When studying the Bible one very important but often overlooked thing is knowing the differencebetween translation and interpretation. This may not seem significant on the surface, but it is vital if youwant to arrive at valid scriptural conclusions. The truthis that no matter what version of the Bibleyou are readingit is a blend of translation and interpretation. This in and of itself is not bad because anytime youtranslate from one language to another there is some interpretation needed if only becausenot all languages have words for every word and others have many differentwords for a singleword. One exampleisthe Greek word “kurios” which is translated “Lord” in most Bibles canmeanlord as in master, itcanmeansir and itcanmeanLord as in G-D. One Greek word three differenttranslations, which requireinterpretationin order to accurately portray the writers meaning. An examplewould be the woman at the well in John 4:11.
(All of the verses I will be using in this article will be from the King James Version.)
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thouhast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
In this verse, the word Sir is translated from the word “Kurios” while in John 20:28 we see the samewordtranslated as “LORD.”
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
These two verses show the same Greek wordtranslated two different ways because of interpretation. In John 4:11 the woman clearly isn’t calling Yeshua “Lord” she has no idea who He is at the time and we know that because Yeshuaactually says to her in verse 10.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have askedof him, and he would have given thee living water.
Where is John 20:28 it is clear that Thomas is proclaiming the deity of Yeshua as his LORD.
While some interpretation in translatingScripture is not only needed but important to helpreaders to understandthe intention of the text too much interpretation can actually do damage to the text and the intended meaning of the words that were written. This over interpreting can cause the reader to cometo invalid interpretations and unbalanced understandings.
Let me provide an example of this. In Hebrews 8:13.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, hehathmade the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxetholdis ready to vanish away.
You will notice that in the printed text of Hebrews 8:13 there are two words that are in italics “covenant” and “is.” The reason they are in italics is to identify to the reader that these two words are not in the actual Greek manuscript. These two words were added by the translators, in order toassist the reader in understanding the text. This isn’t a problem with adding the word “is” because doing so does not change the meaning of the text. However, adding the word “covenant” does change the context and adding that word will cause the reader to come to a differentconclusion that the original language presents.
Let me explain in the Book of Hebrews the writerbeginsa discussion of the role of Yeshua as High Priest in chapter 4 which continues through chapter 10. In these chapters, we are told that Yeshuais a priestafter the orderof Melchizedek in chapters 5:10 and 6:20 and 7:11.
10 Called of God ahigh priestafter the order of Melchizedek.
20 Whither the forerunnerisfor us entered, even Jesus, madeahigh priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
11 If therefore perfectionwere by the Levitical priesthood,(for under it the peoplereceived the law,)what further need was there that another priest should riseafter the order of Melchizedek, and not be calledafter the order of Aaron?
Then in Chapter 7:12 we find the first mention of something that is going to change and the chapter begins to explain the differencebetween Yeshua as High Priest and the Levitical Priesthood.
12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Chapter 8 begins with these words which continue the same topic that started in chapter4.
1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum:We have such a high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
Chapter 8 continuesto describe the priestly ministry of Yeshua and the chapter ends with verse 13 and in the Greek manuscript the word covenant isn’t in the text. That is because in context the this that is old, decaying and waxing old and ready to vanish away is not the covenant it is the priesthood.Not convinced yet considerthis, the book of Hebrew was written some 30-35 years after the death of Yeshua. If thisverse is speaking Old Covenant/New Covenant then the New Covenant has not yet come into existence. But the Bibletells us in Hebrews9:16-17.
16 For where a testamentis, there must also of necessitybe the death of the testator. 17 For a testamentis of force after men are dead: otherwise, it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
Also consider Galatians 3:14-17.
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men;Thoughitbe but a man‘s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no mandisannulleth, or addeththereto. 16 Now to Abraham and his seedwere the promisesmade. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thyseed, which is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
Notice that we are told that when G-D makes a covenant it cannot be disannulled and the examplewe are givenisthe Mosaic covenantcoming after the Abrahamic covenant. Likewise, the New Covenant doesn’t do awaywith the Old Covenant.
One more this to consideris that Hebrews was written somewhere between 65 and 68 CE just before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and with that destruction the priesthood vanished away.
So we see that in context the Book of Hebrews is speaking of the transition from the Aaronic Priesthood to the Priesthood of Messiah, a better priesthood. Yet by adding one word of interpretation to the text the readeris lead to a false conclusion which actually contradicts the teachings of the Bible.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.