MAKING THINGS WORSE THAN THEY ARE
In regard to people resisting God’s saving grace, another major problem of proper Biblical interpretation is that of translations making passages of Scripture sound far worse than they actually are. The best passage of Scripture to illustrate this point is the KJV rendering of Mark 8:35-37. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” These verses about losing one’s soul have struck fear into the hearts of men, women, and children.
There is a Greek word “psyche” which occurs four times in these three verses. I have put the translated words of “psyche” in bold print to stand out. Psyche means “soul,” “life,” or “self” and only the context determines which one it is. Most commonly used translations have translated “Psyche” in the first two instances as “life” and “soul” in the latter two occurrences as the KJV does. This seems possible and appears to make sense if the doctrine of eternal punishment is true. Only one translation I have found, the King James II, translated “psyche” as “soul” all four times. That makes absolutely no sense! How, in the name of common sense, can anyone lose his or her soul for Jesus’ sake?
It is obvious that Jesus started out talking about life and there is no indication that he changed the subject. The proper translation, therefore, would be to translate “psyche” all four times as “life.” There are three widely accepted translations which do that very thing. The Revised Standard Version and the Good News Bible: Today’s English Version are similar so I will just quote the RSV: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life?”
The New Testament of the New American Bible, a Roman Catholic translation, is similar to the RSV and GNB but it is different enough to warrant quoting it: “Whoever would preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will preserve it. What profit does a man show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process? What can a man offer in exchange for his life?” This is an excellent translation.
We have the identical problem of translation in Luke 12:19, 20 in regard to the materialistically minded rich farmer. The word “psyche” occurs three times in these two verses. The KJV again translated “psyche” as the farmer losing his “soul.” “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said unto him, ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?'”
The RSV, which did so well on Mark 8, reversed itself and translated “psyche” like the KJV. The NIV, which translated “psyche” as “soul” in Mark 8, reversed itself and rendered it as “life” in Luke 12. This sounds confusing doesn’t it? I share all this because it can be very confusing and misleading to readers of the Bible who know no Greek. It can also cause fear and be spiritually abusive—even terroristic!
There are two translations which are consistent in both Mark 8 and Luke 12. One is the GNB: “Then I will say to myself, Lucky man! You have all the good things you need for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself!” But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night you will have to give up your life; then who will get all these things you have kept for yourself?’”
The Catholic translation, which merits quotation, is the New Testament of the NAB: “Then I will say to myself: ‘You have blessings in reserve for years to come. Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life shall be required of you. To whom will all this piled-up wealth of yours go?’”
It is bad enough to lose one’s life, but it is infinitely worse to lose one’s soul! Translators should not make it worse than it is. They can, even unintentionally, completely change the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. Their work, consequently, may be the source of spiritual abuse and terrorism! What Jesus taught, mistranslated and misunderstood, can cause fear and even be spiritually terroristic! Properly translated and understood, Jesus’ teachings can bring spiritual life, joy, and peace, because Jesus clearly believed in and taught that saving grace will ultimately prove to be irresistible.
THESE ARE GOOD EXAMPLES OF HOW FOOLISH TRANSLATIONS HAVE GIVEN ENGLISH READERS THE NONSENSICAL DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL CONSCIOUS TORMENT IN LITERAL HELL FIRE! THIS IS WHY WELL-MEANING TRANSLATORS, WITH PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS ABOUT WHAT THE GREEK TEXT SHOULD SAY, ABOUT ETERNAL TORMENT IN HELL, TRANSLATING THE TEXT ACCORDING TO WHAT THEY THINK IT SHOULD SAY RATHER THAN FAITHFULLY TRANSLATING IT CONTEXTUALLY ACCORDING TO WHAT IT DOES ACTUALLY SAY.