Does Theology influence translation?
Note: This article is not fully completed. I intend to add some additional comments and information to it.
Does a person’s theology influence their translation of the Greek text into another language? Yes, I am certain that it does. Did the Anglican translators theology influence their translation of the KJV? While all of the translators of the KJV were Anglican (Church of England) they may have injected their theological views into certain aspects of the translation. One of these areas of translation may be in the fact that they did not translate the Greek word “baptizo” into English. They simply transliterated it by changing the Greek letters into English and adding an English ending. Thus the Greek word βαπτίζω baptizō simply become baptize.
Greek Strong’s Number: 907
Phonetic Pronunciation: bap-tid’-zo
Root: from a derivative of <G911>
Cross Reference: TDNT – 1:529,92
Part of Speech: verb
English Words used in KJV:
baptized + <G2258> 1
[Total Count: 80]
from a derivative of <G911> (bapto); to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet); used only (in the N.T.) of ceremonial ablution, especially (technical) of the ordinance of Christian baptism :- baptist, baptize, wash. —Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary
Greek Strong’s Number: 911
Root: a primary word
Cross Reference: TDNT – 1:529,92
Part of Speech: v
English Words used in KJV:
[Total Count: 3]
a primary verb; to whelm, i.e. cover wholly with a fluid; in the N.T. only in a qualified or special sense, i.e. (literal) to moisten (a part of one’s person), or (by implication) to stain (as with dye) :- dip. —Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary
Note that the word “bapto” was used for the act of dying a piece of cloth. In order to get the cloth fully dyed it would have to be totally immersed. Also, the word “bapto” conveys the concept of identification. The dyed cloth becomes identified with the color of the dye. Thus the mode “immersion” and the process conveys the idea of our identification with Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. According the Romans 6 we are united with him in his death, burial, and resurrection.
While the Greek Scriptures do use the word for sprinkling (rhantismos ) it is never used for Christian baptism. “…sprinkling (rhantizō) the blood of Jesus Christ….” 1 Peter 1:2 (KJV)
Almost all, if not all churches (denominations) that came out of the Roman Catholic Church continue to “sprinkle” infants and call it baptism.
King James clearly indicated that all the traditional words of Christianity were to be retained especially “church” and not the word “congregation”
This clearly obscures the true meaning of the Greek word “baptizo”. Almost all denominations and authors of lexicons give the first and primary meaning of “baptize” as “to dip, or immerse” even though their denomination or theological viewpoint is “rhantizo” (sprinkling).
The Greek language is very rich and has three different words: 1) for sprinkling (rhantizo), 2) one for pouring, and 3) one for immersing (baptizo). Jesus never used any other word than “baptizo” for the act of baptism. Also, immersion was the primary mode used in the early church up to the time of Augustine. I asked a learned Jewish friend of mine whether he felt that the Jewish rite of Mikva was essentially transformed into Christian baptism. He said, yes, he thought this was probably true. In the Jewish Mikva the whole body of the person had to be immersed in running, moving water. The Didache did allow for an exception to immersion for extraordinary circumstances such has health and age of the person to be baptized. However, this was only an exception to the rule not a blanket approval of sprinkling. And you will also note that the Didache is not Holy Scripture.
Augustine himself had been baptized by immersion. Later he justified the practice of “infant sprinkling”. Augustine’s argument in defense of infant baptism (sprinkling) was justified by comparing the forced involuntary recantation of heretics. He said, if we can save the souls of heretics by involuntary means such as force, we can baptized infant to save their souls also.
Augustine did not know Greek very well. His strength was in Latin. Also, when Constantine allegedly became a Christian, he marched all of his throops down under some trees and had buckets of water pouring on them. Thus he made all his troops Christian soldiers. How can a Christian empire be formed? It cannot be formed by volunteer participation. If so there would be many who would opt out and not be Christians. Well by sprinkling all children before they can decide for themselves, a Christian Empire can be formed. That is exactly what the Roman Catholic Church did. Near the time of Augustine or thereabout, the Roman Catholic Church also proclaimed that it and only it was the Kingdom of God on earth. As a result there was no place for another kingdom of God. Also, the Jewish people were considered as castaways by God and had no future. This was the beginning of structural anti-Semitism in the Roman Catholic Church. Augustine’s eschatology laid the foundation for either amillennialism or post-millennialism. Augustine believed and taught that Jesus Christ would return in 1000 A.D. which would be the end of the Millennium. He taught that the Millennium began when Christ was born and extended for a thousand years.
Augustine did not interpret Holy Scripture in a strictly literal normal sense. He used allegory in much of his interpretation just as Origen and Eusebius did. Also, the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed that the Latin Vulgate was the only infallible Word of God. This is one of the reasons that they would not allow the Bible to be translated into any other language. Also, this gave them total control over biblical interpretation because mostly only the priests understood Latin. They also misinterpreted 2 Peter 1:20 to mean that only the selected priesthood could interpret Holy Scripture. They used the words “any private interpretation” to mean that no private individual could interpret and understand Holy Scripture for himself. But the words “any private interpretation” actually has reference to the source of the Holy Scriptures, not the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures were not of any private source or orgination. The next verse explains this:
Note that the word in the KJV “For” is the Greek word “gar’ which introduces a reason for the above verse 20. “because the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but (special) holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Scripture did not come by just any man. Only those who were especially selected by God received this revelation from God. Only men of God with the prophetic office received Holy revelation from God which they recorded.
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (KJV)
Also, it should be noted that in many if not most places the KJV translators have translated the Greek preposition “en” as “with” or “by” when it can mean “in”. The Greek word can mean “by” or “with”, but it need not be translated so especially in the passages that refer to baptism. According to Strong “en” is translated “in” 1902 in the KJV out of 2801 useages. The next highest usage is “with” 140 times.
Notice the usages of Greek word “en” in the first chapter of the Gospel of John:
“…I baptize with (en) water: ….” John 1:26 (KJV)
“…I come baptizing with (en) water.” John 1:31 (KJV)
“…he that sent me to baptize with (en) water,….” John 1:33 (KJV)
“…he which baptizeth with (en) the Holy Ghost.” John 1:33 (KJV)
“For by (en) one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,….” 1 Cor 12:13 (KJV)
There may be many other examples but these particularly deal with water baptism. By the translation of the Greek word “en” as “with” or “by” the translators obscure the true meaning of “baptizo” in context. William Tyndale translates the Greek word “en” in John 1:33 “in”.
Likewise, he translated the Greek word ecclesia “congregacion” in numerous places.
12 Eve so ye (for as moche as ye covet spretuall giftes) seke that ye maye have plentye
vnto ye edifyinge of the congregacion. I Cor. 14:12
“…because I persecuted the congregacion of God.” I Cor. 15:9
Personally, I prefer the translation of the Greek word ecclesia as congregation because it eliminates the Churchianity of the word “church”. The word congregation is composited of two components “con” meaning with or together and the word “grex” which refers to a “group or herd of cattle”. So the word congregation simply mean a group who come together. However, when used of a Christian group it takes on the spiritual significance. I note that the Assemblies of God use the term assembly instead of church which is biblical. They may use the word church but primarily use the word assembly. The Plymouth Brethren use the term chapel instead of church.
Yes, I do believe that Theology does influence translations. However, the Church of God universal has survived this matter and has greatly benefited from the KJV. For many years the KJV had been the standard translation for almost all protestant churches and assemblies. At present there seems to be a chaos of new translations which I do not believe contributes to the true knowledge of God and the unity of Christians. However, I do not believe we will every return to the time when almost all Christians use only one translation.
But remember, almost any translation of the Bible teaches the essential doctrines of Christianity. Read Richard DeHaan’s article.