Do we care about the original language of the Bible? - Jesus didn't speak English (4/4)

Bible verse used in the podcast

  • John 21:15-17 ESV 
  • Acts 2:1-4 
  • John 2:19-23
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4 
  • Genealogy: Genesis 5 
  • Verses about Enoch 
    • Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1:3, Luke 3:37, Hebrew 11:5-6, Jude 1:14-16  

Interesting resources

  • Different views: When did the disciples receive the spirit?
  • Name Translations

Why care about manuscripts?

Let's talk about the following Paradox that occurs in the new testament. When did the disciples receive the holy spirit? Often people will point to the day of Pentecost sighting the following passage:

v1 And while* the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled, they were all united in the same place. v2 And suddenly there became a noise from heaven just-like the bringing of a violent wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. v3 And they were seen by them, divided tongues, like fire, and it sat upon each one of them. v4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, just as the Spirit was giving to them to speak out.
Acts 2:1-4

This is a perfectly reasonable answer; but what happens if you start cross referencing the bible? Was there any other time that it seemed this happened? You end up coming to a passage in John 20 that causes a lot of problems:

20:19 Therefore being evening on that day, the first day of the week, and after the doors had been locked where the disciples were gathered because of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the middle, and says to them, Peace to you°. 20:20 And having said this, he showed to them the hands and his rib-cage. Therefore the disciples rejoiced, having seen the Lord. 20:21 Therefore Jesus said to them again, Peace to you°; just-as the Father has sent me; I am also sending you°. 20:22 And after having said this, he infused them and says to them, Receive° the Holy Spirit. 20:23 If you° forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven to them; if you° holdfast anyone’s sins, those sins have been held-fast.
John 2:19-23

So which is true? Did they receive the holy spirit in Acts or in John? There are several thoughts on this. Some think what Jesus gave in John was some gift of the spirit and in acts he gave others. This is problematic because the text doesn’t say that and it goes against 1 Corinthians 12:4, Now there are diversities of gifts*, but the same Spirit. Others would say that this event is just symbolic and Jesus is just teaching them a lesson in a dramatic way. Again the text doesn’t say this and personal interpretation if being placed over the bible. Some say this was a temporary gift of the spirit.

What can we say for sure? This is where I said it is a paradox, where it seems like a contradiction but it can be explained how it is not. The word used in John 20:22 for receive is Λαμβάνω (lambanō), the root word means to receive, take, have or catch so there is no new insight here. The insight is understanding that Greek grammar is not like English grammar. The word is in the Aorist tense, “ there is no definition of the kind of action, the emphasis is upon the fact of the action rather than the duration of the action.” We do not have this tense in English so when translating it, either you translate it in a way that doesn’t indicate what it really means using proper English tenses, or you find a way to add notes to indicate what is happening.  Now when looking at this, Jesus is not indicating that this is when they receive it, but rather stating a fact of some kind. The main point is that it did not happen in John grammatically so there is no contradiction.
In other languages, every name has a meaning. Do you translate this name as meaning, or do you transliterate it so people can pronounce it because it is a name. For instance Adam (אָדָם) means man. For the context of Genesis, translating it, man is not a bad idea, but you lose the context that this is an actual person and it becomes more general rather than personal.
 In Genesis 5:1, The word Adam appears two times, once as transliterated as Adam and the other translated as man in the same verse. In a context that is perfect and makes sense in English. If you take the next person Seth (שֵׁת) which means appointed, translating it doesn’t really make since and it is only used as a proper name. So they transliterate it only as a proper name. But what happens if you translate all the names found in Genesis chapter 5. When you go though there are ten names of people in Hebrew:

  • Adam - Man
  • Seth - Appointed
  • Enos - mortal (from the root anash: “to be incurable”)
  • Cainan - Sorrow
  • Mahalalel- blessed God
  • Jared- shall come down
  • Enoch- teaching
    • He is only mentioned in genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1:3 and Luke 3:37 as part of a genealogy, in Hebrew 11:5-6 and Jude 1:14-16
  • Methuselah- his death shall bring
    • He has the longest life span if the bible, when you check the life spans of the people, the year he died was the day Noah went into the ark
  • Lamech - despairing
  • Noah- comfort

When you take just the names as translated, they seem to say a sentence:

 man [is] appointed mortal (or incurable) sorrow, [but the] blessed God shall come down teaching his death shall bring the despairing comfort.

When you step back, this is the Christian gospel within a genealogy in the first book of the Bible. When looking at the original text in their original language, you find interesting situations like this. The question then becomes, is this a coincidence?

Now overall the issue is, how accurate should a translation be? Is the thought of the idea more important than the words being used? Ideally we would want to know what God said and not people’s interpretation of what God said. If God gave you a command about how to keep your family alive you think you would use each detail God would give; just like Noah. You are allowed to decide where the animals of the ark are, but you really shouldn’t change the wood of the boat. You might be able to know where you will sleep but you can't change the size of the boat. Interpreting the scripture can be done using every detail that God gives but you can’t change what God said. Once you let personal bias enter, you no longer are listening to God but rather imposing what you thought God meant to say. Often the big decision between Christian denominations, are not the literal words of the bible, but rather what people think the bible says. If we all have the exact words, we can’t argue what God said, you can only argue what it means.
This is basically the same idea as setting up rules and seeing what happens. If you know God said something, then what does that mean when you apply it to other parts of scripture? What does that mean when you apply it to the real word? If you have theology, and you know how some ideas in the bible that supposed to work and you come across a scripture seems to contradict what the plan text says, either your interpretation is wrong and it is a paradox because of the rules you set up you can always change your interpretation; or the rules that the Bible gave you truly contradiction each other and there is a problem with using the Bible. Ideally when we set up theology we shouldn’t have exceptions. The more you can’t explain something simple means you don’t really have all the pieces needed to describe what is really going on. Everything should be consistent because that is who God is:

v7 Remember° your° leaders, men who spoke to you° the word of God, of whom after reviewing the outcome of their conduct, imitate° the faith of such! v8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever. v9 Do° not be carried away by various and strange teachings; for* it is good for the heart to be confirmed in gratitude; not by foods, in which those who walked were not profited.
Hebrews 13:8

v17 Every good act of giving, and every complete gift, is from above, descending from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change or a shadow of turning.
James 1:17

v6 For I, Jehovah, do not change. Therefore you*, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
Malachi 3:6

Just a note for those who do not know, the translation that is used, if not specific is the Modern Literal version. It is not a Jehovah's witness bible. Often when you see the word Lord in an English Bible it normally is being translated from the name of God YHVH (this is the English equivalent). The reason why I am using this bible translation is because it tries to preserve as much of the Greek grammar as English while still being fairly readable. The grammar does not follow normal English at times and feels off but they normally make word with an * to indicate “you plural” or other words in Greek that we don’t have in English. For example the word For has several Greek words that can be translated as For but have slightly different uses in Greek that wouldn’t make a difference in English. Instead of translating it as just for they use For*, or For or *For. It is a non-profit translation that tries to make the translation process as clear as possible in English. They often show what was supplied in English that can’t be found in the Greek clearly and have translation notes explaining why specific features are there. It is also open source so if mistakes are found that have bias towards interpretation rather than plain Greek text, they can be submitted to help revise the text if the mistake found helps render the pure text into English better.

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