Those who believe in God and his Son Jesus often misunderstand God's Message or become confused in trying to understand it. One reason for this is the faulty translation of about one hundred different Greek words (or word-families) into English. In the opinion of this writer, this flawed translation bears some responsibility for the wide diversity of doctrines among believers.

These one hundred Greek words:

1) are translated by confusing English words which are:
a) archaic,
b) only used in a "religious" context, or
c) differ in their meaning from every-day English,
2) are transliterated instead of translated (Proper nouns are usually transliterated. Other words are almost always translated.),
3) are sometimes translated by English words which promote the existence and subsistence of clergy, hierarchies and denominations, or,
4) are used in "spiritual" senses; that is, senses which were unknown to the classical or koine Greek writers.

Concerning Greek words that are used in "spiritual" senses:

It is inconceivable that pagan Greek writers, who knew nothing of the one true God, could write information whose context describes the spiritual relationship between the real God and humans. Their superstitions concerning super-human concepts were limited to the mythology of their pagan gods and goddesses, customs, traditions and philosophy. Their writings came from human minds, not from the mind of God (Act.17.22-31).

Yet, incredibly, "spiritual" words derived from pagan Classical Greek literature are still being used in modern English translations to describe spiritual concepts contained in God's New Testament.

  "...for what do uprightness and lawlessness share? 
  What does light have in common with darkness? 
  And what agreement is there between the Anointed One and Belial? 
  What part does a trusting one have with one who does not trust? 
  What union is there between God's shrine and idols?" (2Co.6.14-16).

About ninety-eight percent of the 5500 or so Greek words used in the New Testament do not relate to spiritual matters or the relationship between humans and the one true God. Words such as horse, river, feel, purple, under, of, etc., are usually adequately translated and reasonably well understood. But the other two percent of Greek New testament words DO have spiritual denotations and thus may not be accurately represented by pagan Greek usage.

A person's perception of the meaning of a New Testament statement is greatly influenced by his preconceived idea of the meaning of each word therein. When a Greek word has a meaning that differs from the English word customarily used to translate it, it becomes difficult to grasp the original Greek meaning unless it is replaced with a correct English word.

For instance, when a person reads the word "elder" in his bible, the meaning that might enter his mind is, "a man who directs the activities of an organized group of God's people." But presbuteros, the Greek word usually translated "elder," simply means "a man who is older in age." Only the context of a passage can determine the older man's functions or duties, if any. Please consider this quotation: "...your younger men will see visions, and your older men will dream dreams" (Act.2.17). This plainly refers to older men in comparison to younger men, and thus is best translated "older men." Contrast this to: "Let the older men who are leading well be deemed worthy of double honor, especially those laboring in speech and teaching" (1Ti.5.17). The CONTEXT shows that this refers older men leading believers.

Here are further examples of incorrect translation:

1. PAGAN GREEK USAGE: "Ekklesia" is usually translated "church." But of the 114 times ekklesia occurs in the New Testament, Thayer's lexicon lists only Act.19.39 as having the pagan Greek meaning: " assembly of people convened at the public place of council for the purpose of deliberating." Similarly, Richard C. Trench on Page 2 of his Synonyms of the New Testament, acknowledges, "It is interesting to observe how, on one occasion in the N.T. the word returns to this earlier [Classical Greek - ewt] significance (Act.19.32,39,41)." But neither of these scholars translates ekklesia into plain English the other 111 or 113 times this word occurs in the New Testament!

2. INADEQUATE PAGAN GREEK USAGE: Some Greek words were not used often enough in classical Greek literature to expose their meaning. For example, the Greek words which are mistranslated "adultery," apparently occur only several times in the pagan Greek.  Their translation should have been derived from the more-than-adequate context of the sixty-three times the Hebrew and Greek "adultery" words occur in the Old and New testaments. Appropriate English words ARE available.

3. NON-TRANSLATED WORDS: angelos (messenger, not "angel"), baptizo (immerse, not "baptize"), prophetes (spokesman, not "prophet"), hupokrites (pretender, not "hypocrite"), and others.

4. MISTRANSLATED WORDS: diakonos (servant, not "deacon"), euangelizomai (announce good news, not "preach" or "evangelize"), logos (message, not "word"), makarios (benefit, not "blessing"), Christos (Anointed One, not Christ), and others.

5. INADEQUATELY TRANSLATED WORDS: agapao (helpfully care, not "love"), anthropos (human, not "man"), basileia (kingship, not "kingdom"), metanoeo (change ones mind, not "repent"), pisteuo (trust, not "believe"), and others.

6. ENGLISH WORDS WHICH TRANSLATE NO NEW TESTAMENT GREEK WORD: church, adultery, divorce, preach, hell, and others.

7. ARCHAIC ENGLISH WORDS OR WORDS WITH A VAGUE MEANING: grace, bless, holy, sanctify, glory, and others.

God states that humans will be evaluated (judged) after this physical life (Mt.25.31-46, 2Co.5.10 and Heb.9.27). Jesus revealed the criteria by which we will be evaluated, "...the message that I spoke, the same will judge you in the last day" (Jn.12.48). But how can a just God evaluate humans fairly unless he provides humans with "the message that I [Jesus] spoke?" Is it not God's responsibility to provide accurate information for humans to trust and obey? And Jesus assures us that his message will endure: "Heaven and earth will pass away; but my statements will not pass away" (Mk.13.31). And his statements have not passed away!

God's Message is "truth" (Jn.17.17). And God has accurately provided humans with his Message (word) in written form. We have both of the written parts of his Message: the Old and New Testaments. Sufficiently accurate copies of his Message are available to permit their translation into virtually every language. Thus, humans desiring to seek God can find him and learn what he would have them do and be.

It does not seem reasonable that God would publish Truth and leave it up to humans to decide which books comprise Truth or which books he wanted in his Message. Accordingly, this author trusts that God has compiled his Message of truth with its currently existing Hebrew and Greek contents. He has assured the integrity of his Message from its origination to the present time. Some minor differences occur in the existing Hebrew and Greek copies of God's Message, but these differences do not diminish the thoughts expressed therein. Critical studies of the existing Greek manuscripts have produced texts which are sufficient to accurately translate God's Truth into English.

Earl W. Traut - 6/2001


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