December 8, 2013
Translations Affect Our Thinking
The way our English Bibles read affects the way we talk, think, and act. This is one reason translators should be careful about the words they use to translate the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that the Holy Spirit chose in the original text of sacred scripture. Their word choices should be accurate and understandable. Otherwise they defeat the purpose of the translation process. Sometimes people with good intentions misrepresent the text because they think it says one thing, when in reality the opposite is meant by the writer(s). Let’s cite a few examples to illustrate the point.
When people read the passages that speak of “baptize,” and “baptism,” it is possible that they may assume the New Testament allows different “modes” of baptism because English dictionaries define it as, “the ceremony or sacrament of admitting a person into Christianity by immersing the individual in water or by pouring or sprinkling water on the individual. .. ” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, page 109.) The English dictionary definition is incorrect as it pertains to the New Testament’s use of the word.
Actually, “baptism” and “baptize” are not translations of the words baptisma and baptizo.
They are Greek words in English dress! They are the Greek words brought over into English. In other words, baptizo does not mean “baptize” and baptisma does not mean “baptism.” That’s like saying the words mean the words. That’s right, it makes no sense. Baptisma means immersion or submersion. Baptizo means immerse or submerge. Immersion and immerse or synonymous words should be used in our English translations. A lot of confusion would be avoided and it would go a long way in removing the ideas of “sprinkling” and “pouring” as acceptable “modes” of baptism. I would love to hear someone explain how sprinkling and pouring are “modes” of immersion.
Preachers and elders who know the facts should accurately inform people about the facts.
Yet, most preachers themselves will continue to use the words “baptism” and “baptize” because that’s what they see in their Bibles.
The word “church” is another word that has shaped our religious vocabulary. Many people think of a “church” as a religious denomination or a physical building. The word church is used to translate the Greek word ekklesia.
Ekklesia means assembly, congregation, community, or group.
The word church is a gloss, that is, a word that needs additional explanation when used in translation. The emphasis in the New Testament is on the people, not where the people assembled. (cf. John 4:19-23) The words in our English versions of the scriptures will continue to shape our thinking. Much of the confusion that exists can be eliminated if we will think thru the text.