SUMMARY OF THE COMPARISON OF TRANSLATIONS OF PROBLEM PASSAGES IN ROMANS
In the preceding chapter a total of fifty-one significant but ambiguous words and passages in the book of Romans have been considered. The precise meaning of each of these must be regarded as somewhat uncertain. Among responsible and qualified scholars there is important disagreement as to the correct interpretation of each of the fifty-one passages. Equally marked is the disagreement among the versions and even editions of the same version.
The results of the comparison of the various types of translations given by the versions to these problem passages are perhaps most conveniently presented in the form of tables. Table 1 (see page 212) lists in columns 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 the total number of translations falling in each of the five classifications for each version or edition. Column 7 lists for each version the total number of deliberately interpretative translations, with or without marginal alternatives.
Column 8 lists the totals of interpretative renderings, with or without alternatives, including literal translations which suggest only one of the possible meanings and hence are equivalent to interpretations. Consequently, the figures in column 8 may serve as an index of the more
Table 1.–A summary of the various types of translation given by thirty-six versions and editions to one problem passages in the book of Romans
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or less interpretative quality of a particular version, at least in its translation of the book of Romans.
Column 9 lists for each version the total number of interpretative translations for which no alternatives are given. These totals include literal renderings which in effect are equivalent to interpretations. The figures in this column indicate the extent to which a particular version presents to the reader a more or less limited insight into the problems and potential meanings of the original text.
Column 10 ranks the versions according to the number of times each has offered an interpretative translation of an ambiguous passage, with or without marginal alternatives. This total also includes renderings which may be literal, yet suggest only one of the possible meanings. The version with the highest total of interpretative translations is ranked as number 1. Column 11 ranks the versions according to the number of times each has interpreted an ambiguous passage without offering an alternative possibility. The totals in this column likewise include translations which are literal but equivalent to interpretations.
A clearer and more ample tabulation of the information listed in columns 8, 9, 10, and 11 of table 1 is presented in tables 2 and 3 on pages 215 and 216.
It is apparent from these figures that a large amount of interpretation has entered into the translation of all major English versions of the New Testament, including such reputedly uninterpretative versions as the King James, Rheims, and Wycliffe. Especially noteworthy is the highly interpretative quality of the English and American Revised Versions, which have offered interpretative renderings of more than 80 per
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of the fifty-one problem passages in Romans no less than Phillips much more idiomatic translation. Nevertheless, in spite of the presence of so much interpretation, very few versions notably the English Revised, the American Standard, and Weymout- have made any serious attempt to inform the reader of the possibility of other interpretations than those presented in the text. More than half of the versions included in this study offer no alternatives at all.
Notes on the Individual Versions
Wycliffe (1382).—Out of the 51 ambiguous passages, Wycliffe presents 30 interpretative translations that represent only 1 of the possible meanings of each passage. Nineteen of these translations are literal but equivalent to interpretations; 15 represent literally the interpretation of the Vulgate. Only once (Rom. 5:1) does Wycliffe depart from the Vulgate interpretation. Only once (Rom. 3:25) does Purvey’s work of revision in 1388 result in a change of interpretation (according to the Forshall and Madden text).Purvey adds 1 doctrinal and explanatory note.
Tyndale (1525). – In his first edition, Tyndale offers a total of 38 interpretative translations. Among these he agrees 28 times with the interpretation of Luther’s 1524 edition. Six times he is in disagreement. Three times Tyndale is ambiguous where Luther interprets; in 4 passages Tyndale interprets where Luther is ambiguous. Tyndale’s 1534 edition makes no changes in interpretation. In 1 passage the 1534 edition is obscure where the first edition interprets, and in this change Tyndale comes further into agreement with Luther.
Coverdale (1535).—Coverdale offers 39 interpretative translations. In 30 of these he agrees in meaning with Tyndale, 14 times using
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the same wording. Sixteen passages represent essentially the same interpretation as Tyndale hut in different words, and in 11 of these the changes in wording are in the direction of greater similarity to Luther. Five times Coverdale rejects Tyndale’s interpretation in favor of Luther’s. Three times Coverdale follows Luther’s interpretation where Tyndale is ambiguous. Three times Coverdale follows Luther’s ambiguity where Tyndale interprets. Only once (Rom. 7:21) is Luther’s interpretation rejected.
The evidence indicates some measure of truth in Coverdale’s claim on his title page that he “faithfully and truly translated out of Douche.” At least he certainly consulted the German in his editing of Tyndale and was more inclined to accept the interpretations and ambiguities of Luther.
Rogers (1537).–Compared with Tyndale’s 1534 edition, the Rogers translation of the 51 problem passages shows only 2 minor modifications the addition of a comma in Rom. 1:4 and the addition of a definite article in Rom. 1:5. In neither case is the meaning changed. There are 3 doctrinal and explanatory notes.
Taverner (1539).–Taverner offers 34 interpretative renderings. In each case his interpretation is the same as Tyndale’s. Only 3 times is the wording modified. However, in 7 passages Taverner presents an ambiguous translation where either Tyndale or Coverdale has interpreted.
Great (1539).–Out of a total of 34 interpretative translations the Great Bible shows agreement with Tyndale in 28 passages. In 6 of these the wording is changed. Five times Tyndale’s interpretation is rejected. Likewise in 28 passages the Great Bible presents the same interpretation as Coverdale, but in 17 of these passages the wording is modified.
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In 3 cases Coverdale’s interpretation is rejected. Eight times the Great Bible presents an ambiguous rendering where either Tyndale or Coverdale has interpreted.
Geneva (1560).–The Geneva Version also presents 34 interpretative translations. Twenty-four of these agree with the Great Bible, with 10 using the same wording. Six times the Great Bible interpretation is rejected. There is closer agreement with Tyndale. Twenty-six passages represent the same interpretation, 12 of which are identical in wording. There are 4 disagreements. Whittingham’s 1557 New Testament shows still closer affinity to Tyndale. Thirty-one passages have the same interpretation. Only 3 are different. In comparison with the Great Bible, whittingham presents 27 similar and 6 different interpretations.
The Geneva Version agrees with Whittingham 28 times, with only 2 disagreements. There are 22 passages agreeing with Luther. Six are different. Ten times the Geneva Bible offers ambiguous translations for which previous versions have presented interpretations. There are 7 doctrinal and explanatory notes.
Bishops’ (1568).–Out of 31 interpretative renderings, the Bishops’ Version shows agreement with the Great Bible in 28 passages, 19 times with the same wording. There are 3 disagreements. There is almost the same degree of similarity with Tyndale, 28 agreements in meaning, 19 of which use the same wording, and but 4 disagreements. Compared with the Geneva Version, 25 passages are interpreted the same, 12 of which use the same wording. There are 4 disagreements. Twelve times the Bishops’ Bible offers an obscure rendering of an ambiguous passage for which at least one previous version has given an interpretative translation.
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There are 7 doctrinal and explanatory notes.
The 1572 edition does not change the interpretation of any of the 51 problem passages. Four times the wording is modified, twice in the direction of a more correct translation.
Rheims (1582).–The Rheims New Testament offers 30 interpretative translations. Eighteen of these are literal but equivalent to interpretations; 16 represent literally the interpretation of the Vulgate. In 11 passages the Rhemish Version resorts to ambiguity where earlier Protestant versions interpret, which is 1 less than the Bishops’ and 2 less than the King James. Compared with the Geneva Bible, the Rheims New Testament shows 21 passages with the same interpretation, 6 of which use identical wording. There are 9 disagreements. Three doctrinal and explanatory notes are included, compared with 7 in the Bishops’, 7 in the Geneva, and 10 in the Westminster.
The Challoner edition of 1749 changes the interpretation of 3 passages (Rom. 7:21; 8:13; 9:22), all 3 in the direction of similarity to the King James.
King James (1611).—As is to be expected, the King James Version shows closest similarity in interpretation to the 1572 edition of the Bishops’ Bible. Out of a total of 32 interpretative translations, 28 are in agreement with the Bishops’ 1572 revision, 17 of them using the same words. There are only 3 different interpretations. As compared with the first edition of the Bishops’, there are 26 agreements, 15 passages using the same words, and 4 disagreements. Next in similarity is the Geneva Version with 24 agreements in interpretation, 15 passages with the same wording, and 5 disagreements.
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Compared with Tyndale, there are 22 agreements, 10 of which use the same wording, and 8 different interpretations, the Blayney edition differing in 9 passages. It is usually estimated that up to 90 percent of Tyndale’s translation has been retained in the King James Version. This is evidently true of Tyndale’s general wording, but in the interpretation of ambiguous passages—where similarity or dissimilarity would seem to be of much greater consequence—this figure, at least for the book of Romans, is reduced to about 70 per cent.
Compared with the Rheims New Testament, 20 passages are interpreted the same, with 7 using identical words. Eight passages are interpreted differently.
Thirteen times the King James offers an ambiguous rendering where previous versions have interpreted. Blayney, in his edition of 169, interprets 3 passages which the first edition leaves ambiguous (Rom. 1:4; 8:10; 8:13). In 2 other passages (Rom. 1:4; 8:3) he changes the punctuation but without important effect on the meaning. It is recognized, of course, that some, if not all, of these changes in the 1611 text may have been Introduced by printers or earlier revisers before Blayney produced the enduring 1769 edition that has served as the basis of most modern printings of the King James Version.
The King James Version is the first to make an attempt of any consequence to offer alternative interpretations of ambiguous passages. For 9 such passages, alternatives are given in the margin.
English Revised (1881).–The publication of the English Revised Version marked a significant development in the treatment of ambiguous passages in the New Testament. Forty-two of the 51 selected ambiguous passages in Romans are interpreted, and for these 19 alternative interpretations are given in the margin.
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The English Revised Version has been generally regarded as one of the most excessively literal of all English translations—”an interlinear for schoolboys.” This characterization may be valid as far as literary style is concerned, but it certainly is not correct in the area of interpretation. Twenty of the 36 versions and editions included in this study interpret less of the 51 ambiguous passages than does the English Revised.
Compared with the 1769 Blayney edition of the King James Version the English Revised shows 19 passages agreeing in interpretation, 9 of which use the same wording. Fourteen passages are interpreted differently. Wine times the King James interpretation is placed in the margin as an alternative. Three times the English Revised takes up a King James marginal alternative into the text. Once the English Revised is ambiguous where the King James interprets. Six times the English Revised interprets where the King James is obscure. In 10 passages it offers ambiguous translations where previous versions have interpreted.
It is surprising to note the amount of dissimilarity between the English Revised and Tyndale. Thirteen passages are in agreement, 3 of which use the same wording. But in 19 of the ambiguous passages the interpretation has been changed.
Twentieth Century (1900).—The 1900 “tentative” edition of the Twentieth Century New Testament is among the most highly interpretative versions included in this study, interpreting k-9 of the 51 ambiguous passages. Weymouth (1903), Goodspeed, and Lilly also interpret k-9 passages. Schonfield interprets 50. Only slightly less interpretative is
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the 1904 “final” edition with 48 interpretative translations. Evidently the 1904 edition represents a thorough revision of the 1900 publication. In 42 translations of ambiguous passages the interpretation remains essentially the same. But in 11 of these the wording is considerably altered, and in 6 passages the interpretation has been changed. In 1 passage the 1904 edition reverts to ambiguity where the 1900 interprets. This indicates the necessity of citing the particular edition when referring to a reading in this influential modern speech translation.
Compared with the King James (Blayney), the 1900 edition shows 17 passages in agreement, 17 in disagreement. In 13 passages the 1900 edition interprets where the King James is obscure. The 1904 edition agrees with the King James in 18 passages, disagrees in 14, and interprets 12 passages left ambiguous in the older version.
Compared with the English Revised Version the 1900 edition of the Twentieth Century gives similar interpretations to 25 passages, as against 13 differences. The 1904 edition agrees with the English Revised in 29 passages, with only 8 different interpretations.
Both editions of the Twentieth Century are somewhat closer to the American Standard Version. The 1900 edition agrees in interpretation with the American Standard in 29 passages, with 10 disagreements. The 1904 edition agrees 31 times, with 9 differences.
Apparently the 1904 final edition was revised in the direction of greater similarity to the interpretations of the 1611, 1881, and 1901 authorized versions.
American Standard (1901).—The American Standard Version differs in Interpretation from the English Revised in 6 passages. It also interprets
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1 passage left ambiguous in the English version, giving a total of 43 interpretative translations, as compared with 42 in the 1881 revision. Twice the American Standard adopts the marginal alternative of the English Revised. Five times the English Revised interpretation is relegated to the American Standard margin. Nineteen times alternative interpretations are presented, making the 1881 and 1901 revisions the outstanding versions in this respect. However, the American Standard leaves 9 passages ambiguous which previous versions have interpreted. In 1 passage it is obscure where the King James (Blayney) interprets.
In the treatment of the 51 ambiguous passages the American Standard shows considerably greater similarity to the King James and Tyndale than does the English Revised. Compared with Tyndale, the American version agrees 18 times and disagrees 13 times, against 13 agreements and 19 disagreements in the English revision. Compared with the King James (Blayney), the American Standard shows 23 agreements and 10 disagreements, as against 19 agreements and 14 disagreements in the English Revised. Four times the American Standard adopts the marginal alternative in the King James. Eight times the King James interpretation is placed in the American Standard margin.
Weymouth (1903).–In Weymouth’s first edition, 48 of the 51 ambiguous passages are given interpretative translations. During the four successive revisions of Weymouth’s version, these interpretations underwent extensive modification. The fifth and last edition of 1929 agrees with the 1903 edition in the interpretation of 34 passages. In 14 of these the wording has been considerably modified. In 12 passages the interpretation has been changed. In 1 passage the 1929 edition interprets
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where the 1903 is ambiguous; in 1 it is ambiguous where the 1903 edition interprets. Consequently, it is even more important than with the tentative and final editions of the Twentieth Century New Testament to cite accurately the particular edition of Weymouth to which one is referring. Yet it is not uncommon to hear Weymouth’s version quoted as if all five of the editions bearing his name were identical.
As in the case of the later revision of the Twentieth Century version, the last edition of Weymouth indicates revision in the direction of similarity in interpretation to the authorized versions of 1611, 1881, and 1901. Compared with the King James (Blayney), Weymouth’s first edition shows l4 agreements and 21 disagreements, as against 17 agreements and 18 disagreements in the 1929 edition. The 1903 edition interprets 10 passages, the 1929 11 passages, left ambiguous in the King James. Neither edition of Weymouth is as close to the King James in interpretation as are both editions of the Twentieth Century.
The Weymouth and Twentieth Century editions, however, show an almost identical degree of similarity with the interpretations of the English Revised, though not always in the same passages. Compared with the 1881 version, Weymouth’s 1903 edition agrees 25 times and disagrees 13 times. The 1929 edition agrees 29 times and disagrees 9 times.
Not so close is Weymouth’s similarity to the American Standard. Compared with the 1901 version, Weymouth’s first edition agrees in 24 passages and disagrees in 16. The 1929 edition agrees in 28 passages and disagrees in 12.
Most noteworthy about the Weymouth version is the fact that among the main modern speech translations, it alone makes an attempt of any
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consequence to offer alternative interpretations. There are 16 of these in the 1903 edition, 12 in the 1929.
Moffatt (1913).–Moffatt interprets 45 of the 51 passages. In 4 he remains ambiguous where earlier versions have interpreted. In the 45 interpretative translations he shows remarkable independence of the three major English versions competing for public attention in the British world, the King James, English Revised, and Weymouth.
Compared with the King James (Blayney), Moffatt agrees in 12 passages and disagrees in 20. Compared with the English Revised, he agrees in 16 passages and differs in 20. Compared with Weymouth (1903), he agrees in 23 passages and disagrees in 21. The degree of Moffatt’s agreement with the English Revised is notably less than that of Weymouth. Compared with the American Standard there are 22 agreements, 16 disagreements. It is interesting to observe how both these British translators, especially Moffatt, come closer in interpretation to the American than to the English revision.
Moffatt’s final edition of 1935 makes no changes in the interpretations of the 1913 first edition.
Westminster (1920).–The Roman Catholic versions show a remarkable degree of independence in interpretation, except in passages related to basic dogmas. The Westminster Version interprets 41 of the 51 problem passages. Compared with the Rheims New Testament, the Westminster agrees in 17 passages and disagrees in 13. Of the latter, 2 are the same as in Challoner’s 1749 edition of the Rheims. Eleven passages which the Rheims leaves ambiguous the Westminster interprets. Eight times the Westminster Version rejects the text or interpretation of the Latin Vulgate, 3 of
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these in favor of the Greek. There are 10 doctrinal and explanatory notes, the highest number in any of the versions included in this study.
Compared with the King James Version (Blayney), the Westminster agrees in 19 passages and disagrees in 14.
Goodspeed (1923).–Goodspeed interprets 49 of the 51 ambiguous passages. Of these, 10 agree with Tyndale, 26 disagree. Fifteen agree with the King James (Blayney), 20 disagree. In 12 passages Goodspeed interprets where the King James is obscure.
In the translation of the problem passages in Romans, Goodspeed comes closest in meaning to the 1900 tentative edition of the Twentieth Century, and he comes closer to the American Standard than does Moffatt to either the English or American revisions. Compared with the 1900 edition of the Twentieth Century, Goodspeed interprets 30 passages the same, while 18 are different. Twenty-seven are the same as in the 1904 final edition; 20 are different. Compared with the American Standard Version, 25 passages agree and 14 disagree. Compared with Weymouth’s 1903 edition, 28 passages agree and 20 disagree. Twenty-five agree with Moffatt and 19 disagree.
Ballantine (1923).–Ballantine presents interpretative translations in 41 passages. In these there is closer agreement with the King James and much closer with the American Standard than with Moffatt and Goodspeed, and considerably more with Goodspeed than Moffatt. Compared with the King James (Blayney), 21 passages are interpreted the same, 10 are different. Compared with the American Standard, 28 passages agree in interpretation, while only 8 disagree. Compared with Goodspeed, 25 passages agree, 16 disagree. Compared with Moffatt, 18 are the same,
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17 are different. Ballantine is particularly close in interpretation to the 1904 final edition of the Twentieth Century, with 28 agreements and 12 disagreements.
Montgomery (1924).–Mrs. Montgomery interprets 44 of the ambiguous passages. Like Ballantine, she is closer in interpretation to the American Standard than to Goodspeed and Moffatt but closer to Moffatt than to Goodspeed and closer to either of these modern speech translations than to the King James. Compared with the American Standard, 27 passages agree, 11 disagree. Compared with Moffatt, 27 agree, 14 disagree. Compared with Goodspeed, 26 agree, 18 disagree. Compared with the King James (Blayney), 20 passages agree and 14 disagree. Mrs. Montgomery makes use of 1 explanatory note.
Williams (1937).–Williams interprets 7 of the problem passages, and in these he shows remarkable agreement with Goodspeed. Thirty-four passages have essentially the same interpretation. Only 13 are different. Compared with the American Standard, 28 passages agree while 12 disagree. Compared with Moffatt, 25 are interpreted the same, 18 are different. Compared with the King James (Blayney), 14 passages agree in interpretation, 20 disagree.
At first it might seem strange that a New Testament published by so “conservative” an institution as the Moody Bible Institute should reveal so high a degree of similarity in interpretation with a translation coming from so “liberal” a school as the University of Chicago. But it should be noted that Williams was a graduate of the Chicago New Testament department, in which Goodspeed was for so many years professor of Biblical Greek.
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Spencer (1937).–As in other Roman Catholic versions, Spencer shows considerable independence in interpretation. He interprets 40 of the ambiguous passages. Of these, 18 are in agreement with the Rheims New Testament, 12 are in disagreement. Three of the latter, however, agree with Challoner’s 1749 edition of the Rheims. Five times Spencer departs from the Vulgate interpretation, 2 of these in the direction of the Greek. Once he cites the Latin in the margin and makes use of 3 doctrinal and explanatory notes.
As is to be expected, Spencer is much closer in interpretation to the Westminster than to Moffatt and Goodspeed. Compared with the Westminster New Testament, Spencer agrees in 26 passages, disagreeing only in 10. Compared with Moffatt, 20 passages agree, while 19 disagree. Similarly with Goodspeed, 21 agree, while 20 disagree. It is interesting that Spencer should agree so equally with Goodspeed and Moffatt, since the latter themselves disagree in 19 passages.
Confraternity (1941).–As an official revision of the Rheims New Testament, it is only natural that the Confraternity Version should be especially close in interpretation to the 1582 translation. In 39 of the ambiguous passages the Confraternity offers interpretative renderings. Of these, 25 are in agreement with the Rheims, with only 6 in disagreement. One of the latter agrees with Challoner. Seven times the Confraternity interprets passages left obscure in the Rheims. Only once (Rom. 8:27) is the Vulgate interpretation rejected. Twice the Greek is presented in the margin. There is 1 explanatory note.
The Confraternity is also closer in interpretation to the committee-produced Westminster Version than to Spencer. Compared with the
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latter, 24 passages agree, 12 disagree. Compared with the Westminster, 28 passages agree and 8 disagree.
Basic English (1941).–Forty-one of the 51 ambiguous passages are given interpretative translations in the Basic English New Testament. Twenty-nine of these agree with the interpretation of the English Revised of 1881; only 6 disagree. The agreement with the American Standard is not so close, with 26 agreements and 11 disagreements. This may reflect the fact that the Basic English Version was produced in Britain.
Of the modern speech versions collated in this study, the Weymouth 1929 fifth edition is closest in meaning to the Basic English, with 28 passages agreeing, 13 disagreeing. Compared with Goodspeed, 24 passages are the same in interpretation, 17 are different. Compared with Moffatt, 23 are the same, 18 are different. Compared with the King James (Blayney), 18 passages agree, 15 disagree.
Knox (1944).–In 48 of the 51 problem passages, Knox offers interpretative translations. In these he shows approximately the same degree of similarity to the Rheims New Testament as do the Westminster, Spencer, and Lilly translations. Nineteen passages agree, while 10 are different in meaning. Even though the Confraternity, Westminster, and Spencer New Testaments show considerable disagreement among themselves, Knox agrees almost equally with each of them. Twenty-two passages agree with the Confraternity, 15 disagree. Twenty-three agree with the Westminster, 14 disagree. Twenty-three agree with Spencer, 15 disagree.
Four times Knox seems to depart from the Vulgate interpretation. In two passages his difference from the interpretations given in the Rheims and Confraternity appear to reflect the meaning of the Greek
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rather than the Latin. He makes use of 3 explanatory notes, 2 of which present the Greek.
Compared with the King James Version (Blayney), Knox agrees in 17 passages, disagrees in 16. He agrees with Moffatt in 23 passages, disagrees in 18. He agrees with Goodspeed in 25 passages and disagrees in 20.
Verkuyl (1945).–Verkuyl offers interpretative renderings of 44 of the ambiguous passages. In these he comes closest in interpretation to the American Standard with 25 passages agreeing, 11 disagreeing. Compared with Moffatt, 25 passages agree, 16 disagree. Compared with Goodspeed, 25 passages are interpreted the same, 18 are different. Compared with the 1929 fifth edition of Weymouth, 24 passages are the same, 18 are different. Compared with the King James, 16 are the same, 16 are different. Verkuyl includes 1 doctrinal note.
Revised Standard (1946).–The Revised Standard Version presents interpretative translations of 40 of the 51 ambiguous passages, making it somewhat less interpretative than the English and American Revised Versions, which offer respectively 42 and 43 interpretative renderings. Inasmuch as the Revised Standard is an official revision of the American Standard Version, it is not surprising to observe that it comes closest in interpretation to the 1901 revision. Twenty-eight passages are given essentially the same meaning, 9 of these with the same wording; 8 passages are changed in meaning. Much less is the similarity to the English Revised. Twenty-one passages are interpreted the same, 6 of them using identical wording; 15 passages are changed in meaning.
The Revised Standard is closer in interpretation to the King
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James than to the English Revised. And it is considerably closer to Tyndale, Moffatt, and the Confraternity than to Goodspeed. Compared with the King James (Blayney), 22 passages agree, 7 of which have the same wording; 11 disagree. Compared with Tyndale, 20 passages agree, 3 using the same words; 13 disagree. Twenty-three passages agree with Moffatt, 5 using the same words; 15 disagree. Twenty-two passages agree with the Confraternity, 6 using the same wording; 12 disagree. Compared with Goodspeed, 20 passages agree, 3 with identical wording, while 19 disagree.
The Revised Standard is not quite as close in meaning to the King James as is the American Standard, but much closer than the English Revised. Compared with the King James (Blayney), the Revised Standard shows 22 agreements, 11 disagreements; the American Standard 23 agreements, 10 disagreements; the English Revised 19 agreements, 14 disagreements. In 3 passages the Revised Standard returns from the interpretation of the American Standard to that of the King James. Five times the Revised Standard resorts to ambiguity where the American Standard interprets. In 11 passages the Revised Standard is obscure where previous versions interpret, in 6 of these reverting to the same ambiguous wording as the King James.
Since Moffatt and Goodspeed were both members of the translation committee producing the Revised Standard Version, it is interesting to note their relative influence in the area of interpretation. Apparently the other members of the committee were more inclined to side with Moffatt, for compared with his version the Revised Standard shows 23 passages interpreted the same, with 15 different. But compared with Goodspeed’s
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New Testament, 20 are the same and 19 different. In 16 passages the Revised Standard adopts the interpretation agreed upon by Goodspeed and Moffatt. In 12 the Revised Standard disagrees with them both. Four times the Revised Standard agrees with Goodspeed’s interpretation rather than that of Moffatt. But 7 times the Revised Standard adopts Moffatt’s interpretation rather than that of Goodspeed.
Phillips (1947).–Phillips interprets 43 of the 51 problem passages and shows a remarkable closeness in interpretation to Knox with 30 passages agreeing, 12 disagreeing. Compared with other British versions, Phillips agrees with Moffatt in 24 passages, disagrees in 16; agrees with the English Revised in 22 passages, disagrees in 14; agrees with the 1929 Weymouth fifth edition in 23 passages and disagrees in 17. Compared with Weymouth’s first edition, Phillips agrees in 19 passages and disagrees in 21. He retains 19 of the King James (Blayney) interpretations but rejects 12.
Compared with the American Standard Version, Phillips agrees in
22 passages, disagrees in 13. Compared with the Revised Standard, 21 are the same, 14 are different. Compared with Goodspeed, 23 are the same, 18 are different.
Schonfield (1955).–In all but 1 of the 51 ambiguous passages Schonfield presents only 1 of the possible meanings, making his New Testament the most interpretative version included in this study. He also reveals considerable difference in interpretation from Weymouth, Moffatt, Goodspeed, and the Revised Standard. Compared with Moffatt, Schonfield agrees in 19 passages but disagrees in 25. He agrees with Goodspeed in 23 passages but disagrees in 25; agrees with the Revised Standard in 19
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passages but disagrees in 20; agrees with Weymouth’s first edition in 24 passages but disagrees in 24; agrees with the much revised fifth edition in 24 passages but disagrees in 23.
Schonfield comes somewhat closer to the King James, American Standard, and Phillips versions. He interprets 20 passages the same as the King James (Blayney) and differs in 15. He agrees with the American Standard in 23 passages, differs in 17; agrees with Phillips in 24 passages, differs in 19.
Lilly (1956).–Lilly offers 46 interpretative renderings and reveals approximately the same degree of similarity in interpretation to the Rheims New Testament as do the other Roman Catholic versions included in this study. Nineteen passages agree with Rheims and 12 disagree, one of the latter agreeing with Challoner. Among the other Catholic versions, Lilly comes closest to Knox with 30 passages interpreted the same, 14 differing. Twenty-eight passages agree with the Confraternity, 11 disagree; 26 agree with the Westminster, 13 disagree; 24 agree with Spencer, 15 disagree. In 3 passages Lilly departs from the interpretation of the Vulgate, 2 of these in favor of the Greek. Six of his interpretations are uniquely different from those given in the other Catholic versions. He makes use of 3 doctrinal and explanatory notes.
Lilly shows somewhat less agreement with the interpretations of Moffatt and Goodspeed. Twenty-three passages agree with Moffatt, 18 disagree; 25 agree with Goodspeed and 20 disagree.
Theological Bias in Translation
The term “theological bias” requires further definition before the question may fairly be raised as to whether or not theological prejudice
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has entered into the large number of interpretative translations given by the versions to the many ambiguous passages in the book of Romans. A distinction needs to be drawn between a translator’s personal theology or religious philosophy and his scholarly understanding of the theology of the writer of the particular document being translated.
It is presumably agreed among modern scholars that the intrusion of a translator’s own dogmatic convictions into the interpretation of a passage of Scripture is to be avoided–as far as humanly possible. His task is to present with the greatest possible accuracy the meaning of the author he is translating, whether he himself agrees with it or not. As Goodspeed observes, “the modern translator seeks what the ancient writer meant to say, with the same detachment with which a chemist looks at his test tube, or the biologist looks through his microscope. His aim is not to buttress a theology, but to find out what each New Testament writer had to tell.”1
On the other hand, it would seem legitimate, in fact necessary, that the translator’s understanding of the author’s theology should be a determining factor in the interpretation of ambiguous passages of theological consequence. Without such insight into the original writer’s theology, the translator has no other basis for resolving ambiguities than his own personal belief or preference.
In the introduction to the Old Testament of the Revised Standard Version, W. A. Irwin stresses the fact that:
There is no place for theology in Bible translation, whether conservative
1E. J. Goodspeed, The Making of the English New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1925), pp. 114-115.
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or radical or whatever else. A “theological translation” is not a translation at all, but merely a dogmatic perversion of the Bible. Linguistic science knows no theology; those of most contradictory views can meet on common ground devoid of polemic, agreed that Hebrew words mean such and such, and their inflection and syntactical relations imply this or that. These facts establish an agreed translation …. The Bible translator is not an expositor; however pronounced his views about Biblical doctrines, he has no right to intrude his opinions into the translation, or to permit his dogmatic convictions to qualify or shape its wording.1
To the extent that Irwin is referring to the illegitimate intrusion of personal theological views, his position is surely correct. However, the desirable ideal he expresses is based on the assumption that the inflection and syntactical relations of the original wording “establish an agreed translation.” This would seem to presuppose the absence of ambiguity in the original.
It is probable that as linguistic science advances, passages now regarded as ambiguous may become capable of exact translation. But in the book of Romans alone there are at least fifty passages of theological and exegetical consequence which are still of such ambiguity that among translators and commentators there is no unanimity as to their correct meaning. It is true that there is disagreement as to whether or not some of these passages actually are linguistically ambiguous. But this uncertainty only serves to heighten the dilemma. Consequently, pending the discovery of further linguistic evidence, the translator is unavoidably faced with the necessity to interpret, to make a choice between two or more possible meanings, each of which may have the support of reputable scholars. And in making such a choice, the translator must inevitably
1W. A. Irwin, “Method and Procedure of the Revision” in An Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of the Old Testament, ed. L. A. Weigle (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1952), p. 14.
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depend upon his understanding of the theology of the original writer as expressed in the passage being translated.
This appears to be the position taken by Unger in his assertion that:
When the language allows a choice the translator’s theology, whether it be conservative or liberal, is bound to influence the choice. If the translator has no theology he is unqualified to make any choice, especially in a doctrinal passage, and to that extent is rendered incompetent no matter what his purely scientific linguistic talents and equipment may be.1
Compare Nida’s recognition that “every translation will to some extent represent the theological views of the translator. It is impossible to avoid this.”2
A translator might be able to avoid this dilemma if it were possible to reproduce the ambiguity of the original. As mentioned in chapter i, some scholars have urged that this policy should be followed in the treatment of ambiguous passages. But the evidence presented in chapter ii shows that only in rare instances has a version succeeded in preserving the ambiguity of the original, in fairly representing, with an equally ambiguous English phrase, the two or more meanings inherent in the original ambiguity. In a majority of the fifty-one ambiguous passages in Romans, the versions have offered instead interpretative translations. Many of the remainder have been given renderings too obscure to convey much meaning to the ordinary reader.
When making a choice in the interpretation of an ambiguous passage,
1Merrill F. Unger, “A Critique of the Revised Standard Version,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. X (Jan., 1953), p. 56.
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it does not seem necessary that the translator’s personal theological convictions should influence the decision. For example, in the translation of so controversial an ambiguous passage as Rom. 9:5, it should be possible for a translator who personally believes in the deity of Christ nevertheless to interpret the verse as a doxology to the Father, on the basis of his considered opinion that it was not Paul’s custom specifically to designate Christ as “God.” Similarly, in the interpretation of Rom. 8:l6 and 26, it should be possible for a translator who himself may not believe in the personality of the Holy Spirit nevertheless to interpret __ as “the Spirit Himself,” on the basis of his understanding that Paul taught the personality of the Holy Spirit.
The influence of such necessary understanding of the theology presented in the document being translated hardly merits the unfavorable characterization of “theological bias,” or “theological prejudice,” for such terms seem to imply the absence of scholarly consideration of evidence. However, the translator’s choices will inevitably reflect his own insights into and opinions concerning the author’s theology, and his decisions may reveal a pattern identifiable as, say, liberal or conservative. If this also is to be dubbed “theological bias,” it is at least a bias of a different sort, in that it is held more immediately answerable to the evidence in the document being translated.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish between these two kinds of theological bias, and among the large company of very conservative readers, who tend to be particularly sensitive in this regard, any change in traditional interpretation is likely to be attributed to the personal religious prejudice of the translator.
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A number of the versions have declared themselves free from theological bias. For example, Coverdale claims in the dedication of his 1535 version to Henry VIII that he has “nether wrested nor altered so moch as one word for the mayntenance of any maner of secte.” Goodspeed states in the preface to his New Testament that “the aim of the present translation has been to present the meaning of the different books as faithfully as possible, without bias or prejudice.”1 W. R. Bowie, a member of the Revised Standard Version New Testament committee, condemns prejudice in translation as “a sin against the Spirit” and affirms that “from that sin this committee sought faithfully to keep free.”2 The validity of these claims has been accepted by some and vigorously denied by others.
There are seventeen of the selected fifty-one ambiguous passages in the book of Romans whose interpretation would seem to be particularly susceptible to theological bias of either kind. They are Rom. 1:4 (five problems); 2:13; 3:25 (two problems, (__ and __), 3:28; 5.1) 7:25; 8:16; 8:24; 8:26; 9:5; and 10:4 (two problems). Among the versions which have deliberately or inadvertantly (by literal translation) offered interpretative renderings of these passages, there is disagreement as to the correct meaning of each of them.
For example, Rom. 9:5 is interpreted as a declaration of the deity of Christ by all but five of the versions included in this study. Only Moffatt, Goodspeed, Ballantine, the Revised Standard, and Schonfield interpret as a doxology to the Father. It has been charged that such departure
2W. R. Bowie, “The Use of the New Testament in Worship,” in An Introduction to the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament, ed. L. A. Weigle (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1946), p. 59.
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from the traditional interpretation is to be attributed to theological bias.1
It should be noted in the first place that in translating Rom. 9:5 as a doxology to the Father, the five versions have the support of such scholars as Tischendorf, Meyer, Vincent, Denney, Julicher, Burkitt, Bosworth, Parry, Lietzmann, Dodd, Kirk, Knox, and Barrett. These scholars attempt to justify their preference on other grounds than mere dogmatic prejudice. For example, Lietzmann explains that his decision to interpret the passage as a doxology to the Father is not for theological nor even for linguistic reasons but in view of the fact that parallel doxologies in the New Testament seem to preclude the reference of this doxology to Christ. Knox agrees that Lietzmann’s argument “seems rather conclusive.”
It should also be noted that some scholars regard the passage as linguistically of such ambiguity as to allow for no definite decision at all. Sanday and Headlam express preference for the traditional interpretation but admit that “throughout there has been no argument which we have felt to be quite conclusive.” Likewise Kirk, who favors the interpretation as a doxology to the Father, admits that it is difficult to choose between the “four main possible renderings.” Garvie advises that the verse is “too ambiguous” to use dogmatically.
During the heated controversy around 1881 concerning the translation of Rom. 9:5 in the English Revised Version, Ezra Abbott declared himself strongly opposed to the traditional interpretation but conceded that the passage “grammatically admits of being punctuated and construed
1See the discussion of Rom. 9:5 in chap, ii, pp. 176-179.
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in at least 7 different ways.”1Timothy Dwight supported the traditional interpretation hut likewise admitted that “the question ceases to be one of certainties, and becomes one of probabilities.”2
Moulton, in his Prolegomena, observes that the interpretation of this verse is a matter of exegesis rather than grammar.
It is evident, therefore, that in the interpretation of Rom. 9:5 a particular translator’s decision–if he is able to arrive at any conclusion at all—might be based primarily upon linguistic considerations. Or his choice might be made more upon exegetical grounds, comparing this with other related passages in Paul and the New Testament. It Is even conceivable that in some cases personal dogmatic bias may have its influence, though it seems scarcely possible that a responsible scholar would consciously permit himself this indulgence–at the risk of his scholarly reputation.
Two of the passages of special theological interest involve the translation of the problematic verb $ __ (Rom. 2:13 and 3:28). Protestants have traditionally interpreted this term in the forensic sense, “account righteous,” “acquit.” Roman Catholics oppose this view and hold to the interpretation “make righteous,” “sanctify.”
In Rom. 2:13, the term is translated into the ambiguous “justify” by Tyndale, Coverdale, Rogers, Taverner, Great, Geneva, Bishops’, Rheims, King James, English Revised, American Standard, Westminster, Spencer, Confraternity, Knox, Revised Standard, and Phillips–the English Revised and American Standard explaining in the margin that “to justify” means
1Abbott, JBL, Vol. III (June and Dec, 1883), pp. 90-112.
2Dwight, JBL, Vol. I (June and Dec, 1881), pp. 22-55.
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“to account righteous.” The forensic sense of the term is made plain in the translations of the Twentieth Century, Weymouth, Moffatt, Ballantine, Montgomery, Williams, Basic English, Verkuyl, and Schonfield. But Wycliffe, Goodspeed, and Lilly translate as “make just,” “make upright,” “sanctify.” In a marginal comment on Rom. 1:17, Lilly explains that “sanctify” is literally “justify.”
It is noteworthy that all but one of the Catholic versions make use of the ambiguous word “justify,” thus leaving no room for accusation of biased translation. Only Lilly clearly represents the official Catholic viewpoint by translating,”sanctify.”
In making this choice, Lilly was inescapably influenced by theological considerations. The same is true, of course, of the eleven versions clearly representing the traditional Protestant viewpoint. However, as made apparent in the discussion of this passage in chapter ii, some linguistic evidence may be cited in support of Lilly’s interpretation. Thayer, Lange, Gifford, Hastings, Goodspeed, and Barrett agree that the etymological meaning of __ is “make righteous.” Moreover, for exegetical and theological reasons different from Lilly and from each other, Goodspeed and Barrett both argue strongly for the interpretation “make righteous.”
It may not be charged, therefore, that Lilly’s translation, as likewise that of Wycliffe and Goodspeed, indicates gross dogmatic bias exercised without regard for evidence. But the opposing interpretations of __ in Rom. 2:13 and 3:28 illustrate and emphasize the extent to which theological and exegetical considerations are unavoidably involved in the translation of ambiguous passages of theological consequence.
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The same is true of the interpretation of each of the ambiguous passages in Romans which are of special theological concern. As with Rom. 9:5, the translators have arrived by various means at the decisions represented in their versions. Some translators admit that their choices are often based upon their understanding of the original writer’s theology. But unless it can be proved that a translator has abandoned the scholarly consideration of relevant linguistic and exegetical evidence in favor of his own dogmatic preference, the charge of gross theological bias is unjustified and may point rather to the superficiality and prejudice of the critic.
If among Protestant versions departure from traditional Protestant interpretation marks a translation as liberal rather than conservative, then the versions included in this study may be conveniently listed under these two classifications. Taking the 1769 Blayney edition of the King James Version as the standard, the versions show agreement or disagreement with the King James interpretation of the fifty-one ambiguous passages in Romans, of which Blayney interprets 35, as listed in table 4 (see p. 244).
According to this method of classification, the most liberal of the versions are Moffatt, Weymouth (1903), Williams, and Goodspeed. But surely no one would venture to charge a publication of the Moody Bible Institute with liberal theological bias. Yet Williams shows approximately the same amount of disagreement with the King James interpretation as do Weymouth (1903), Moffatt, and Goodspeed. Evidently mere frequency of departure from traditional interpretation is no adequate criterion for determining the presence of theological prejudice.
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TABLE 4.–The number of passages in each of the versions agreeing or disagreeing with the 1769 Blayney edition of the King James Version in the interpretation of the fifty-one passages in Romans
|The versions and editions included in this study||Agree-
|The versions and editions included in this study||Agree-
|Tyndale (1525)||22||9||Weymouth (1929)||17||18|
|Tyndale (1534)||22||9||Moffatt (1913)||12||20|
|Coverdale (1535)||23||7||Westminster (1920)||19||14|
|Rogers (1537)||22||9||Goodspeed (1923)||15||20|
|Taverner (1539)||22||8||Ballantine (1923)||21||10|
|Great (1539)||23||7||Montgomery (1924)||20||14|
|Whittingham (1557)||26||6||Williams (1937)||14||20|
|Geneva (1560)||24||5||Spencer (1937)||22||10|
|Bishops’ (1568)||26||4||Confraternity (1941)||18||15|
|Bishops’ (1572)||28||3||Basic English (l941)||18||15|
|Rheims (1582)||20||8||Knox (1944)||17||16|
|Challoner (1749)||21||11||Verkuyl (1945)||16||16|
|English Revised (1881)||19||14||Revised Standard (1946)||22||11|
|Twentieth Century (1900)||17||17||Phillips (1947)||19||12|
|Twentieth Century (1904)||18||14||Schonfield (1955)||20||15|
|American Standard (1901)||23||10||Lilly (1956)||17||17|
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Limiting the area of comparison to the 17 ambiguous passages in Romans which are of special theological concern (see p. 239), and of which the 1769 Blayney edition of the King James Version interprets 11, the versions show agreement or disagreement with the King James as listed in table 5 (see p. 246). According to these figures, the only version in complete agreement with the King James is the 1572 edition of the Bishops’ Bible. All 11 passages are interpreted the same. The version most in disagreement with the King James is Moffatt, with only 1 passage given the same interpretation and 8 different. The modern version closest in agreement with the King James is Phillips, with 8 passages given the same interpretation and only 2 different.
It is significant to notice again the position of the presumably conservative Williams New Testament. Four passages agree with the King James, but 7 disagree. The Twentieth Century (1900), Weymouth (1903), Montgomery, and Lilly versions show the same amount of departure from the King James interpretation as does Williams. Goodspeed shows less, with 5 agreements and 6 disagreements. Only Moffatt shows more disagreement than Williams.
The interpretations of the 11 special passages in Williams’ New Testament which differ from those in the King James Version are as follows: In Rom. 3:25, Williams prefers “sacrifice of reconciliation” to the traditional King James “propitiation”; also in 3:25, __ is interpreted as “passing over” rather than the King James “remission”; in 5:1, the subjunctive __ is chosen rather than the indicative; in 8:16 and 26, “the Spirit Himself” is preferred to the King James “the Spirit itself”; in 8:14, “in hope” is preferred to the King James “by hope”; and in 10:4,
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TABLE 5.–The number of passages in each of the versions agreeing or disagreeing with the 1769 Blayney edition of the King James Version in the interpretation of the eleven ambiguous passages in Romans of special theological concern
|The versions and editions included in this study||Agree-
|The versions and editions included in this study||Agree-
|Wycliffe (1382)||5||3||Weymouth (1903)||4||7|
|Tyndale (1525)||7||2||Weymouth (1929)||5||6|
|Tyndale (1534)||7||2||Moffatt (1913)||1||8|
|Coverdale (1535)||7||3||Westminster (1920)||6||5|
|Rogers (1537)||7||2||Goodspeed (1923)||5||6|
|Taverner (1539)||7||2||Ballantine (1923)||8||3|
|Great (1539)||7||2||Montgomery (1924)||4||7|
|Whittingham (1537)||7||2||Williams (1937)||4||7|
|Geneva (1560)||9||1||Spencer (1937)||7||4|
|Bishops’ (1568)||9||0||Confraternity (1941)||6||5|
|Bishops’ (1572)||11||0||Basic English (1941)||5||4|
|Rheims (1582)||7||4||Knox (1944)||6||5|
|Challoner (1749)||7||4||Verkuyl (1945)||4||5|
|English Revised (1881)||6||5||Revised Standard (1946)||4||6|
|Twentieth Century (1900)||4||7||Phillips (1947)||8||2|
|Twentieth Century (1904)||4||6||Schonfield (1955)||7||4|
|American Standard (1901)||7||4||Lilly (1956)||4||7|
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__ is interpreted as the principle of law rather than the Mosaic law.
The much criticized Revised Standard Version agrees with the King James in 4 passages and disagrees in 6. In Rom. 3:25, the Revised Standard prefers “expiation” to the King James “propitiation”; also in 3:25, __ is interpreted as “passed over” rather than the King James “remission”; in 8:16 and 26, “the Spirit Himself” is preferred to the King James “the Spirit itself”; in 8:24, “In this hope” is preferred to the King James “by hope”; 9:5 is interpreted as a doxology to the Father rather than an ascription of deity to Christ. Where Williams differs from the King James in Rom. 5:1 and 10:4, the Revised Standard agrees with the King James. Except for the interpretation of 9:5, for which the committee was careful to offer the traditional interpretation as an alternative in the margin, the Revised Standard shows somewhat closer agreement with the traditional interpretation of these passages of special theological interest than does Williams. Among the total of 35 passages interpreted in the 1769 Blayney edition of the King James Version, the Revised Standard agrees in 22 and disagrees in 11. Williams agrees in but 14 and disagrees in 20.
Moffatt disagrees with the King James interpretation in all but 1 of these ambiguous passages of special theological concern. In Rom. 1:4, he prefers “installed” to the King James “declared.” Mrs. Montgomery and Lilly have the same interpretation. Also in 1:4, Moffatt interprets __ temporally as “when” rather than the causal “by” in the King James. Tyndale, Coverdale, Rogers, Taverner, the Great Bible, Whittingham, and Verkuyl agree with him. In 3:25, Moffatt prefers “the means of propitiation” to the King James “propitiation.” Also in 3:25, Moffatt
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chooses “passed over” rather than the King James “remission.” A majority of the versions agree with him. In 5:1, Moffatt chooses the subjunctive __ rather than the indicative. Half of the versions, including Montgomery, Williams, and Verkuyl, agree with him. In 8:24, Moffatt prefers “with this hope in view” to the King James “by hope.” Twelve versions, including Williams and Verkuyl, agree with him. Moffatt interprets 9:5 as a doxology to the Father rather than a statement of the deity of Christ. Goodspeed, Ballantine, the Revised Standard, and Schonfield agree with him. In 10:4, Moffatt interprets __ as the principle of law rather than the Mosaic law. Six versions, including Montgomery and Williams, agree with him.
Among the total of 35 passages interpreted in the 1769 Blayney edition of the King James, Moffatt agrees in 12 and disagrees in 20. Williams agrees in 14 and disagrees in 20. In each passage where Moffatt departs from the traditional, there is evidence both linguistic and exegetical which may be cited in his support. Moreover, in each case there are other responsible translators and commentators who agree with him. The same is true of every other version included in this study.
An analysis of the many different interpretations given to the fifty-one ambiguous passages in Romans by each of the versions included in this study fails to reveal evidence of gross theological prejudice. If any translations come close to this at all, they would seem to be the interpretations of the verb __.
There also seems to be no adequate basis for classifying Protestant versions as characteristically biased toward liberal or conservative New Testament theology. The version offering perhaps the most striking
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departures from what may be regarded in some circles as orthodox Protestant New Testament theology is that of Goodspeed. His translation of __ as “make upright,” added to his interpretation of Rom. 9:5 as a doxology to the Father, and his retention of the King James impersonal reference to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit itself,” might give rise in some quarters to suspicion of bias toward liberal New Testament theology. In contrast, for example, the Williams New Testament, as might be expected, translates __ in Rom. 2:13 as “recognize as upright”; Rom. 9:5 is interpreted as a declaration of the deity of Christ; and the impersonal King James “the Spirit itself” is changed to “the Spirit Himself.” However, any such attempt at characterization would need to be based upon a similar but more detailed analysis of the translations given to all ambiguous passages of important theological consequence throughout the rest of the New Testament. Such an analysis would seem to be a worthwhile undertaking.
The evidence of theological bias is naturally more pronounced in the doctrinal and explanatory notes and other accessories to the text included in some versions. But so far as the translation of the text is concerned, it appears that Farrar was correct in 1882 when he commended the fidelity of all major versions up to his time. To be sure, he regarded some readings as erroneous, but he did not consider such mistakes as intentional or malicious–just “small human infirmities.”1 The evidence from the translation of the book of Romans would seem to indicate that Farrar’s commendation could be extended to include the nineteen other versions compared in this study which have appeared since his day.
1Farrar, op. cit., p. 301
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The Need for a More Fully “Representative” Version In spite of the urging of some scholars that Bible translators should not interpret ambiguous passages, but rather that all such obscurities should as far as possible be carried over into the translation English,1 all of the versions included in this study have offered interpretative translations of at least 60 per cent of the fifty-one ambiguous
passages of doctrinal and exegetical consequence in the book of Romans.2 But if a version offers interpretative translations of a majority of ambiguous passages, it seems hard to understand what reason there might be for not interpreting the remaining 40 per cent.
A number of the versions have succeeded in presenting clear interpretations of almost all of the ambiguous passages in Romans. More than 95 per cent of such passages are given interpretative renderings by Schonfield, the Twentieth Century, Weymouth, Goodspeed, Knox, and Lilly.
To the extent, however, that versions have interpreted ambiguous passages without offering alternative meanings in the margin, they have presumed to limit the reader to their own understanding of each passage. In spite of the great divergence of scholarly opinion as to the meaning of each of the fifty-one passages in Romans, only three of the versions included in this study, the English Revised, American Standard, and Weymouth, have made any serious attempt to inform the reader that the interpretation given in the text is not the only possible meaning of the ambiguous original.3 The English and American revisions offer alternatives
1See above, chap, i, pp. 3-10.
2See tables 1 and 2, pp. 212, 213, 215.
3see tables 1 and 3, pp. 212, 213, 216.
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for about one half of their interpretative translations. Weymouth, in his 1903 edition, offers alternatives for a third of his interpretations.
It would seem to be more justifiable for versions published by individual translators to interpret ambiguities without offering marginal alternatives, providing that the unsuspecting reader is made aware of the interpretative nature of such translations. But in the case of a church authorized version designed for general public use, a version which is assumed to represent a consensus of scholarly opinion, there would seem to be no justification for presenting only one of two or more possible meanings of ambiguous passages concerning which there is marked divergence of scholarly opinion.
The average reader is inclined to accept with dogmatic finality the interpretations of his traditional “authorized” version and to regard versions with differing translations of certain passages–the ambiguity of which he is unaware–as theologically biased. Consequently, an official version should be particularly careful to avoid encouraging finality unwarranted by the original. And the inclusion of an adequate supply of marginal alternatives would go far toward educating the general public in a more enlightened attitude toward the many legitimate differences in interpretation to be found in responsible versions of the New Testament.
There would seem to be need for a version which would more fully represent the potential meaning of the Greek New Testament. To be of the greatest possible help to the general reader, it should present in the text a clear interpretation of every obscure and ambiguous passage. In ambiguous passages of theological consequence, the interpretations will
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inevitably have theological implications. But the decisions would of course not be based upon mere dogmatic preference but upon the best scholarly appraisal of relevant linguistic and exegetical evidence. Then in the margin should be placed the alternative meaning or meanings which have received the serious support of other scholars and translators. In passages of special obscurity, or where it may be thought that the Greek ambiguity was intended by the original writer, the literal translation should also be given.
An alternative proposal which might prove more immediately practicable and effective is the one suggested by A. P. Wikgren in a 1947 review of the Revised Standard Version. He has suggested that:
To satisfy a majority of people at the present time … it seems that the English Bible should . . . have to consist of a two-column affair giving the traditional King James text, preferably in a revised and corrected form, together with an accurate but idiomatic modern-speech translation and such marginal notes and comments as would be additionally necessary to facilitate comprehension of what is being read.1
Of the modern-speech versions included in this study, Goodspeed’s New Testament would seem to be the one best qualified for this purpose. He gives a clear interpretation of almost all ambiguous passages, forty-nine out of fifty-one in Romans.2 His interpretations differ to a high degree from those of the King James Version, with fifteen agreements and twenty disagreements in Romans.3 His translation is already well known, is recognized for accuracy, and is couched in American idiom.
1A. P. Wikgren, “The Revised Standard New Testament,” The Journal of Religion, Vol. XXVII (Apr., 1947), p. 135.
2See table 2, p. 215.
3See table 4, p. 244
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Such a combined and well annotated version would have the advantage of making a disarming approach to the large segment of the American Bible-reading public which still adheres more or less exclusively to the King James Version. The similarities and differences of interpretation between the two parallel translations, coupled with the ample annotations, would serve a most useful and needed purpose in leading the reader to a broadening understanding of the potential meaning of the New Testament text and in helping to allay the unjustified suspicion of the many other excellent versions of the English New Testament.