Recently Peter responded to a remark I had made in the comment section with this,
“Suzanne, I’m sorry to say that you have fallen into the same fallacy as … by claiming that Darby’s translation of 1 Timothy 2:15 is somehow less interpretive than KJV or Tyndale. Darby chose to render the Greek verb σωθήσεται as “she shall be preserved”. KJV chose to render this verb as “she shall be saved”. These are both interpretive choices. It may be true that Darby’s interpretive decision is correct and KJV’s is incorrect in this case, or it may not be true, but that is not the point. One is no less interpretive or more literal than the other.”
Thank you, Peter, for challenging me to think this over. I was brought up hearing the KJV read aloud in church, but the Darby translation was often used for personal Bible study. I have thought of the Darby translation as being more ‘literal’ than the KJV, but it may be that there is another word to describe the difference between these translations. If, in fact, they are both ‘literal’ translations, and there is a consistent difference in the pattern of translation, how should one describe this?
The tradition to which the Darby Bible belongs has been called ‘non-ecclesiastical.’ In this kind of translation ecclesiastical words like ‘church’ ‘bishop’ and ‘deacon’ do not appear. It is a deliberate attempt to avoid ‘church’ English in some domains. While this is not a black and white categorization, it is worth examining different translations to see how they appear in light of this criteria.
The cornerstone of a non-ecclesiastical translation is the absence of the word ‘church’ for εκκλεσια, which appears first in Matthew 16:18.
KJV And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Here is how the early translations compare.
Vulgate et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam
Wycliffe And Y seie to thee, that thou art Petre, and on this stoon Y schal bilde my chirche, and the yatis of helle schulen not haue miyt ayens it.
Tyndale And I saye also vnto the yt thou arte Peter: and apon this rocke I wyll bylde my congregacion. And the gates of hell shall not prevayle ageynst it.
Coverdale And I saie to ye: Thou art Peter, & vpo this rocke wil I builde my cogregacion: and ye gates of hell shal not preuayle agaynst it.
The Bishop’s Bible And I say also vnto thee, that thou art Peter, and vpon this rocke I wyll buylde my congregation: And the gates of hell shall not preuayle agaynst it
Geneva Bible And I say also vnto thee, that thou art Peter, and vpon this rocke I will builde my Church: and ye gates of hel shal not ouercome it.
After the KJV all of the better-known translations use the word church. However, the following do not.
Young’s Literal Translation `And I also say to thee, that thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it;
Hebrew Names Translation I also tell you that you are Kefa, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of She’ol will not prevail against it.
A Non-Ecclesiastical New Testament Now I am also telling you that you are ‘Peter,’ and on this ‘rock’ I will construct my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail over it.
This last translation was completed in 1995 and comes with this comment in the introduction, which is worthy of reflection.
“Every translation follows the opinions of the translators and is therefore an opinion. This is not, therefore, “the Word of God;” it is a translation, an opinion, a mere human viewpoint of an ordinary human being. The value of this translation rests not in its authoritative nature but in the examination of the different paradigm which it may be found to contain.”
About his translation in general, he states,
“There are no apostles, angels, deacons or ministers, bishops, devils, demons, or preachers in this edition; rather, the reader will find envoys (those who are sent out as representatives), messengers, servants, overseers, accusers, spirit beings, and heralds. The term “church” has also been dropped in favor of “assembly,” which is the meaning of the Greek word. Here, this translator has followed certain former translators who refused to retain the “old ecclesiastical words.”
I undertook this research in order to define or provide an example of translations that are less influenced by the culture of the institutional church than the KJV, and the many translations that inherit its ecclesiastical vocabulary. These other translations are nontheless influenced by their own ‘non-conformist’ culture.
My purpose here is not to favour one translation or tradition over another but to demonstrate how very difficult it is to have a translation that is ‘transparent to the original text.’ Can any translation enable us to understand the original on its own terms rather than on the terms of 2000 years of accumulated church culture? Certainly not the KJV, NIV, TNIV, RSV and ESV. They all are alike in this – that to some extent they use words whose meanings were established after the New Testament era by a church hierarchy. What impresses me about the Non-Ecclesiatical translation is that the translator presents his translation as “mere human viewpoint.’
Note: Quotes from the translations in todays post are from StudyLight.org and A Non-Ecclesiastical New Testament. These links are found in the link Online Translations of the Bible located in the sidebar.