The New Testament was written in ancient Greek. Unfortunately, ancient Greek and modern English grammar, vocabulary and culture aren't interchangeable.
Translators have chosen many solutions to this problem, hence the variety of translations. One choice involves choosing how large a unit of meaning in the Greek to translate into English at a time. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but on one end of the spectrum you can try to translate one Greek word at a time into one English word at a time — generally regarded as a 'literal' translation. To do this strictly would actually result in an incomprehensible translation — hardly what we want. On the other end of the spectrum (in practice) you can translate a complete Greek sentence by a complete English sentence, without worrying about any sort of 'word to word' correspondence. This is known as 'dynamic equivalence'. With a 'dynamic equivalence' translation, the English is a readable to the English reader as the Greek would have been to a Greek reader.
There are many fine 'dynamic equivalence' translations, so there is no point in adding to their number. But I thought it might be interesting, and useful, to do a translation more on the 'literal' end of the spectrum, which uses English more creatively to capture more of the sense of the original New Testament.
Most translations of the New Testament take the approach of making the meaning of the original Greek fit ordinary and proper English. Virtually all popular translations use this approach (King James, RSV, NASB, etc.).
But consider: hardly any of us can read ancient Greek, but most of you reading this page know English very well. (Not English grammar terminology, but real English that you use every day.)
What if a translation took advantage of that fact and used English that you know so well with just a little creativity to convey more vividly the detail and meaning of the original Greek New Testament? More than is available in the mainstream translations? In other words, instead of 'bending' the sense of the Greek to fit normal English, why not 'bend' English to better fit the Greek? See the examples below.
We're not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the mainstream translations like the King James or the Revised Standard Version. Nothing could be farther from our view! But we do believe that there is a place for a translation that does not limit itself to "utterly ordinary and proper English", in order to convey more of the details of the meaning in the Original.
Examples of the Faithful New Testament approach
To a surprising degree, translators sometimes pass over details of the original Greek New Testament unnecessarily. For example, the phrase "the kingdom of heaven," which appears so frequently in Matthew's gospel, is not singular, it's plural ('singular' means 'just one', 'plural' means 'more than one'):
Blessed are the poor in the spirit
For theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.
Faithful New Testament Matt. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in the spirit
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
King James Blessed are the poor in the spirit
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
RSV Blessed are the poor in the spirit
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In other passages, the Matthew uses 'heaven' singular, such as in the Lord's Prayer:
"Your kingdom come, your will come to pass, as in heaven, so also on earth." (Matt.6:10)
The Faithful New Testament takes the position that details in the original New Testament like singular and plural should be translated literally as much as possible — especially when they can be translated by perfectly normal English — so English readers can assess the significance for themselves.
English uses the one word "love" for an enormous variety of types of love; the Greek distinguishes them by using many different words. The two principle words for "love" in the New Testament: are "agape" ("ah-GAH-pay") and "philia" ("fi-LEE-ah"), and the Faithful New Testament translates them as "agape-love" and "philia-love" respectively.
Some Bible expositors teach that agape-love is "God's Love" and philia-love is "Man's Love". But consider:
How can you have "God's love" for the darkness? And Paul says
Men agape-loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked. (John 3:19, Faithful New Testament)
If anyone does not philia-love the Lord, let him be accursed. (I Cor. 16:22, Faithful New Testament)
This would seem to indicate that philia-love is as important as agape-love.
The Faithful New Testament enables the English reader to know immediately which of these two words for "love" is used in any passage, which ultimately is the only way to understand the different meanings.
Making clear the different Greek words for "love" in the English sometimes dramatically clarifies otherwise confusing passages. For example, in the following passage, the resurrected Jesus is talking to Peter, who had so recently denied Jesus three times (bold is added):
Faithful New Testament:
When therefore they ate breakfast, Jesus says to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, do you agape-love me more than these? He says to them: Yes, Lord, you know that I philia-love you. He says to him: Be feeding my lambs. 16 He says to him again a second time: Simon son of John, do you agape-love me? He says to him: Yes Lord, you know that I philia-love you. He says to him: Be shepherding my sheep. 17 He says to him the third time: Simon Peter, do you philia-love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time: Do you philia-love me? And he said to him: You know everything, you know that I philia-love you. Jesus says to him: Be feeding my sheep. (John 21: 15-17)
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?" He saith unto Him, "Yes, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee." He saith unto him, "Feed my lambs." 16 He saith to him again the second time, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" He saith unto Him, "Yes, Lord, Though knowest that I love Thee." He saith unto him, "Feed My sheep." 17 He saith unto him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, "Lovest thou Me?" and he said unto Him, "Lord Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I loveth Thee." Jesus saith unto him, "Feed My sheep." (John 21: 15-17)
The first two times Jesus asks Peter if he agape-loves Him, Peter replies that he philia-loves Him ; the third time when He asks Peter if philia-loves Him (which Peter had already said twice that he does), Peter is upset. (It's interesting that Jesus questions Peter three times — the same number of times that Peter had denied Him just days earlier.)
By going beyond easily translated details and stretching English just a little to better fit the Greek, the Faithful New Testament captures more of the meaning of the Original.
Greek makes its negatives more emphatic by doubling and sometimes tripling them. The Faithful New Testament indicates a double negative by underlining the word "not" (that is, "not"), a triple negative by underlining the word "NOT" all upper case, (that is, "NOT"):
I will not abandon you, and I will NOT forsake you. Faithful New Testament Heb. 13:5 I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. King James Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. RSV I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. NASB
Although double negatives are fairly common, triple negatives are quite rare, only occurring a half dozen times in the entire New Testament. To have both a double and a triple negative in the same sentence is extremely unusual. With the Faithful New Testament, English readers can see for themselves the emphasis in the Original: This powerful emphasis is completely lost in other translations.
And he said to them: With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I say to you that I will NO LONGER eat it until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. 17 And having taken a cup, having given thanks he said: Take this and divide it among yourselves, 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the product of the vine from now until the kingdom of God come. (Luke 22:15-18)
In this passage, "NO LONGER" is a rare triple-negative - the strongest negative that can be expressed in Greek. And just a couple verses later Jesus uses another strong double negative "I will not drink of the product of the vine…".
In various passages, the New Testament is much more forceful than would appear in other translations:
And behold a leper, having come, prostrated himself before him saying: Lord, if you wish it, you are able to cleanse me. And stretching out his hand he grasped him saying: I wish it, be cleansed. (Matt.8:2-3)
Generally verse 3 is translated "… he touched him…", which suggests that perhaps Jesus just barely touched the leper. But the Original makes it clear that Jesus grasped the leper — a truly shocking and fearless act. (Imagine confidently grasping someone with a horrible disease that is transmitted by touch.)
And stretching out his hand He grasped him... Faithful New Testament Matt.8:3 And Jesus put forth His hand, and he touched him... King James And Jesus put forth His hand, and he touched him... RSV And Jesus put forth His hand, and he touched him... NASB
Greek verbs can express "continual action" — action that takes place over a period of time, versus "point" or "matter-of-fact" action — action that takes place essentially at one point in time. For example:
"Now Krispus, the chief of the synagogue, believed ["point action" or "matter of fact"] in the lord with his whole house, and many of the Corinthians, having heard ["point action" or "matter of fact"], were believing ["continual action"] and were being baptized ["continual action"]." (Acts 18:8)
In the case of imperatives ("commands") especially, the type of action can deepen the meaning considerably. Matt.7:7 is usually translated "Ask ... Seek ... Knock ... ", implying that one need only ask, seek or knock once, whereas the Original makes it clear that a continual course of action is required: "Be [continually] asking ..." (that is, don't stop!) English is perfectly capable of expressing these kinds of distinctions:
Be asking, and it will be given to you;
be seeking and you will find;
be knocking, and it will be opened to you.
Faithful New Testament Matt. 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given to you;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened unto you.
King James Ask, and it will be given you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you
RSV Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
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