Academic exegesis is that form of interpretation which copies academics or authority figures rather than doing proper exegesis.
Academic exegesis is seen in the translation of various biblical passages. Current Bible versions are the product of teams of academic translators pooling their collective knowledge to produce a final decision on the translation of particular texts.
It is easy to demonstrate that when a significant translation, such as the New International Version, makes a break from a traditional translation, then subsequent versions will follow, on the principle that new research has identified an improvement.
However, these are not always improvements but such is the bias of academia that academic exegesis kicks in to copy and cement the new translation as the new standard, inhibiting independent thought and establishing a new paradigm.
Those who are unfamiliar with translation may think that this criticism is too strong. So it might help to give an example of academic imitation or copying. First, an illustration for those wanting to understand why there are difficulties in exegesis. For a long time it has been recognized that Jn 5:39 is not a command ‘Search the Scriptures’, as the King James Version translates, but a comment ‘You are searching the Scriptures’, meaning that in spite of their searching of Scripture the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day did not realise that the Scriptures spoke about Jesus. The variations in translation can be viewed by clicking here. The reason for such differences in this place is because the particular form of the Greek word can be translated as 1. the indicative ‘you are searching’, 2. the imperative, a command ‘Search’, or even 3. a question ‘Are you searching?’ Biblical exegesis seeks to determine which translation is correct at any given place, and consensus nowadays is that in this Bible verse it is the indicative ‘you are searching the Scripture’ rather than a command ‘Search the Scriptures’. So far, so good.
However, what about ‘My witness is not true’ Jn 5:31? A quick review of twenty versions, old and new, shows that there is very little variation among them in translating this. Yet most commentators know that there is a difficulty with this text. As it stands, it appears as if Jesus raises the possibility, for the sake of argument, that He may not be telling the truth. Is this even likely? Jesus plainly contradicts such a thought in Jn 8:14 ‘Jesus answered and said to them, Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true.’ So there are various attempts at explaining the verse. My point is not which interpretation is correct, but that in spite of all the academics pouring over this verse none of the versions have translated it as a rhetorical question, an option rather similar to the illustration given above concerning Jn 5:39. The proper translation is: ‘If I bear witness of Myself, is My witness not true?’ which makes much more sense than the statement ‘My witness is not true’ – the uniform translation in all versions I have consulted. Jesus asks a rhetorical question, ‘Why should My witness not be true, even if I bear witness of Myself?’ Later He will challenge them in a similar vein: ‘if I say the truth, why do you not believe Me?’ Jn 8:46.
Why have none of the versions translated it as a rhetorical question when the Greek text is in this form? Bible translations are produced by teams of academics, so how have they not analysed the Greek text for themselves and discovered this? Have they been so busy studying the commentaries and weighing up the opinion of other scholars that they have not done their own exegesis? Studying commentaries is not exegesis of the text, but relying upon academia, the very thing that Jesus exposed and criticised.
This appeal to authority is what the scribes did in Jesus’ day – so when He cut through their academic exegesis and explained the proper meaning of Scripture, ‘the people were astonished at His doctrine, because He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’ Mat 7:28-29 and Mk 1:22. The scribes gained their authority by their ability to quote earlier authorities. This mistaken emphasis is similar to that form of theology which is not ‘the study of God’ theos-logos but ‘the study of theologians’. This variety of theological study overlooks God and studies theologians, and it does not reckon someone to be a theologian if one does not know these theologians and their writings. Similarly we have translators who overlook the Bible and study other translations; how else do we account for imitation which overlooks the biblical text?
Proper exegesis of this passage in Jn 5:31 would have yielded the result that the negative statement of all extant English translations cannot be correct, even before analysising the Greek text. Like Jn 5:39 the Greek text in Jn 5:31 has legitimate alternative translations. So why have so many teams of translators followed each other along only one of these alternatives? The answer is either that they have not considered the alternative or that they were too frightened to break out of the consistent consensus of academic opinion. Neither option is commendatory.
Why do I call it academic exegesis? 1. the noun is exegesis because it masquerades or claims to be exegesis. 2. as it is a particular type of exegesis, it needs a qualifying adjective; it mention other forms below. Pseudo-exegesis highlights that which masquerades as exegesis but is not exegesis. Pseudo-exegesis applies to wrong exegesis by anyone doing exegesis wrongly, but in this blogpost I am highlighting academics who do so by copying each other. Academic exegesis is a specialised form of exegesis. 3. when something goes wrong with exegesis, there must be a reason for it. The commonest error is eisegesis, which is the very opposite of exegesis and highlights this error by changing the prefix ex– to eis-, which shows that it is not exegesis. However, in academic exegesis, the error arises because of an overweening fear of breaking out of the academic consensus, so that academia needs to feature in the terminology. Individuals can hardly be blamed for following academic consensus, because not everyone is capable of biblical exegesis nor expected to do so, but I am highlighting academics copying the academic consensus when there is no basis in the available data, in this case the biblical text, so that ‘academic’ exegesis is an appropriate adjective, drawing attention to the topic being academics who should know better. One might consider ‘academic pseudo-exegesis’ as more accurate, but this suggests that academic exegesis is not pseudo, whereas I claim and demonstrate that too often it is. Correct exegesis is simply exegesis, arising from an academic or anyone else. The basic concept is exegesis, whoever engages in it, and any adjectives simply apply to the school of exegesis such as Roman Catholic exegesis, Protestant exegesis, Jewish exegesis, etc., and in this case academic exegesis. Yes – they are all different, using very different principles of exegesis. Academic exegesis, almost by definition, requires approval of an academic peer group, and I apply it to this overweening attitude when it results in copying.
Copying is well-known in social media, where unresearched material is shared with others, but when the data does not support the academic consensus then academic copying of that consensus is not worthy of the academics who do so. This blogpost plans to publicise repeated examples in modern Bible translations, where translational principles have slackened since dynamic equivalence was accepted as adequate translation.
It is interesting that in the same chapter, Jesus goes on to deal with the overweening regard for worldly honour that prevents people believing in Him, taking Him at His Word, and following Him fully as a disciple Jn 5:44. This arises from the same source – fear of one’s peer group.
This is only one of many examples of academic exegesis in Bible translation, in which academics are controlled by their peer group and are too frightened to do their own exegesis, resulting in academic imitation or copying, which Jesus broke through in His time, and which we must continue to assess in our time. God willing, I hope to return to this subject with more examples as time permits.
I will update this post with further examples as they come to light, which is not difficult as there are so many. Click here for clarification of the purpose of this blogpost.
6 Sep 2014: almost all current versions have decided not to translate the Greek word for ‘a child’ in Mat 11:19 but to substitute another term. Which version has copied which?
10 Jul 2017: the New International Version (NIV) translates Ps 125:3 with ‘the land’, which: 1. is not the Hebrew word, 2. does not make sense; 3. is not true; but 4. it is followed by many modern versions. Why is this so? They are copying each other – not exegeting the text. In addition, and incidentally, only some versions notice that another of the Hebrew words in this text is ‘wickedness’ and not ‘wicked’.
23 Jul 2017: the Berean Literal Bible translates Acts 5:27 ‘And every day, in the temple and in every house’. Being a literal translation one might expect it to differ from smoother, more colloquial translations, so that the Berean Study Bible has ‘Every day, in the temple courts and from house to house’. The problem is that ‘every house’ is not a literal translation! ‘From house to house’ is not only a better translation, used by the KJV in Act 2:46 and followed here by most current translations, but ‘every house’ is not in the Greek text and it is plainly wrong. It is almost certain that the apostles did not visit every house in Jerusalem, and even if they did, it cannot be proven from the Greek text.
So where did these translators find their ‘every house’ if it is not in the Greek text? Could it just be that they copied the KJV or Young’s Literal Translation, normally very good as a literal translation, but in this case making the same mistake as the KJV and translating ‘and in every house’? The BLB translators knew the problem because they put every in italics, to show that it is not in the Greek text, which is more than the KJV does, but it is wrong.
Additionally, where did the Berean Study Bible obtain ‘in the temple courts’? This is not in the Greek text, which is simply ‘in the temple’. Lo and behold, this is how the NIV has translated it! Are these independent studies or could it just be that the BSB is copying the NIV? Either way, it is not translation but copying. The Holman Christian Standard Bible has ‘in the temple complex’ and other current versions are moving in a similar direction of biblical interpretation instead of translation. This is known as dynamic equivalence, which can be helpful in some circumstances, but the interpretation may be plainly wrong and it is not translation.
The role of preachers is to explain and interpret, but the Bible should be a translation and not an interpretation, although it may wish to put interpretations in the margin. This is what the 1560 Geneva Bible did, but marginal notes were abandoned when the KJV was produced in 1611. The KJV put alternative translations in the margin, but not interpretations. Since then there have been many ‘study Bibles’ produced with additional, explanatory notes, and sometimes misleading notes, but this blogpost is dealing with the quality of translation in modern versions or translations of the Bible, although academic exegesis is not confined to Bible translation.
A notable example of this copying in another discipline is computer-generated copying of mistakes. It is well-known that there are many glitches in these as the computer age endeavours to rapidly computerise older textbooks, and they will hopefully be corrected with time. However, it surprises me that no-one has yet corrected Strong’s Number G5384 philos ‘a friend’, a second declension noun, which in the nominative singular is the same as the masculine, nominative singular of the adjective. Every one of the 29 occurrences in the New Testament is a noun, but e-Sword, Scholars’ Gateway and Interlinear Scripture Analyzer each code it as an adjective, although the latter correctly codes it as a noun in three places at the time of updating this blogpost, at Lk 11:5, Lk 14:10 and Lk 15:9, which Scholars’ Gateway has also corrected at Lk 11:5.
These can be quickly corrected, but how did this mistake arise? Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon describes it first as an adjective ‘friendly’ and cites Act 19:31 as an example. However, he goes on to describe the noun for the rest of the entry. It seems that this entry has been misread by someone. Incidentally, it is not an adjective at Act 19:31 but a noun.
Of more concern is academic fraud in science. This link states: ‘Two excellent summaries of many other similar cases are Alexander Kohn’s False Prophets: Fraud and Error in Science and Medicine (Basil Blackwell, England, 1986) and Betrayers of Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science by William Broad and Nicholas Wade (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1982). Many researchers, attorneys, and university administrators have concluded that fraud and deceit is now epidemic in science and medicine.” If this was so in 1991, it is a small wonder to find slipping standards among academics in other disciplines, including Bible translation. It is time to call it out.
23 Jul 2017: the NIV translates Acts 5:29 ‘Peter and the other apostles replied’, as does the Berean Study Bible. According to this translation, how many apostles are there? At least three? Possibly more? But the Greek text does not say so. The word ‘other’ is not in the Greek text. This mistake continues to repeat the mistake made by the King James Version (KJV) many centuries ago, but at least the KJV put ‘other’ in italics to alert the English reader that it is not in the original Greek text. This is one of the many advantages of the KJV for English readers. So why do these versions still use ‘other’? Could it be that they are just copying? Many versions remove ‘other’ but leave the same meaning: ‘Peter and the apostles answered’ in the New American Standard Bible and in the International Standard Version; ‘Peter and the apostles answering said’ in the Berean Literal Bible, and likewise others. None of the 25 versions I have consulted, except one, translate it properly. They all give the impression that there were at least three apostles present. The proper translation is ‘Then Peter answered and the apostles said, We ought to obey God rather than men.’ The verb ‘answered’ is a singular verbal participle, applying to Peter, and the verb ‘said’ is plural applying to both apostles. Yes, there were only two apostles – Peter and John – as demonstrated by ‘you’ in Act 5:28, which refers back to Peter and John in Act 4:18. The only version that gives the correct sense is the Darby Bible Translation: ‘Peter answering, and the apostles, said’. This is slightly stilted but conveys the correct sense and does not suggest that there were three or more apostles. If one version notices the difference and gets it correct, why do not the others? Are they copying? Academic exegesis? Modern scholarship is not all that it purports to be.
25 Jul 2017: in Ps 104:4 ‘his angels spirits’ has been translated as ‘winds his messengers’ and copied by current translations. I happened to exegete this Psalm in my Bible commentary a few days ago, specifically on this subject about the angels, and today I discovered this article in the Trinitarian Bible Society Quarterly Record Oct-Dec 2016, pp. 17-21 on this very subject. There is providence for you! Could it be that the translators did not understand why angels are mentioned, or that some of them did not believe in angels and took the opportunity to use another translation, or could it just be that some of them copied each other?
For those who want an easier way of assessing this example, note that the apostle Paul quotes Ps 104:4 in Heb 1:7 as ‘angels’. However, the NIV has translated Ps 104:4 as ‘winds his messengers’ but Heb 1:7 as ‘his angels spirits’. Why have other versions done the same? Is it follow my leader?
11 Aug 2017: the New International Version has translated Act 14:21 ‘and won a large number of disciples’. Most versions have ‘many disciples’. So why have all these teams of academics not noticed that the Greek word is ‘sufficient, enough’ and not ‘many’, far less ‘a large number’? Could it just be that they are copying each other and not doing their own exegesis? The meaning of the text is overlooked by this mistranslation. It means that having made sufficient disciples to begin a congregation, and considering the effect of the negative campaigning by the travelling Jews Act 14:19, Paul and Barnabas continued no further in their travels, but retraced their steps to visit the new, recently formed Christian congregations in order to establish them against this negative campaigning.
11Aug 2017: the New International Version has translated Act 14:23 ‘Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them’ although the Greek text is simply ‘they’. ‘Paul and Barnabas’ is a legitimate inference but it is an interpretation rather than a translation. So why do the New Living Translation, the Berean Study Bible and the International Standard Version also ‘translate’ with Paul and Barnabas? Is it scholarly analysis of the Greek text, or is it not rather prompted by an instinct to copy each other?
4 Sep 2017: the New International Version has translated 1Tim 3:2,12 and Tit 1:6 as ‘faithful to his wife’, copied by the New Living Translation, although not by other versions. This is not translation but interpretation and omits the proper teaching of the verse which reminds the Christian church that although those who were converted as polygamists may become members in the church, yet they could not be office-bearers, in order that the proper biblical teaching on marriage may be sustained and promoted. The New Revised Standard Version has ‘translated’ these verses as ‘married only once’, which is a doctrinal imposition upon the text, which has caused untold harm and heartache to many Christians. This is a deliberate change from the Revised Standard Version, which like most other versions has ‘the husband of one wife’, which is retained as a footnote in the New Revised Standard Version.
4 Nov 2017: most current Bible versions copy each other and say that Demas has deserted Paul, or abandoned him. This is not translation but interpretation, copying each other and misinterpretation at that. It is not correct, as demonstrated here.
25 Dec 2017: all 22 Bible versions I have consulted [see my comments in 16/4/2018 below] translate ‘a river’ in Job 40:23 as ‘Jordan’, the main river in the land of Canaan, although it is almost certain that this section of the book of Job was not composed in the land of Canaan nor was it speaking about a creature in the land of Canaan. Although it is possible that Moses edited the final version of the book of Job, yet there is no reason why this word should be translated Jordan. However, every subsequent Bible version has copied the lead given by earlier Bible versions. Why are they afraid to break the consensus? Is it academic exegesis? Whatever the reason, it does not help English readers to understand the geographical setting of the book of Job. Rather it misleads them.
6 Jan 2018: it is possible that Lam 3:38 is another example of academic copying, because 20 versions [see my comments in 16/4/2018 below] translate this as a rhetorical question. Only two translate it as a statement, Young’s Literal Translation and God’s Word Translation, which seems more appropriate.
Those who are impatient for more information on this topic may want to read Dean Burgon’s The Revision Revised for some trenchant criticisms of myopic and prejudicial academia in his day which fed into the Revised Version of the Bible (1881), whose critical textual basis has been the basis of almost all Bible versions since then. Although these versions have been promoted as making the Bible more understandable, and who can object to that, yet the ordinary Christian does not realise that the modern version movement has got little to do with this and more to do with unbelieving academia on the one hand and making money through sales of new versions on the other hand. Academic changes can be used to promote the need for new versions, which ‘drives the economy’ of Bible sales of the world’s best-seller. The 1881 text was influenced by Westcott and Hort, neither of whom believed in the inspiration of the autographic originals of the biblical text.
A summary of exegetical mistakes can be viewed here.
Some quotations and additional thoughts:
16 Dec 2017: Freeman Dyson: “The PhD system is the real root of the evil of academic snobbery. People who have PhDs consider themselves a priesthood, and inventors generally don’t have PhDs.” This is rather similar to my own aphorism: “Intelligent people can be very prejudiced, because they think they can see the answer better than others.” Such are too intelligent for their own good.
2 Jan 2018: Peter Hitchens: “academics, like almost everyone else, vote tribally and in a conformist fashion.”Tweet
8 Jan 2018: academic exegesis is based upon a human fear of peer group disapproval and it is not confined to biblical studies. Science has been hindered by the same peer group resistance to the paradigm. Aristotelian cosmology hindered scientific advance, but lest one should think that the fear of breaking with the paradigm is confined to early periods of human history, in the early 20th century a person who believed in continental drift would have been unable to find a university post, whereas at the end of the 20th century a person who did not believe in continental drift would have been unable to find a university post. Many people are unaware of the rapid change in paradigm with each new discovery. 408 years ago today, Galileo changed the world forever by discovering Jupiter’s Moons and changed the earthly paradigm of the heavens. He changed our knowledge about ‘how the heavens go’ at the same time as the European Reformers were changing the religious paradigm ‘how to go to heaven’. Similarly, in our day the evolutionary paradigm of secular religion controls the thinking of multitudes of human beings, but with more disastrous effects. See 10 Sep 2019 below for academic exegesis in science.
15 Feb 2018: The King James Version (KJV) uses the expression “God forbid” twenty-four times throughout the Bible. In the New Testament this phrase translates two Greek words meaning ‘let it not be!’ God is not in the translation. However, the New International Version (NIV) continues to translate it ‘God forbid’ in Lk 20:16, while almost all current versions do not. So why is this? It can only be by retaining and copying the KJV although there is no basis for it in the Greek text.
There is nothing wrong in copying a good translation. That is not my point. My complaint is that these academics copy what is wrong or what has no basis in the underlying biblical text, suggesting lack of biblical exegesis and their simply following academic peer group opinion or pressure. Most recent translations do not use this expression and translate as ‘may it never be!’ or its equivalent. Although the NIV retains ‘God forbid!’ here, it uses variable translations in the other New Testament verses. In fact, the NIV seems to have gone out of its way to translate it in as large a variety of ways as it can, failing to show consistency even within the same chapter, possibly defending this by the need for variety. It translates ‘God forbid!’ at Lk 20:16; ‘Not at all!’ at Rom 3:4,31, Rom 9:14 and Rom 11:11; ‘Certainly not!’ at Rom 3:6 and Rom 7:7; ‘By no means!’ at Rom 6:2,15, Rom 7:13 and Rom 11:1; ‘Never!’ at 1Cor 6:15; ‘Absolutely not!’ at Gal 2:17 and Gal 3:21 and ‘May I never’ at Gal 6:14. The King James Version is at least consistent, which helps textual comparison, but the use of God’s name is unwarranted in a modern translation of this Greek phrase, and it suggests unacademic copying.
16 Feb 2018: most current Bible versions continue to copy the KJV at Rom 16:5 by adding ‘greet’, which is not in the Greek text. Only the Berean Literal Bible follows the Greek text and does not copy ‘greet’ but translates ‘and the church at their house’. A proper translation should notice that the thanksgiving in Rom 16:4 carries into Rom 16:5, especially as the older Douay-Rheims version, the Darby Bible Translation and Young’s Literal Translation had refused to copy ‘greet’. This is another example of academic copying instead of biblical exegesis.
14 Mar 2018: many current Bible versions follow the NIV at Rom 11:16 to misinterpret ‘the firstfruits’ as part of the lump, which has a knock-on effect in misinterpreting the text, seen most clearly in the New Living Translation: ‘And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy–just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy.’ Eight Greek words have become 33 English words. This is not a translation but interpretation – and misinterpretation at that. Paul is not referring to the patriarchs and their descendants, but he is dealing with the complex relationships between Jewish and Gentile Christians in the Christian era and their relationship to the church of the Old Testament. It is not an easy text, but current versions seem to be copying each other in failing to distinguish firstfruits from ‘the lump’, which needs proper exegesis. This blogpost does not do the exegesis but simply draws attention to the failure of academics to do their own exegesis and their propensity to copy each other.
16 Apr 2018: current Bible versions vary in their attempt to translate the last phrase of Mat 23:13. They all translate it in the present tense. It is correct that the scribes and Pharisees were currently preventing, and continuing to do so, those who were trying to enter in, but the last word in the Greek sentence is the second aorist active infinitive, ‘to have entered’. This refers to past activity. These people had already tried to enter and they had been prevented by the scribes and Pharisees, who were currently continuing to prevent them from entering. The correct translation is ‘neither do you allow those entering to have entered’ Mat 23:13.
None of the current 27 Bible versions I have consulted convey this past sense. The English Standard Version almost conveys it: ‘For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.’ A slight modification ‘would have entered’ would have conveyed the past tense, but in the subjunctive rather than the aorist. Yet again modern scholarship is found wanting. There is such a rush to produce new versions that real progress with difficult texts and the accumulation of real scholarship is being overlooked.
There are now 27 Bible versions on http://biblehub.com whereas the entries earlier than today’s date were written when there were only 20 Bible versions available for easy consultation, see my comments above in 25 Dec 2017 and 6 Jan 2018. There is currently an electronic glitch in the direct link that compares all 27 versions at Mat 23:13, so that three of the additional versions, the New Heart English Bible, the Aramaic Bible in Plain English and the World English Bible, each read the wrong verse number, Mat 23:14 instead of Mat 23:13, but this will presumably be corrected in due course.
30 May 2018: there are various translations of 1Cor 15:8. As usual, current versions copy each other, most interpreting it either as ‘an abnormal birth’ or as birth ‘at the wrong time’. The International Standard Version translates it ‘as though I were born abnormally late’, whereas the correct translation is the exact opposite, being born abnormally early. Consultation of the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint LXX) would have quickly put them right on this, so where was their scholarly exegesis?
2 Jul 2018: academic exegesis is found in most areas of biblical studies. Bible commentators and academics are in the habit of describing the native language spoken by Jesus and His contemporaries as Aramaic or Syro-Chaldaic. Those who wish to show their academic credentials will do the same. This is servile copying of academia. The New Testament repeatedly calls it Hebrew Lk 23:38, Jn 5:2, Jn 19:13,17,20, Act 21:40, Act 22:2, Act 26:14, Rev 9:11 and Rev 16:16. So why do biblical scholars and preachers not do the same? Is it copying? Is it academia? Is it failing to do their own Bible study? DYOR?
30 Jul 2018: I note that seven out of twenty seven Bible versions translate Ps 14:7 as ‘fortunes’. There is nothing in the Hebrew word to suggest this, and the Hebrew word is singular, not plural. So how did seven translation teams end up with the word ‘fortunes’? Surely one set off the trend and the others copied suit. This is neither translation nor exegesis.
12 Sep 2018: most modern versions translate both clauses in Job 22:20 in the plural, whereas the first clause is singular, using a collective noun, while the second clause uses the plural. The KJV correctly identifies the singular and plural in each clause, but teams of modern translators prefer to copy each other than to exegete and translate accurately. The collective noun in the first clause occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible: the KJV has taken its lead from the LXX and translated as ‘our substance’, but Gesenius’ Lexicon translated it as ‘our adversaries’ (plural), followed by Delitzsch and James Strong but in the singular ‘our opponent’, while Strong acknowledges ‘substance’ used by the KJV and LXX. However, many modern versions translate in the plural ‘our foes, enemies, adversaries’ and thereby fail to note the contrast between the two halves of the verse, including the New King James Version, which has opted for ‘our adversaries’ although with a footnote to the LXX ‘substance’. This is not exegesis nor translation so who is copying who?
10 Dec 2018: I have come across what may be one of the most dangerous examples of academic copying in modern translations, in Gal 6:6. This verse has been adulterated in such a way that many modern English translations effectively teach that individual Christians should share ‘all good things’ with their Christian teachers. Prosperity preachers can exploit this mistranslation as they choose, in the knowledge that dozens of recent translations are in agreement, in effect copying each other, because they did not find this teaching nor translation by exegesis of the Greek text of Scripture. Here are two of many examples.
Good News Translation: ‘If you are being taught the Christian message, you should share all the good things you have with your teacher.’ Really?
Contemporary English Version: ‘Share every good thing you have with anyone who teaches you what God has said.’ Really? To what extent does this apply? What a rapid way for Christian ministers to enrich themselves!
There are many other examples here. So what is the problem?
In short, the Greek text has been translated wrongly. The order of the words in the 28 English translations I have consulted have been changed from the order in the original Greek text. It has been translated to mean that the church is to support Christian ministers, an idea possibly imported from Gal 6:10 but it is not the teaching of Gal 6:6.
A detailed explanation may be too complicated for the reader who does not know the Greek language so I will begin with a general review of the context. The wider context is Judaizers who think that they can correct Paul’s teaching about salvation by free grace Gal 5:1,4. In Gal 6:3 the apostle Paul speaks of a self-deceiving person who “thinks himself to be something when he is nothing”, possibly alluding to such Judaizers. In a similar vein, in Gal 6:6 Paul says: ‘let the learner share the word with the teacher in all good things’. This self-deceived learner deludes himself into thinking he can teach the teacher, does he? Rather, it is the other way round; the teacher shares the word with the learner.
The object of the Greek verb ‘to share’ is ‘the word’, not ‘all good things’ as more recent versions translate it. None of the 28 versions I have consulted makes ‘the word’ the object of the verb ‘to share’, presumably because they could not understand it as such or, worse, because they are copying each other. Where is the exegesis?
In this context, the next verse is apposite: ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked.’ Paul’s next illustration is neither that ‘the labourer is worthy of his hire’ Lk 10:7 nor ‘do not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn’ 1Cor 9:9, 1Tim 5:18 and Deu 25:4, which would agree with the mistaken translation of Gal 6:6, but rather Paul continues with ‘whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap’, primarily by way of warning, although he balances it with more positive exhortation Gal 6:8. Paul is not thinking about supporting Christian teachers at this point. He is still arguing against the Judaizers and warns the Galatians not to be deceived by them.
22 Dec 2018: Gen 11:2 is a bit of a field day. The King James Version set the ball rolling with ‘from the east’ although the margin alerts the English reader to the difficulty by translating ‘eastward’ – the exact opposite. This time the teams of Bible translaters are alive to the problem and they come down on different sides.
Those versions I have consulted which follow the King James Version and translate ‘from the east’ or its equivalent are the King James Version, English Standard Version, Christian Standard Bible, Contemporary English Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, International Standard Version ‘westward’, New Heart English Bible, Jubilee Bible 2000, King James 2000 Bible, American King James Version, Brenton Septuagint Translation, Douay-Rheims Bible, Darby Bible Translation, Webster’s Bible Translation and Young’s Literal Translation.
Those which translate ‘eastward’ or its equivalent are the New International Version, New Living Translation, Berean Study Bible, New American Standard Bible, NET Bible, God’s Word Translation, JPS Tanakh 1917, New American Standard 1977, English Revised Version and World English Bible.
The Good News Translation cannot make up its mind and translates ‘wandered about in the east’, attributing its own vacillation to the people in the text.
The Hebrew clearly reads ‘from the east’, but many commentators demonstrate various biblical texts where this phrase means ‘on the east’. However, I have not found any commentator point to the best and easiest example, which is Zec 14:4 where the same Hebrew phrase is used of ‘the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east’. Did these biblical exegetes not examine all the texts? What level of academia is this?
28 Dec 2018: academic exegesis is being influenced by gender inclusiveness and the fear of offending sensibilities in this politically correct age. This can be seen in several contemporary versions. The NIV and other versions now translate the singular in Rev 21:7 not only as gender inclusive but also turning the singular into the plural in order to do so. This gender inclusiveness is more concerned to appeal to the sentiments of the reader than to be faithful to the original text and its Author. So much for academia. It bows to the spirit of our day – an ungodly spirit.
17 Jan 2019: 20 out of 28 versions translate Ps 16:2 as “I said” to the Lord, whereas the Hebrew text is plainly “thou hast said”. 1. who has copied who? The Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims Version is one of the earliest versions to translate it thus, and has been very largely followed by most current versions. But why? 2. additionally, the tense is perfect, whereas the New International Version, the English Standard Version and a number of other versions translate it as the present tense ‘I say to the Lord’. As this is plainly not the Hebrew translation, who is copying who?
19 Mar 2019: academic copying is no new thing. Pro 15:17 is translated ‘a stalled ox’ by the King James Version, which may reflect the translators’ 17th-century idea of ‘a fatted calf’, used in Lk 15:23,27,30, but there is nothing in the Hebrew word nor the context to suggest that it was ‘stalled’. Most modern versions now translate Pro 15:17 as ‘a fattened ox’ or occasionally ‘a fattened calf’, but there is still servile copying of the KJV with ‘a stalled ox’ used by Webster’s Bible Translation (1833), the English Revised Version (1885), the American Standard Version (1901), the JPS Tanakh 1917 and the American King James Version (1999). To be fair, Webster‘s and the American KJV are the work of individuals who have only modernised wording and did not claim to be translations of the original Hebrew and Greek text, but the American KJV is no improvement because it obscures the biblical distinction between the second person singular ‘thou’ and plural ‘you’. A list of English Bible Versions is available here and I note that the Bible Hub to which many of the Bible references in this blogpost link, for the convenience of the reader, is actively changing and updating, so that some versions are being replaced with other ones; see my comments above at 16 Apr 2018.
31 May 2019: long ago, in the 19th century, Delitzsch showed that Isa 27:1 describes three creatures, and the Hebrew text suggests this as the most natural translation. However, by translating ‘and’ as ‘even’ the KJV led the way in suggesting that there is only one leviathan in this text, whereas there are two. Leviathan is a generic term applied to a variety of creatures. Yet the New International Version continues to suggest that there might be only one leviathan: ‘Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea’. By inserting a semi-colon and omitting ‘and’ in the sea-monster phrase, the NIV continues to give the impression that it is one sea-monster leviathan. The New Living Translation is even worse: ‘Leviathan, the swiftly moving serpent, the coiling, writhing serpent. He will kill the dragon of the sea.’ It omits the second leviathan, omits the ‘and’ and makes a new sentence, continuing the mistaken impression that one creature is intended, whereas there are three. The English Standard Version begins to translate the passage correctly: ‘Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea’. So why did teams of academics not simply translate the Hebrew? It points to their being influenced by other translations rather than doing their own exegesis.
12 Jun 2019: Isa 30:6 is another example of ‘follow my leader’. The Hebrew suggests that the beasts in the first half of the verse are allegorical, as are all the other phrases, but almost all modern translations interpret them as a literal or suggest that they are so. The latter half of the verse is literal, but the first half describes the Egyptians allegorically. The riches carried by the children of Israel upon their camel train of beasts into Egypt to buy their help Isa 31: 1 are symbolical of the burden that Egypt will be to them. Their alliance with Egypt will be no help to them Isa 30:7 and simply burden them further.
14 Jun 2019: dynamic equivalence in current Bible versions is going to the academics’ heads. In Isa 30:20 the 1976 Good News Translation and the 1995 Contemporary English Version mangle this verse and each turns the plural ‘teachers’ into the singular ‘teacher’ and attribute it to the Lord as their Teacher. If this interpretation is correct, the Lord was pushed into a corner – but the verb kanaph is passive and the Lord is not pushed around by others!
So much for dynamic equivalence, but what about academic exegesis? Where did the singular translation begin? The 1610 Douay-Rheims Version uses it, surprisingly followed by the JPS Tanakh 1917 ‘Yet shall not thy Teacher hide Himself any more, But thine eyes shall see thy Teacher’, followed by the New American Standard 1977 and God’s Word Translation in 1995. None of these are based on the Hebrew text so is this academic copying, and why?
The LXX began the confusion by changing the sense completely from ‘teachers’ to ‘they that cause thee to err’. So instead of the promise of a blessing after affliction, the LXX translated it as ‘thine eyes shall see those that cause thee to err’. No English version has followed this.
Surprisingly, the Jubilee Bible 2000 returns to the original sense of the Hebrew word ‘thy rain shall never more be taken away, but thine eyes shall see thy rain’, used in the 1560 Geneva Bible, but the difficulty with this translation, abandoned by the 1611 King James Version, the 1637 Dutch Staten Vertaling and most versions ever since, is that the Hebrew word is plural and ‘thy teachers’ is preferable to ‘thy rains’.
1 Jul 2019: the NIV omits “and a way” Isa 35:8 from its translation for no good reason. Other contemporary versions follow suit – such as the New Living Translation, English Standard Version, Berean Study Bible, Contemporary English Version, Good News Translation and several other current versions. Who is copying who? This is not exegesis.
10 Sep 2019: here is an example of academic exegesis in pure science regarding the Great Barrier Reef and the secretive-turned-public disciplining of Professor Peter Ridd of James Cook University (JCU), Queensland, Australia. The Replication crisis states that about 50% of current science cannot be replicated. He claims that Peer Review is not sufficient. In effect, financially-dependent university departments have become academic echo chambers. The inhibiting and death of academic freedom through prosecution by universities is now so extensive that universities need reform as they are not “a net benefit to society”. This is part of the no platforming scene, but goes beyond it. See 8 Jan 2018 above. Summary of Ridd’s case. This shows the great difficulties that Reformers have. It should make us appreciate the efforts of the 16th-century European Reformers who fought and obtained the civil and religious liberties of the western world against the Roman Catholic religious super-power of the age, which used the secular power of as many European rulers it could muster on its side.Tweet
22 Oct 2019: which set of translators is copying whom when they ‘translate’ 1Th 2:16 as ‘the wrath of God’, whereas ‘of God’ is an interpolation not in the Greek text?
11 Dec 2019: prejudicial academia in other disciplines refuses to investigate uncomfortable truths and is determined to oppose truth staring them in the face. Jesus diagnoses this attitude, the unwillingness to face the truth, otherwise known as ‘wilful blindness’. In the field of psychiatry it is known as denial. People like to hear their own views reinforced. Sometimes, it is sheer laziness, not wishing to second-guess established authorities.
Jesus Christ: “because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.”John 8:45.
People don’t like to hear about death, judgment and eternity, so they do not believe Jesus’ teaching on these matters. There are many things people, including academics, do not like and will not believe.
19 Apr 2020: many current versions copy the New International Version and translate Ps 74:16 as ‘the Moon’, whereas there is no basis for this in the Hebrew nor the Greek LXX text. So why have these translators copied each other? It is academic exegesis – the copying of academia without doing one’s own research.
11 Jul 2020: many current versions do not know how to translate 2K 23:29. At least they know that there is a difficulty because it has been frequently discussed. The King James Version translates as ‘Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates’ whereas Pharaoh was an ally of the king of Assyria and he went up to help him. The difficulty is discussed here but instead of attributing the mistake to the translators there has been a host of academic discussion assuming a mistake in the Hebrew text. Yet again we see academia failing to do its own exegesis. The translation is wrong; there is nothing wrong with the Hebrew text. There are 105 verses in the Hebrew Bible with this construction, where it is evident that there is no necessity to translate as ‘against’. The Hebrew phrase translated here as ‘went up against’ has the concept of moving one’s position – compare these first examples in the Bible at Gen 31:10,12, Gen 35:13 and Gen 38:12. 2K 23:29 should be translated: ‘Pharaohnechoh king of Egypt went up to (help) the king of Assyria (positioned) on the river Euphrates’. Academic problem solved. Where was the academic exegesis? It was busy reading the problems created by other academics instead of exegeting the biblical text.
The readiness with which Bible commentators, translators and academics attribute mistakes to the biblical text demonstrates that they do not believe in divine inspiration 2Tim 3:16 and divine preservation Ps 12:6-7 of the written text of Scripture.
18 Jul 2020: some current versions have followed the NIV’s lead and translated Lev 20:20 as ‘aunt’, which is the correct translation, instead of ‘his uncle’s wife’, still used by the English Standard Version, New Living Translation and the Berean Study Bible, although the correct translation has been indicated for long enough by Young’s Literal Translation and the Darby Bible Translation. The same Hebrew word is used in Ex 6:20 where the same translational issue arises and illustrates the point. There are four types of aunt – two blood-relatives (‘one’s father’s sister(s)’ Ex 6:20 and ‘one’s mother’s sister(s)’) and two non-blood-relative aunts ‘the wife of one’s father’s brother(s)’ and ‘the wife of one’s mother’s brother(s)’. It is safer and more useful for Bible readers and students to have an accurate translation ‘aunt’ rather than the opinions of translators inserted into the translation, far less copying the opinions of other translators.
25 Jul 2020: the New International Version, New Living Translation, English Standard Version and a number of current translations interpret Jer 33:2 of the Earth, which is not in the Hebrew text, but has been borrowed from the LXX. Who decided to copy the LXX and who has copied whom in doing so? The NET Bible ‘form the plan to bring them about’ comes close to the unique Hebrew usage in this place.
8 Dec 2020: a reader of this blogpost asks in a comment below for a reliable English version of the Bible. The purpose of this blogpost is not to confuse readers about which English version to use, but to expose those academic teams supporting critical text theories based upon an unbiblical attitude to the inspired text of Scripture. Versions earlier than the Revised Version (1881) tend not to come into this category and I recommend the King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorised Version because it was authorised to be used in churches throughout Britain, and has been for over 400 years. This is the current most reliable English version of the Bible, although it has well-known issues that need addressing. I use it every day for my daily devotions and initial Bible study. The subject of a new authoritative and biblical version of the English Bible has provoked me to publish this blogpost, which raises additional necessary issues not commonly addressed.
24 Dec 2020: in Lk 5:10 Jesus tells Simon Peter that from now Peter will catch men. The NIV and the New Living Translation have changed ‘catch men’ to ‘fish for people’, which refers back to Lk 5:4. Truly Jesus’ emphasis is on Peter’s catching human beings instead of fish, but this is not translation but interpretation. Could this be another case of academic copying?
27 Dec 2020: in Heb 11:21 the apostle Paul quotes the LXX in Gen 37:31 exactly, but the KJV has followed the erroneous Masoretic pointing of the consonantal text at Gen 37:31 to read ‘Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head’, which is different from the LXX and Heb 11:21 ‘and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff’. Which set of Jews are more likely to translate the Hebrew correctly – the Jews in Alexandria in the mid-3rd century BC or the Masoretes in 600AD? All competent Bible commentators know about this difference, but only the NIV among the current major translations has found the courage to break out of the hundreds of years of translational consensus to translate Gen 37:31 as ‘and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff’ – consistently with the LXX and Heb 11:21, while parting company with the erroneous Masoretic pointing. The New Heart English Bible has followed suit with ‘Then Israel bowed over the top of his staff’ and I wonder how long it will take for the other translators to follow-my-leader, which will not arise from independent exegesis but simply academic copying of the NIV, just as the other English versions copied the Geneva (1560), Douay-Rheims (1609–1610) and KJV (1611) for hundreds of years, instead of doing their own exegesis. The International Standard Version has even translated it as ‘Then Israel collapsed on his bed’! The Brenton Septuagint Translation has ‘And Israel did reverence, leaning on the top of his staff’ because it translates the Septuagint and not the Hebrew Masoretic text.
4 Jan 2021: Gen 48:4 has been uniformly translated along the lines of the KJV ‘I will make of thee a multitude of people’ whereas the Hebrew is ‘I will give to thee the multitude of peoples’, referring to the nations in the land of Canaan, as shown by the following phrase ‘and I will give this land to thy seed after thee’. So where have all these versions discovered ‘I will make’ instead of ‘I will give’? Could they be all copying each other in following the lead of the KJV? And where did the KJV find this sentiment, which necessitated the translators changing the Hebrew plural ‘peoples’ into the singular in order to make it ‘fit’ the people of Israel? The current versions correctly change to the plural but they still hold on to ‘make’ instead of ‘give’. The ‘I will make’ in the first verb, and implied in the second verb, is formed by the Hiphil (causative) form of these Hebrew verbs but the Hiphil is not used in ‘I will give to thee’, so it should not be translated ‘I will make’. So where does it come from? It may be that they are all relying upon Gen 35:11 where a very similar sentiment is truly expressed thus. However, the sentiment in Gen 35:11 has been unjustly imported into Gen 48:4 by these English translations. The promise to Jacob in Gen 35:11 is clearly about his own descendants without any reference to the people of the land of Canaan, shown by the double use of H4480 min ‘from’, but this preposition does not occur in Gen 48:4 where, instead, the Hebrew preposition le ‘to’ is used twice in reference, first, ‘to the assembly of peoples’ and secondly the land of Canaan is given ‘to thy seed after thee’. These are very different sentiments and there is no need to import the meaning and sentiment in Gen 35:11 to Gen 48:4 when Gen 48:4 gives a clear sense without reference to Gen 35:11. So why did teams of translators all end up with ‘make of thee’ instead of ‘give to thee’? Could it be the academic fear of breaking the consensus, resulting in copying each other instead of proper Hebrew exegesis – academic exegesis? The Hebrew construction seems clearly to mean that the Lord gives ‘the people of the land of Canaan’ to Jacob through his descendants and He gives the land of Canaan to Jacob’s seed after him.
19 Jan 2021: academic exegesis is taking over in the medical world. Doubting Thomas would not believe testimony until he saw the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes, but it seems that even eye-witness testimony in the coronavirus pandemic is not enough for some unbelievers.
15 Mar 2021: the King James Version translated Job 40:17 about behemoth as ‘the sinews of his stones’, leading some earlier commentators to think that it referred to his testicles, drawing from such texts as Deu 23:1 and Lev 21:20, which used completely different Hebrew words. Why anyone should think that behemoth’s testicles are fearful (the root meaning of the Hebrew word) is beyond my imagination. However, the concept began with the Masoretes who changed the Hebrew singular into a Hebrew plural, suggesting that they thought it referred to testicles. Modern scholarship sees no warrant for this and the Hebrew word H810 ̕eshek ‘a testicle’ Lev 21:20 is quite different. Thus the consistent current academic consensus translates as ‘the sinews of his/its thighs’, and even the New King James Version has followed suit. However, the Masoretes having made one mistake, why should these translations continue to follow the mistaken Masoretic plural? I can think of no good reason other than academic exegesis – academics copying academics. Indeed why do they continue to copy each other and translate as ‘sinews’ when ‘muscles’ is a more appropriate translation throughout Old Testament Scripture, which otherwise makes no mention of muscles when describing the body. Who is copying who? Surprisingly alone, the Good News Translation uses muscles but still employs the Masoretic plural as ‘the muscles in his legs are strong’, which is not the meaning of the Hebrew. The International Standard Version adopts the singular, ‘the sinews of his thigh interlink for strength’, showing some academic independence breaking out of the consensus of academic copying, but even Young’s Literal Translation follows the crowd. Brenton Septuagint Translation ‘his nerves are wrapped together’ shows that the LXX translators could make neither head nor tail of it (although ‘the muscles of its fearful tail’ would have been acceptable) and the Douay-Rheims Version is the only version to plainly adopt ‘testicles’, but this was before academic exegesis (academics copying academics) was an issue. Indeed, scholarly competition between Jews, Roman Catholics and Protestants in earlier ages was a healthier competition that the academic consensus nowadays that is afraid to step out of line.
22 Mar 2021: the NIV has translated Ecc 3:11 as ‘He has also set eternity in the human heart’, copied by the New Living Translation as ‘He has planted eternity in the human heart’, wrongly omitting ‘also’, changing ‘set’ to ‘planted’, but copying ‘in the human heart’, copied also by the Amplified Bible and the NET Bible. There is no need to alter the literal translation ‘their heart’ but in doing so these versions have simply copied the trend-setter because it is exceedingly unlikely that they came up with this translation independently of each other. Although this is a simple example, it demonstrates to the non-academic person that these translational teams are not doing independent study but when it suits them they simply copy a nice turn of phrase instead of faithfully translating the biblical Hebrew text.
28 Mar 2021: I have occasionally drawn attention to academia in other disciplines, and veteran BBC commentator Andrew Neil joins the campaign against ‘modern academia’.
10 Nov 2021: academia itself is growing impatient with pseudo-academia and an alumnus from my alma mater is assisting in setting up a new non-woke University in America.
27 Jun 2023: most current translations copy the lead given by the mistranslation of the King James Version in Ps 29:9 and embellish it, whereas the correct translation is “and in His Temple everything speaks of His glory” referring to the God-ordained furniture and articles used in making atonement to God for sin. It is not ‘everyone’ but ‘everything’, which refers to the God-ordained items of furniture in Moses’ tabernacle of the congregation and to the utensils used in making atonement to God for sin – which all spoke of the glory of God, particularly in redemption.
Who is copying who? Who has not bothered to compare Scripture with Scripture? Besides, how many worshippers or visitors to David’s Ps 29:1 tent-temple would cry out Glory!