It is generally accepted by scholars that Luke and Matthew used the works of Mark and Q as sources for their gospels. Likewise, it is generally accepted that all three gospels were written originally in Greek, with the possibility of Aramaic as well. The authors of the book Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, in their research, show that those positions may not be right.
Bivin and Blizzard relate research by Dr. Robert L. Lindsey as to the history of the synoptic gospels. Within five years after the death of Jesus, a biographer (believed to be Matthew) recorded the story of Jesus in Hebrew. At once, there was a demand in the Greek-speaking churches for a translation of the biography into Greek. A very literal translation was made. A few years later, stories and parts of stories were removed and arranged topically. Shortly after, a Greek author tried to reconstruct the story. Luke used the latter two of these records as his sources. Mark used Luke’s work and the topically-arranged Greek as his sources. Matthew used Mark’s work and the topically-arranged Greek as his sources. The current gospel may have been written by someone other than the Matthew who is believed to have written the original biography.
Thus, if this is correct, the original writing was composed in Hebrew, not Greek, or even Aramaic. The authors, throughout their book, present evidence to support their position. Statistics are quoted to show that over 90% of the Bible, including Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, was written in Hebrew, with about 1% in Aramaic, and the rest in Greek. If Bivin and Blizzard are right, there needs to be a change in thinking about the origin of the synoptic gospels and the resultant translations. They quote from Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History, giving evidence that it was known in his day that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. Eusebius himself had quoted other writers, Papias (Book III, Chapter 39, page 127), Irenæus (Book V, Chapter 8, page 187), Origen (Book VI, Chapter 25, page 245), and Eusebius himself (Book III, Chapter 24, page 108).
The editor of Ecclesiastical History adds the following footnote to the comment of Papias: “The author here, doubtless, means Syro-Chaldaic, which is sometimes in Scripture, and writers, called Hebrew.” Papias adds that it had to be translated, which suggests that it was not in the language of the church. Smith agrees with Origen that Matthew wrote to the Jews, but unlike Origen, he does not mention that it was written in Hebrew. The compilers of The Bible Almanac mention that Matthew wrote first in Syriac, Syro-Chaldaic, Aramaic, or Hebrew and that he may have rewritten later in Greek for wider use.
In this essay, I make a comparison of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke from several versions. I use the twelve passages in the appendix of Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. Whether or not my readers agree with the authors of that book, I feel that their research is worthy of examination.
Each of the twelve comparisons appears on its own page, starting with the rendering of the passage as found in the book. Next, in italics, comes a paraphrase of part of the authors’ account of the English meaning of the passage when translated back to the Hebrew. Following this are the eighteen renderings from various versions of the New Testament. There are thirty-eight versions in total, with eighteen being used with each scriptural passage. Any version is used at least three times with the twelve passages. Finally, I make a short comment on how these compare with the interpretation of the authors, and include a few of my own observations.
My purpose is to compare the versions, not to show any bias or prejudice for or against a particular version. The reader can draw his or her own conclusions. For the most part, the various versions say the same thing, using different words and constructions. There are some differences, though, either subtle or clear. If the reader is familiar with what the purpose of a version is, who its intended audience is, and when it was translated, he or she can better understand why it was written in its particular manner.
- AAT – An American Translation (Beck)
- AB – Amplified Bible
- CEV – Contemporary English Version
- CJB – Complete Jewish Bible
- CNT – Cassirer New Testament
- DRB – Douay-Rheims Bible
- EBR – The Emphasized Bible
- GW – God’s Word
- IB – Interlinear Bible
- IV – Inspired Version
- KJV – King James Version
- LB – Living Bible
- LBP – Lamsa Bible
- MCT – McCord’s New Testament Translation
- NAB – New American Bible
- NAS – New American Standard Version
- NBV – New Berkeley Version
- NCV – New Century Version
- NEB – New English Bible
- NET – New Evangelical Translation
- NIV – New International Version
- NJB – New Jerusalem Bible
- NKJ – New King James Version
- NLV – New Life Version
- NRS – New Revised Standard Version
- NWT – New World Translation
- PRS – Phillips Revised Student Edition
- REB – Revised English Bible
- RSV – Revised Standard Version
- SGAT – An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed)
- SNB – Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible
- SV – The Scholars Version
- TEV – Today’s English Version
- TM – The Message
- WET – Wuest Expanded Translation
- WMF – The Word Made Fresh
- WNT – Williams New Testament
- YLR – Young’s Literal Translation, Revised Edition
Matthew 5: 3
KJV – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“The kingdom” means “those who are ruled,” never a territorial designation. “Heaven” is a synonym for “God.” “Theirs” should be “of such as these.” Thus, it is the type of people who have no righteousness of their own and cry out to God in despair who will enter the Kingdom and find salvation.
CEV – God blesses those people who depend on him.
They belong to the kingdom of heaven!
Footnote: Or “The kingdom belongs to them.”
CNT – A blessing rests on those whose spirit makes them think but poorly of themselves; the kingdom of heaven shall be theirs.
GW – Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
IV – Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit, who come unto me; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[verse 5 in this version]
LBP – Blessed are the humble, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Footnote: humble: Aramaic, poor in spirit; unassuming.
NBV – Blessed are they who know their spiritual poverty, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
NEB – How blest are those who know their need of God;
the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
NET – Blessed are those who are poor in spirit,
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
NLV – Those who know there is nothing good in themselves are happy, because the holy nation of heaven is theirs.
NWT – Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.
PRS – How happy are those who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!
SGAT – Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!
SV – Congratulations to the poor in spirit!
Heaven’s domain belongs to them.
Footnote: Sources: Q, Thomas.
[In pink print, meaning that this quote sounds like Jesus.]
TM – You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
WET – …, Spiritually prosperous are the destitute and helpless in the realm of the spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
WNT – Blessed are those who feel poor in spiritual things, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
WMF – The basis for all happiness is laid on a person’s willingness to be humble before God, recognizing the need for God, and therefore being willing to seek God’s way for life.
YLR – Happy the poor in spirit – because theirs is the reign of the heavens.
Several of the versions improve on the phrase “poor in spirit.” However, most do not do as well with the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” It is often implied that it is a physical place. Two versions pluralize “heaven.” It is interesting that “heaven” or “kingdom” may be capitalized, also both or neither may be capitalized. Matthew is the only gospel to use “kingdom of heaven,” using it twenty-three times. The other gospels use “kingdom of God,” Matthew doing so only four times. “Jews do not write or say the name of God (YHWH), other than the High Priest, only on Yom Kippur. They are aware of the third of the Ten Commandments. A new practice has come into being in recent decades, that of using ‘G-d’ and ‘L-rd’ in writing. This is considered by most authorities no more than a passing fad.” Because the Gospel of Matthew was written to the Jews, is it possible that Matthew was respecting the reverence for the name of God by using the phrase “the kingdom of heaven?”
Matthew 5: 17, 18
KJV – Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.
In rabbinic argumentation “destroy” means “misinterpret” while “fulfill” means “correctly interpret.” The intention is not to weaken the Law by misinterpreting it. By properly interpreting it, Jesus would make it more lasting. Heaven and earth would be destroyed before He would cause anything to disappear from the Law.
AAT – Don’t think that I came to set aside the Law or the prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, till heaven and earth pass away, not an i or the dot of an i of the Law will pass away till everything is done.
AB – Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law and the prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo, but to complete and fulfill them.
For truly, I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little hook [identifying certain Hebrew letters] will pass from the Law until all things [it foreshadows] have been accomplished.
CEV – Don’t suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them full meaning. Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a period or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen.
Footnote: the Law and the Prophets: The Jewish Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.
CNT – Do not suppose that, if I have appeared, that was the intention of abolishing the teaching of the law and the prophets. I have made my appearance not to abolish it, but to give full expression to it. Indeed, I can give you solemn assurance of this: it is not till heaven and earth are removed that anything shall be removed from the law, be it but one letter, but one flourish. What is necessary first of all is that all its purposes should be accomplished.
DRB – Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, not one jot, or one tittle, shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.
LB – Don’t misunderstand why I have come – it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them, and to make them all come true. With all the earnestness I have I say: Every law in the Book will continue until its purpose is achieved.
Footnote: is achieved: Literally, “until all things be accomplished.”
LBP – Do not suppose that I have come to weaken the law or the prophets, I have not come to weaken, but to fulfill.
For truly I say to you, Until heaven and earth pass away, not even a yoth or a dash shall pass away from the law until all of it is fulfilled.
Footnote: Yoth is the smallest letter in Aramaic and Hebrew.
NBV – Do not suppose that I came to annul the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to complete them; for I assure you, while heaven and earth endure not one iota or one projection of a letter will be dropped from the Law until all is accomplished.
Footnote: The iota is i in the Greek alphabet.
NJB – Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. In truth I tell you, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, is to disappear from the Law until all its purpose is achieved.
NRS – Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
NWT – Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill; for truly I say to YOU that sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for one smallest letter or one particle of a letter to pass away by any means and not all things take place.
SGAT – Do not suppose that I have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to do away with them but to enforce them. For I tell you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not one dotting of an i or crossing of a t will be dropped from the Law until it all is observed.
SNB – Do not think that I came to pull down the law, or the prophets, I came not to pull down, but to fulfill.
For verily I say unto you, until the heaven and the earth shall pass away, one least letter or one point may in nowise pass away from the law, till all be accomplished.
Footnote: fulfill: establish.
SV – Don’t imagine that I have come to annul the Law, or the Prophets. I have come not to annul but to fulfill. I swear to you, before the world disappears, not one iota, not one serif, will disappear from the Law, until it’s all over.
Footnote: Sources: Matthew, Q.
[In black print, meaning this quote was not made by Jesus.]
TEV – Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets, I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with – not until the end of all things.
TM – Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.
WMF – Now don’t get the idea that I’ve come to destroy the old law or change the word of the prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to explain, make relevant, and complete the law and the prophets. Basically, there is no change to be made in the law of God until everything is finished in accordance with God’s plan.
WNT – Do not suppose that I have come to set aside the law or the prophets. I have not come to set them aside but to fulfill them up to the brim. For I solemnly say to you, heaven and earthwould sooner pass away than the dotting of an “i” or the crossing of a “t” from the law, until it all becomes in force.
Footnote: to the brim: picture of O.T. teaching as an unfilled cup, but filled by Jesus.
Footnote: would sooner: Greek, until heaven, etc.
Footnote: i, t: in Greek, the small letter of the Hebrew alphabet, or horn (curve) of a letter, equivalent to our dotting of an i or crossing of a t.
All the versions quoted speak in some way of not doing away with the Law and the Prophets. None makes an implication of interpretation. One version completely omits the passing away of heaven. Two suggest that heaven and earth have a preference in regard to passing away.
Matthew 5: 20
KJV – Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The meaning of the Old Testament word tsedakah had changed from “righteousness” to “almsgiving” by the time of Jesus. To the Pharisees, almsgiving was the most important aspect of righteousness. The “Kingdom of Heaven” is the name for the body of disciples of Jesus. He warns that if one’s righteousness is reduced to almsgiving, one cannot be in His movement.
AAT – I tell you, unless your righteousness is much better than that of the Bible scholars and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
AB – For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
CEV – You must obey God’s commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don’t, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
CJB – For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
CNT – And one more thing. Unless the righteousness of conduct found in you surpasses that found in the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never gain entry into the kingdom of heaven.
DRB – For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes or Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Footnote: The scribes and the Pharisees: The scribes were the doctors of the law of Moses: the Pharisees were a precise set of men, making profession of a more exact observance of the law: and upon that account greatly esteemed among the people.
GW – I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
LB – But I warn you – unless your goodness is greater than that of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, you can’t get into the Kingdom of Heaven at all!
Footnote: goodness: Literally, “righteousness.”
MCT – I assure you that, unless your righteousness is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no way enter heaven’s kingdom.
NCV – I tell that if you are no more obedient than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
NEB – I tell you, unless you show yourselves far better men than the Pharisees and the doctors of the law, you can never enter the kingdom of Heaven.
NJB – For I tell you, if your uprightness does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of Heaven.
NLV – I tell you, unless you are more right with God than the teachers of the Law and the proud religious law-keepers, you will never get into the holy nation of heaven.
RSV – For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
SNB – For I say unto you, that unless your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, in nowise may ye enter into the Kingdom of the heavens.
TEV – I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and Pharisees in doing what God requires.
TM – Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
WNT – For I tell you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven at all.
No version clearly states what the righteousness of the Pharisees is. However, a few come close to the intent. The plural of “heaven” occurs again. Also, the idea of a physical place is implied. The kingdom is the rule of God and the realm of his blessings; the church is the people of the kingdom who have received it, who witness to it, and who will inherit it. The fundamental principle of the kingdom is that where the king is, there is the kingdom.
Matthew 11: 12
KJV – From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
The key to the understanding of this passage is a rabbinic interpretation of Micah 2: 12, 13. The breach-maker is John the Baptist, who opens the way for the King, who is Jesus. The Kingdom is bursting forth into the world like water from a broken dam, and, at the same time, the people within the Kingdom are finding liberty and freedom.
AB – And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize] – a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought for with most ardent zeal and intense exertion.
CEV – From the time of John the Baptist until now, violent people have been trying to take over the kingdom of heaven by force.
DRB – And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.
EBR – But <from the days of John the Immerser until even now>
The kingdom of the heavens/ is being invaded/,
And /invaders/ are //seizing upon it//.
LBP – From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been administered by force, and only those in power control it.
MCT – From the days of John until now heaven’s kingdom is roughly treated, and violent men forcefully lay hold of it.
NBV – But from the time of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has endured violence, the violent seize it by force.
NEB – Ever since the coming of John the Baptist the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and violent men are seizing it.
Footnote: subjected to violence and violent men: Or has been forcing its way forward, and men of force … .
NET – From the time of John the Baptizer until now the Kingdom of heaven has been advancing with triumphant force and intense men grasp it quickly.
Footnote: triumphant force: Or “has been suffering violence.”
Footnote: grasp it quickly: A reference to men who act decisively on something they know or believe to be true. The next verse indicates the reason these men acted decisively, namely because the Law and the prophets were beginning to convince them that the Messianic Age had come. An alternate translation might be: “and violent men take it by force.”
NIV – From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
NLV – From the days of John the Baptist until now, the holy nation of heaven has suffered very much. Fighting men try to take it.
NWT – But from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it.
SGAT – But from the time of John the Baptist until now men have been taking the Kingdom of Heaven by storm and impetuously crowding into it.
SNB – But from the days of John the Immerser until even now, the Kingdom of the heavens is being invaded, and invaders are seizing upon it.
SV – From the time of John the Baptist until now Heaven’s imperial rule has been breaking in violently, and violent men are attempting to gain it by force.
Footnote: Sources: Q, Matthew.
[In grey print, meaning this quote may have been said by Jesus, but there is not certainty.]
TEV – From the time John preached his message until this very day the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violent attacks, and violent men try to seize it.
TM – For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom.
WNT – And from the days of John the Baptist until the present moment the kingdom of heaven has been continuously taken by storm, and those who take it by storm are seizing it as a precious prize.
A few versions imply the positive idea of what is happening as people desire to be a part of the kingdom. Such words as “precious prize” indicate this. Such words as “suffer,” “violence,” “seize,” “invade'” “assault'” “subjected,” and “roughly” tend to give a negative idea of what is occurring.
Matthew 16: 19
KJV – Whatsoever thou shalt bind (or loose) on earth shall be bound (or loosed) in heaven.
When a Hebrew word was translated to Greek, it was one word, regardless of the various meanings for the word in Hebrew. When the rabbis interpreted scriptural commands, they “bound or prohibited” certain activities and “loosed or allowed” others. Using the alternate meanings, the passage is interpreted that Jesus gives Peter the authority to make decisions in regard to the life of the church. These decisions will be honored by God. Since the church was a new entity, decisions will have to be made in situations not covered by the Scriptures.
AB – …, and whatever you bind – that is, declare to be improper and unlawful – on earth must be already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth – declare lawful – must be what is already loosed in heaven.
CJB – Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
CNT – Whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
GW – Whatever you imprison, God will imprison. And whatever you set free, God will set free.
IB – And whatever you bind on earth shall occur, having already been bound in Heaven. And whatever you may loose on the earth shall be, having been already loosed in Heaven.
KJV – …; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
LB – …; whatever doors you lock on earth shall be locked in heaven; and whatever doors you open on earth shall be open in heaven!
MCT – What you bind on the earth will have been bound in heaven, and what you release on the earth will have been released in heaven.
NCV – …; the things you don’t allow on earth will be the things that God does not allow, and the things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.
NLV – Whatever you do not allow on earth will not have been allowed in heaven. Whatever you allow on earth will have been allowed in heaven.
PRS – …; whatever you forbid on earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!
Footnote: forbidding and permitting: There is a very curious Greek construction here, viz. a simple future followed by a perfect participle passive. It seems to me [Phillips] if the words of Jesus are accurately reported here, and I have no reason to doubt it, then the force of these sayings is that Jesus’ true disciples will be so led by the Spirit that they will be following the heavenly pattern. In other words what they “forbid” or “permit” on earth will be consonant with the Divine rule. If a simple future passive had been used it would mean an automatic heavenly endorsement of the Church’s actions, which to me, at least, is a very different thing. … . There is no ground for supposing that celestial endorsement automatically follows human action, however exalted.
REB – …; what you forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven, and what you allow on earth shall be allowed in heaven.
SGAT – …, and whatever you forbid on earth will be held in heaven to be forbidden, and whatever you permit on earth will be held in heaven to be permitted.
TEV – …; what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
WET – …; and whatever you forbid on earth [forbid to be done], shall have been already bound [forbidden to be done] in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth [permit to be done], shall have already been loosed in heaven [permitted to be done].
WMF – …, and I will support your promises in my name in the kingdom that is mine, and I will refute those who refute your witness.
WNT – …, and whatever you forbid on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven.
Footnote: what is already forbidden: Perfect passive participle, so things in a state of having been already forbidden.
Footnote: already permitted in heaven: That is, the church, in the new order, must act in accordance with the will of heaven (God).
YLR – …, and whatever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever thou mayest loose upon the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens.
Two points of view tend to emerge. The first is that the disciples are to make decisions in regard to the church, which God will honor. This is what Bivin and Blizzard are saying. The second is that the decisions have already been made in heaven and that the disciples are merely following directions. One footnote brings the passage into perspective. The first view, if carried out without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can lead to apostasy. This can be seen today in the wide variance in religions, especially where there is a belief of being the true church.
Luke 6: 22
KJV – Cast out as evil.
The word “as” is not in the original idiom. Since an adjective in Hebrew follows the noun that it modifies, the phrase would be “name bad.” The phrase “cast out” is a poor translation of the Greek. The original Hebrew verb means “cause to go out” in the sense of “publish.” Thus, the passage simply means “defame you” or “slander you.”
CEV – … and say cruel things about you, … .
CJB – … and denounce you as a criminal … .
CNT – …, when they denounce your very name as something infamous, … .
GW – …, and slander you … .
LB – …, and smear your name … .
LBP – … and publish your name as bad, … .
NAB – …, and denounce your name as evil … .
NAS – …, and spurn your name as evil, … .
NBV – … and defame your name as wicked … .
NCV – …, and say you are evil … .
NEB – …, and ban your very name as infamous, … .
NJB – …, denounce your name as criminal, … .
NRS – …, and defame you … .
Footnote: Greek, cast out your name as evil.
PRS – … and reject all that you stand for … .
REB – … and slander your very name, … .
TEV – …, and say that you are evil, … .
TM – …, every time someone smears or blackens your name … .
WET – … and contemptuously reject your name as pernicious … .
All the versions agree or come close to what the authors say that the passage means, although no two are exactly alike. The word “as” does remain in a few, however.
Luke 9: 29
KJV – The fashion of his countenance was altered.
The Greek reads, “The appearance of His face was different.” A better English translation than the quoted one above would be “His face changed its appearance.” The literal translation is not found in the Old Testament but does appear in Rabbinic Literature.
AAT – …, His face changed and looked different, … .
DRB – …, the shape of his countenance was altered, … .
IB – … the appearance of His face became different, … .
IV – …, the fashion of his countenance was changed, … .
MCT – …, the appearance of his face changed, … .
NAS – …, the appearance of His face became different, … .
NBV – … the appearance of His face underwent a change … .
NET – … the appearance of His face changed … .
Footnote: That is, Jesus was transfigured.
NIV – …, the appearance of his face changed, … .
NJB – …, the aspect of his face was changed … .
NKJ – …, the appearance of His face was altered, … .
NLV – …, He was changed in looks before them.
PRS – …, the whole appearance of his face changed … .
REB – … the appearance of his face changed … .
SGAT – …, the look of his face changed … .
SV – … that his face took on a strange appearance, … .
WET – …, the appearance of His face took on a different expression.
WNT – …, the look on His face changed, … .
Footnote: Greek, was different.
The versions generally agree, but a few have flourishes which give a slightly different meaning.
Luke 9: 44
KJV – Lay these sayings in your ears.
This Hebrew idiom was translated word-for-word into the Greek and likewise on into the English, making for a statement that is not English. In Hebrew, it is an emphatic command: “Listen carefully and remember well, for what you are about to hear is very important.”
AAT – Listen carefully to what I say.
CEV – Pay close attention to what I am telling you!
DRB – …: Lay you up in your hearts these words, … .
GW – Listen carefully to what I say.
IV – Let these sayings sink down into your hearts; … .
KJV – Let these sayings sink down into your ears: … .
LB – Listen to me and remember what I say.
NAS – Let these words sink into your ears; … .
NEB – …, What I now say is for you: ponder my words.
NET – Listen carefully to what I say.
NIV – Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: … .
NWT – Give lodgment to these words in YOUR ears, … .
RSV – Let these words sink into your ears; … .
SGAT – You must store up these teachings in your minds, … .
SNB – Lay ye up in your ears these words; … .
SV – Mark well these words: … .
Footnote: Source: Mark.
[In black print, meaning this quote was not made by Jesus.]
WET – …, As for you, put these words at once into your ears for your own good, … .
WNT – You must store away in your memories these words, … .
Footnote: memories: ears.
Several versions have made no improvements, some of which are a bit awkward. Yet others say in different ways what the authors have said.
Luke 9: 51
KJV – He set his face to go … .
The Hebrew language has many idioms which use parts of the body in them. Using “face” is notably common. “To set one’s face” simply means “to turn in the direction of.” The emphasis on resoluteness in some modern versions gives the impression that Jesus had not made up his mind until then. A better translation of the original Hebrew would have been “…, he headed for Jerusalem.”
AAT – …, He showed He was determined to go to Jerusalem.
CEV – …, he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem.
CJB – …, he made his decision to set out for Yerushalayim.
EBR – …//even he himself// set /his face/ to be journeying unto Jerusalem; … .
Footnote: The recurrence of Luke’s narrative to the Lord’s progress towards Jerusalem is most impressive: 9:53, 57; 10:1, 38; 13:32, 33; 14:25; 18:31; 19:11, 28.
LB – …, he moved steadily onward towards Jerusalem with an iron will.
NAB – …, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, … .
NEB – …, he set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem, … .
NET – …, He showed that He was determined to go to Jerusalem.
NIV – …, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
NLV – He turned toward Jerusalem and was sure that nothing would stop Him from going.
PRS – …, he set his face firmly towards Jerusalem, … .
REB – …, he set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem, … .
SNB – …, even He Himself set His face to be journeying unto Jerusalem; … .
TEV – …, he made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem.
TM – …, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.
WET – …, that He himself set His face steadfastly to be proceeding to Jerusalem.
WNT – …, He firmly set His face to continue His journey to Jerusalem; … .
YLR – …, that he fixed his face to go on to Jerusalem, … .
Several versions bring the idiom directly over from the Hebrew to the English. The last minute decision, along with the resoluteness, is common in a number of them. The authors do not agree with this interpretation. The idea of not really wanting to do something, but being willing to do it, also appears in Luke 12:50 and Luke 22:42. However, in the latter two cases, there does not seem to have been a last minute decision as some versions imply in the quoted passage.
Luke 10: 5, 6
KJV – Whatever house you enter, first say, “Shalom be to this house.” And if a son of shalom is there, your shalom shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you.
“Son of peace” means “the friendly man who gets along well with other people,” not “the peace-loving man.” “Shalom” means “peace,” “safety,” or “good health.” The disciple blesses his host and family with all these.
CEV – As soon as you enter a home, say, “God bless this home with peace.” If the people living there are peace-loving, your prayer for peace will bless them. But if they are not peace-loving, your prayer will return to you.
CJB – Whenever you enter a house, first say, “Shalom!” to the household. If a seeker of shalom is there, your “Shalom!” will find rest with him; and if there isn’t, it will return to you.
CNT – Whenever you are about to enter a house, let your first words be, “Peace to this house.” And if the man who lives in the house has a natural kinship with peace, then the peace for which you have been expressing a wish will come to rest on him. But if it be otherwise, your wishes will be coming back to you the way they went.
EBR – And <into whatsoever house ye enter>
/First/ say Peace to this house!
And <if the son of peace be /there/>
/Your peace/ shall rest upon it;
But //otherwise at least// /unto you/ shall it return.
Footnote: Or: “enter first > say” – a question of punctuation.
GW – Whenever you go into a house, greet the family right away with the words, “May there be peace in this house.” If a peaceful person lives there, your greeting will be accepted. But if that’s not the case, your greeting will be rejected.
KJV – And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall turn to you again.
LB – Whenever you enter a home, give it your blessing. If it is worthy of the blessing, the blessing will stand; if not, the blessing will return to you.
LBP – And to whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this house.
And if a man of peace is there, let your peace rest upon him; and if not, your peace will return to you.
NAB – Into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household.” If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.
Footnote: First say “Peace to this household!” See Matthew 10:13. The greeting of peace is conceived of not merely as a salutation but as an effective word. If it finds no worthy recipient, it will return to the speaker.
Footnote: A peaceful person: literally, “a son of peace.”
NBV – Whatever home you enter, first say, “Peace be to this house.” If a person who is worthy of this greeting lives there, your peace will settle down on him; but if not, it will return to you.
NCV – Before you go into a house, say, “Peace be with this house.” If peaceful people live there, your blessing of peace will stay with them, but if not, then your blessing will come back to you.
NKJ – But whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house.” And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.
NLV – When you go into a house, say that you hope peace will come to them. If a man who loves peace lives there, your good wishes will come to him. If your good wishes are not received, they will come back to you.
NRS – Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.
PRS – When you go into a house, say first of all, “Peace be to this household!” If there is a lover of peace there, he will accept your words of blessing, and if not, they will come back to you.
SGAT – Whenever you go to stay at a house, first say, “Peace to this household!” If there is anyone there who loves peace, your blessing will rest upon him, but if there is not, it will come back to you.
TEV – Whenever you go into a house, first say,”Peace be with this house.” If a peace-loving man lives there, let your greeting of peace remain on him; if not, take back your greeting of peace.
TM – When you enter a home, greet the family, “Peace.” If your greeting is received, then it’s a good place to stay. But if it is not received, take it back and get out. Don’t impose yourself.
Only one of the versions uses the term “shalom.” Thus, it would be the only one to incorporate peace, safety, and good health. It may be a trivial difference, but two versions say to make the statement prior to entering while the others imply that it is to be stated as soon as one is inside the house. Two versions say to take back your greeting if it is not accepted while the others say that it will return to you.
Luke 12: 49, 50
KJV – I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
These verses are neither English or Greek, but Hebrew poetry, whose feature is parallelism. The authors give a long explanation of the incorrect translation, then state what the passage more likely means. Jesus has the task of setting fire to the earth – which He is doing. The final judgment is to come. He is not looking forward to that event as people will then no longer be able to accept Him. It is difficult for Him until the judgment has been completed. He agonizes because some people accept Him while others reject Him.
AAT – I have come to bring fire on earth, and how glad I would be if it were already started! I must be baptized with a baptism, and how I am troubled till it is done!
CJB – I have come to set fire to the earth! And how I wish it were already kindled! I have an immersion to undergo – how pressured I feel till it’s over!
GW – I have come to throw fire on the earth. I wish that it had already started! I have a baptism to go through, and I will suffer until it is over.
IB – I came to hurl fire into the earth; and what will I if it already was lit? But I have a baptism to be immersed in, and how am I pressed until it is done!
IV – For they are not well pleased with the Lord’s doings; therefore I am come to send fire on the earth; and what is it to you, if that it be already kindled?
But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straightened until it be accomplished!
[verses 58, 59 in this version]
LBP – I came to set the earth on fire; and I wish to do it, if it has not already been kindled.
I have a baptism to be baptized with; and I am oppressed until it is fulfilled.
NAB – I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Footnote: Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom is a refining and purifying fire.
Footnote: baptism: i.e., his death.
NAS – I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!
But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!
NEB – I have come to set fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until the ordeal is over!
NJB – I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!
NKJ – I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!
NLV – I have come to bring fire down to the earth. I wish it were already started! I have a baptism to go through. How troubled I am until it is over!
NRS – I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
PRS – It is fire I have come to bring upon the earth – how I could wish it were already ablaze! There is a baptism that I must undergo and how strained I must be until it is all over!
SV – I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already ablaze! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and what pressure I’m under until it’s over!
TEV – I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism to receive, and how distressed I am until it is over!
TM – I’ve come to start a fire – how I wish it were blazing right now! I’ve come to change everything, turn everything rightside up – how I long for it to be finished!
WET – Fire I came to throw upon the earth, and how much I wish that it were already set blazing. Moreover, I have an immersion by which I will be overwhelmed, and how I am being hard pressed from every side until it is consummated.
Although the wording is different, these versions say much the same thing. While there is a partial sense as to what Jesus is saying, none has the complete meaning that the authors present. The average Christian should be able to figure out a little of the passage, but may find it difficult to interpret all of it.
Luke 23: 31
KJV – For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
The “green tree” and the “dry tree” allude to the prophecy in Ezekiel 20: 45 – 21: 7. As an allegory, they represent the righteous and the wicked, respectively. Jesus is speaking prophetically of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He is telling the weeping women if this is what happens to Him, what will happen to others? Jesus is referring to Himself as the “Green Tree.”
AB – For if they do these things when the timber is green, what will happen when it is dry?
CJB – For if they do these things when the wood is green, what is going to happen when it’s dry?
CNT – And indeed, if that is how they act when the tree is full of sap, what will they do when it is already dried up?
EBR – Because if //in moist wood// /these things/ they are doing, —
In /the dry/ what shall happen?
GW – If people do this to a green tree, what will happen to a dry one?
LB – For if such things as this are done to me, the Living Tree, what will they do to you?
LBP – For if they do these things with the green wood, what will be done with dry wood?
MCT – If they do these things to the green wood, what shall they do when it withers?
NCV – If they act like this when life is good, what will happen when bad times come?
Footnote: Literally, “If they do these things in the green tree, what will happen in the dry?”
NWT – Because if they do these things when the tree is moist, what will occur when it is withered?
PRS – For if this is what men do when the wood is green, what will they do when it is seasoned?
REB – For if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?
RSV – For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?
SGAT – For if this is what they do when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?
SNB – Because if, in moist wood, these things they are doing, in the dry, what shall happen?
SV – If they behave this way when the wood is green, what will happen when it dries out?
Footnote: The aphorism in verse 31 is enigmatic; no one knows what it means, although it, too, must have something to do with the fall of Jerusalem. Including it in the database for determining who Jesus was would add nothing to our knowledge of his teaching. Sources: Luke, Thomas.
[In black print, meaning this quote was not made by Jesus.]
[Note: An aphorism is a brief statement of a truth or principle; a proverb. Enigmatic means puzzling.]
WMF – Because of what is happening today there shall be times coming of great trouble and distress.
YLR – …; – for, if in the green tree they do these things – in the dry what may happen?
This verse has basically been transferred, not translated. However, two versions, which are paraphrases, have caught the general idea of what Jesus is telling the women. One footnote is quite interesting. A group of seventy-four scholars, all but one having at least one doctoral degree, feels that no one knows what this “enigmatic aphorism” means.
It can be seen why the average Christian understands so little about the Bible. Many translators have recognized the problem and have tried to help the reader. A Christian is able to locate a version to suit his desires. The versions run from word-for-word to meaning-for-meaning to paraphrase. They can use formal Shakespearean English, everyday language, or limited vocabulary. They can even stress a specific religious dogma. The English language probably has more from which to choose than any other language.
Whenever someone refers to the Bible as being inerrant or that God wrote the Bible, I am concerned with how much the person really knows about it. To which version is he (or she) referring? Even the translators themselves recognize their limitations. I may not agree completely with the work of the Jesus Seminar. However, they do present a valid question. “An inspired, or inerrant, set of gospels seems to require an equally inspired interpreter or body of interpretation. Interpretation must be equally inspired if we are to be sure we have the right understanding of the inerrant but variously understood originals. … . It is for this reason that some churches were moved to claim infallibility for their interpretation. … . Why, if God took such pains to preserve an inerrant text for prosperity, did the Spirit not provide for the preservation of original copies of the gospels? … . We do not possess autographs of any of the books of the entire Bible. … . Handmade manuscripts have almost always been corrected here and there. … . Even careful copyists make some mistakes.”
Another viewpoint deserves consideration. “Why God did not preserve any of the original texts, we do not know. However, He preserved a large number of copies which are in agreement in over 99% of the text; this leaves no doubt that today we have exactly what the original writers said. … . The readings contained in any of that 1% which are harder to decide do not affect any doctrine in any way.” (New Evangelical Translation) The doctrine of Jesus can be found in any version as is implied in that quote. The steps to salvation are clearly stated in several places. It is only a matter of interpretation.
There is the story of the little boy who thought God’s right hand was completely useless and that God had to do everything with His left hand because he had always heard that Jesus was sitting on the right hand of God. Christians can make the same error of interpretation with the Bible. The authors of Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus and other Biblical scholars, through their research, have tried to help with this problem.
Codex Sinaiticus (circa A.D. 350) and Codex Vaticanus (a little earlier) are considered the best early manuscripts of the New Testament. A number of versions point out that Mark 16: 9-20 (the Longer Ending) and John 7: 53 – 8: 11 (the story of the adulteress) are not included in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. A Guide to Modern Versions of Bible states that “the Greek text used up to the Middle Ages became corrupt as a result of hand copying. A later edition of the text prepared by Erasmus in 1516, the Textus Receptus, which many early translators used, was highly unsatisfactory.” Harper’s Bible Dictionary adds that “one of the most noteworthy texts, by Westcott and Hort, had the weakness of relying too heavily on Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. A modification had to be made as more manuscript material became available.” There are other reputable texts. The potential for error in the New Testament is present. Translations are no better than the manuscripts, the texts, and the translators.
The earliest available Masoretic manuscripts still in existence go back only to the ninth and tenth centuries A.D. The Septuagint was published in Greek, probably in the third century B.C. “It [the Septuagint] had been corrupted by copyists and translators had misread or misunderstood the original, some even deliberately camouflaging their texts.” (The Cambridge History of the Bible) The copy of the Hebrew Scriptures used by Josephus was more perfect and authentic than the Septuagint and the Masorete copies. Thus, there is also potential for error in the Old Testament.
In this essay, I have tried to show some of the problems which exist with Bible translations and interpretations, with stress on the efforts of two co-authors to assist in solving them, based on their research. There still is much to be done in this area. We may never see the perfect translation before the Messiah returns. With all the problems that I have encountered in my research, I could very easily reject the Bible completely, as many people have done. However, my research has had the opposite effect. I am constantly learning. I firmly believe the message of the Bible, despite translation errors and lack of understanding of parts of it. We owe a great debt to all who have had a part in preserving the Scriptures over the ages. We must continue to read the Word – whatever version or versions we choose – and pray for God’s help in our understanding of its message.
I would like to thank Dwight A. Pryor, president of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, and David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, Jr., authors of the book Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, published by the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, Dayton, Ohio, copyright 1983 and 1984, for permission:
- To use the scriptures described in the appendix of their book as a basis for this essay; and
- To quote or paraphrase specific passages from this book.
I also extend to them my appreciation for their interest in my research.