Translation challenge

Sep 15, 2014 by

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Steven Johns (Letters & Comments, Aug. 18) puts forward a Greek word for “servant,” pais, which does not match that found in Strong’s Greek-English lexicon as the Greek word translated as “servant” in Matt. 8:5-13 and Luke 7:10. Johns suggests that the servant was the centurion’s male lover. Johns fails to take into account that, whatever word may appear in the accepted Greek texts, it seems most unlikely that Jesus actually said in Greek whatever he is recorded to have said, here or anywhere else. The overwhelming bulk of Jesus’ teaching would have been in Aramaic, the common language of Judea as well as Galilee. The New Testament writers surely translated into Greek what they or their primary sources first heard in Aramaic or Hebrew. Translation has many pitfalls. Certain ideas and concepts cannot be adequately translated from one language to another. A translator often has to choose less than completely accurate words to try to convey the original meanings. So what did Jesus really say? I believe that somehow, by God’s grace manifested through the Holy Spirit, the translators over the centuries have basically gotten it right. Many “progressive” Mennonites will welcome Johns’ conclusions without thinking about the linguistic issues. To those I say: It is just this kind of exegesis that leads other supposedly sound Bible scholars to declare it is the will of Jesus Christ that his followers go to war.

D.R. Yoder
Epworth, Ga.


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