DIGGING DEEP 2 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 2 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Recap from last week:

  • Translations are still the Word of God. They’re also inspired and inerrant to the extent that they represent the original text.
  • Understand the difference between Wahy and Ilham (direct revelation vs. inspiration of the Holy Spirit)
  • There is no perfect or ultimate English Bible translation or word-for-word translation.
  • The best translation is the “modified literal.” “Modified” represents the real situation and “literal” represents the ideal goal. (Taken from Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal?) I lean more towards the literal side of things.

How Translation Works:


2 Major Views of Translation:

  1. Formal Equivalent: It is also known as “literal” or “word-for-word” translation. It tries to preserve the form in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek writing. This is with regards to both word and grammar.
  2. Functional Equivalent: It is also known as “idiomatic” or “meaning-based” translation. Some have even called it dynamic. It tries to focus on the meaning, naturalness, and clarity.

The matter is more complicated than that. The following is a better Range of Translation, as taken from John Beekman and John Callow’s book, Translating the Word of God.)


A.  Highly Literal – The focus is on both words and word orders. For e.g. Interlinears.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Actual – Joshua 1:9 (BHS) הֲלֹ֤וא צִוִּיתִ֨יךָ֙ חֲזַ֣ק וֶאֱמָ֔ץ אַֽל־תַּעֲרֹ֖ץ וְאַל־תֵּחָ֑ת כִּ֤י עִמְּךָ֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ׃ פ

Literal Translation – ?·not I-instructed·you be-steadfast-you ! and·be-resolute-you ! must-not-be you-are-being-terrified and·must-not-be you-are-being-dismayed that with·you Yahweh· Elohim-of·you in·all which you-are-going

John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Actual – ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,

Literal Translation – as many as   but received him   he gives   to them   right   children   of God   to be becoming   to the   ones believing   into the   name of   him.

B.  Modified Literal Translation – It focuses on words and is willing to modify the word order to make sense. For e.g. NKJV, NASB, ESV

C.  Idiomatic Translation – It focuses much more on sounding natural and clear. For e.g. NLT, God’s Word, etc.

Joshua 1:9 “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

John 1:12 “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

D.  Unduly Free – It changes the wording and word order, historical setting, and original context to suit the present audience. For e.g. Cotton Patch Version

Important point to remember: No translation is strictly one or the other (except maybe the Unduly Free). They frequently overlap, some more than others.

Example: Job 19:27

Hebrew – “which I I-shall-perceive for·me and·eyes-of·me they-see and·not alien-one they-are-exhausted kidneys-of·me in·bosom-of·me.”

NKJV – “Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

ESV – “Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

NIV – “I will see Him myself; my eyes will look at Him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.

NLT – “I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

MESSAGE – “see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!

KJV – “Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Episode 11: Biblical Words

In this episode, Abidan Paul Shah focuses on biblical words and their meanings. Often people do poor word studies and misinterpret passages. This episode will teach you to study words in their proper contexts.

For more information on Digging Deep, Clearview Church’s summer Bible study, check out the Facebook page at facebook.com/ClearviewDiggingDeep. You can also find the notes from each week on Pastor Shah’s blog.


DIGGING DEEP – 5 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Some preliminary remarks about language(s):

  • It is possible to communicate God’s Word in human words without any errors.
  • Avoid claims that one language is intellectually superior to another.
  • The main purpose is to understand how the language works at a particular stage and not how it has evolved. For e.g. Grammar and glamour are related.

Recognize language families:

  • Semitic (Hebrew and Aramaic)

Our focus is Northwest Semitic, which is divided into Canaanite and Aramaic

Abraham probably spoke an ancient form of Aramaic, coming from the Aramean region, Upper Mesopotamia (Deut. 26:5)

They must have adopted a form of Canaanite that later became Hebrew.

Hebrew probably had its glory days under David and Solomon but did not spread beyond the borders of Israel.

Aramaic became an international language under the Assyrians.

Later the people of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) were taken into exile to Babylon where they adopted Aramaic.

When they returned, they kept both Hebrew and Aramaic but the later became more prominent.

98.5% of the OT was written in Hebrew. Parts of the OT were in Aramaic: Genesis 31:47; Jeremiah 10:11; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; and Daniel 2:4b-7:28. Also, Jesus more than likely spoke Aramaic based on evidence of inscriptions, Aramaic words in the Gospels, Aramaic papyri evidence, presence of Aramaic in the Jerusalem Talmud and targums.

Hebrew can be divided into various periods: Early Biblical Hebrew (oldest poetic composition), Classical Biblical Hebrew (pre-exilic to post-exilic), Late Biblical Hebrew (Persian Period).

Hebrew almost became a dead language after the destruction of the temple and hence the Masoretes had to insert vowels into the text.

  • Indo-European (Greek)

Mycenean Greek goes back to the 13th century BC.

It was fragmented – Ionic (Western coast of Asia Minor), Attica (Athens), Aeolic (Thessaly), Doric (Corinth)

Athens became the cultural center and hence Attic played a big role in Greek literature.

Because of Alexander the Great (356-323BC), it became the lingua franca.

It went through some radical changes and became koine, the language in which the New Testament was written.

Koine is not “Holy Spirit” Greek, just common Greek of the time.


For our purpose of studying the Bible in depth, language can be broken down in 3 parts: 

  1. Word – is the building block of language. But, without a context, words are almost meaningless. For e.g. “Set that on the counter” and “Counter that argument.” One of the most common mistakes in word studies is “Root Fallacy” – meaning is determined by etymology (origin of the word). For e.g. “Good-bye” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “God Be With You.” But, the word “nice” comes from the Latin necius, which means “ignorant.” Other examples: bureau, express, beef, and pork.

Common Greek Misuse: “agapao” vs phileo. Agapao = divine love and phileo = brotherly love. But it is not so clear-cut. There are many overlaps. In Sam 13:15, agapao (LXX) is used for Amnon’s rape of his sister. II Tim 4:10 – Demas left Paul because he loved this present, evil world. Again, John 3:35 – Love =agapao but John 5:20 – Love = phileo.

Along with the syntax, we need literary and historical context. Also, the speech patterns of biblical Hebrew and Greek culture must determine the principles for word study. This does not mean that every root word study is useless.

  1. Sentence – It’s not enough to look at what the Bible contains but what it communicates. Sentence is a complete thought. Some cautions here as well regarding excessive use of grammatical categories. For e.g. Aorist in Romans 6:10
  1. Paragraph – Sometimes the Bible indicates where it starts and ends but many times it doesn’t. The context is key. There are many complicated tools to recognize shifts in paragraphs but just being sensitive to the context can help a lot.


Test Passages:

  1. Difference in meaning of the words “faith,” “works,” and “justify” as seen in Romans 4:1-5 and James 2:14-26.


  1. What is the place of “faith” in Mark 11:22 vs. Galatians 2:16, Acts 3:16, Colossians 2:12?


  1. How specific is a usage? Philippians 1:27 and Galatians 1:12


  1. Is this too much grammar? Matthew 7:7


  1. What is the flow of Romans 1:16-18?
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