Often we discuss the scriptures and whether or not they are translated correctly, but we rarely look at the actual translations or how they are affected by the changes in language.
Most of the New Testament was originally written in what is referred to as Kione, which Paul and others used. In moving the text to the Vulgate Latin, there are often serious cultural shifts that occurred, due to the words not quite being the same thing. The Vulgate Latin is the formative language that many, many theologians worked with and that really forms the basis of the way most people read the scriptures.
That leads to a distance between the meanings of the text as written and the text as translated into Latin and thence to other languages.
For example, the word translated as “head” in the Kione was originally closer in meaning to “source” or support. In Latin, the same term is closer in meaning to “boss” or “leader.” In the Kione, to be the head of a family is to be one who supports it. In Latin, it is to be in charge. There is a significant difference in meaning when you move across the languages, which tends to change the entire way a scripture is applied.
Another change is that in Kione, the word “faith” is a verb, an action. To discuss “faith” and “works” is to discuss what type of action faith requires, not whether or not faith has action at all.
In modern English, “faith” is a noun, a thing that one has, rather than a thing that one does. That definitely changes the way it is applied, understood and related to in the scriptures we use. Suddenly there is a huge contrast between faith (a possession) and works (an action). Not only that, but as a “thing” faith becomes something that is seen as unchanging or merely increasing in amount, rather than a process or a way of acting.
Another change in words from Kione to Latin is the word for “peace.” In Kione, it means weaving together, harmonizing. In Latin it means more to be calm. “Peace and quiet” go together in Latin and we tend to think of peace from the gospel meaning a lack of diversity or differences, rather than something that reconciles or harmonizes. In a Latin peace, there are no harmonies, only the melody, so to speak.
Further, in the Old Testament, “peace” or the Kione word “eirene” often is used to mean “wholeness” and in the New Testament it has a collateral meaning of “welfare” or “health.” How often do you think of “peace” and “welfare” or “health” in the same thought? Or think of peace weaving things together or creating harmonies?
eirene from verb eiro = to join or bind together that which has been separated) literally pictures the binding or joining together again of that which had been separated or divided and thus setting at one again, a meaning convey by the common expression of one “having it all together”.https://www.preceptaustin.org/peace_eirene
In our English usage of “peace” we often read into the New Testament our own usage or theology when the term in used. We lose the original perspectives and shades of meaning.
In picking the illustrations for this post I’ve taken the liberty of using some quotes that agree with my readings (as do we all) but I have been reflecting on just how much we’ve lost by turning faith into a noun instead of a verb, or of treating peace as an absence of difference rather than a joining together and creating harmony from different voices.
I’ve also started to think about how far astray we go when we misuse the word “head”.
For more on the Kione word head, see:
- “Christian egalitarians believe kephalē in the Apostle Paul’s Epistles more likely means “source” or “origin” since the Genesis 2:24 account of Creation indicates that the man was the “source” of the woman since she was described in Genesis 2:21-22 as having been created from Adam’s “side”, the Hebrew word tsela (צְלָעֹת)”
Perspectives and words can make a difference. Sometimes we see a sunrise, sometimes a sunset. Those can be very different things.
Further, sometimes we find things that are precious and important when we look at translations and the way they change the meaning of the words, as much as the difference in language as the difference in the culture that the language is used in. Often the original is plain and simple as well as significant.
If you’ve looked at the meaning of words and translations, or in reflection on this essay:
- What things do you thing were plain and precious that we seem to have lost?
- How has your understanding of the scriptures changed the more you study?
- Should our political or national culture come first, or should the gospel? Why? How?
- How does D&C 121:39 provide perspective on why someone would want to use the Latin meaning of head instead of the Kione meaning?
- What other thoughts do you have on how the scriptures are used?
I agree that we have lost sight of what the “head of a congregation” means. It does not mean a “man” in the sense of a “boss.” Unfortunately, too many younger members have lost sight of that.
Admittedly, there is one particular hymn that we sing that has contributed to this misunderstanding among those who do not take the time to research the issue. “Praise to the Man” should be abolished in sacrament meetings. It causes younger members to get the impression that religious praise should be given to a man, rather than to God. It leads to the understanding of “head” being all wrong.
C’mon JCS. To the extent that the younger members misunderstand the meaning of “head”, it is because of what the older members have taught them. “Praise to the Man” might indeed be part of the problem, but it is a minor part–the misunderstanding is pervasive.
One reason some of us are so confused about the plain and precious “truth” found in the Book or Mormon is because both the loose and tight methods seem to have been utilized. It confuses some of us that we have the kind of tight detail that allows us to know the exact name of an ancient coin but then we are told that loosely speaking maybe a horse is a tapir.
The other thing that confuses some of us is we don’t understand how the BOM was translated from plates while at the same time resembling the 1700s KJV and View of the Hebrews among other sources. It’s not plain and precious, it’s confusing and duplicative.
Just to be nice I’ll refrain from commenting on the Book of Abraham or the JST.
A lot of good insights here. Understanding the original language is an important part of studying the text.
The term “Koine” was new to me today, so I had to look it up. It refers to the flavor of Greek that was spoken at the time. Typically the sources I’ve read have simply referred to Greek, but they must have meant Koine Greek.
At one time I wanted to learn Hebrew and Greek and study an interlinear Bible, a Bible that has the multiple translations together. Never did that and at this point I probably never will.
On the spelling. I let the spell checker correct me. Looking back, I made a mistake.
I gave V a thumbs up for catching that.
The idea that man was the source of woman may accord with Genesis, but it doesn’t accord with what happens in the womb. We all start out phenotypically female in utero. These are really interesting, Stephen. Thanks for sharing them! It reminded me of the book (Mis)Reading Scripture through Western Eyes which I read a few years ago.
“Family” derives from the Latin familius/familia which described a man and his slaves. Which is, I think, the current definition in Texatalibstandthe rest of the fascistic red States..
Josh. I’m sorry you weren’t able to engage on the Bible due to a need to go off topic with attacks on the Book of Mormon, etc.
How does this understanding say about the scriptures that are quoted as anti gay?
Geoff—that is a good question. Much of the Old Testament has to do with forced activities or abuse of children.
The New Testament scriptures tend to be about practices involving married heterosexuals frequenting prostitutes.
I had considered doing a post on the subject, especially since the contemporary Hellenic upper class practices being condemned aren’t really a part of our culture but were common enough in their time to end up in satires.
The ancients had celebrity culture too. And it was just as strange as ours.
For not a bad update see: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146107915577097?journalCode=btba
The wiki isn’t that bad either for framing purposes.
Just be aware that the wiki entry is a scatter shot that could do with a lot more editing and cohesion.
I’m fashionably late to the party but would still like to contribute. I’m not a scriptural scholar but have studied diligently over several years of teaching GD. My current method of study involves a personal and nonscholarly approach.
1. I read nearly all instances of “man” as “person”. Thus I can interpret how it applies to all on earth and how that flattens a hierarchy.
2. I read collective pronouns (we, they, he, etc.) as personal (I, me, etc.) to feel my direct connection and responsibility to God.
The plain and precious things are more obvious when they apply to all humans and I cannot hide within the royal “we.”