Acts 1:4 – Jesus eating salt with his disciples

[Edited] Were Jesus and his apostles eating together, gathered together, or just plain staying together? The original Greek says sunalizô, in the form sunalizomenos (sunalizô, eat together, or gather together). The BDAB lexicon provides three possible options as to the meaning of sunalizô:

1) eat (salt) together, share a meal with; or
2) to bring together, assemble, come together, or
3) “spend the night with,” “stay with.”

The BDAG says the problem with the first possible meaning is that it doesn’t really fit the context; furthermore, it is not used anywhere else. The problem of the second meaning is with the singular number and the present tense. The third possible meaning is based on a spelling variation of συναλιζομενος (sunalizomenos) present in some miniscules. Below, the TNIV, NLT and Douay-Rheims translations render sunalizô as eating together. The NASB rendering of sunalizô is the second option of “gathered together”; and the NRSV, ESV and HCSB render sunalizô as the third option–“staying with them.” Most commonly, translations lean toward the NRSV or ESV rendering of “stay together” because these are most commonly used elsewhere in the New Testament.

The TNIV and NLT may have correctly rendered the this meaning of sunalizô as “eating with them.” Arie W. Zwiep argues for the first option of the TNIV and NLT: “A more plausible meaning of the verb is ‘eating salt together with’…hence: ‘eating together.’ Concerning the second option, Zwiep says: “The present tense may be taken to denote an uninterrupted period of Jesus’ presence among his disciples. The problem with this interpretation is that it is difficult to imagine how this meaning would apply to only one person (Jesus being the subject of the sentence).”

I don’t know if there’s any theological implications about this but “eating salt” may have a much deeper meaning than what’s being suggested on the surface. The word sun-al-izô might actually be a composition of two words “together” (sun) and “salt” (als). Jesus uses salt as an example in speaking with his disciples:

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.(Mark 9:50, ESV).

It may be that the word sunalizô may have the connotation of a union of being at peace with one another, or “being salted together.” Jesus also told his disciples to stay together and wait for the Promise of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit. And after they received Holy Spirit, they were in the “unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). Therefore, being salted together is to be in unity and at peace with one another.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. TNIV

Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. (NLT)

And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. (Douay-Rheims)

While at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised… (NJB)

While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” [He said, “is what] you heard from Me; (HCSB)

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; (NRSV)

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; (NASB)

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; (ESV)

Arie W. Zwiep, The Ascension of the Messiah in Lukan Christology (Brill, 1997).

The Lord’s Prayer is in perpetual error

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Why do we pray the Lord’s Prayer ending with the last line:
“For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. for ever and ever. Amen.”?

Early sources from the 4th and 5th century CE do not have this last line. It is only seen in later Greek manuscripts from the 7th or 8th century CE. It is very likely a conflation of 1 Chronicles 29:11, and inserted into Matthew 6 by scribes. Therefore, we can safely say that later manuscripts have been tampered with by additional extraneous texts.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O LORD,
And You are exalted as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NKJV)

So if this last line of the Lord’s Prayer is not supposed to be there, we are voluntarily perpetuating an error. We’ve already corrected this error in our translations based on reliable sources, but we have been praying this prayer at church and at home for ages on end and I think it’s about time we correct it in our daily use. Roman Catholic’s don’t recite this last line so I think it’s about time we protestants make this correction in our recital of the Lord’s Prayer.

In dire need of clarity and interpretation: 1 Kings 10:4-5

Literal translations can sometimes leave the reader scratching their heads and wondering what in the world is the bible saying. Here is a case in 1 Kings 10:4-5 I found as I was reading from the NRSV tonight:

“When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.” (NRSV)

…there was no more spirit in her. (NASB, NKJV)
… there was no more breath in her. (ESV)

When I first read this passage in the NRSV, it made absolutely no sense to me. Then I checked out the other formal translations and found them wanting of more interpretation. Obviously, we know that the Queen of Sheba was overwhelmed and made breathless when she observed the wisdom and grandeur displayed in Solomon’s house. This is a case where there is a great need for interpretation, otherwise, the reader is left utterly confused because it says the queen had “no more spirit in her.” What does that mean? The NASB and NKJV, the reads the same as the NRSV. The ESV is slightly better but not by much. Its rendering is a slight improvement over the RSV and NRSV.

Literal translations can sometimes:

1) fail to bring out the real meaning of the text;
2) is not the original writer’s intended meaning;
3) leave the reader with more confusion.

This gives the reader no choice but to desire a more accurate interpretation.

Where formal translations fail, dynamic translations can do a better job at bringing out a more accurate meaning:

… it took her breath away. (HCSB)
…she was overwhelmed. (TNIV)
…she was breathless. (NLTse)
… It left her breathless and amazed. (GNT)
… she was breathless. (GW)
… All these things amazed her. (NCV)

These dynamic translations, though interpretive, provide a more accurate meaning in the text. The ESV is still a little unclear. The T/NIV, GNT and NCV may border on being a little overly interpretive. With this particular verse, I feel the HCSB provided the best rendering. This verse is accurate, yet literal, and even manages to be idiomatic. It does not leave the reader wondering what is going on when they read this passage.

Meme: my translation of Colossians 3:1-3

TC Robinson has tagged me with a meme to translate Colossians 3:1-3. I finally got to it. The rules are:

1. Be contemporary
2. Be idiomatic and free as possible.
3. Parsing is optional.

Here’s the Greek text:

Ε ον συνηγρθητε τ Χριστ, τ νω ζητετε, ο Χριστς στιν ν δεξι το θεο καθμενος· τ νω φρονετε, μ τ π τς γς. 3 πεθνετε γρ κα ζω μν κκρυπται σν τ Χριστ ν τ θε.

TC presented a challenging text to translate. I tried to keep it short, so here it is.

“So if you have been resurrected together with Christ, seek after the things above, where Christ is seated in power at God’s right side. Be concerned about things above, not about earthly things, for you have died, and now your new life, which is unseen, is with Christ in God.”

Romans 6:17 – TNIV vs HCSB vs ESV vs NRSV

Here’s a comparison of Romans 6:17 between four major translations. I was studying this for my sermon preparation and found this interesting difference.

Romans 6:17

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to,

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

v. 17: the rendering in the HCSB and NRSV seems to most accurately render the definition of παρεδοθητε (paredothēte, entrusted). The word paredothēte conveys the idea that this teaching has been entrusted to the receiver, or given over or delivered to someone else’s hands. Both HCSB and NRSV rendering of “entrusted” accurately expresses this idea that something is handed over or delivered to another’s hands. The idea expressed in the ESV is still accurate but might be misinterpreted as to whom, and from whom, this pattern of teaching has been committed to. TNIV’s rendering of “claimed your allegiance” can also be misinterpreted to mean that the receiver of this teaching is the one who has actively committed oneself over to Paul’s teaching. This may be true but it is not what the text is necessarily saying. I prefer the NIV’s rendering of “entrusted.”

Also, ESV’s rendering of “standard of teaching” is a little different from the others. The Greek word τυπον (tupon, pattern or model) expresses the idea of the use of an example or a model that has a mark or impression and can be used as an exemplar. I prefer HCSB and TNIV’s use of “pattern”, and NRSV’s use of “form” is also good.

Search for a mediating translation: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – a conclusion

This series was meant to search out a favorite mediating translation and was not for the purpose of coming to a conclusion to a “best translation”. A “favorite translation” can be very subjective because one person’s criteria as to why one is their favorite translation might be different than another person’s criteria. However, I can conclude that I think both the TNIV and HCSB are very trustworthy translations.

In terms of literalness, the TNIV is slightly more literal than the NAB. The HCSB is most literal of the three translations, but in some places, it can also be more dynamic than the TNIV. For those who prefer more literal renderings from the original language, the HCSB might be the way to go. However, being literal does not mean that it is less readable. Both the TNIV and HCSB do an equally good job in readability, but in the area of comprehension, the HCSB is sometimes better than the TNIV. I will say more about this later. Furthermore, the less wordy HCSB seems to say the same thing in fewer words than the TNIV or NAB.

The TNIV is also definitely the most gender-inclusive translation. Some may equate gender-inclusivity with gender-accuracy; however, the term “gender-accurate” might be seen as presumptuous because it implies that it is more gender accurate. The TNIV has chosen to use this term in its marketing. HCSB is not nearly as gender-inclusive as the TNIV. Gender-inclusive pronouns are used sparingly, as in the ESV, which makes it rather inconsistent; and the NAB is somewhere in between the TNIV and HCSB. Here are the conclusions to each of the three mediating translations.


The TNIV is probably only slightly more colloquial than the HCSB. Colloquialisms are not necessarily a bad thing because it helps the reader of the English language more quickly and easily understand what the writer is trying to express. However, the downside of colloquialisms is that it can become outdated when it’s no longer in popular usage. This forces the translation to continually update its linguistic style. Therefore, I would prefer as little colloquialisms as possible.

It is one of my favorite translations. I regularly use the TNIV in my personal study. The TNIV is the first mediating translation I grab off the shelf when I do exegesis of the text at hand. The biblical scholarship behind the TNIV is excellent. Due to its changes from updated biblical scholarship, it is now more accurate than the NIV. Many passages unrelated to gender-inclusive changes bring greater accuracy. As a result, I preach and teach from the TNIV as much as, or if not more than, any other translation today. In some places in the O.T., the TNIV still has some inverted negatives. The TNIV’s use of “anyone” causes me to feel more impersonal than “one who” or “whoever.” I hope this can change in future revisions. I believe the TNIV’s move toward greater gender-inclusivity is one of the main factors that will enable the scriptures to speak to today’s generation more directly. Since the NIV is still the translation of choice for most evangelicals, the TNIV has a huge potential for growth within evangelical circles. When more evangelicals begin to recognize and accept gender-inclusiveness as being gender-accurate, evangelicals will begin to shift over to the TNIV in droves. However, it is sad to say that this may not happen right away. It may take a few more years so patience will pay off. I guess this is where TNIV will need defenders of gender-inclusivity to help increase knowledge and understanding of the writers’ original intent.


The HCSB has done an amazing job in making it less wordy. It expresses the idea effectively and efficiently while using fewer words. In many places, it is just as literal as the NASB or ESV. At the same time, in some passages it is as dynamic, if not more dynamic, than the TNIV. This simultaneous use of both word-for-word (formal equivalence) and thought-for-thought (dynamic equivalence) makes it somewhere in between a literal translation and a dynamic (functional) translation. This is what they call optimal equivalence. In my opinion, I think the translators of the HCSB have taken the best approach or philosophy when it comes to bible translation. It stays with the word-for-word approach when the meaning is already clear and understandable; but when the literal approach does not work, it will optimize the meaning by using the thought-for-thought approach. As a result, the HCSB is consistently easy to read and understand—even more so than the TNIV. It has done such a good job that I might even venture to say that it renders a functional or dynamic translation unnecessary.

The biblical scholarship behind the HCSB is very up-to-date. It uses some unique ways of rendering certain passages and terms that I have not seen in other translations. One that stands out in my mind is the rendering of “temple complex” instead of “temple”. The HCSB is not as colloquial as the TNIV but it does have a few colloquial terms (e.g., slacker instead of TNIV’s sluggard). I also like the HCSB’s use of bold print in the New Testament where it quotes Old Testament passages. This helps me to understand the N.T. text in its proper context. I also prefer its contemporary use of digits, weights and measures (e.g., 9,000 instead of nine thousand; feet instead of cubits; gallons instead of baths, etc.). I also like its use of square brackets to denote words not in the original Greek. This adds an element of transparency and clarity for the reader. Even though these extra tools in the HCSB are unnecessary niceties, they are, nevertheless, helpful to the reader. There are some renderings in the HCSB that may also be more accurate than the TNIV; however, vice versa is also true because there are places where either one of the two translations may have the better rendering.

Since it is being continually revised each year, it can only get better. I predict that the HCSB will eventually make inroads to establish itself as one of two premier mediating translations in the evangelical world. I also use the HCSB in my preaching. I have confidence that it accurately speaks the word of God into the lives of its listeners and readers.


Roman Catholics who read the NAB will be much more familiar with it than me. The NAB is a translation that I was not very familiar with when I started this series. It was a third option that I wanted to throw in to make the comparison more interesting. After doing this series, I still have to say that I am still not as familiar with it as I would like to be. The NAB is also an accurate translation but not as accurate as the TNIV or HCSB. I cannot make any conclusive statements about its Old Testament because both Old and New Testaments seem to have two different approaches to translation philosophy. The first edition of the NAB was later revised and was known as the Revised NAB, and then later it was amended again so it was known as the Amended Revised NAB. The latest revision of the NAB’s N.T. is now more gender-inclusive. It is slightly less literal than the TNIV; but in terms of gender-inclusivity, it stands in between the TNIV and HCSB. The NAB’s unique renderings also bring a fresh perspective to viewing certain passages. It lends itself better to Roman Catholic theology. I guess this is why it is used by Roman Catholics, particularly Roman Catholics in the United States. In the U.S., some parishes prefer the use of the RSV over the NAB in their lectionary readings due to occasionally awkward and inaccurate renderings.

The next series will likely be on dynamic or functional translations. It will likely come in the Fall of 2008.

Mediating translation comparison #5: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Matthew 10:24, 28

So once again… the comparison series between mediating translations continues with Matthew, ch. 10.

Matt. 10:24—student vs disciple; servant vs slave

are not above their teacher, nor servants above their master. It is enough for students to be like their teacher, and servants like their master.

A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master.

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master.

is not superior to teacher, nor slave to master. It is enough for disciple to grow to be like teacher, and slave like master.

v.24: in TNIV’s gender-inclusive change from “his master” to “their master”, translators have changed the singular “student” to plural form. This alteration from the original is not the best. I prefer NJB rendering. From a gender-inclusive perspective, the NJB does a slick job of avoiding the use of “his” and “their” altogether. I prefer the NJB rendering because there is no change from singular to plural; moreover, it uses “slave” instead of “servant”. The NLT’s provides a fair rendering: “A student is not greater than the teacher. A servant is not greater than the master” but the NRSV provides an excellent rendering of the same verse too.

Furthermore, in today’s context, “disciple” has the connotation of discipleship and discipline, whereas, today’s use of “student” can carry the connotation of an immature high school or elementary school student. Does the average high school student strive to become like one’s teacher? I think not.

Matt. 10:28b—Gehenna vs hell

Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

v.28: The NAB provides an interesting translation of the word γεέννα (Gehenna, hell). I have wondered why our translations use the word “hell” instead of Gehenna. Young’s Literal Translation, World English Bible and Weymouth N.T. also use Gehenna. This likely comes from Ghi-Hinnom, or valley of Hinnom from Jeremiah 7:31 and 2 Chron. 28:3 was a place where people were sacrificed in a fire:

They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. (Jer. 7:31, TNIV)

Gehenna, then, was a place where God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the New Jerusalem. Corpses, refuse and garbage were thrown in the Valley of Hinnom outside the city, where huge fires burned constantly. The imagery of Isaiah also adds to how we view hell:

And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (Isa. 66:24, NRSV)

If we render the word “Gehenna”, we risk not understanding that hell is an actual realm within our understanding of heaven and hell. Jesus described hell as a place of torment in Mark 9:45-48. If we use “hell”, we risk not understanding the origins of the word. I don’t have a preference. I think I’m torn between the use of both words.

Mediating translation comparison #4: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:11, 17-18

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the rest of Acts, ch.2

Acts 2:11

(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own languages the magnificent acts of God.”

both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Jews and proselytes alike-Cretans and Arabs, we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

v.11a: The HCSB directly renders προσηλυτοι (prosēlutoi) as proselytes. The TNIV and NAB chose to render it as converts.” “Converts” is easier to understand than “proselytes.” It then tags on “to Judaism” to add clarity. Not everyone understands the meaning of the word “proselytes” because it is an insider’s term; moreover, it may also be a little outdated. I prefer the TNIV and NAB rendering of “converts to Judaism.

v.11b: μεγαλεος (megaleios) is defined as magnificent, excellent, splendid, wonderful, or mighty works. Where the Greek says: ta megaleia tou theou, the HCSB and NAB renders this as “acts of God.” The Greek includes the“magnificence of God and his works. Traditionally translations have rendered megaleios to include only the deeds, works or acts of God but not the magnificence of God himself. Current renderings like “wonders of God” (TNIV) or “marvels of God”(NJB), “might works” (ESV) is still missing the expression of God’s own magnificence. This shows the limits of the English language to include a multiplicity of meanings in a word. For megaleios, I would even suggest some alternate renderings of: “magnificence of God and God’s wonderful works,” or “greatness of God and God’s marvelous doings”. Perhaps someone others can suggest alternate renderings.

Acts 2:17

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.

‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.

In the last days-the Lord declares-I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young people shall see visions, your old people dream dreams.

v.17: it is interesting the NAB would render this as “pour out as a portion.” The word for “portion” is not in the original Greek. This implies that God only pours out some of his Spirit, rather than all, upon human flesh. It also connotes the idea that God’s Spirit given to humanity is only part of the experience in God. Perhaps this rendering lends itself better to Roman Catholic theology of the Eucharist or Holy Communion, in which a portion of God’s Spirit is present in the bread and wine. For this verse, I prefer the HCSB and NJB’s rendering because it implies that all of God’s Spirit is poured out upon human flesh in the last days at Pentecost.

v.17: the Greek also uses σρξ (sarx, flesh) but only the NAB renders sarx literally as flesh. However, for a mediating translation philosophy, I prefer to go with “humanity” (HCSB) because this connotes the inclusion of human flesh. This is more accurate but just as easy to understand as “people” (TNIV) and “everyone” (ISV).

Acts 2:18

Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

I will even pour out My Spirit on My male and female slaves in those days, and they will prophesy.

Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.

Even on the slaves, men and women, shall I pour out my Spirit.

v.18: In the original Greek, the literal rendering is “upon the male slaves of mine upon the female slaves of mine.” The word δολος (doulos) means bondslave. A bondslave is bound to one’s master or owner. A servant is different from a bondslave because one is not bound to serve one’s master. The word δικονος (diakonos) is the proper word for servant. The proper translation for doulos is rendered in the HCSB, NJB and ISV. 

Mediating translation comparison #3: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:3-4

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the Acts of the Apostles, ch.2, the passage that deals with the birth of the church, and is in the spirit of Pentecost Sunday. It is also an admired passage for pentecostals and charismatics. (Note, the season of Pentecost, May 11 – July 27, is a part of the liturgical calendar of many mainline church denominations, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox).

Acts 2:3

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

and there appeared to them tongues as of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.

v.3: διαμερζω (diamerizō) means: to distribute, divide up, separate. It means that something is split, or separated into parts, or divided out to each person from a common source. I do not think that what they saw was a physical formation of cloven flames of fire (KJV). “Flames of fire” (HCSB, ISV) seems to make little sense; but rather, “tongues of fire” makes better sense (as I will explain later).

The rendering of “tongues of fire” leads me to draw a hypothesis. If tongues also means language, I leads me to wonder how a language could be physically divided up. I’m beginning to suspect that what they saw was a distribution of the gift of languages to each person there. It would make better sense that it was the Holy Spirit’s charism of ecstatic utterance being distributed or divided out to each of the recipients. Therefore, what they heard on the Day of Pentecost might have sounded like “languages of fire”. This rendering would be a better description of ecstatic utterances of what we know to be “speaking in tongues.” The charism of language (or glossalia), might have sounded like “languages of fire” to the writer of Acts. If so, perhaps this was what the writer was trying to express when he heard ecstatic utterances or ecstatic proclamation being spoken in so many languages or tongues. An alternate translation I provide is:

They saw languages, as of fire, being distributed and resting on each of them.”

Acts 2:4

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves.

v.4a: The HCSB, NJB and ISV’s use of “different languages” is the contemporary definition of tongues. It was the various languages that were spoken when the Spirit filled the believers in Jerusalem. Tongue is also an organ of speech but when used in the context of Acts 2, “language(s)” is much easier to understand.

v.4b: At the end of this verse, the original Greek has αποφθεγγεσθαι (apophthengomai , utterance), which can mean: to speak out, speak forth, pronounce, or even to utter one’s opinion. The TNIV does not translate apophthengomai, perhaps to reduce a seemingly redundant idea (however, I do not think it is redundant). The HCSB renders this: “as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.” The NJB rendering of to express themselves” assumes that Holy Spirits utterance is of ones opinion. The NRSV and NLT also renders it as an ability. I disagree with these renderings because glossalia is a charism or gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not a natural ability, or an utterance of one’s personal opinion, but rather, it is suppose to be the utterance of what the Holy Spirit proclaims, speaks or utters through the believer. The RSV/ESV uses “utterance”. I feel the NAB’s rendering of: “as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim may be more accurate. I prefer the NAB’s rendering of to proclaim” because glossalia is the Spirits charism of proclaiming or speaking Gods word.

Also see related posts on mediating translation comparison—TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB: The search begins || #1: Romans 4 || #2: John 20 || #3: Acts 2 || #4: Acts 2b || #5: Matt. 10 || A Conclusion

Mediating translation comparison #2: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – John 20:23-24,31

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the gospel of John, ch. 20. This time, I’ve included the New Jerusalem Bible in the table.

John 20:23

If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.

v.23—This verse is somewhat of a mystery for many Christians, especially for Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church has understood this to mean that Jesus gave the apostles the authority to absolve one’s sins, and it is continued through apostolic succession. To support this view, the Catholic Church has also used parallel verses of Matt. 16:19 and 18:18: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” However, I do not think the context of these verses suggests the idea of forgiveness and absolution of sins.

In the Greek, κρατω ((krateō, retain) means to hold, to have power or rule over, to have and hold in one’s power, or to be master of.

  • the Greek says: ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται (an tinōn kratēte, kekratēntai).
  • a literal translation of this is: “of whomever you hold they have been held.”
  • TNIV says: “if do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”
  • HCSB says: “if you retain the sins of any, they are retained
  • The NAB and NJB are similar.

However, to intentionally retain the sins of someone, or to harbor unforgiveness, would seem contradictory to the principles of what Jesus’ taught about forgiveness.

“For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt.6:12-13, TNIV).

Wayne Jackson of Christian Courier has another interesting interpretation:

“Those whose sins you forgive, have already been forgiven; those whose sins you do not forgive, have not already been forgiven.”

The first verbs in the two clauses are aorist tense forms, while the second verbs are in the perfect tense. The perfect tense verbs imply an abiding state which commenced before the action of the aorists. In other words, the apostles (and others since that time) were only authorized to declare forgiveness consistent with what the Lord had already determined.”

Jackson’s interpretation would fit nicely in Protestant theology. I have another interpretation for John 20:23, which flows in the same line of thought as Matt.6:12-13.

If you forgive the sins of any, yours are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, yours are retained.”

John 20:24

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin“), was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

v.24—The definition of Δίδυμος (Didumos) is twin. The TNIV and NAB went with “Didymus,” but the HCSB, NJB, and the NRSV and ISV render this as “twin,” which is my preference. Some say that Didymus was Thomas’ last name, and even if it was his last name, I would still prefer “twin” since Didymus is not a household name.

John 20:31

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.

But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

v.31—the TNIV has changed Χριστὸς (christos, anointed one) to Messiah from the NIV’s “Christ.” The NJB and NET bible uses “Christ.” Both are correct but “Christ,” which originates from the Greek, is so commonly used by Christians today that we have almost taken “Christ” to be Jesus’ last name without knowing its real meaning. Some who are biblically illiterate might even mistake it to be his last name. I prefer the use of “Messiah” because this carries with it a sense of an expected and anointed One who is to return.