A Good Translation Must Be Understandable

by Dr. Stanley L. Morris

When God revealed Himself to mankind, He expected to be understood. He inspired the writers of the biblical books to communicate exactly what He said. The various authors of the sacred writings also expected to be understood by their audiences. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that we should demand that a translation of God’s Word be understandable. When God spoke a truth, He meant one thing by what He said. It was clear-cut. The prophets preceded the words with: “Thus saith the Lord.” God’s revelations were unambiguous (unlike the Delphic oracles). We consider that our task as Bible translators is to capture the true meaning of what was originally intended, and then to convey that meaning in such a way that it will be clearly and easily understood by all hearers or readers.

A Bible translation should communicate to the majority of people, believers and nonbelievers alike, regardless of cultural differences. It must be made intelligible to those who have never heard its message. If translators successfully hit that target, then they will easily communicate to almost all audiences of a particular culture they are aiming to reach.

A translation of the Bible must “make sense”; that is, be understandable by the great majority of people, regardless of their educational background. If an audience thinks that something doesn’t “make sense,” then it may assume that it is “nonsense” and not worth their time. In order for people to follow God’s will, they must readily understand a Bible translation. If Bible translators fail to reproduce the impact of the original message, then they have failed to do their job adequately.

To accomplish high fidelity, occasionally translators must make necessary grammatical and lexical adjustments. For example, the Hebrew idiom “bowels of mercies” (see Col. 3:12, NKJV) is not talking about intestines. Compare Job 30:27, IEB: “I never stop being upset inside.” Literally, “My bowels” = the seat of deep emotions. A meaningful English equivalent for this Hebrew idiom is “tender feelings.” Similarly, when we say we are speaking from “the bottom of our hearts,” we are not talking about that part of our bodies which pumps blood!

In the following paragraphs there are many graphic examples of biblical idioms which do not communicate well literally. And, these instances are followed by our wording from The International English™ Bible (IEB) which gets the true meaning across to readers effectively:

Gen. 19:31 — KJV: “There is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth.” Literally, “as (is) the way of all the earth.” IEB: “Everyone gets married, but there is no male for us to marry!”

Gen. 29:17 — KJV: “Leah was tender eyed.” Literally, “Leah’s eyes (were) weak”. IEB: “Leah was not pretty.”

Gen. 31:35— KJV: “I cannot rise up before thee, for the custom of women {is} upon me.” IEB: “I cannot stand up in front of you, because I am having my period.” NOTE: The excuse that Rachel gave to her father was that she was menstruating.

Gen. 39:20 — KJV: “And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison.” Literally, “. . . in the house of roundness”. IEB: “. . . and threw him in jail.” NOTE: See Ps. 105:17-18.

Exo. 1:8 — KJV: “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” Literally, “He did not recognize Joseph.” IEB: “He had no political ties with Joseph.” NOTE: Joseph went to Egypt during a period when a foreign Semitic people (the Hyksos) had taken over Egypt and were ruling it. The fact that Joseph was Hebrew (Semitic-related) probably made it easier for the Hyksos dynasty of Pharaohs to elevate him to such a high governmental post. When the Hyksos people were finally deposed, the native-born Egyptians suspected all Semitic people of being a potential threat.

Lev. 16:29 — KJV: “Ye shall afflict (= deny) your souls.” IEB: “You must not eat.” NOTE: This was an old phrase which meant to embark upon a serious fast, including complete penitence and total self-humiliation. On the 1st day of the 7th month, they celebrated the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24). And, the 15th day of the same month was the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34-36). The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is the only public fast which was commanded by the Law of Moses.

Lev. 19:23 — KJV: “Three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you; it shall not be eaten of.” Literally, “then you will expose its ‘foreskin’, its fruit (for) three years.” IEB: “{After planting a tree}, wait three years before eating its fruit.” NOTE: This meant that farmers would pluck the blossoms of the trees in the early years to cause the tree to bear more fruit in the later years. This was regarded as a type of “uncircumcision”. So, the Jews wisely were treating these young trees as “unclean” (= unacceptable) for eating in the first few years.

Num. 5:21 — KJV: “The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell.” Literally, “ . . . your thigh (will) fall away” (= atrophy). IEB: “ . . . Your belly will swell up, and you will not be able to have a baby!”

Deut. 13:13 — KJV: “Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you.” Literally, “ . . . sons of Belial” = worthless, ungodly fellows. “Belial” or “Beliar” is a Hebrew term meaning “worthless”. IEB: “Some evil men have come in among you!” NOTE: It is another name for Satan. Compare Judg. 19:22; 20:13; 1 Sam. 2:12; 10:27; 25:17,25; 30:22; 2 Sam. 16:7; 20:1; 23:6; 1 Kings 21:10,13; 2 Chr. 13:7; 2 Cor. 6:15.

Deut. 23:18 — KJV: “Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow.” IEB: “Do not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or a male prostitute to the House of the Always-Present One.” Compare Rev. 22:15.

Joshua 7:19 — KJV: “And Joshua said unto Achan, ‘My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD.’ ” Literally, “ . . . Please give glory to Yahweh!” IEB: “ . . . My son, you should tell the truth. Confess to Yahweh.” NOTE: It means: “Be honest!”

Joshua 23:14 — KJV: “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth.” IEB: “Now listen, I’m about to die.”

Judges 8:6 — KJV: “And the princes of Succoth said, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand?’ ” Literally, “Are Zebah and Zalmunna (captured) now in the palm of your hand?” IEB: “You haven’t caught Zebah and Zalmunna yet.” NOTE: = Do you physically have Zebah and Zalmunna in actual custody at this time? Is it realistic to assume that you will get them? These local Jewish brothers were still afraid that those roving Midianite sheiks might not be defeated. Therefore, the men of Succoth feared reprisals. And if so, the Midianites would return to that area and take vengeance upon them.

Judges 15:8 — KJV: “And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter.” IEB: “Samson attacked the Philistines and killed many of them.” This was a proverbial Hebrew idiom which meant a merciless slaughter. In other words, the best pieces (the thigh and the shoulder) = the great and the mighty ones would be consumed.

Judges 15:16 — KJV: “And Samson said, ‘With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.’ ” Literally, “ . . . a pile, two piles”. IEB: “ . . . With a donkey’s jawbone, {I have} piled them up high.” NOTE: There is a clever wordplay going on in this verse. Moffatt’s translation has: “With the jawbone of an ass, I have piled them in a mass!” In Hebrew, the word for “donkey” and the word for “pile” are the same—chamor.

Ruth 2:2 — KJV: “And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, ‘Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace.’ ” Literally, “ . . . I may find favor in his eyes”. IEB: “ . . . Allow me to go now to the field and pick up the leftover grain behind whomever gives me the privilege.” NOTE: The Law of Moses commanded Jewish farmers to leave the leftover grain for poor people, aliens, widows, and orphans. (Lev. 19:9,10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19).

1 Sam. 16:1 — KJV: “Fill thine horn with oil, and go.” IEB: “Fill your small container {with olive} oil and go!”

1 Sam. 24:3 — KJV: “And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet.” IEB: “ . . . A cave was there. And, Saul went inside to relieve himself.” NOTE: Compare Judg. 3:24.

1 Sam. 25:42 — KJV: “And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her.” Literally, “. . . at her feet” IEB: “. . . She had five servant girls following her.” NOTE: They were her “ladies in waiting”.

2 Sam. 14:7 — KJV: “. . . and so they shall quench my coal which is left.” IEB: “My {remaining} son is like the last spark of a fire. He is {all I have} left. {If they kill him}, my husband’s name and property will be gone from the earth!” = the surviving son, thus exterminating the family-line. Compare the same metaphor in 2 Sam. 21:17 and Ps. 132:17.

2 Sam. 19:22 — KJV: “And David said, ‘What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah?’ ” Literally, “ . . . What (is) to me and to you?” IEB: “David said, “I am so different from you, you sons of Zeruiah!” NOTE: See 1 Kings 17:18, “What do we have in common!?”

1 Kings 18:21 — KJV: “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions?’ ” Literally, “ . . . How long will you dance (or, limp) over two opinions!?” IEB: “How long will you people try to serve both Baal and Yahweh!?” NOTE: The Jewish people of the northern kingdom of Israel were guilty of an ambivalent syncretism. In other words, they were vainly attempting to worship both deities—not completely abandoning their Yahwistic traditions of the past, while still embracing the sensuous enjoyments of the new rites. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters at the same time” (Matt. 6:24).

1 Kings 18:37 — KJV: “Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.” Literally, “ . . . that You have turned back their heart again.” IEB: “ . . . Then the people will know that You are bringing them back to You again.” NOTE: This Hebrew perfect tense is to be taken as a proleptic perfect tense (that is, a prophetic perfect tense) which means that the future will certainly be fulfilled—the action is as good as done! (Dr. John T. Willis).

1 Kings 20:35 — KJV: “And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the Word of the LORD.” IEB: “By the Word of Yahweh, one of the prophets . . .” NOTE: This probably refers to a school for prophets.

2 Kings 2:3 — KJV: “Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head today?” IEB: “Do you know that Yahweh will take your master away from you soon?” Prof. Barnes stated that the teacher usually sat on an elevated seat, so that his feet were level with the heads of his pupils (compare Acts 22:3).

2 Kings 10:15 — KJV: “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?” IEB: “Are you as good a friend to me as I am to you?” NOTE: = Are you in agreement with me? = “Are you with me, heart and soul?” (The New English Bible)

2 Kings 19:21 — KJV: “The daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” Literally , “. . . shakes (her) head at your behind.” IEB: “The people of Jerusalem laugh at you, as you run away.” NOTE: Compare Ps. 22:7; Matt. 27:39.

2 Kings 25:27 — KJV: “(Evil-Merodach) did lift up the head of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, out of prison.” IEB: “He let Jehoiachin (the {former} king of Judah) out of prison.”

1 Chr. 11:8 — KJV: “And he built the city round about, even from Millo round about.” IEB: “And, David built more buildings around it. He began where the land was filled in on the east side of the city.”

1 Chr. 29:24 — KJV: “And they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar.” Literally, “They gave the hand under Solomon, the king.” IEB: “They promised to obey him.” NOTE: They pledged their complete allegiance. Compare 2 Kings 10:15.

2 Chr. 4:20 — KJV: “that they should burn after the manner before the oracle.” IEB: “to burn in front of the Most Holy Place” =“the Sanctuary”.

2 Chr. 10:11 — KJV: “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” IEB: “My father beat you with whips, but I {will beat you} with hooks!” NOTE: There were no “scorpions” there! This was only a stinging instrument of scourging. Compare Rev. 9:5.

2 Chr. 19:7 — KJV: “for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons . . .” Literally, “. . . and not the lifting up of faces . . .” IEB: “God wants all people to be treated the same way.” NOTE: This verse is talking about unjust partiality (prejudice). Compare James 2:1-13. See Ps. 82:2, IEB: “How much longer will you go on showing partiality to the evil people!?” literally, “to lift up the faces of the evil people”. God shows no favoritism (Lev. 19:15; Deut. 10:17; Prov. 18:5; 24:23; 28:21; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; 1 Pet. 1:17).

Ezra 9:1 — KJV: “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands” (that is, the local ethnic groups). IEB: “{Ezra}, the people of Israel—including the priests and the Levites—have not kept themselves separate from the non-Jewish people around us.” NOTE: The prophet Malachi (see Mal. 2:10-16) also condemned this practice.

Ezra 9:8 — KJV: “And now for a little space grace hath been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place.” Literally, “. . . and to give to us a peg” (that is, a small foothold in Palestine). IEB: “He has permitted us to live in peace in His holy place.”

Neh. 9:29 — KJV: “(They) withdrew the shoulder.” Literally, “They gave the shoulder.” IEB: “They were bull-headed.”

Job 2:4 — KJV: “And Satan answered the LORD, and said, ‘Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.’ ” IEB: “Satan answered, ‘One skin for another!’ ” NOTE: This was an ancient, proverbial expression. It meant that Satan was alleging that Job would do anything to save himself.

Job 12:5 — KJV: “He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.” Literally, “A torch is despised in the thoughts of one who is at ease.” IEB: “People who are comfortable don’t care that others are having trouble.” NOTE: For example, when a wanderer arrives at his destination at night, he thoughtlessly tosses aside the torch which had guided his uncertain steps in the darkness before. In the same way, Job was formerly a beacon of insight to these men, but, in their prosperity and good health, they no longer regarded Job as a precious friend who was in need of sympathy and help during his hour of need.

Job 13:12 — KJV: “Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.” IEB: “Your {so-called} ‘wise sayings’ are {worth no more} than proverbs of ashes.” NOTE: In other words, such pious platitudes are merely words of dust. Compare Isa. 44:20.

Job 13:25 — KJV: “Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro?” Literally, “Would you scare a driven leaf!?” IEB: “Don’t punish a leaf that is blown {by the wind}.” NOTE: That would be an activity that was unworthy of God’s stature.

Job 19:25 — KJV: “For I know {that} my redeemer liveth, and {that} he shall stand at the latter {day} upon the earth.” Literally, “He will rise on the dust.” = the resurrection of the future Messiah. IEB: “I know that my Defender is alive. And, I know that, in the end, he will come to stand up {for me}.”

Ps. 17:8 — KJV: “Keep me as the apple of the eye.” IEB: “Guard me as {You would protect} Your own eye” (pupil). NOTE: Compare Deut. 32:10-12; Ruth 2:12; Ps. 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4; Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:24.

Ps. 17:10 — KJV: “They are enclosed in their own fat.” Literally, “They have closed up their fat.” IEB: “They are selfish.” They are completely insensitive and pitiless.

Ps. 22:7 — KJV: “They shoot out the lip.” Literally, “They open the lip (at me).” IEB: “They stick out their tongues {at me}.” NOTE: This was tantamount to extreme, verbal insults. Compare Job 16:4,10; Ps. 35:21; 64:8; 109:25; Lam. 2:15.

Prov. 3:8 — KJV: “It shall be health to thy navel.” Literally, “It will be a healing to your navel” (perhaps one’s umbilical cord, the source of life). IEB: “Then your body will be healthy.” NOTE: Here the Hebrew word shar stands for the entire body.

Prov. 7:9 — KJV: “In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night.” Literally, “in the pupil of night and darkness.” IEB: “{It was} just starting to get dark.” NOTE: Compare Prov. 20:20, “Whoever curses his father or his mother {will die like} a light that goes out in darkness.” Literally, “His lamp will be put out in the apple of the eye (that is, the blackness) of darkness”; (Prov. 7:9), like a wick being snuffed out in pitch darkness. Compare also Prov. 13:9; 24:20.

Prov. 12:27 — KJV: “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting.” Literally, “He will not roast his prey.” IEB: “A lazy person catches no food to cook.” NOTE: Whatever the lazy hunter might have caught temporarily in his net will get away. In other words, through his own lack of diligence, the lazy man lets real opportunities slip through his fingers.

Prov. 14:4 — KJV: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean.” Literally, “Without oxen, an (empty) stall (is) clean.” IEB: “When there are no oxen, {there is} no food in the barn.” NOTE: Why? Because no plowing has occurred beforehand, and therefore, no crop was planted!

Prov. 16:11 — KJV: “A just weight and balance are the LORD’s: all the weights of the bag are his work.” Literally, “. . . All the stones in the bag (are) His work.” IEB: “. . . God wants all weights to be honest.” NOTE: God sets up the standard for fairness.

Prov. 20:26 — KJV: “A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.” Literally, “. . . And, he turns back the wheel on them.” IEB: “. . . Then he punishes them.” NOTE: This denotes the driving of the threshing-wheel to separate the chaff from the grain (that is, the bad part from the good portion (Isa. 28:27-28)) on top of bad people (Amos 1:3). It is referring to serious punishment (compare 2 Sam. 12:31; 1 Chr. 20:3). Compare also Prov. 20:8.

Prov. 20:27b — KJV: “searching all the inward parts of the belly.” IEB: “{God} searches through a person’s thoughts.” NOTE: God exposes each person’s true motives.

Prov. 21:29 — KJV: “A wicked man hardeneth his face.” IEB: “An evil man bluffs his way through.” NOTE: Such a man is always putting forth a bold expression.

Prov. 23:2 — KJV: “And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” IEB: “Control yourself, if you are a big eater.” NOTE: This was an expression in the Middle East which meant to severely curb one’s appetite. Over-indulgence at such a time might endanger one’s very life (see the next verse).

Prov. 23:6 — KJV: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye.” Literally, “ . . . the bread of an evil eye.” IEB: “Don’t eat the food of a stingy person.” NOTE: Compare

Prov. 22:9; Deut. 15:9; Matt. 6:23; 20:15.

Prov. 25:15 — KJV: “A soft tongue breaketh the bone.” IEB: “And, a gentle word can get through to a hard-headed person.” NOTE: Compare Prov. 14:29; 15:18; Luke 18:1-8.

Prov. 27:17 — KJV: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Literally, “. . . And, a man sharpens his friend’s face.” IEB: “Iron can sharpen iron. {In the same way}, people can help each other learn.” NOTE: In other words, intelligent conversation promotes mutual edification. A healthy exchange of ideas is valuable. The purest form of “information” is interaction, because neither participant knows precisely what the other one is going to say. Therefore, novel syntheses can result. Prov. 27:23 — KJV: “Look well to thy herds.” Literally, “Set your heart to the herds.” IEB: “Pay close attention to {the condition of} your cattle.” NOTE: Check on them often. Diligence prevents losses.

Prov. 28:17 — KJV: “A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit.” Literally, “. . . pressed down with the blood of a soul.” IEB: “A man who is tormented by being guilty of committing murder will keep on running until he dies.” NOTE: Compare Gen. 9:6 and Exo. 21:14.

Prov. 28:22 — KJV: “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye . . .” Literally, “A man with an evil eye . . .” IEB: “A stingy person is in a hurry to get rich.” NOTE: He is a greedy man (Prov. 23:6; Matt. 20:15).

Prov. 30:13 — KJV: “And their eyelids are lifted up.” IEB: “Some people have such a proud look! They look down on others.” NOTE: They are exhibiting snobbish, disdainful glances, as if they are so superior to everyone else.

Eccl. 3:11 — KJV: “No man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Literally, “He has put eternity into their heart” (= mind). IEB: “God has also given us a desire to know the future.” NOTE: Human beings were designed for eternity; therefore, the things which are time-bound on this earth cannot fully satisfy us.

Eccl. 7:6 — KJV: “For as the crackling of thorns under a pot . . .” Literally, “like the (crackling) sound of thorns underneath a pot . . .” IEB: “{It is} like heating a pot by burning straw. . . .” NOTE: Here there is also present a play on the Hebrew words: sirim (“thorns”) and sir (“pot”). Ps. 118:12 also emphasizes the quickness of the blaze. It’s over fast.

Eccl. 10:3 — KJV: “a fool . . . his wisdom faileth him.” Literally, “ . . . his heart is lacking” IEB: “A foolish person is not wise.” NOTE: Such a man lacks sense. This core trait shows up in everything he does.

Eccl. 10:19 — KJV: “A feast is made for laughter.” Literally, “Bread (= a festival) is made for laughter.” IEB: “A party makes you feel good.” NOTE: The princes were not attending to the obvious breaches in their government. They were not tending to business every day.

Eccl. 11:1 — KJV: “Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.” Literally, “Cast your bread (your sustenance) upon the surface of the waters . . . ” IEB: “Do good things everywhere you go . . . ” NOTE: In other words, be adventurous in your selfless giving (Isa. 49:4). Don’t play it safe (Prov. 11:24). In Egypt, farmers would sow their seed on top of the water, so that, when the waters of the Nile River receded, the grain would spring up from the rich, alluvial soil with a bumper crop (Isa. 32:20).

Eccl. 11:2 — KJV: “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight.” IEB: “Invest whatever you have in several different ventures.” NOTE: This proverb is advising you to diversify (Luke 16:9). This was a Hebrew idiom to indicate an indefinite number. The accumulative use of numbers adds emphasis. It was a common poetic device in the Near East. Song of Songs 2:15 — KJV: “Our vines have tender grapes.” IEB: “Our vineyards are in blossom.” NOTE: The physical attraction between these lovers was at its sexual peak. Lam. 2:20 — KJV: “Shall the women eat their fruit?” IEB: “Women eat their own babies.” NOTE: This was cannibalism during a long siege. See Jer. 19:9 and compare 2 Kings 6:28-29.

Dan. 3:8 — KJV: “(They) accused the Jews.” Literally, “(They) chewed pieces of (them).” IEB: “They began to speak against the men of Judah.” NOTE: This was a malicious accusation.

Hosea 4:2 — KJV: “and blood toucheth blood.” Literally, “And bloods touch against bloods.” IEB: “One murder follows another murder.” NOTE: Compare 2 Kings 15:8-16,25; Ps. 106:38; Ezek. 16:20-21; 23:37; Mic. 7:2.

Hosea 4:9 — KJV: “And there shall be, like people, like priest.” Literally, “And, it will be, like people, like priest.” IEB: “The priests are {as wrong} as the people.” NOTE: Both classes had become totally pagan. Compare Jer. 50:6. All would be punished for their sins.

Hosea 4:18 — KJV: “Their drink is sour.” Literally, “Sour (is) their sour (drink).” IEB: “Her rulers get drunk.” NOTE: They were nothing but a gang of drunkards! Matt. 8:20 — KJV: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay {his} head.” IEB: “The foxes have holes to live in. The wild birds have nests in which to live, but I* have no place where I can rest {my} head.” NOTE: The phrase “Son of man”* here is Jesus’ self-designated expression which means “the Messiah”. He drew it from Dan. 7:13-14. Jesus is not talking about another individual; he is referring to himself. Therefore, the usual manner of doing this is by using first person pronouns (I, me, my, mine), but Scripture sometimes uses the indirect third person (Gen. 18:3,5; 19:18; 42:10,11,13; 1 Kings 3:7; Ps. 119:17; Luke 1:38,48; 2:28.). Here is how Dan. 7:13 reads in the IEB: “And, behold, {there was One who looked} like a human being. He was coming with clouds in the sky.” Literally, “(one) like the Son of Man” = the Messiah (John 1:51; 8:23; Rev. 1:13). NOTE: This figure is not merely “the Son of David”, but he is the Head of a restored humanity (Rom. 5:12-21), the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) who crushes the antichrist, the seed of the snake. Because mankind had become beast-like from following Satan, Christ had to become human (John 1:14) in order to rescue man from bestiality. Whoever rejects God incarnate will be judged by the Son of Man (John 5:27).

Matt. 11:19 — KJV: “But wisdom is justified of her children.” IEB: “{True} wisdom is shown to be right by the things it does.”

Matt. 11:29 — KJV: “Take my yoke upon you.” IEB: “Take the job I give you.” NOTE: This has to do with one’s personal responsibility to Jesus Christ.

Matt. 16:6 — KJV: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” IEB: “Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” NOTE: Here Jesus was talking about the insidious influence of these Jewish sects.

Luke 5:34 — KJV: “Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?” IEB: “Can the friends of a groom be sad while he is still with them?”

Luke 23:31 — KJV: “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Literally, the Greek text is: “If they do these things in a tree full of sap, what will happen in the dry (tree)?” IEB: “If people do things like this now when life is good, what will happen when bad times come?”

Acts 26:14 — KJV: “{It is} hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” IEB: “By fighting me you are only hurting yourself.” NOTE: Jesus was saying that it was difficult for Saul (Paul) to resist his own conscience’s conclusion.

Rom. 6:6 — KJV: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with {him}.” IEB: “You know that our sinful selves were nailed to the cross with Christ.”

Rom. 7:6 — KJV: “We should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” IEB: “We can serve with a new spirit, not {by following} a strict code.”

Rom. 12:20 — KJV: “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him. If he thirst, give him drink, for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” IEB: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. By doing this, you will make him burn up with shame.” NOTE: This old Hebrew idiom (which was carried over into the Greek New Testament) originally came from Prov. 25:21-22.

2 Cor. 6:11-12 — KJV: “O {ye} Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” IEB: “We have spoken plainly to you Corinthian people. We opened wide our hearts. We are not holding back our tender feelings from you. You are the ones who are holding back!”

Gal. 3:13 — KJV: “For it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.’ ” IEB: “It is written, ‘When a person’s body is hung on a tree (the cross), it shows that the person has been condemned.” NOTE: This was a citation from Deut. 21:23, showing that, even though the Law of Moses put all of us under condemnation, Christ took that condemnation away by changing places with us, thereby putting himself under that condemnation instead. So, the cross of Christ was a substitutionary sacrifice.

Gal. 5:12 — KJV: “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” Literally, the Greek text has it: “would cut themselves off.” IEB: “I wish those people who are upsetting you (namely, the Judaizers) would add castration {to their circumcision}!

Philp. 3:2-3a — “Watch out for dogs.” NOTE: The “dogs” were Judaizers, that is, those who tried to force non-Jews to become Jewish before they were allowed to be Christians. See Acts 15:1-5.

Philp. 3:2-3b — KJV: “Beware of the concision.” IEB: “Watch out for mutilators.” NOTE: These were some so-called Christian Judaizers who “butchered” the flesh of non-Jews because they wanted to circumcise as many of them as possible. They seemed to care more about flesh than souls!

1 Tim. 5:22 — KJV: “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” Literally, it is: “Put your hands on no one.” IEB: “Don’t confirm someone too quickly.” NOTE: = ordaining. Here this idiom does not mean violence; it means to appoint a candidate prayerfully. Compare Acts 8:18-19; 19:6; 13:3; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; Heb. 6:2.

1 Tim. 6:12-13 — KJV: “Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.” IEB: “Fight the good fight of the faith. Hold onto eternal life. (God gives life to everything.) You were called into this life when you made the good confession in front of many witnesses. Before God and Christ Jesus who made the good confession to Pontius Pilate . . .” NOTE: See what Jesus said in John 18:36-37; 19:11.

Philm. 1:10 — KJV: “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” IEB: “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus. I ‘fathered’ him in prison.” NOTE: This means that Paul converted Onesimus (a runaway slave) to Christ while Paul was still in prison. Compare Prov. 1:8, IEB: “My child, listen to your father’s instruction.” Literally, “My son,” spoken affectionately, as by a wise old man. The aged Apostle John used the same sort of language in 1 John 2:1,12,14,18; 2:28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21 and 3 John 1:4 regarding younger Christians.

Heb. 7:10 — KJV: “for he (Levi) was yet in the loins of his father (Abraham), when Melchizedek met him.” IEB: “because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still inside Abraham’s body.” NOTE: Levi was the great-grandson of Abraham, his ancestor. And, the writer of the Book of Hebrews is showing that, since Abraham paid homage to Melchizedek (the king of the city of Salem and priest of the Most High God (Heb. 7:1)), one whom Abraham viewed to be superior to himself, then Levi (Abraham’s descendant) was also to be considered to be inferior to Melchizedek.

James 1:17 — KJV: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” IEB: “Every good and perfect gift comes down to us from God, the Source of truth. The Father of lights is always consistent and changeless.”

1 Pet. 1:13 — KJV: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind”. IEB: “So, get your minds ready.” Compare 1 Kings 18:46, IEB: “Elijah tightened his clothes around him.” Literally, “and he girded up his loins.” See also 2 Kings 4:29. Consider also Job 38:3, IEB: “Be strong like a man!” Literally, “Gird up your robe (or, “loins”), hero!” (Compare Job 40:7 also, and Prov. 31:27 for women.) Usually, the robe was worn as a free-flowing outer garment. But when men ran, labored, or fought, they tucked it in (compare the metaphorical use in 1 Pet. 1:13 above.) God was asking Job to get himself ready for the contest which is about to happen. Can Job explain the phenomena of God’s natural government!? If not, then how could Job understand the principles of God’s moral government!? Man should simply submit to God, and not question God!

1 Pet. 5:3 — KJV: “Neither as being lords over {God’s} heritage”; literally, it is: “portion”; Greek: kleros. IEB: “Don’t act like lords over the people.” Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13, literally, “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet.) IEB: “I am the A and Z.” NOTE: Here it means the beginning and the end.

Any idea that can be expressed in one language can be expressed in another language, unless the form itself is an essential element of the message. The only question is HOW can this be accomplished? Nevertheless, we certainly cannot expect a perfect match between languages.1

We must strive for equivalence of meaning rather than literal identity. It is not important to conserve the strict grammatical form of the original expression in Hebrew,

1 Eugene A. Nida and Charles R. Taber, The Theory and Practice of Translation (E. J. Brill: Leiden, the Netherlands, 1982), pp. 4-5. in Aramaic, or in Greek. The best translations are not confusing syntactically or look forced in any way. Instead, they seem natural to a given target language when the text is read aloud. A great translation helps people to really understand the meaning of ideas that were conveyed in the original language. A conscientious translator works to achieve the closest, most natural equivalent. The transfer of the essential meaning is given the highest priority. Therefore, both content and context must rule!

Though grammatical style is secondary to content, it is still very important. Translators are not allowed to render expository material as though it were originally written as a straight narrative. And, they are not supposed to translate poetry as if it had been prose. The poetic Book of Lamentations is a case in point: Its five chapters are laid out in a very symmetrical manner. The original Jewish author framed these chapters with a beautiful literary device called “acrostic” (see another outstanding example of this in Ps. 119:1-176). Lam. 1, Lam. 2, and Lam. 4 each have 22 verses, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. And, the first word of each verse begins with a different Hebrew letter (in order) through the entire alphabet (= the acrostic style). Lam. 3 does the same thing in blocks of three verses, for a total of sixty-six verses (22 X 3 = 66). Although Lam. 5 also has 22 verses, no acrostic mechanism is present there. We cannot even hope to show this symmetry in English. That is the form of the Hebrew text, but it is not necessary to the meaning to be expressed in English. The main thrust of the grief-stricken author’s purpose is telling how sad it was for him to witness first-hand the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and its aftermath. A national disaster had occurred. The Babylonians had liquidated the Jewish nation. And, the over-all tone is melancholy. The English reader should feel this profound sadness even without the acrostic form of the Hebrew original. This type of elegy is called qinah in Hebrew. It is a funeral dirge meter of 3 beats followed by 2 beats. A modern narrator can approximate this style orally if he is very careful. Here’s another example: The Book of Hebrews was a well-organized, logical treatise. It is some of the best literary Greek to be found in the New Testament, approaching the quality of Classical Greek. Accordingly, its intricate discourse structure should be rendered the same way in translation. Regardless of who wrote it, Hebrews is certainly a superb, comprehensive, literary masterpiece in Greek.

In Amos 1–2, eight times the prophet prefaces his prophecies about various nations with these words: “Thus saith the LORD: For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away {the punishment} thereof; because . . .” (Amos 1:3, KJV). This pattern is repeated about Philistia in Amos 1:6, about Tyre in Amos 1:9; about Edom in Amos 1:11; about Ammon in Amos 1:13; about Moab in Amos 2:1; about Judah in Amos 2:4, and about Israel in Amos 2:6. Why did Amos put it that way? Because increasing the number was a Hebrew literary device to signify a great number, filling up the measure and making it overflow, that is, for many, or for more than enough. Compare Job 5:19; 33:29; Prov. 30:15,18,21; Eccl. 11:2.This is the way the IEB translates it: ““For the crime after crime that Damascus is doing, I will not hold back {their punishment}.”

Why did Nebuchadnezzar’s advisers address him the way they did in Dan. 2:4? They exclaimed, “O king, live forever!” It was because this was the typical kind of exaggerated, Oriental adulation which was expected in those days. It was the formula normally used in speaking directly to potentates. Such words were meant to flatter their ego. Sometimes the sense is the exact opposite of the literal phrasing. For example, Lam. 4:21 says: “Rejoice and be glad, you people of Edom!”( IEB). This was sarcasm. Read the context. Compare the Book of Obadiah and Amos 1:11-12 and Jer. 49:8 for the same sort of thing there.

And, what about Malachi’s begging questions? The prophet’s style is unique in the Old Testament. He makes a statement and then asks a question growing out of that statement. In the answers to these questions, Malachi sets forth the greater portion of his message. This writing style of presenting an objection in the mouth of Malachi’s audience before refutation is found a total of eight times in the Book of Malachi (Mal. 1:2,6,7,13; 2:14,17; 3:7,8). It was very effective.

And, what about the esoteric nature of apocalyptic literature in Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation? Translators must be very careful to convey the highly symbolic messages to readers properly. More footnotes may be necessary to explain things to those who may not be familiar with this kind of writing. The original purpose of this cryptic style was to give believers comfort and encouragement as they faced severe persecution and trials. They needed to know by faith that they would eventually be victorious, if they remained faithful to the one true God.

Did you know that Eph. 5:14 was once a Christian song? Here are the lines:

“Get up, you sleeper!
Rise from death!
And, Christ will shine on you.”

Similarly, Philp. 2:6-11 should be rendered as poetry, not prose:

6 Though Christ was divine by nature,
      He did not think that being equal with deity was something to hold onto.

7 Instead, he emptied himself, taking on the very nature of a slave.
      He became like human beings, appearing in human form.

8 He humbled himself.
      He obeyed, though it meant dying,
          even dying on a cross!

9 So, God made him the most important.
      God gave him the name {that is} above every name.

10 {God} wanted every knee to bow, when the name of Jesus {is mentioned};
      those in the heavenly world, on earth, and under the earth.

11 And every tongue will confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord” for the glory of God the Father.

Some Bible scholars have called this passage “a Christological hymn”. It may have been circulating within the Christian community before its appearance here. Was the Apostle Paul quoting it? Dr. Ernst Lohmeyer thought that these verses contained a pre-Pauline hymn which may have been originally composed in Aramaic, and which was liturgically used with the Lord’s Supper. According to Prof. Lohmeyer, the hymn was made up of two strophes (Phil. 2:6-8,9-11) of three stanzas. That is possible. A cadence is apparent. Rom. 3:27–4:2 was a straw-man dialogue. It was a very powerful literary mechanism employed by Paul to get his main point across: In the Living Word Commentary, Prof. Frank Pack states it this way: “The logical conclusion of Jewish monotheism is that God is the universal Lord of all men. No single group can claim to be in exclusive possession and control of His grace. Whether circumcised or uncircumcised, all men as sinners must come to God in faith. . . . After making the bold declaration that man is justified by faith apart from works of the law, Paul desires to demonstrate that a faith relationship with God is the formative power of the Israelite covenant. But, he goes further to affirm that faith in God’s promises is the ideal response of every man. Paul turns to Abraham as the patriarch par excellence whose faith in God prepared the way for the redemptive history of Israel.”

1 Cor. 15:12-20 was a persuasive line of reasoning. In 1 Cor. 15:3-8, after Paul firmly established four historical facts—all empirically proven—namely that: (1) Christ died on a Roman cross; (2) Christ was buried; (3) Christ was raised from death on the third day; and (4) Christ appeared to more than 500 people simultaneously and to other credible eye-witnesses at different times, the apostle proceeds to show the skeptical Corinthians step-by-step the untenability of their position. Some of them believed that there was no such thing as a resurrection; they wanted to spiritualize it. Many of the Greeks thought that the human body was to be regarded as the “prison of the soul”. Compare Paul’s words in Athens (Acts 17:30-32). They thought of death as being a welcome relief because it was the release of the immortal soul, which would enjoy an existence in the after-life, free of the limitations imposed by a physical body. Paul patiently argued in the form of a reductio ad absurdum. Were these Corinthians willing to draw conclusions which were obviously false? Were they willing to accept the sweeping logical implications? That was there dilemma.

In the eleventh chapter of 2 Corinthians, there were two key words which the Apostle Paul used to vent his frustration with that congregation: (1) “foolishness” (2 Cor. 11:1,16,17,19); (2) and “bragging” (2 Cor. 11:12,16,17,21,30). The false “apostles” who invaded that Corinthian congregation had boasted that they worked on the same terms as Paul does (2 Cor. 11:12). However, in this passage, Paul undermined their claim by “boasting” of things which the false apostles considered foolish—his humility (2 Cor. 11:7), his labors (2 Cor. 11:23), and his weakness (2 Cor. 11:30). This tack was painful but necessary to show the shallowness of those false, self-serving teachers. This chapter is a rare look into Paul’s deep emotions; he was hurt. So, he used irony to show how ridiculous the position of those deceivers actually was. The Corinthians were quite gullible; they seemed to be willing to listen to anybody (2 Cor. 11:19). This was a challenging situation for Paul.

Jesus the Master Teacher was very careful not to give people more than they could grasp. Mark 4:33 says, “Jesus was telling them the message—but only as much as they were able to understand” (IEB). Jesus did not try to impress people with big words, yet He was able to reach their hearts. By using profound illustrations, Jesus communicated clearly even to children. He attracted them, because they could feel His love (see Matt. 19:13-14). In fact, Jesus said that we ought to become humble as little children (Matt.18:1-5). As translators, we also are trying to recapture that level of communication in The International English™ Bible.

In these busy, modern times when messages assail people from many diverse sources, we know that many individuals have learned to “tune out” very quickly. Therefore, we must work to grab a reader’s attention instantly, before it goes somewhere else. If he or she cannot immediately perceive the relevance of a particular message to his or her daily life, then we can expect it to be ignored. With the rise of the worldwide web (www.), many modern people are suffering from what is called “information overload.” Folks feel overwhelmed by the sheer mass of information (or noise) which bombards them from every side. This sense of overload causes a lot of people to retreat from learning new things. Therefore, many individuals also acutely sense that there is an ever-widening gap between what they understand and what they think they should understand. They wonder, “Why isn’t the information we’re receiving telling us what we want (or need) to know?” The information explosion has backfired. People are flooded with facts but starved for insight, according to author R. S. Wurman.1

1 R. S. Wurman. Information Anxiety (New York: Bantam-Doubleday-Dell Publishing Group, 1989.

The IEB translation, unlike more complicated Bible translations, truly helps ordinary people to transcend their fear of not knowing everything that God has said. In short, they learn how to distinguish what is relevant from what may be irrelevant to them at a particular stage of their spiritual development. The International English™ Bible is one of the clearest translations ever written. It is the key to the treasure chest!

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