Sunday, 14 July 2013



Below are two key verses concerning the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus as rendered both by the Authorised Version (AV) and the New International Version (NIV) Perhaps some defender of the latter could throw some light on this subject for me.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.  (1 Timothy 3:16)    Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up into glory.  (1 Timothy 3:16)
These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (John 12:41)     Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory, and spoke about him. (John 12:41)

1 Timothy 3:16 is the battleground of a controversy between the two different textual schools. The AV texts (based on the vast majority of available manuscripts) tell us plainly that "God" was manifest in the flesh - a clear reference to the Lord Jesus, as the rest of the verse makes clear. Silence the Arians and Unitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses etc., The minority texts (based on mainly two older texts of all currently available texts) drop the word "God" and substitute the word "He" instead. The minority text folk tell us that the word "God" is an interpolation which crept into the text and is not part of the word of God.  I don't agree, but I can see where they are coming from.

In John 12:41 both set of texts tell us that Isaiah saw "his" glory and we take this to mean the glory of Christ. Again, it is another proof text for the Deity of Christ because Isaiah saw the glory of Jehovah (Isaiah 6) then ergo Christ is Jehovah. The NIV does not compromise on the Deity of Christ in this verse but takes the liberty of putting the interpretation ("He" = "Jesus") into the actual text. I agree 100% with the NIV interpretation, but not with the NIV translation because it is not a translation at all, but actually an interpolation.

The NIV adopts a relatively new method of Bible translation called "dynamic equivalence" where the writer's "thoughts" are given preference over his actual words. It is not what the writer said (or wrote) that is the important thing, but what he was actually thinking. And there can be no doubt that John was thinking that Isaiah really did see the glory of Jesus Christ when he saw Jehovah. Many other translations, including the AV, use the "formal equivalence" method. In other words, (no pun intended) the words are the all important thing and we can only judge what the writer was thinking from the actual words he carefully chose (and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to impart those thoughts to us. John could have used the words "Jesus' glory" but he didn't and both sets of texts tell us that he simply wrote "his glory" and leaves it to us to draw the conclusion. It is hardly for us to query the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in this matter. Every interpretation of Scripture is subject to the Scripture text itself, but if you write the interpretation into the text, then the all important ground of testing is gone. And that is a very dangerous situation.

Two things about this.

One, if the AV is accused of containing an interpolation ("God") in 1 Timothy 3:16…why then do the NIV translators do the very same in John 12:41?

Two, if dynamic equivalence is indeed the way forward for Bible translators, why does the NIV not take the liberty of rendering 1 Timothy 3:16 as "God" as the AV does? It is agreed that 1 Timothy 3:16 is a reference to Jesus Christ as God.

The AV is consistent with its own method of translation in both these verses i.e. formal equivalence in that it keeps faithfully to the wording of the majority text which it sees as the correct texts to use. On the other hand, the NIV seems to wander all over the place. It keeps strictly to the formal equivalent in its minority texts in 1 Timothy 3:16 but adopts the dynamic equivalent rendering in John 12:41.

To be fair, it must be said that the AV in its "God forbid" renderings of Paul's shocked denials in some epistles does not have any actual word for God. The original text gives a double negative which in Greek means an emphatic "No!" Personally I think they should be translated as "Definitely not!" or "Absolutely Not!" It could be argued that this is an interpolation. True, but the verses concerned are not as fundamental as those of 1 Timothy 3:16 or John 12:41. Just a thought.



No comments:

Post a Comment

All are welcome to comment here provided that the usual principles of Christian comment e.g. politeness etc. are observed.