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William Tyndale (1494-1536) said the following about translating, “in a thousand places thou needest not but to translate it to the English.” The difficulty comes with those words, phrases, sentences, or verses that fall outside of these one thousand places. I have personally spent over two hours making a single word choice. Then, there are the textual decisions, which Tyndale never really had to consider. Almost all of the textual decisions are like Tyndale’s description of the translation process. That is, they are easy decisions. But, again, it is those that few that might take many hours, even a whole day of investigating.
One of the challenges you have in being a lone translator is remembering your lexical (word) choices. Any give Hebrew or Greek word has 2-10 different terms in the lexicon and many times 2-4 are very close synonyms with a little difference in the sense. So literal translations may vary in their choice of English renderings that use for a given word. Now, once I make a choice, say in Genesis, I must remember this same choice for the entire work up unto Malachi. The thing is all of them are kind of tempting choices for their own reasons and you may not hit the words again for days or months, and you have to remember, ‘what one did I choose last time?’ You see, for me, it is an internal argument over each choice that can go into an hour or more to settle on the right word. You have to look at the Hebrew for the OT or the Greek for the NT, then look at the context, the lexicons that go beyond just giving you terms, exegetical commentaries, what did the other translations choose, and then argue with yourself until you have a headache. See more comments below the examples.
HERE ARE JUST A FEW EXAMPLES TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA
Worship: Acts 13:2 they were ministering to the Lord (ASV same; LEB; NASB similar) OVER they were worshiping the Lord (CSB, ESV same) (λειτουργέω leitourgeō) the Lord; Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat bowed down (προσκυνέω proskuneō) before him OVER And those in the boat worshiped (προσκυνέω proskuneō) him
- (λειτουργέω leitourgeō) ministering to, or serving
- (προσκυνέω proskuneō) to do reverence to, to bow down before
Alms: Acts 3:2-3: to ask alms of those entering the temple
- Keep the literal alms but put footnote (That is, gifts of mercy)
Inhabited earth: Acts 11:28; 17:6, 31; 19:24; 24:5
Fallen alseep in death: Matt 28:13; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor 7:39 – Lit has fallen asleep (κεκοίμηται kekoimētai)
chiliarch: The chiliarch Gr ho chiliarchos; commander of a thousand soldiers.
- abhor them over detest them
- ancestry over pedigree
- appendage over lobe or caul
- as a permanent statute instead of as a portion forever
- astray over aside
- banners over ensigns
- bands over fillets
- bases over sockets
- beasts over animals
- belongs to over pertains to
- blemish over defect
- blood relative over near kin
- bread over loaf or cake
- breadth over width
- breastpiece over breastplate
- carved image (פֶּסֶל pesel)
- chieftains over leaders, princes
- consumed over devoured
- court over courtyard
- curtain over veil, sometimes screen
- defile himself over make himself unclean
- disfigured over mutilated
- diviners over soothsayers, necromancers, spiritists
- embroiderer over weaver
- gift over present
- garments over clothes
- edges over corners
- entrance over doorway
- errors over iniquities
- eruption over scab
- examine instead of look on
- families over clans
- fire holders over fire pans or trays
- flow of blood over fountain
- fragrant incense over perfumed or sweet incense
- frames over boards
- grain offering over meal offering
- headband instead of headtire
- hooks over clasps
- household over house or family
- holy place over Holy Place
- holy assemblies over convocations
- husband over chief man
- idols (אֱלִיל elil)
- infection over disease or plague
- utensils over instruments and equipment
- inward organs over entrails or inwards
- installation over ordination and consecration
- judgment decisions over ordinances or regulations or judicial decisions
- kiln over furnace
- kinsman instead of brother, relative,
- knob over K.J.V. knop; R.S.V. capital; NRSV, ESV calyx; N.I.V. buds
- laborious work over daily work, regular work hard work, ordinary work
- livestock (מִקְנֶה miqneh) over cattle or domestic animals
- lobe over the tip of the right ear
- loyal love over steadfast love and lovingkindness
- malignant leprosy over persistent leprous, destructive skin disease
- material over yarn, string, thread
- majestic trees instead of splendid trees
- memorial offering over memorial portion
- menstruation (menstrual period, menstruating, menstruous woman) over sickness
- mercy seat over the atonement cover
- molding over crown
- murmur over grumble
- detestable thing or offensive thing over abomination
- desolate land over solitary land, remote area, barren region
- obligation instead of charge
- offering instead of oblation
- oxen over cattle or bulls sometimes
- pegs over pins
- placed instead of laid
- produce instead of fruits, yield, or crop
- prostitute over harlot
- quarreled over strove
- rod over staff sometimes
- regulation over ordinance or rule
- restful aroma over Pleasing aroma
- sacred pillar (מַצֵּבָה matstsebah)
- sanctuary over holy place
- sanctify over consecrate
- sanctified over consecrated
- sashes instead of girdles
- separate over isolate, quarantine, shut up
- set out instead of journeyed
- sheep instead of flockthe scalp or the beard
- scalp or the beard over itch, skin, scale or scull
- shameful behavior over immorality, wickedness
- showbread over bread of the Presence
- slaughter over kill on sacrifices
- Sockets over bases
- spattered over sprinkled and splashed
- sojourner over foreign resident, the stranger, alien
- stranger over alien
- swarming over creeping
- tent of meeting over tent of assembly
- territory over borders
- territory over country sometimes
- tongues instead of languages
- tops over capitals
- twisted over twined
- tunics overcoats
- unintentionally over error or mistake or unwittingly
- voluntary over freewill
- young calf over calf or bull calf
- young goat over kid
- young bull over bull
- with which over wherewith
- wise of heart over skillful craftsman
- wisdom of heart
Some Random Notes
Exodus 28:32 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
32 And it shall have an opening for the head in the midst of it: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the opening of a coat of mail, that it be not torn.
 A coat that was worn for protection during battle. The coat of mail (Heb., שִׁרְיוֹן shiryon or שִׁרְיָן shiryan) was body armor made with a cloth or leather cloak that contained hundreds of small connecting pieces of metal (like fish scales) fastened to its surface. Usually, it covered the breast, back, and shoulders. However, some went clear down to the knees or even the ankles.
Leviticus 8:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 And he put the tunic on him, and girded him with the sash, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod on him, and he girded him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod, binding it to him.
 A sash was often worn over the inner or outer garments. When one was involved in some kind of physical activity or work, he would ‘gird up his loins’ by wearing a sash. Usually, he would pull the ends of his garment up between his legs and then tuck these ends under his sash, which would give him freedom of movement.
Exodus 12:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs between the two evenings.
 The Hebrew rendered “between the two evenings” (Heb. בֵּין הָעֲרְבַּיִם ben hoarbayim) according to some scholars (e.g., Ronald B. Allen, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke), as well as the Karaite Jews and Samaritans, at twilight, the period of the evening between when the sun sets on the horizon and the actual darkness. The Pharisees and the Rabbis viewed it differently. For them, it was the first evening when the sun began to go down and the sunset of the second evening.
Numbers 13:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, “Go up this way by the Negev, and go up into the hill-country:
Leviticus 27:30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
30 ‘Every tenth part of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, belongs to Jehovah. It is something holy to Jehovah.
 Or Every tithe
Leviticus 29:33 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
33 And they shall eat those things with which atonement was made by them to ordain and sanctify them, but a stranger shall not eat of them, because they are holy.
 Lit fill their hand
 That is, a man who is not of Aaron’s family
Leviticus 8:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 And he presented the other ram, the ram of installation, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram.
 Lit (מִלֻּאִים milluîm) a filling, that is, filling of the hand with power, an empowering.
 MT LXX SYR “priests”
 That is the (suet) hard white fat on the kidneys and loins of cattle, sheep, and other animals.
 Burnt offering: (Heb. ʿō·lā(h)) A sacrifice that was clean and acceptable in which the entire animal (bull, ram, a male goat, turtledove, or young pigeon), was consumed on the altar, as a total offering to God. The worshipper kept no part of the sacrifice for himself.–Ex. 29:18; Lev. 6:9.
 That is, pleasing, appeasing, soothing
 (Heb. אִשֶּׁה ishsheh) “An offering made by fire” derived from ʼesh, “fire.” The meaning can be how one can set up a close connection with God, derived it from ʼnsh.
Leviticus 16:29 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
29 “And it shall be a statute forever to you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the native, or the stranger that sojourns among you.
 This is generally understood to involve different kinds of self-denial, which would include fasting.
Exodus 4:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 But Moses said to Jehovah, “Oh, my Jehovah, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
 This is one of the 134 scribal changes from יהוה [JHVH] to אדני [Adonai]. The earliest MSS have the Tetragrammaton.
 Lit heavy of mouth
Leviticus 26:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 I also will do this to you: I will bring on you distress, even wasting disease and fever, that shall consume the eyes, and make the soul to waste away. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.
 A disease that causes an emaciating the body so that it is weak and thin, such as consumption, especially tuberculosis, and diarrhea.
NUMBERS 3:39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
39 All who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of Jehovah, by their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty-two thousand.
 MT LXX VG “and Aaron” In the MT these words are marked with extraordinary points by the Sopherim. In vs 14, Jehovah commanded Moses to number the sons of Levi by their fathers’ houses, by their families. However, Aaron also took part in the numbering with Moses. Therefore, some ancient copyists inserted “and Aaron” in the text. Later, scribes were reluctant to remove the words, so they put dots over them, suggesting interpolations (added material) in the original text. SP SYR and 11 Heb. MSS lack “and Aaron.”
Numbers 24:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall step forth out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth.
 MT SP LXX SYR VG “star” ATJ “king”
 MT SP “step forth” LXX SYR VG “arise”
 MT “scepter” VG “rod” ATJ “Messiah” LXX “man” SYR “head one”
 SP “and a head of all the Sons of Sheth [Seth]” (See Jer. 48:45)
 MT SP LXX SYR VG “the sons of Sheth [Seth]” 1901 ASV “the sons of tumult” agrees with Jer. 48:45
Jeremiah 48:45 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
45 “In the shadow of Heshbon
fugitives stand without strength,
for a fire came out from Heshbon,
flame from the house of Sihon;
it has devoured the forehead of Moab,
the crown of the sons of tumult.
When the reader is considering the terms, it is almost always from a theological perspective because we like to bolster our doctrines.
As a translator, considering theology is the last resort. Yes, theology can play a role, but it is the lost resort. As a translator, I have to consider the lexical entries, what the author meant by those words, and I cannot impose later theology on what the author wrote, understood, and meant, as much as we might like too. I have to faithfully give you, the reader, the Word of God in English. It is, then, up to you as the interpreter to get at what the author meant by the words that were used in his day.
The Above is a prime example. Acts 13:2 they were ministering to the Lord (ASV same; LEB; NASB similar) OVER they were worshiping the Lord (CSB, ESV same) (λειτουργέω leitourgeō) the Lord; Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat bowed down (προσκυνέω proskuneō) before him OVER And those in the boat worshiped (προσκυνέω proskuneō) him.
You have two different Greek terms here:
- ACTS 13:2: (λειτουργέω leitourgeō) ministering to, or serving
- MATTHEW 14:33: (προσκυνέω proskuneō) to do reverence to, to bow down before
In both verses, Jesus is the object of the action. What one must ask themselves, what is the primary literal word choice. That choice for Matthew 14:33 and other places where (προσκυνέω proskuneō) is found is to do reverence to, to bow down before. It is the reader who must make the interpretive decision for himself if that bowing down before Jesus was an act of worship or an act of reverence. The thing is, if I, as the translator, choose that interpretation for you; then, you are not challenged to find out for yourself. One question you will have to ask yourself as the interpreter is: ‘would a devout Jewish person worship another human being when the entire Old Testament says worship alone belongs to God, and to do otherwise would result in being cut off from Israel?’ So, the interpreter must ask himself, did the disciples of Jesus view Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, or did they view him as God, to be worshipped? If we look at Matthew 4:10, it reads, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go away, Satan!’ For it is written, “‘You shall worship (προσκυνέω proskuneō) the Lord your God and him alone shall you serve.’” This is a quote from:
Deuteronomy 5:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I Jehovah your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me,
Deuteronomy 6:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 It is Jehovah your God you shall fear; and you shall serve him and by his name you shall swear.
So, again, the translator needs to be consistently faithful to the translation work of giving the reader the Word of God in English, and leave the interpretation of that Word to the reader. My primary purpose is to give the Bible readers what God said by way of his human authors, not what I as the translator think God meant in its place. Truth matters and it is up to the reader to get at that truth! My primary goal is to be accurate and faithful to the original text. The meaning of a word is the responsibility of the interpreter (i.e., reader), not the translator. Translating truth is the objective of a translator, while get at what the author meant is the objective of the reader!
Unger’s Bible Dictionary says that this word literally means to “kiss the hand to (toward) one,” in token of reverence; also by kneeling or prostration to do homage.” An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, says ‘The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to man … or to God.” At the time of the writing of the New Testament (προσκυνέω proskuneō) frequently included literally bowing down before a person of high stature.
Now, none of the above is to persuade any reader into how they should interpret (προσκυνέω proskuneō) or (λειτουργέω leitourgeō) for that matter. It is merely some investigation to show the reader that no interpretation is easily arrived at, and one must have what the Bible author literally said, so as to get at what he meant by the words that he used in his day.
 You shall serve (the sense here is one’s serving is to worship) (Heb., תַעֲבֹד ta·abod)
 Merrill Frederick Unger et al., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 686.
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