Heterodox Aftershocks 8: Case in Point
In my quest to fully research the claims of Universalism I'm re-reading the entire Bible to verify a couple of claims that they make. First of all, I'm not just going to just believe that every time eternal Hell® is mentioned the 'eternal' was derived from aion or aionios simply because they say so. Also, there may be other arguments for the eternity of Hell® that don't actually use the word eternal or some derivation thereof. There are a lot of proof-texts for Universalism, and so that means a lot of context to study.
Anyway, one of my first arguments at the beginning of this whole thing was that the translations of the Bible that we modern Americans are reading were doubtlessly shaped by the theology of the translators. To what extent that effect pervades the text is unknown to me since I've never translated a text and don't read Greek.
Well, I was reading in my New Living Translation Bible, (published by Tyndale) the following verse:
Rom 5:10 For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life.
I noted the reference to eternal punishment, and went to my computer to check the Greek and see if the word was indeed aion/aionios. I have a program called E-Sword that you can download for free from www.e-sword.net where you can compare many translations and languages and has built in concordance, commentaries, etc. It's basically like having an entire seminary's library on your lap. Amazing. Anyway, one of the translations I don't have on there is the NLT. But here are the results of looking up the verse in several other translations:
Rom 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (ESV)
Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (KJV)
Rom 5:10 For if while being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life; (LITV)
Rom 5:10 for if, being enemies, we have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in his life. (YLT)
I can go on and on, but that should suffice. Notice anything missing in these verses?
Like, maybe something I underlined in the first example. That's right. No mention of
eternal punishment. I understand that in order to translate an idea from one language to another you have to move a lot of stuff around. But this is not a matter of shuffling. This is a completely different idea that was added to the text. The text says we are saved in His life. The translator assumes (doubtlessly because of his orthodox schooling) that this salvation is from eternal punishment, and so he doesn’t see any harm in adding that in. That may not bother most Christians because they see it as axiomatic that Christ died to save us from Hell®. Even though the statement is never made in scripture, to my knowledge. ... Oh, wait... NOW it is!
But let's take an idea that was axiomatic at the beginning of the Church and has since died off and add it to a verse and see what you think. Here's the actual verse from the ESV:
1Co 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
Now I'll take the same liberty that the translators of the NLT took and splice in a little dogma of my own:
1Co 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? And why do they pray to the dead for intercession?
Not so acceptable now, is it? This sort of thing should not be tolerated.
I'm not jumping to any conclusions here. I don't know how widespread this problem is. Maybe it's a fluke of this one instance in this one translation, but I doubt it. It seems to me that if such a brazen addition to the source material goes by unnoticed, then the subtle shades of meaning can be easily manipulated by a biased translator much more easily. Even without their knowing that they are doing so.
Of course I'm am not without my own biases. But without knowing the original Greek, I have no way of determining a translator's biases. It's becoming clearer and clearer to me that I need to learn ancient Greek.
I found another transgression:
Rom 6:21 And what was the result? It was not good, since now you are ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. (NLT)
Here is the same verse in some other versions:
Rom 6:21 … For those things resulted in death. (ISV)
Rom 6:21 … for the end of those things is death. (KJV)
Rom 6:21 … for the end of *them* is death. (Darby)
Rom 6:21 … The end of those things is death. (ESV)
The Greek word translated “death” in every other version, and ETERNAL DOOM in the NLT is Thanatos: than'-at-os
From G2348; (properly an adjective used as a noun) death (literally or figuratively): - X deadly, (be . . .) death.
I wanted to understand where the translators were coming from so I read the introduction. It’s the same as most Bible intros. It talks about what a great team of spirit led people put it together and how this version is important. They talk about the difference between Formal Equivalence and Dynamic, or Functional Equivalence. In other words, do they try to translate word-meaning for word-meaning, or thought-for-thought. They are clearly far on the thought-for-thought side of the spectrum.
It states: “Of course, to translate the thought of the original language requires that the text be interpreted accurately and then be rendered in understandable idiom. So the goal of any thought-for-thought translation is to be both reliable and eminently readable. Thus, as a thought-for-thought translation, the New Living Translation seeks to be both exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.”
Another statement: “In order to guard against personal biases and to ensure the accuracy of the message, a thought-for-thought translation should be created by a group of scholars who employ the best exegetical tools and who also understand the receptor language very well.”
So I have to wonder… what is this exegetical tool that ranks among “the best” that allows them to insert their own ideas into the scripture? Would that same tool allow them to add the word Trinity in the scripture somewhere? Why not? The whole group of translators believes that the Trinity is the only logical conclusion of the scripture as a whole. The same way the whole group believes that the only logical conclusion of scripture is that many people will spend eternity in Hell®, so why not throw that in whenever the opportunity arises? This is truly sad.
Here are the specific names of those responsible for these rash additions. They are the mini-team assigned to Romans for the New Living Translation.
Gerald Borchert, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Douglas J. Moo,
Thomas R. Schreiner,