The Berean Expositor
Volume 24 - Page 161 of 211
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The volume of the Book.
#24.  The Revised Version.
The consistent translation of identical words.
pp. 23 - 28
The Translators of 1611 who produced our Authorized Version knew quite well that a
literal rendering of the Greek original demanded that one English equivalent should, as
far as possible, be used for each important word in the Greek. They adopted, however, a
quite different principle, which they have expressed in unmistakable language:--
"Another thing we think good to admonish thee of, gentle reader, that we have not tied
ourselves to an uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure
would wish that we had done . . . . . Truly we might not vary from the sense of that which
we had translated before . . . . . we were specially careful . . . . . But that we should
express the same notion in the same particular word; as, for example, if we translate the
Hebrew or Greek word once by purpose, never call it intent; . . . . . if one were joy, never
call it gladness, etc., thus to mince the matter, we thought to savour more of curiosity
than wisdom."
It is easy to sweep aside these arguments, but there is one incontrovertible fact to be
remembered--that no language exists that is capable of providing a word-for-word
equivalent for either the Hebrew or the Greek. At the best, the most severely literal
rendering is a compromise. What the reader gains in one direction he loses in another.
No version in English or in any other tongue can ever take the place of the inspired
original. The translator, therefore, must himself make the decision, as before God, as to
whether he shall adhere to the letter as much as possible, or whether he shall provide his
reader with a version as near to the spirit of the original as his mother-tongue will permit
without making the rendering stilted or too scholastic. The Revisers have explained their
attitude to the inconsistent renderings of the A.V. as follows:--
"The frequent inconsistencies in the Authorized Version have caused as much
embarrassment from the fact already referred to, namely, that a studied variety of
rendering, even in chapter and context, was a kind of principle with our predecessors
. . . . . There are, however, numerous passages in the Authorized Version in which,
whether regard be had to the recurrence (as in the first three gospels) of identical clauses
and sentences, to the repetition of the same word in the same passage, or to the
characteristic use of particular words by the same writer, the studied variety, adopted by
the Translators of 1611 has produced a degree of inconsistency that cannot be reconciled
with the principle of faithfulness. In such cases we have not hesitated to introduce
alterations, even though the sense might not seem to the general reader to be materially
With these considerations before us, that will perhaps prevent us from entertaining
hard thoughts of those who laboured in the Word years ago, we may turn to the
Revised Version and notice where the A.V. has been altered so that the renderings shall
be more uniform.