31. Some Unique challenges
Some unique challenges in the translation of the New Testament.
Translation always poses some unique challenges in any language. In some cases the semantic fields of words do not correspond. In other cases words have double meanings. Often such a word with the same double meaning does not exist in the receiving language.
I mention two examples in the New Testament:
*John 8:28. Jesus tells the Jews: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be…” The word that John employs here, (hupsosyte = to lift up) has a double meaning. It does mean to lift up, to extol, pointing to the high position Jesus would have at the right hand of the Father in heaven. But it is also used to indicate crucifixion. Greek readers would most probably notice this, but how could we render this double meaning in English? John uses the same word in John 3:14 and 12:32-33 again with this double meaning in the eye. I quote John 12:32-34 from the NIV: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”
*John 21:15-17: In this particular conversation Jesus twice asked Peter whether he really loved Him, using the word agapao, meaning self sacrificial love. Peter confirmed his love for Jesus, using another word fileo, meaning friendship love. Then Jesus questioned even Peter’s fileo-love. Peter was hurt and answered: “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Again Peter used the word fileo. The question is how could one bring this delicate play on words to its touching meaning when there are no equivalent words in English. The MKJV like most English translations, makes no distinction between the two words. The NIV translates the passage using “truly love” for agapao and only “love” for fileo. But the difference is so slight that few people would even notice, let alone realize the deep love and grace poured upon Peter by his Savior! The Analytical Translation use “love” in opposition to “affectionately love”, which to my opinion has the opposite meaning, as though Peter’s love was more sincere than that of Jesus! In this case the AMP adds a clear explanation of the words in brackets. I quote the NIV version: “15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs’” 16 Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ 17 The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ ” (Of course Jesus and His disciples did not speak Greek to one another, but Aramaic. When I investigated the matter I found that Aramaic in fact do have words with the equivalent meanings!)
The Bible is so full of Gods love, one wouldn’t like to miss any of its wonders!