Friday, May 14, 2010

Rants on Translations

I thought for good humor we'd look at a few random translations, focusing on various passages. Keep in mind I'm not necessarily condemning these specific translations (well, maybe a few of them, and I think it would be obvious which ones I would) only poking fun at some entertaining mistakes made therein.

First, let's look at a passage from Paul's conversion, as found in the New International Version:
The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying..." [Acts 9:11]
Ugh..."Straight Street"? Most translations say, "a street called Straight," and indeed that's what the original Greek says. In fact, that's what the original street is called! It literally is a street simply called "Straight" (which was apparently pretty common back then). A priest I used to know actually went and visited Damascus, and the street where Paul stayed at is still there and is still simply called "Straight."

Now let's look at something from The Message.
The Master declares, "I'm A to Z. I'm The God Who Is, The God Who Was, and The God About to Arrive. I'm the Sovereign-Strong." [Revelation 1:8]
Christ is "A to Z"? Wha? Actually, this is a reworking of the original line, which is "I am the Alpha and Omega." The Greek letters Alpha and Omega were the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet, hence the following statement, "the beginning and the end." This is not in this translation, and the change from Alpha and Omega to A and Z is just confusing. Unless a Christian has no knowledge of any other translation, they will read this passage as, "I am Alpha and Zeta" - Zeta, incidentally, is NOT the last letter in the Greek alphabet. In any case, "I'm A to Z" makes it sound as if God is a kid's pop-up book, not an eternal Being.

Now let's look at something from the Bible in Basic English. Know the shortest line in the Bible? Let's see how they translate it:
And Jesus himself was weeping [John 11:35]
Are you kidding me? They took the shortest line in the Bible and made it somehow longer? What does it say when the film Hellraiser treats a verse from scripture better than an actual biblical translation?

Now for fun let's look at the Jehovah's Witness Bible - actually, I could create a whole blog post about it, but let's see how the New World Translation handles one of my favorite passages of scripture:
And he said to him: "Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise." [Luke 23:43]
Oh...I see what you did there...thought you were sly, eh? Moving the comma, all subtle-like...

So why is Jesus telling the wise thief, "Truly I tell you today"? What, is He going to say tomorrow: "Sorry man, I just meant for that day. Now I'm saying there ain't no paradise for you." Plus, what other day would Jesus say this? Even logically, this translation doesn't make sense. "Truly I tell you tomorrow, you will be with Me in Paradise. Oops! I just told you."

Finally, let's look at the Joseph Smith "translation," which was really Joseph Smith simply taking the Bible and adding bits to fit with his theology.
But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Romans 4:5]
Wait, what?! "Justifieth not the ungodly?" Apparently, Joseph Smith didn't like the idea that God would justify the ungodly (as if there exists someone who is "godly"). Indeed, if one reviews Smith's "translation" of Romans 4, a very work-centered gospel is preached as opposed to a gospel where one is justified by faith. This contradicts the entire point presented by Paul in Romans. Apparently even the original apostles were prone to theological error - did the "Great Apostasy" happen sooner than the Mormon church would have us believe?

2 comments:

  1. This is quite entertaining. Who could ever think that translations of the Bible could be used for such amusement?

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  2. Thanks for the comment, FOCUS. This post was actually inspired by a post on my older blog dealing with various (bad) translations of John 11:35. The one I presented here from the Bible in Basic English was the worst offender of them all.

    Given that many of these mistakes are from people trying to read into scripture (as with the Joseph Smith or New World translations) or make scripture far too relevant to modern language (as with The Message), one can't help but laugh.

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