– – Here comes the point I am making: No translation is clear cut. Not even the English word “No” is an adequate translation for the three Hebrew words for “No.” or “Not” or the three Greek words. For example, the First of the Ten Commandments as they have been numbered in the Protestant Western tradition is “No other God’s before me.” But what kind of “No” is this? Or in Romans when Paul said, “Shall we continue in Sin that Grace may increase?” What was the emphasis conveyed in his words, “No.” English is a beautiful language with a substantial collection of words to choose from, and yet none of them mean “exactly” what the words in another language mean. And when people dig deep into the dictionaries of Noah Webster and Oxford, they are digging wells of deeper understanding that tap into underground rivers not flowing with the same intensity or even direction as the authors ever intended.
– – This is why, as my hermeneutics professor taught from Moses Sylva’s book Biblical Words and Their Meaning “Meaning is at the clause level” not the word level. In other words, “Context is king.” Words and context in language are like teammates in a team. The team is the sum of what each individual contributes, and and the individual is defined by his role in the team. So context helps fit the right meaning to the words, and the words make up the context. So, then, if one reads in English the verse “No other God’s before me.” and does not see the Hebrew expression, “No other God’s before my face.” then he lacks a deeper nuance which actually clarifies whether “before” in that verse means “ahead of me” or “in my presence.”
– – So many passages in various English versions are difficult when trying to juggle English nuances with a Hebrew or Greek flow of thought, especially if it is in archaic English which we don’t even use anymore. I mean, what does Lovingkindness *really mean anyway? It escapes me how people can hold so strongly to an English translation with outdated English, perhaps they enjoy the taste of “sweeter water” in their own English language. While I can sympathize with this enjoyment, achieving insight into the original meanings of the Word of God in Old English is limited at best. Why trade the perfectly valid nuances of modern English for outdated ones in search of richer meaning when both are utilizing an emotional and relational communicative manner completely separate from the original author?
(Continued in Part 4)