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Hell, Hades, Gehenna, and the Realm of the Dead (Acts 2:27)

Hell is a slippery concept; and no, I’m not talking about recent debates. I am talking about what the word ᾅδης means.

I was reminded of this in reading the NIV of Acts 2:27. Peter cites Ps 16:10 as fulfilled in Christ. “You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay.” Why did the NIV switch from “grave” (1984) to “realm of the dead”? (I was not on the CBT when this change was made, so I was not part of the discussion.)

ᾅδης occurs ten times in the New Testament. In eight the NIV translates ᾅδης as “Hades.” In Acts 2:27 and in Peter’s following comment (v 31), it translates ᾅδης as the “realm of the dead.” In our passage, most translations simply write ”Hades” (NASB, NRSV, HCSB, NET) or “Hell” (ESV, KJV).

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“Act like Men” (1 Cor 16:13)

Paul is concluding his letter to the Corinthians church, and one among several of his final exhortations is in v 13. The ESV reads, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men (ἀνδρίζεσθε), be strong.”

I was reminded of this passage as I was reading the current wave of blogs reacting to John Piper’s talk on “The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle.” This is not a debate I want to enter right now, but it does raise an fascinating problem in translation, and that is how to translate ἀνδρίζομαι.

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The Difference a Comma Makes (Acts 5:18)

We all know that commas are not part of the biblical text, and yet they are required by English. To someone just starting their Greek career, it may not seem that commas deserve much attention; but Acts 5:18 gives a good example of why a comma can make all the difference.

I was reading the NIV the other day and came across this verse. “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.” What is the relationship between the “associates” and the “Sadducees”? In English, there are two.

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Common Sense in Translation (Acts 7:18)

There is no substitute for common sense in translation. Sometimes when you read the Greek, it is so obvious that it can’t mean what it says. The question is, what is a translator to do?

Stephen says in his speech, “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph (ὃς οὐκ ᾔδει τὸν Ἰωσήφ)” (Acts 7:17-18, ESV).

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Common Sense in Translation (Acts 7:18)

There is no substitute for common sense in translation. Sometimes when you read the Greek, it is so obvious that it can’t mean what it says. The question is, what is a translator to do?

Stephen says in his speech, “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph (ὃς οὐκ ᾔδει τὸν Ἰωσήφ)” (Acts 7:17-18, ESV).

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Natural Language Translation (John 6:11)

Are you familiar with the term “natural language”? It is a translation theory that seeks to say, for example, in English the same thing as is said in Greek, but to say it is naturally as possible for the English speaker.

In other words, the order of the Greek sentence and its grammatical forms are of less significance than how the English reader hears the biblical text.

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When does a singular better translate a plural? (Phil 4:13)

I never cease to be amazed at the power of context in translation. So many times I will see what I think is a good translation of a verse; but when I read it in context, red flags start to wave. Phil 4:13 is one of those passages.

All major translations other than the NIV (2011) translate the plural πάντα as a plural. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV, so also NASB, NRSV, HCSB, KJV, NET). The 1984 NIV and NLT say, “ I can do everything,” which is essence says the same thing as the plural.

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As a Father Disciplines his Son (Heb 12:5)

We talk about semantic ranges, and that a word in one language does not have the same range of meaning as a word in another language, which is one reason translation can be so challenging.

There is perhaps no other word that epitomizes this as much as παιδεία, generally translated “discipline.”

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Commas, Commas, Commas (2 Tim 1:3)

The joy of punctuation! It can get the translator out of a real jam, and it can add clarity and reduce misinterpretation. I am wondering why I don’t talk about it more in my grammar.

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