While I am finishing work on the last part of Hell Under Fire Book Review – Paul On Hell Chapter 4 Part 5, I was asked by a brother in Christ to post the following chapter from a wonderful book he was reading (that I also have read) called At The End of the Ages – The Abolition of Hell, by Bob Evely. Bob granted me permission to post Chapter 2 from his book which is below. After reading this post (chapter) I am sure you will desire to hear more of what Bob has written in his book. This book may be purchased at: Grace Evangel Fellowship – At the End of the Ages by Bob Evely I have found this book to be very readable without sacrificing solid scholarly foundations. I wish all scholars would take heed of the style of his writing and follow suit. Maybe we would have less ignorance in the Christian world because of it, and less pride from the scholars who write tomes disallowing access to the non-seminary student of God’s Word.
This post was spawned from discussions I have had with many about translations of the Bible. Most have come in the form of questions like, “If many (most) popular Bible translations are wrong, or have serious problems, what do I read? Which translation do you recommend? Where do I find one?” I own the Concordant translations both Old and New Testaments. I also am finding Jonathan Mitchell’s New Testament to be an interesting read, with much help interspersed in each passage. But for now, I would like you to think deeply about what Bob has written in Chapter 2 of his book, At the End of the Ages. Until next time, Godspeed!
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FINDING A RELIABLE TRANSLATION
It is a challenging experience today to buy a Bible. One walks into the Bible section of a bookstore and finds dozens of different translations, packaged a number of different ways in the form of “study Bibles” for every conceivable circumstance. How does one decide which Bible is the best?
In comparing the various translations available for any given Bible passage we find differences, yet we know the original contained the same Greek or Hebrew. Who made the decisions as to the correct English words to use? Which translation is correct?
Each translation was prepared by a person or group of persons who used their best judgment in relaying to us what the original Greek or Hebrew intended to say. As we study Scripture, we are placing our faith in the ability, faithfulness, and earnestness of the translators who did the work.
THE ULTIMATE TRANSLATION
It would be best for us to use a Greek New Testament and a Hebrew Old Testament as we study. Even here, though, there would be decisions to be made. In the world today we do not possess the original manuscript upon which Paul wrote his epistles, or upon which the four gospel accounts were recorded. Instead we have many “manuscripts” which have been preserved, some of which may contain an entire book of the Bible and others which may contain only fragments.
There are differences in the manuscripts that have survived to this day. As we examine them all, decisions must be made as to which is closest to the single original manuscript. This is not our purpose here. Suffice it to say; many have dedicated a large part of their lives to examining the manuscripts and making these decisions. They sometimes disagree. As a result, you will find a few verses in the King James Version that are not present in the New International Version, because different Greek or Hebrew texts were used. (See Act_28:29 as an example.) Nothing major is changed, and they are very close, but they are not identical.
I refer you to “God’s Eonian Purpose” by Adlai Loudy (see listing in the final chapter) for a discussion of how it was determined which manuscripts are the most reliable. You can find many similar discussions by other authors as well.
Once we have made our decisions as to the most reliable manuscripts, we will have our Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament, and we can begin. But while this is the ideal, it would be unreasonable to think that every earnest seeker will dedicate him/herself to a study of Greek and Hebrew.
As we will see in later chapters, the biases of the translators have crept into the translation. A single Greek word will be translated using several different English words, sometimes with drastically different meanings. The translator has certain theological beliefs going into the translation effort. He cannot prevent these beliefs from entering into his work.
Through the years I have drifted from one translation to another. I began with the New International Version, and drifted to the New American Standard Version and then to the New King James Version, seeking the one that was closest to the original languages. Some prefer the newer, easier to read translations. For some purposes these have value, but I have come to value a translation that is closer to the original writings over one that is simply easier to read. In making the translation easier to read, someone made decisions on my behalf as they provided the English rendering, and I’m not sure I trust their judgments.
If we wish to study the truth that God has chosen to reveal to mankind, we will need a consistent, carefully developed, unbiased translation. Most modern translations are developed to be easier to read and understand. But these translations will only allow us to know the translator’s viewpoint, and will not provide a clear, unbiased look at God’s Word itself.
For the person who is earnestly seeking the pure, word for word rendering of the Bible, closest to the original languages, I recommend the Concordant Literal New Testament (CLNT) and the Concordant Version of the Old Testament (CVOT). The Concordant Version was prepared in such a way as to eliminate human bias, as much as is possible, and to seriously study and carefully conclude the meaning intended by God for each word used in the original manuscripts.
THE CONCORDANT VERSION
Only a few of the Old Testament books have been completed to date, although the remaining books are in progress. The Concordant Literal New Testament, however, was first published in 1926 by the Concordant Publishing Concern, then led by Mr. A. E. Knoch. It has been revised several times since its original publication.
Mr. Knoch and his associates went about their work very systematically. They wanted to study, and to allow others to study, the pure Word of God, untainted by the judgments of men as far as can be achieved.
The translation assumes that if God chose to use two distinct Greek words, He had a reason for doing so and it would behove the earnest student to seek the distinction God was wanting to make. Most current translations, for example, use the single word “love” when the Greek uses three distinct words. Current translations use the word “hell” to denote three different Greek words.
Even worse than this, most English translations will take a single word that God has chosen in the originals, and translate it in different ways to suit the idea the translator is wishing to relay, allowing his biases and preconceived notions to shape his translation. For example, God uses many times in the New Testament the single word “aion,” yet this will sometimes be translated “eternal,” sometimes “age,” and sometimes “world.” How can a single word used by God mean “eternal” in some cases, and something far more temporary in others?
Perhaps if the Bible is simply a collection of man’s writings, such sloppiness in word usage could occur. In relaying his thoughts a man may sometimes use one word and sometimes another, without much thought or care as to any precision or distinction. But even in the case of men, if a distinct idea was being presented, great care would be taken in word selection so as not to lose the meaning of the thought being relayed. In the business world I have written many letters to customers or prospective customers. Where a crucial matter is at stake I choose my words very carefully, considering the precise impact upon the reader.
If the Bible is the revelation of God, and if He is desiring to reveal certain ideas to mankind, would He not take precise care in choosing His every word?
HOW THE CONCORDANT VERSION WAS DEVELOPED
In developing the Concordant Translation, the following method was used.
Every single Greek word was closely examined. Each word was studied in every occurrence within the New Testament to determine the best English equivalent to be used. As much as was possible the meaning for each word was determined from the way the word was used within the New Testament, and not how other human authors may have used the word.
To preserve distinctions made by God, each individual Greek word was matched with a unique English equivalent. The same English word was not used for different Greek words, and differing English words were not used when a single Greek word was used.
The translation was named “Concordant Literal” because of this methodology. Individual words were translated not because a human translator chose an English rendering which could vary from phrase to phrase based on his opinion. Instead, a “concordance” was employed to examine every instance where a single Greek word was used, and based on all of these readings a single English equivalent was determined. God had a reason for using the same Greek word in multiple cases, and He had a reason for using different Greek words as He intended to relay distinct meanings.
This word-for-word literal approach seems quite scientific and straightforward, but the fact of the matter is that the final product would be very difficult to use. In English we generally speak in terms of a subject (Dick), followed by a verb to indicate some action (threw), followed by an object upon which the verb acts (the ball). Not so with the Greek, which could be something closer to “threw the ball Dick.” We know which is the subject and which is the object by the form of the word, usually the word ending.
Our word-for-word translation would thus be very difficult to read and study. Consider also that we have just looked at a very simple example (Dick threw the ball). Consider how the difficulty (threw the ball Dick) would be amplified when reading some of Paul’s lengthy sentences.
And so the Concordant translation takes one final step in putting the translation into English “idiom.” In doing so there may be times when a single Greek word could result in several different English words, but this is kept to a minimum, and any English words employed continue to retain the original single Greek idea. When God chooses a particular Greek (or Hebrew) word, He is intending to express a particular thought, but because of language differences it may be necessary to use a variety of English words to express this single thought. But in using these various English words, always the same Greek or Hebrew thought must be relayed.
In order to remain accountable to the reader, the Concordant translation provides everything that is needed to trace back to the original, so the English idiom is not totally relied-upon. As we read this translation, then, we are not required to accept the fact that “brotherly fondness” is the best translation in 1Th_4:9. We can go to the “Greek-English Keyword Concordance” at the back of the Concordant Literal New Testament and find under “brotherly fondness,”
Greek = philadelphia (FOND-brother-ness)
So the Greek in this case is “philadelphia,” and the single English equivalent for this compound word is “FOND-brother-ness.” Furthermore we see in the concordance other occurrences of the same Greek word, allowing us to trace its usage ourselves.
Unlike other English translations, the reader can examine for himself the English word used to translate any given word in the original Greek. While not perfect, the method used by the Concordant translation is scientific, systematic, uniform, and consistent.
Besides publishing the Concordant Version, the Concordant Publishing Concern has also published continuously since 1909 a quarterly magazine entitled “Unsearchable Riches.” As the Concordant Version was being developed and revised, many articles in “Unsearchable Riches” share with the reader the study and deliberation process. In developing this translation, great deliberation was invested in each word. Unlike any other translation, this entire process is open to the scrutiny of the Bible student.
“Unsearchable Riches” is still published today, and many (if not all) back issues, as well as a comprehensive index, is available from the Concordant Publishing Concern.
WHY IS THE CONCORDANT VERSION NOT BETTER KNOWN?
If the Concordant translation is as good as I have made it appear to be, why is it not better known, and why can’t it be found in most Christian bookstores?
First, the Concordant translation is very literal, and therefore somewhat difficult to read. Unfortunately Bible translating has become very commercial, and since people seem more concerned with using a translation that is easy to read, they are not interested in a literal translation that is more difficult to read (even though it is more reliable). Book stores, even Bible book stores, tend to stock items that sell in greater quantities as this results in greater financial profit.
Second, the reader should be aware that using the Concordant translation will lead us to see certain theological points differently. You will find that some teachings as presented by most “orthodox” denominations of the current day are inaccurate, because we have allowed truth to become clouded and distorted by carelessness in handling God’s Word. Today there is great pressure within the “orthodox church” to maintain the historic teachings of the denominations.
To illustrate this point, there is a problem when we translate the single Greek “aion” with very different English renderings, sometimes with the concept of “eternal” and other times with a less than eternal concept such as “world” or “age.” This distinction that is made in the Greek is now lost in most current translations, causing much truth from God’s revelation to be lost. We will see later in this work that a proper and consistent translation will change what we have come to accept as “eternal” punishment to “eonian” or “age-abiding” punishment.
Because an intense study of God’s Word as concordantly rendered would result in some variances with the teachings of the “orthodox denominations” today, there is not overwhelming support from the church for the Concordant Version, just as before Martin Luther initiated the “Reformation” against the Roman Catholic Church there was not overwhelming support for any version of the Bible besides the one sanctioned by “The Church.” At that time the Roman Catholic Church wanted to remain in the position of “dispenser of the truth.” The church did not want to leave it to the common man to read or study the Bible for himself. Furthermore, the church claimed that some of the alternative translations were contrary to the church’s interpretation of the Bible, and contrary to many of the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church.
As a result of the Reformation we have learned that some of the church’s teachings of that day were incorrect. Until there is another Reformation of sorts to point out the error of certain traditional “orthodox” teachings, there will be a suppression of certain truths.
Don’t take my word for it! Examine the Concordant Literal New Testament to make your own decisions. In the remainder of this work I will give you some additional things to think about, and ask that you begin your own search for the truth. Don’t assume what your church has taught or is teaching you is totally correct. Why do you believe the things you believe about God? Is it because your church has taught you these things? Is it because your pastor believes these things? Is it because your parents taught you these things since your childhood?
Paul commended the Bereans because they did not assume what Paul preached was correct. (Act_17:11) Instead they examined the scriptures to be sure.
Read on. Think about these things. Examine the scriptures. Be diligent in your search. This is the very word of God we are considering!
FOR FURTHER STUDY
The Concordant Literal New Testament is difficult to find, since it does not have the commercial popularity to gain the interest of bookstores. You can purchase it directly from the publisher.
“The Concordant Literal New Testament With Keyword Concordance”
Concordant Publishing Concern
15570 Knochaven Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91387
[The Concordant Literal New Testament is also available on CD ROM.]
“The Concordant Version of the Old Testament”
Concordant Publishing Concern
[Not entirely completed, but many of the individual books in the Old
Testament can be purchased from the publisher.]
“Unsearchable Riches” – a bimonthly magazine
Concordant Publishing Concern
[A wonderful magazine filled with thought-provoking and well researched
articles concerning the Word of God. All back issues are still available since
the magazine was first published in 1909, and a topical and text index is
also available from the publisher.]
I suggest visiting the Concordant website, where you will find many good publications.