The Power  Of
The  Translator's Pen

by Jim Myers

                    When you pick up your Bible, what are you really holding in your hand? If you are holding a book written in English, you are not holding the Bible. The fact of the matter is that every English book that is called "the Bible" is, in reality, an English translation and not the Bible itself. Have you ever thought about that before? When I open my King James Bible to the cover page I find the following words, "Translated out of the original tongues and with previous translations diligently compared and revised." Go get your Bible to see what it says.

                   Now let’s take a look at a re-creation of one of those ancient documents which contains the "original tongues" that modern translators use to make our English translations. If you viewed a recreation of Codex Sinaiticus, one of the oldest Greek manuscripts, written around 350 A.D., you would notice that there are no spaces between words, no punctuation marks, and no paragraph divisions.

                    Are you ready to have some fun and participate in a learning experience at the same time? We are going to pretend you are the translator so that you can discover what it is like to work with an ancient manuscript, but it’s not going to be "all Greek to you." Your newly discovered ancient manuscript is in English. Get ready to depart on the treasure hunt of your life as you become the head archaeologist and chief translator.

     YOU'RE IN CHARGE OF THE DIG!   

                    You have been working for months at a remote archaeological site. Sometimes you wonder if you are just wasting your time, but then you hear shouts from your workers. They are calling for you to come see what they found. You stare into the dimly lighted tunnel, waiting for your eyes to adjust. Then you see it, the top of a large clay jar partially exposed by the workers efforts. You take over and supervise the removal of the fragile discovery. The workers take it to your tent and you slowly open the top. Your leaps as you see the outline of an ancient manuscript inside. Carefully you remove it from the jar and slowly unroll it on your work table. 

                    You quickly pick up your PENCIL, not a pen, because you learned many years ago that this tedious work required the constant use of an eraser.

Step 1 - Find the Words

                    Examine the letters in the top box and place a slash ( / ) between the letters that end one word and begin the next word. For example, the top line is shown below:

NOWASHEPASSEDB

                    Below are some of the possible words in this line:

NO/WAS/HE/PASSED/B

NOW/A/SHE/PASSED/B

NOW/AS/HE/PASSED/B

                    The last letter on the first line, B, is the beginning letter of the word whose letters continue on the second line.

NOWASHEPASSED/B

Y/HESAWAMANWHO

                    Therefore, the last letter of the first line goes with the first letter of the second line and makes up the word BY. Now, that’s the only word I am going to give you. Hey, I have already given you three possibilities for the first line!

      Take your PENCIL and divide the words in the box above.

Step 2 - Write the Words Using Small Letters, Not Capitals

                    Your next step is to write the words you identified above in small letters. Do not use any capital letters or punctuation marks. You can write on the next page or on another piece of paper. Let’s say you chose my option number one for the first line. You would write it like this:

no was he passed by

                    Don’t write the words in columns, just write them in columns. When you finish, continue on to the next step.

Step 3 - Add the Periods

                    Now it’s time to locate the sentences and place the periods in their proper places. By this time, you should know why we are using a pencil.

Step 4 - Add the Capital Letters

                    Erase the first letter of the first word in each sentence and replace it with a capital letter. Also capitalize the first letter of the name of a person or place.

Step 5 - Add Punctuation Marks

                    Now it’s time to add commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, quotation marks, etc.

Congratulations!!!

                    You did it - you finished your translation. Now check it out.

Check Your Translation

                    The text you have been meticulously laboring over is found in John 9:1-7. Below is a translation from the New King James Version (with a few modifications):

1 Now as he passed by, he saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 4 "We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." 6 When he had said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay with the spit; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 7 And he said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.

                    How close were you to the King James translators?

Setting the Scene

                    Our next step will be to reconstruct the scene in which the biblical account takes place.

(1) Jesus and his disciples are walking together.
(2) Jesus saw a man who was blind from birth.
(3) The disciples also noticed the man.
(4) The disciples asked why the man was blind.
(5) Jesus responded to their question.
(6) Jesus spat on clay, using his saliva, then put it on the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam.
(7) The man did all this and could see.

The Question

                    Jesus’ disciples set everything in motion when they asked a very interesting question, a question whose importance slips by most readers.

"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

                    Take a good, hard look at that question and think about what is really being asked. Your conclusion will probably be similar to this:

(1) The disciples thought Jesus was a rabbi.
(2) Sin caused the man’s blindness.
(3) The disciples wanted to know whose sin caused the blindness.

Keep a Muzzle on Your Culture

                    One of the main hazards of translation is that we unconsciously allow our 1998 American culture to slip into our work. In other words, we fail to flag those words that are well known today, but had a different meaning at the time of the story. Without a warning flag the readers will insert their modern meanings.

      Rabbi  
                    The first flagged word we encounter is ‘Rabbi.’ What does Rabbi mean to you? Today, a rabbi is an ordained religious official who, in most cases, is associated with and employed by a synagogue. However, this meaning for rabbi didn’t exist at the time of Jesus. It would be at least 100 years after Jesus’ earthly life before this meaning of rabbi would be common and applicable.

Linguistic Key
The meaning of a word may change over time, even though the word is spelled and sounds exactly the same.

  Are You Reading a Translation or Transliteration?

                    Look at the Greek text in the box on page one in the first column - last two letters of the seventh line and the first three letters of the eighth line. The Greek word you will see is PABBI. The translator had two options - translate or transliterate.

 Linguistic Key
Translation
is when the meaning is transferred
from one language to another.

Transliteration is when the letters of one language are written in the equivalent letters of another language.

Below we have written the Greek letters with their English equivalent letters beneath.

P

A

B

B

I

R

A

B

B

I

As you can easily see, the translators chose to transliterate the word PABBI - RABBI.

                    The problem with this choice is that a transliteration doesn’t provide the meaning of the word PABBI.  All we know is how it sounds. Langenscheidt’s Greek Dictionary defines the word PABBI as ‘master.’

                    Since the modern English reader’s vocabulary presently includes the word ‘rabbi,’ it would have been preferable that the translator use the translation instead of the transliteration. The better choice would be this:

"Master, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

Are We Reading Jesus’ Message
or the Translator’s Beliefs?

                    The answer to the disciple’s question provided by the King James Version is:

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

                    When we examine the first sentence of the above answer, we learn the following concerning why the man was or was not blind:

(1) It wasn’t because of the blind man’s sin.
(2) It wasn’t because of his parents’ sins.
(3) It was because "the works of God should be revealed in him."

Do you believe that God made this man blind,
and kept him blind for many years, just so Jesus could heal him?

o YES   o NO NO

 

The Choice of Punctuation
Can Change the Meaning

                    I have a very difficult time believing that the Creator of the universe would do such an injustice to a human being. Please keep three points in mind:

(1) The ancient text had no word breaks or punctuation.
(2) The translator decided both of the above.
(3) The translator held personal religious beliefs.

                    Now let’s take another look at Jesus’ answer, except this time we will change the punctuation marks.

"Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But that the works of God should be revealed in him, we must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day. The night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

                    Do you see the difference? Jesus’ disciples were assuming that every sick person was sick because of some sin they had committed. But, Jesus doesn’t agree with them - as a matter of fact he doesn’t even respond to their assumption. Instead, Jesus is concerned about the man’s condition and the only thing on his mind is to help the man.

                    Have you ever bumped into those people who act like ‘sin bloodhounds’? They go around sniffing everywhere trying to find sin in everyone’s life - except their own. Apparently, Jesus’ disciples may have had a similar problem at that time.

                    Jesus exhibits a very humble character as he begins his answer with the words - "But that the works of God should be revealed . . ." However, he points out that their efforts will play a role in God’s healing work: ". . .we must work the works of Him . . ."

". . .we must work the works of Him . . ." ". . .we must work the works of Him . . ."

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

                    Notice that Jesus didn’t forgive the man of his sins before proceeding to work on the problem - blindness. He reminded the disciples that there was a limited amount of time he would be here. Then he did something very strange:

" . . . he spat on the ground and made clay with the spit; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."

                    Why would he have done such a weird thing? I guess it was a good thing the fellow couldn’t see what was happening.

The Spittle of the Firstborn Son

                    Jesus was a lifelong resident of the Land of Israel. Jesus was a Jew so his Jewish culture provides us with a treasure chest of accurate meanings for his words.

                    One Jewish tradition was that the spittle of the firstborn son could be used to heal people, especially people with eye problems. One tradition even mentions mixing this spittle with clay and putting the mixture on the eyes of the sick person.

                    Therefore Jesus did something that was well understood among the Jewish people. I used to wonder why no one who was standing there reacted to this strange course of action. But, as we now know, the people watching all of this knew what he was doing.

The Pool of Siloam

And he said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent).

                    We now are aware of two different pools - the upper pool and the lower pool. The upper pool comes out from an arch underneath the mosque today. In the Herodian or Roman period a visitor would approach the pool by descending a stepped street in the Tyropoeon Valley. The street runs along the side of the pool and, as it does so, descends steeply, going down 26 feet in a horizontal distance of about 82 feet.

                    Turning left at the bottom the visitor walked along the southeast wall of the pool to a door that admitted him into a covered gallery giving him access to the edge of the water. In the water stood sixteen pillars supporting the roof arches, and on these rested a wooden roof covered with tiles, open in the middle to the sky. Around the pool was a low wall 2 feet high.

                    The lower pool is now called Birket el Hamra and is located at the point where the Road in the Tyropoeon Valley joins the Road in the Kidron Valley (see diagram below). Whenever Josephus mentions the pool he says that it was outside the city wall. If we heed Josephus, the lower pool must have have been the ‘Pool of Siloam’ mentioned in John’s Gospel. However, Christians have treated the upper pool as the ‘Pool of Siloam’ since before 333 AD.

A Much More Accurate Understanding
of Jesus’ Message

                    When we use a linguistic approach to study the words of Jesus we get a much more accurate and thorough understanding of Jesus’ words, wouldn’t you now agree? In this study we began with the ancient Greek manuscript and observed what the translator saw when he made the English translation. We discovered that the punctuation marks were not set in stone.

                    It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.                     It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.

". . .we must work the works of Him . . ." ". . .we must work the works of Him . . ."

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

                    Notice that Jesus didn’t forgive the man of his sins before proceeding to work on the problem - blindness. He reminded the disciples that there was a limited amount of time he would be here. Then he did something very strange:

" . . . he spat on the ground and made clay with the spit; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."

                    Why would he have done such a weird thing? I guess it was a good thing the fellow couldn’t see what was happening.

The Spittle of the Firstborn Son

                    Jesus was a lifelong resident of the Land of Israel. Jesus was a Jew so his Jewish culture provides us with a treasure chest of accurate meanings for his words.

                    One Jewish tradition was that the spittle of the firstborn son could be used to heal people, especially people with eye problems. One tradition even mentions mixing this spittle with clay and putting the mixture on the eyes of the sick person.

                    Therefore Jesus did something that was well understood among the Jewish people. I used to wonder why no one who was standing there reacted to this strange course of action. But, as we now know, the people watching all of this knew what he was doing.

The Pool of Siloam

And he said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent).

                    We now are aware of two different pools - the upper pool and the lower pool. The upper pool comes out from an arch underneath the mosque today. In the Herodian or Roman period a visitor would approach the pool by descending a stepped street in the Tyropoeon Valley. The street runs along the side of the pool and, as it does so, descends steeply, going down 26 feet in a horizontal distance of about 82 feet.

                    Turning left at the bottom the visitor walked along the southeast wall of the pool to a door that admitted him into a covered gallery giving him access to the edge of the water. In the water stood sixteen pillars supporting the roof arches, and on these rested a wooden roof covered with tiles, open in the middle to the sky. Around the pool was a low wall 2 feet high.

                    The lower pool is now called Birket el Hamra and is located at the point where the Road in the Tyropoeon Valley joins the Road in the Kidron Valley (see diagram below). Whenever Josephus mentions the pool he says that it was outside the city wall. If we heed Josephus, the lower pool must have have been the ‘Pool of Siloam’ mentioned in John’s Gospel. However, Christians have treated the upper pool as the ‘Pool of Siloam’ since before 333 AD.

A Much More Accurate Understanding
of Jesus’ Message

                    When we use a linguistic approach to study the words of Jesus we get a much more accurate and thorough understanding of Jesus’ words, wouldn’t you now agree? In this study we began with the ancient Greek manuscript and observed what the translator saw when he made the English translation. We discovered that the punctuation marks were not set in stone.

                    It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.                     It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.

". . .we must work the works of Him . . ." ". . .we must work the works of Him . . ."

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

                    Notice that Jesus didn’t forgive the man of his sins before proceeding to work on the problem - blindness. He reminded the disciples that there was a limited amount of time he would be here. Then he did something very strange:

" . . . he spat on the ground and made clay with the spit; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."

                    Why would he have done such a weird thing? I guess it was a good thing the fellow couldn’t see what was happening.

The Spittle of the Firstborn Son

                    Jesus was a lifelong resident of the Land of Israel. Jesus was a Jew so his Jewish culture provides us with a treasure chest of accurate meanings for his words.

                    One Jewish tradition was that the spittle of the firstborn son could be used to heal people, especially people with eye problems. One tradition even mentions mixing this spittle with clay and putting the mixture on the eyes of the sick person.

                    Therefore Jesus did something that was well understood among the Jewish people. I used to wonder why no one who was standing there reacted to this strange course of action. But, as we now know, the people watching all of this knew what he was doing.

The Pool of Siloam

And he said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent).

                    We now are aware of two different pools - the upper pool and the lower pool. The upper pool comes out from an arch underneath the mosque today. In the Herodian or Roman period a visitor would approach the pool by descending a stepped street in the Tyropoeon Valley. The street runs along the side of the pool and, as it does so, descends steeply, going down 26 feet in a horizontal distance of about 82 feet.

                    Turning left at the bottom the visitor walked along the southeast wall of the pool to a door that admitted him into a covered gallery giving him access to the edge of the water. In the water stood sixteen pillars supporting the roof arches, and on these rested a wooden roof covered with tiles, open in the middle to the sky. Around the pool was a low wall 2 feet high.

                    The lower pool is now called Birket el Hamra and is located at the point where the Road in the Tyropoeon Valley joins the Road in the Kidron Valley (see diagram below). Whenever Josephus mentions the pool he says that it was outside the city wall. If we heed Josephus, the lower pool must have have been the ‘Pool of Siloam’ mentioned in John’s Gospel. However, Christians have treated the upper pool as the ‘Pool of Siloam’ since before 333 AD.

A Much More Accurate Understanding
of Jesus’ Message

                    When we use a linguistic approach to study the words of Jesus we get a much more accurate and thorough understanding of Jesus’ words, wouldn’t you now agree? In this study we began with the ancient Greek manuscript and observed what the translator saw when he made the English translation. We discovered that the punctuation marks were not set in stone.

                    It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.                     It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.

". . .we must work the works of Him . . ." ". . .we must work the works of Him . . ."

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

                    Notice that Jesus didn’t forgive the man of his sins before proceeding to work on the problem - blindness. He reminded the disciples that there was a limited amount of time he would be here. Then he did something very strange:

" . . . he spat on the ground and made clay with the spit; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."

                    Why would he have done such a weird thing? I guess it was a good thing the fellow couldn’t see what was happening.

The Spittle of the Firstborn Son

                    Jesus was a lifelong resident of the Land of Israel. Jesus was a Jew so his Jewish culture provides us with a treasure chest of accurate meanings for his words.

                    One Jewish tradition was that the spittle of the firstborn son could be used to heal people, especially people with eye problems. One tradition even mentions mixing this spittle with clay and putting the mixture on the eyes of the sick person.

                    Therefore Jesus did something that was well understood among the Jewish people. I used to wonder why no one who was standing there reacted to this strange course of action. But, as we now know, the people watching all of this knew what he was doing.

The Pool of Siloam

And he said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent).

                    We now are aware of two different pools - the upper pool and the lower pool. The upper pool comes out from an arch underneath the mosque today. In the Herodian or Roman period a visitor would approach the pool by descending a stepped street in the Tyropoeon Valley. The street runs along the side of the pool and, as it does so, descends steeply, going down 26 feet in a horizontal distance of about 82 feet.

                    Turning left at the bottom the visitor walked along the southeast wall of the pool to a door that admitted him into a covered gallery giving him access to the edge of the water. In the water stood sixteen pillars supporting the roof arches, and on these rested a wooden roof covered with tiles, open in the middle to the sky. Around the pool was a low wall 2 feet high.

                    The lower pool is now called Birket el Hamra and is located at the point where the Road in the Tyropoeon Valley joins the Road in the Kidron Valley (see diagram below). Whenever Josephus mentions the pool he says that it was outside the city wall. If we heed Josephus, the lower pool must have have been the ‘Pool of Siloam’ mentioned in John’s Gospel. However, Christians have treated the upper pool as the ‘Pool of Siloam’ since before 333 AD.

A Much More Accurate Understanding
of Jesus’ Message

                    When we use a linguistic approach to study the words of Jesus we get a much more accurate and thorough understanding of Jesus’ words, wouldn’t you now agree? In this study we began with the ancient Greek manuscript and observed what the translator saw when he made the English translation. We discovered that the punctuation marks were not set in stone.

                    It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.                     It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation.

". . .we must work the works of Him . . ." ". . .we must work the works of Him . . ."

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

Don’t waste your valuable time looking for someone to blame -
solve the problem and make someone’s life better!

                    Notice that Jesus didn’t forgive the man of his sins before proceeding to work on the problem - blindness. He reminded the disciples that there was a limited amount of time he would be here. Then he did something very strange:

" . . . he spat on the ground and made clay with the spit; and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay."

                    Why would he have done such a weird thing? I guess it was a good thing the fellow couldn’t see what was happening.

The Spittle of the Firstborn Son

                    Jesus was a lifelong resident of the Land of Israel. Jesus was a Jew so his Jewish culture provides us with a treasure chest of accurate meanings for his words.

                    One Jewish tradition was that the spittle of the firstborn son could be used to heal people, especially people with eye problems. One tradition even mentions mixing this spittle with clay and putting the mixture on the eyes of the sick person.

                    Therefore Jesus did something that was well understood among the Jewish people. I used to wonder why no one who was standing there reacted to this strange course of action. But, as we now know, the people watching all of this knew what he was doing.

A Much More Accurate Understanding
of Jesus’ Message

                    When we use a linguistic approach to study the words of Jesus we get a much more accurate and thorough understanding of Jesus’ words, wouldn’t you now agree? In this study we began with the ancient Greek manuscript and observed what the translator saw when he made the English translation. We discovered that the punctuation marks were not set in stone.

It appears that the 17th century beliefs of the translator may have strongly influenced how he punctuated his translation. As a result, English readers of the translation have been presented with an image of God that said He created a blind baby just so Jesus could come by many years later and heal him. I wonder how this made thousands of blind people feel?

Wouldn’t you have wondered if God had made you blind for some unknown reason? Wouldn’t that affect your relationship with God?

By the Way -

What About the Reincarnation Question?

                    Do you remember the question that Jesus’ disciples asked?

"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"

                    When did the disciple of Jesus think the man could have committed the sin that caused his blindness? The man had been blind from birth, right?

The man had been blind from birth, right?

The only possible answer is
" before he was born!"

                    How could he have sinned before his own birth? But wait, there are even more important questions we should consider:

  1. Why would a disciple of Jesus believe it was possible to sin before birth?
  2. Did he believe in reincarnation?
  3. If he did, who taught this belief to him?

                     The Jewish culture contains hints of such a belief. I have listened to more than one
rabbi discuss the ‘recycling of souls.’ Sadly, we are left with no answer from Jesus; he didn’t respond to it.       

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