Translation errors can radically change what was said

There are many sections in God's Word that present few problems in translation or understanding. These sections (or verses) stand on their own and communicate the heart of what is being said with no need for commentary or intense scrutiny. Many of the Psalms fit into this category as do most of the Proverbs.

There are many sections in God's Word that present massive problems due to translation errors or difficulty understanding what is said. It is these sections (or verses) that many times present a stumbling block to believers and generate huge splits among groups of believers intellectually and in practice.

The vast majority of God's glorious Word can be understood by simply reading what is written. Those who faithfully read and re-read the Bible usually have a very good grasp of the heart of what God is communicating to us through His Word. There are unfortunately many places where what is written does not make sense because it is wrongly translated. In these cases we must dig a little deeper to find out where the problem lies and overcome it.

In a recent blog I quoted 1 Timothy 3:16 which says:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

At first glance there does not seem to be anything amiss in this verse, but that is not the case. The word “God” is the Greek word theos. The word translated “God” in this verse is the Greek word hos which means “who” . In the older Greek texts, the word is ho which means “which” . So, how does the word “which” end up being translated “God” ?

The original Word of God was given by inspiration of God (God breathed) and was as perfect as God. Unfortunately, none of the original documents are in existence. What we have are copies of copies and translations from one language into another. That is why there are huge libraries filled with research books and people and organizations whose only job is to research the oldest Biblical texts.

Once in awhile a scribe would take the liberty of adding a letter or an accent mark to the text he was working on. He usually did this so it made better sense in his mind. This is exactly what happened in 1 Timothy 3:16. First a scribe added the letter “s” to ho changing it from “which” to “who” and then another scribe added another mark and yet another scribe added another mark which changed the original Greek word ho (which) to a contraction of theos (GOD).

I picked this verse to show how dramatic a difference there can be in what we read vs. what was originally written. Haven't we all participated in the exercise where the first person whispers a sentence in the ear of a person next to him and the same thing happens to all in room? By the time the last person says aloud the sentence, it usually bears little resemblance to what was originally said.

For the most part we should just read what is written in the King James Bible but if something does not make sense or appears to contradict other verses, we must dig into the matter to see if the problem is in translation (such as in 1 Timothy 3:16) or in our understanding. Keeping things simple allows us to fully enjoy God' Word and receive the all the benefits God intended His Word to give us.