for a Literal Translation
Frank Neil Pohorlak, D.D. Litt.D.
TRADUTORRE TRADITORE is an Italian proverb: “The translator is a traitor.” The translator who makes an idiomatic version is a traitor in the eyes of the one who makes a literal version, while the translator who makes a literal version is a traitor in the eyes of the one who makes an idiomatic version. Thus the proverb reflects a consensus: no matter which kind of version a translator makes—idiomatic or literal—he is a traitor.
A Jewish proverb recorded in the Babylonian Talmud (Kiddushin 49a) states succinctly, “He lies who renders a verse as it reads, with strict literalness; he blasphemes who makes additions.” This is the paradox confronting a translator; the dilemma on one of whose horns he may be impaled.
F. W. Farrar has written a book titled TEXTS EXPLAINED or Helps to Understand the New Testament. In it, the author deals with hundreds of verses, clarifying points of view by carefully considering both reading and rendering. In his Preface, Farrar says he desires to call attention “to a large number of verses or passages of which—in matters of varying importance—the force, the beauty, the correct reading, the exact rendering, or the deep special significance has often been mistaken, overlooked, or altogether obliterated… There is no text here selected for some brief elucidation which does not gain in instructiveness, or interest, when its exact connotation is simply explained” (page v).
He tells of his experience when he was assigned as Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Worcester. At every examination of the candidates for ordination, it was his custom to set them a paper of some thirty texts from the Authorized Version. These texts required explanation which could be presented if the student was cognizant of facts arising from a change in the reading or from an accurate rendering of the Original. To his astonishment, Farrar found that, out of these thirty AV texts which the students were required to explain, there were only four or five upon which they were able to throw any light. Yet, as he goes on to point out, “in many instances, a knowledge of the real meaning of the text involved points of vital importance and not of accidental interest” (page vi).
While his book deals with verses quoted from each of the twenty-seven New Testament books, in the Preface he gives examples from twenty-four of these scrolls. Let us look at as many of them as are of major importance and as space limitations permit, comparing each with the same verse as it is rendered in the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT (referred to hereafter as CV). Over and over again Farrar urges us to notice what exact, accurate, literal renderings can do to make God’s Word shine forth with its original power and pristine purity.
Matthew 25:8. “Our lamps are gone out....” Here he calls attention to the fact of the force of the present tense in “ ‘Our lamps are going out’—literally if English idiom permitted the rendering—‘are being extinguished,’ or, in older English ‘are a-quenching.’ ” He says “Here the wrong rendering adopted in our familiar version involves a positive theological error.” The CV translates, “our torches are going out,” and even shows the definite article in front of “torches,” and the middle voice of the word “going.”
Luke 3:9. “Is hewn down and cast into the fire.” Farrar admits that both the AV and RV render thus, and that English idiom makes it difficult to translate otherwise. “But the tenses of the original are what have been called ‘retributive presents.’ The words literally mean ‘is being cut down and being cast into the fire.’ The original Greek points to the important lesson of the continuity of God’s dispensations whether they be punitive or restorative. The use of the present tense is known, grammatically, as the praesens futurascens” (page vii). The CV translates, “is hewn down and cast into the fire.” But we show the middle voice of both “hewn” and “cast,” and in front of each is a short vertical stroke indicating the act verb form.
Thus by using the evidence which is provided in the CV, the student may go to the limits of fidelity by reading, “is being hewn down and is being cast into the fire.”
John 10:16. “And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” The author says that “the true reading and rendering are ‘They shall become one flock, one shepherd.’ ” He continues, “The importance of this correction can hardly be overestimated. On earth, there always have been, and so far as we know, always will be, ‘One flock of the one Shepherd,’ but there are, and always have been, in that one true flock many folds.” The CV translates, “and there will be one flock, one Shepherd.” Yet this is not all that the reader of this literal version is given. The “there” is not in the Greek, hence it is in lightface type; the short vertical stroke for the act verb form is in front of “be,” and still there is more to be noted. After the “be” is the abbreviation for the middle voice, and a superior italic c to indicate “become.” You must see it to believe it, you must own it and use it to learn what a wealth of information is supplied the student who cares to know exactly what God’s Word says.
Romans 3:25. “To declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” The author says that “here the mistranslation obliterates the meaning of the whole argument. The necessity for demonstrating God’s righteousness rose from His praeterition of—His overlooking of—the sins of the generations before the death of Christ.” See how forcefully and simply all this and more is set forth in the CV when it translates, “for a display of His righteousness because of the passing over of the penalties of sins which occurred before in the forbearance of God.” By means of superior signs and abbreviations the reader is shown, in addition to the point mentioned by Farrar, the following: the preposition “for” is literally “into;” the definite article appears before “righteousness” and also before “God;” and a superior circle before “occurred” is given to show the state verb form.
Each is vital for an exact awareness of the power of Paul’s pronouncement and for a full appreciation of God’s thought. By careful consideration of these details, we learn of God’s concern on our behalf, even before we knew there was aught about which to be concerned.
1 Corinthians 14:20. Farrar writes, “Here the correct version—‘Prove ye not children in mind; howbeit in malice be ye babes; but in mind prove ye adults’ (or ‘of full age’)—is one of hundreds of instances where the force and beauty of the original is brought out by noticing the exact terms of the Greek.” The CV translates, “Brethren, do not become little children in disposition. But in evil be minors, yet in disposition become mature.” How the English groans to tell all that is told in Greek! Yet with no previous knowledge of the Original, the student is practically reading Greek when he notices and mentally transfers the superior signs and abbreviations which are shown in the Version: “not” has a lightface “t” to indicate that Paul did not use the unconditional “not” but the conditional “no;” preceding “become” is the sign of the act verb form and after it the sign of the middle voice form; the definite article sign appears before “disposition,” “evil,” and “disposition;” and before “minors” we find the short vertical stroke of the act verb form.
Galatians 6:17. “The marks of the Lord Jesus.” Farrar points out that Paul does not merely claim he bears marks, but “I bear branded on my body the stigmata, the slave-brands, of Jesus.” Farrar continues, “To the ancients, familiar with the sight of slaves branded with the name or cognisance of their owners, the phrase would be full of picturesque force.” The CV translates, “For the rest, let no one afford me weariness, for I am bearing in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The superior signs and abbreviations again show more, much more. We can read literally, “Let no one be affording me wearinesses.” Furthermore, we note that the I is emphatic, for Paul’s opponents have a mark in their flesh due to handmade circumcision, while he has the manmade brand marks of a slave. “Let no one,” writes Paul, “go on affording me wearinesses, for I am bearing brand marks of a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.” One could write a book on this compressed thought and the relationship figured in slavery.
Ephesians 4:32. “Here the A.V. has ‘forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.’ It is from this verse that the very common phrase ‘for Christ’s sake’ is exclusively derived,” writes Farrar who now makes what may seem to some to be a shocking statement. “That phrase…does not once occur in Scripture in this connotation.” He goes on to say that “the phrase that God forgave us ‘for Christ’s sake’ is unknown to the Apostles.” He tells us that “the true rendering is far fuller, and far deeper, in meaning:— ‘even as God also, in Christ, forgave us.’ ” He rightly teaches that “Christians are often said to endure ‘for Christ’s sake’…; but the phrase that God forgave us ‘for Christ’s sake’ is unknown to the Apostles.” Here the CV not only agrees with but improves on Farrar’s suggestion. Paul did not use the Greek word for “forgive,” but the word for “grace.” So we translate what Paul wrote, “dealing graciously among yourselves, according as God also, in Christ deals graciously with you.” By eliminating the lightface words, literally, we read, “gracing yourselves…graces you.”
Read 2 Corinthians 5:18,19 and note well what Paul says God did with the world in Christ and what He does with us through Christ (In Christ—world, through Christ—us). What God has done objectively for all men in Christ is to be obtained subjectively by each man through Christ. The blood of the Passover lamb in the basin, which is for all inside the house, must be applied outside the house for God to see and thus keep the destroyer from the firstborn (Ex. 12:1-28). For example, through Jesus Christ’s faith God’s righteousness is for all, and upon all who are believing (Rom. 3:22). “For all” equals blood in the basin, “upon all” equals the applied blood on the lintel and doorposts. Again, God is the Saviour of all men, and in a special way of believers (1 Tim. 4:9-11). “Saviour of all” is pictured by the blood in the basin; “in a special way” pictures the blood applied to the lintel and doorposts of the believing heart.
Colossians 2:20-25. Farrar says that the AV rendering makes Paul’s statement “weakened, obscured, all but lost.” From this passage we may see how “valueless to subdue the indulgence of the flesh” are “will-worship, and voluntary self-humiliation, and severity of the body.” Asceticism and ceremonialism are nullities in the light of the Original of the passage, which should be one of the clearest in the New Testament. “So far indeed are they from being the right methods to produce spirituality of mind, that ‘will-worship’ has a chronic tendency to produce the arrogant and dead Pharisaism which Christ denounced in such burning words; and ascetic extravagances by a universal pathological law, instead of weakening the impulses of the body, add to them a more imperious violence.” The CV reads as follows: “If, then, you died together with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as living in the world, are you subject to decrees: ‘You should not be touching, nor yet tasting, nor yet coming into contact,’ (which things are all for corruption from use), in accord with the directions and teachings of men?—which are (having, indeed, an expression of wisdom in a wilful ritual and humility and asceticism) not of any value toward the surfeiting of the flesh.” To make sure that we have provided all that would support Farrar’s position, we shall add verses 16-19. “Let no one, then, be judging you in food or in drink or in the particulars of a festival, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of those things which are impending—yet the body is the Christ’s. Let no one be arbitrating against you, who wants, in humility and the ritual of the messengers, to parade what he has seen, feignedly, puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, out of Whom the entire body, being supplied and united through the assimilation and ligaments, is growing the growth of God.”
1 Thessalonians 5:22. “The direction of the original is not only that we are to abstain from all appearance of evil, but the more comprehensive rule that we are to abstain ‘from every form of evil.’ ” The CV reads, “From everything wicked to the perception, abstain.”
2 Thessalonians 2:2. Here we have an important distinction to note between “day of Christ” versus “day of the Lord.” Farrar writes that what Paul does say is, “do not be thrown into a state of excitement as though the day of the Lord is ‘already beginning’ or ‘now present.’ ” The saints were being disturbed by spirit, through word, or through an epistle that the day of the Lord was then present. Paul resists this and reassures them by writing what, in the CV reads as follows: “Now we are asking you, brethren, for the sake of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to Him, that you be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be alarmed, either through spirit, or through word, or through an epistle as through us, as that the day of the Lord is present.”
I Timothy 6:10. “The love of money is not ‘the root of all evil’ (A.V.) though it is ‘a root of all kinds of evil.’ ” The CV reads, “For a root of all of the evils is the fondness for money, which some, craving, were led astray from the faith and try themselves on all sides with much pain.”
2 Timothy 4:14. “The Lord will reward him according to his works.” Farrar reminds us that “the words may be softened down, but read like a malediction. The true reading and rendering show that the phrase is practically a quotation from Prov.xxiv.12, and means ‘The Lord will reward him (as He rewards all) according to his works.’ St. Paul expresses no wish for the retribution to fall on Alexander. He simply refers the matter to God, and leaves it in His hands.” The CV very simply and accurately renders the phrase, “the Lord will be paying him in accord with his acts.”
Titus 3:10. “ ‘A man that is an heretick reject....’ Neither ‘heresy’ nor ‘heretic’ occur in the New Testament. The words so rendered mean ‘faction’ and ‘factious.’ ” In the CV we translate, “A sectarian man, after one and a second admonition, refuse…” We distinguish between “sectarian” and “schismatic.” The sectarian is one who follows his preference, and the schismatic effects a split among people.
James 2:14. Farrar comments, “ ‘Can faith save him?’ This might sound like an implied contradiction of St. Paul; but, in the true rendering, it is nothing of the kind. It is ‘can that faith’ (a dead faith, faith without works) ‘save him?’ ” The CV reads, “What is the benefit, my brethren, if anyone should be saying he has faith, yet may have no works? The faith can not save him.” How much more is indicated can only be hinted at: the act form abbreviation is in front of “has,” “have,” “can”; the middle voice form after “can”; and the lightface “t” in “not” to show that the conditional negative “no” was used rather than the unconditional “not.”
1 Peter 2:9. “ ‘A peculiar people.’ Not so: God has no favorites; but ‘a people for God’s own possession.‘ ” This is said in the CV by “a procured people” or an about-doing people.
The chapter closes with a reference to the AV’s “four beasts” of Revelation 4:6. Farrar speaks of the problem by writing that “Many of the defects of our A.V. rise simply from the neglect of distinctions. Whereas in an unfortunate desire to produce agreeable variety, the translators of 1611 used many different words to render the same Greek word, they sometimes (unfortunately) used the same word for different Greek words.”
He insists that “the true version is always a matter of real interest.” He refers again to those candidates for Holy Orders, saying that he “repeatedly found that the majority of them were unacquainted with the exact translation or real meaning.” He commends the Revised Version for the boon it has conferred on us “though still capable of improvement in many particulars… It has prepared for a still more accurate and perfect version in the future; and in that future translation it may be confidently prophesied that most of the alternative renderings now relegated to the margin will be incorporated into the text” (page xv).
This book by F. W. Farrar was published in 1899 by F. M. Barton of Cleveland, Ohio, and copyrighted in 1899 by Dodd, Mead, and Company (now out of print). The concern about inconsistencies in translation is almost prophetic of the motive for the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT. And though the English Revised Version was not consulted when the CV was made, yet the Concordant system ferreted out those texts which needed improving, and thus anticipated these obvious faults and incorporated these suggested improvements into our Version.
The rest of Farrar’s book deals with texts in each of the twenty-seven New Testament books, suggesting improvements and refinements which the Greek text and grammar indicate.
 All italicized words in the quotations are the author’s unless otherwise noted.
CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT, Instructions for Use, page 4.
CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT, Instructions for Use, page 5.
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