symbol of my action” background understands the text this way. Of course, there is another problem with this reading of the text, and that is the presupposition of the reader, prior to reading this text. The presupposition is that baptism is “my act showing my faith.” Unfortunately, this presupposition leads to different understanding this specific text, but also Acts 2:38-39; Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 4:4-6;.

So, in this case a translation choice can easily be misunderstood to support a wrong view of baptism, hence, translating confuses connections.

Baptism really does save.

 

 

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Evangelism Study Bible — not

This Bible is of mixed value. I had high expectations, but was disappointed with the result. There are some very good things, and then there are some serious concerns.2662 cvr CC.indd

Good:

Design

One of the best features: the footnotes. Sadly many Bibles have footnotes that are just barely legible (i.e. ESV Global Study Bible). In contrast, Kregel provided remarkably readable footnotes in this edition. The center column notes are a little small but still readable.

The Bible is well designed from the paper (no significant issues with bleed through; the accompanying photo highlights the bleed-through but in real life not that bad), background color for special articles (pleasant faint gray that makes the articles standout without jarring contrast), font choices (right choice for Biblical text, footnotes, special articles, and center column), which complement each use. The binding is solid and would appear to hold up well over time. Cover design is very attractive without being distracting or off-putting. Typographical error in footnote p. 1296 (right column, 2nd and 3rd line are repeated).Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.54.44

Well done to Kregel for the design and look of this Bible.

Translation choice:

Some may not care for the NKJV, but I think it is serviceable for this kind of Bible. There is a familiarity with the translation. As stated in the Introduction, this is “designed to be a study and training resource that will equip and encourage believers to share the gospel.” Thus, the choice of NKJV will work for many in that purpose.

Articles vary in quality

Included are some articles and notes that I find acceptable. I have only noted a few here:

Article on Matthew 9:9-13, “Don’t lose contact with non-Christians.”

Article on Matthew 11:28-30 “Inviting people to a relationship, not to regulations” (p. 1063)

Article on Matthew 13 “Illustrations: valuable tools for evangelism” (p. 1064)

Article on Philippians 2:1-11 “The only way up is down” (p. 1305)

Some concerns:

One article I found helpful was on humility relative to Numbers 12:3 and Moses’ humility (p. 148). I think this article accurately reflects the text about Moses, and by application the attitude of any believer in Jesus Christ.

But there many lists throughout this Bible about “steps” or “action items for evangelism” that could be helpful. My underlying concern has to do with whether some of these lists are faithful to the Bible text. In other words, taking sections out of context to apply to evangelism might seem helpful, but does it reflect the text? I think the article regarding 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 on Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple (p. 442) is an example that isn’t supported by the text itself. I don’t have a problem with the list that is provided in the article. However, I don’t think that list is sustainable by the text nor does it reflect the importance of the temple and the dedicatory prayer within God’s work in pointing ahead to Christ.

Not good:

Imported theology and downplaying the Biblical text:

My major concern with this Evangelism Bible is the footnotes and special topics. A little background on why this is so important to me. I have been involved in evangelism efforts for 40 years and have been training congregations since 1979, and pastors and congregations since 1989. Evangelism is critical for the Christian and the Christian church. I am always looking for good resources to help in this work of the church. Sadly I find this Bible does not help true evangelism, despite its stated goal.

There are central texts that deal with evangelism and yet they are downplayed and even changed. This has to do with theology.

Footnote on Matthew 3:6

“Later New Testament baptisms symbolized a believer’s identification with Christ following Him in faith” (p. 1049)

Thus, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 has this footnote:

“baptizing them” “Christ commanded that those who trusted Him as Savior should be baptized. The New Testament teaches that baptism is not a part of or necessary to become a Christian. It is, however, the first step of discipleship” (p. 1089).

This approach continues in Acts 2:38:

be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. “Baptism is a public testimony of the inner reality of forgiveness. It is a testimony to our salvation, not a means of salvation (p. 1198).”

Romans 6:3-5 footnote:

“Some scholars believe it refers to spiritual baptism. By faith we are joined with Christ. Others believe that Paul meant water baptism is a public announcement believers make when they identify themselves with Christ in His death and resurrection. Though it isn’t necessary for salvation, water baptism furnishes a picture of what happens spiritually to Christians.” (p. 1244)Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.55.41

The same kind of note is made with Ephesians 4:5 (p. 1299), when Paul states there is “one baptism.” Based on the footnotes above and here, the reader of this Bible isn’t sure if there is one baptism (or which one) or two baptisms. So again, rather than the Gospel being something that is assuring through Word and Baptism, the Gospel is left uncertain, and part is considered unnecessary. The Biblical text does not support any of these footnotes—that is a theology imported to the text .

On the contrary, 1 Peter 3:21 clearly states that “baptism now saves you.” So in this Bible the great Commission is changed from God’s saving work (through His Word and Baptism, Matthew 28:18-20) to humans taking at least half of the Great Commission away from God making it their work.  Interestingly the article at the bottom of the page discussing the Great Commission has no word about baptism. Even worse, a fable is used to note that God has no second plan. (p. 1089) (see accompanying photo of the article).

Conclusion

I think from a design standpoint this Bible deserves praise and well done to Kregel. From a theological perspective evangelism, this Bible falls short. I am disappointed to say the least. In good conscience I can not recommend this Bible for evangelism work.