Translating John 1:11-13 - 2012-03-03

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Christogenea Saturdays - 2012-03-03 - Translating John 1:11-13

If indeed we care about our culture, our race, or our heritage in the first place, we may read the Bible, and other works of our historical literature. From them we formulate a weltanschauung, a world-view, based upon what we believe that those books are telling us. Many of us, too lazy to read and research for ourselves, base our world-views upon the opinions of others, and what they think those books might be saying. It is from this formulated world-view that we judge what is right, and what is wrong. Jacob was blessed, because he followed after the world-view of his parents and his God. Esau was cursed, because he had no care for his heritage and based his actions upon his own judgements. Each of us makes a choice, to be like Jacob, or to be like Esau.

In turn, all translations of the Bible further reflect to a great degree the world-views of their translators. Every translation requires a certain amount of interpretation, along with the grammatical and lexical skills which are necessary in order to make a translation. That is because many words can have more than one meaning, and also because there are idioms and other nuances of language which just simply cannot be translated mechanically and still maintain their original sense. 

Bible translations such as the King James Version have other problems. It was a political translation which sought to legitimize the authority and structure of the State Church, and therefore many words have been rendered in a manner to support that idea, words such as church rather than assembly or congregation, deacon rather than servant or minister, ordained rather than elected, and so on. It was also a translation written from a perspective of historical blindness. The translators took it for granted that they were somehow “gentiles” who were being “grafted in” to the covenants, many of them believing that the jews were the people of the Book, and not knowing either Judaean history or their own history as well as they should have, they formed universal interpretations of many scriptures so that they could somehow include themselves as outsiders into covenants which make no provisions for outsiders. Often they did this in spite of the exclusive language of the Book itself. Therefore we see words such as gentiles rather than nations, aliens rather than alienated (even where the word is a verb), every one who rather than each one who, and so on. These are only examples. The treatment of these words and phrases as they are translated, and the impact which they have on the minds of their readers, greatly influence the world-views which result in the thoughts of those readers. They therefore greatly influence those daily judgements of right and wrong which each of those readers lives by. The end result is that one may think that he knows what the Bible says, however he only supposes to know something that may not be actually the way the original writer intended it to be read. Furthermore, the King James Version itself is four centuries old, and the meaning of many English words have changed since it was translated. Some of these words are important, such as generation, which in today's vernacular should instead often be written as race.

More modern translations have exacerbated the universalism of the King James Version. They have done this primarily because they believed that the King James translators were correct in their original suppositions, and also because they believe that it is amenable to world politics and global trade to have a universalist world-view. Here we shall examine three passages of Scripture which lend credence to that universalist world-view in the manner in which the King James Version translated them, and see that they may be easily understood in another manner, which is understanding of the exclusivity of the covenants between Yahweh God and Israel, which is explicitly stated in so many other passages of Scripture. 

Click here for the paper: Translating John 1:11-13