While I don’t speak Greek or Hebrew, as some of you know my second language is German. Still I was looking over some of the original texts of the bible with Google translate. Dead sea scrolls, Codex Sinaticus, and the Textus Receptus. Now the Textus Receptus is a very important collection of books, because this is the primary source for the English speaking King James Bible and the German speaking Luther Bible. To be honest I did not find any ‘flaws’ in translation- what I did find were common problems in translating any different language. These were the same things I had to learn on my own while learning German. So let’s just a explore a tiny sample.
English is a very simple language, relatively it’s extremely straight forward. In fact English is the only language in the world that is as simple as it is. 1 word can mean usually at best 2 or 3 things. It’s only until you look into other languages you find its common place around the world for 1 word to mean 12 to 27 different things. Grammar structure in English compared to any other language is actually completely backwards, upside down or completely flipped over sideways. Often in other languages, The way you word sentences and paragraphs changes the entire meaning of just 1 word or even just 1 letter.
In English can messing sentence up, still understanding generally, say I… Because of the fact it is a simple language.
Even more often foreign words may translate literally but often come with “context” or carry special meanings not quite as literal as the word you come up with in Google translate. Then of course there’s Slang terms – which are not what an English speaking person would understand as ‘slang’ rather ‘regional’. One more thing most regions of countries have an entire subclass of a language sliced in with their national language- which might sound like ‘slang’ but in truth is an actual language all on its own. (Switzerland has its own language but they speak German, Hakka is its own language in China and they speak Chinese). To understand the Bibles translation we must first understand how translation works. Since I know German almost fluently – I’ll show you exactly what I mean later on.
Understanding Language Barriers 101
America is a great start actually. I grew up in Maryland my whole life. Whenever I went to the drive thru, it was a cultural norm to order ‘Coke’. Everyone in the south drinks ‘Coke’. Let me explain why the answer is no they do not all drink ‘coke’.
In the American south ‘coke’ isn’t talking about a brand. ‘Coke’ means: a sugary carbonated beverage. as in Grape Coke, Dr. Pepper Coke, Regular Coke, Sprite coke, Orange coke, Cream soda Coke, Pepsi Coke, etc… ‘Coke’ is a generalization, no matter the brand or flavor its still ‘Coke’.
As an adult I moved north to New York. When ever I ordered ‘coke’ from the drive thru at taco bell the lady would tell me “we only carry pepsi products sir”. (So, what? Right!) I have never encountered someone saying this to me before. Every drive thru or restaurant I went to that had pepsi machines was always a frustrating experience to me. In this area of New York the equivalent to my definition of ‘Coke’ was ‘Pop’- however in New York City they call it ‘Soda’. (in southwest USA its ‘Shasta’)
Let me tell you, I actually had an argument with a lady at the drive thru at Taco Bell once over this simple language barrier for 20 heated minutes… well she gave me an attitude and I’m yelling;
“I don’t care what brand of coke you F#($; have I want a medium root beer coke!!”
she says; “I am not going to the grocery store to pick up root beer coke, all we have is pepsi products, take it or leave it your holding up the line”.
Me: “Fine just give me tacos!! Im dumping the coke out anyway and drinking coffee when I get home.”
Her: “You mean your dumping out the pepsi product? would you like coffee instead sir?”
Me: “Bless your Heart” (Hehe, southerners will understand that…)
Lucky for me and many future drive thru lady’s in Buffalo ny, I met someone from Virginia, who spoke my language. He told me about the ‘Coke’ and ‘pop’ situation up here. And so I began to learn to speak the Western New York/Midwest language. This very language barrier actually shows itself well in Pepsi Advertisement.
I think that’s a simple enough example for an English speaking person to understand a language barrier. The drive thru lady lived in Buffalo her whole life with ‘Pop’ and is frustrated with me the customer from Maryland ordering a root beer ‘Coke’, meanwhile all she has is Pepsi type root beer. She yells at me, I yell at her, we agree to disagree, customer walks away with tacos and no drink.
So let’s learn some German with Angel Fish!
No worries this will be Fun! but leave a comment if I loose you.
Sekundenschlaf – translated literally this means “Secondary Sleep” – however this is a trick word and used surprisingly often in Germany. Does the word “Nap” come to mind- as in:
“you’ve slept all night, but it’s time for a mid day nap”
Well you would understand the ‘sleep’ part of Secondary Sleep anyway. Sekundenschlaf is a context word were talking about lizards and bears “Hibernating”.
Für der Bär, ging Sekundenschlaf den Winter.
The bear went to Secondary Sleep for the winter.
No the bear is not just taking a nap…
Oh yeah in German for that sentence there’s no conjunction and theres other things. I’m sorry, literally that sentence in English translation is:
For the Bear, goes Secondary Sleep the Winter.
But that would be very bad English wouldn’t it? In truth you should be translating the sentence not so literally:
The bear went to hibernate for the winter.
However, as we know Hibernation can mean other things as Peter Fox and Marteria points out in a song titled “Sekundenschlaf”. Sadly, I have yet to find an adequate English translation to this song, translated into English it just doesn’t do it justice. Its a song about wasting your life hibernating, while the world passes by.
Many English speaking people are familiar with basic German greetings like auf wiedersehen, Guten Morgan…
Well you are an American or Brit so I will forgive you, but it is not all that simple. In my travel in Germany I found there’s over 16 ways to say hello to someone in Germany -depending on where you are in Germany. (This does not include a few towns in Germany where people do not say a greeting at all, the greeting is insinuated automatically just by you being there). Germans can be ‘snuby’ about this, Literally if you say the wrong greeting in the wrong town
people might not talk to you, because they know your not from their town. Since your not from their town you lack any of their interest until you learn the proper town greeting. Much like my coke/pop analogy- but in Germany it’s a pretty serious difference.
Foreigners are of course allowed to spend their money here, just don’t stay too long or they eventually chase you out of town.
I want you to keep in mind Germany is only about as big as the state of Ohio – as you see it is full of language barriers worse so then my coke/pop analogy.
Let’s go over just the “main” ones.
Moin– this word is a kind of German slang that was somehow almost universally adopted in Germany. Just don’t say it to an Austrian and especially not a Swiss guy in Bern! (I said it to a Swiss guy in Bern) The Austrians don’t use Moin, and the Swiss don’t like Moin. Yes Northern Switzerland Speaks German, However they ARE NOT GERMAN- I will let you find out what that means on your own, but I warn you don’t even dare say to the Swiss: “Well Switzerland is basically like Germany”- those people carry Swiss army knives! (I said that to a Swiss guy in Bern 😦 )Austrians however do generally consider themselves basically German because they are, they just don’t use ‘Moin’ like Germans. Why ‘moin’ is so important, I don’t know, moin just caught on in Germany but it has no literal English translation.
Gross Gott (sp: Groß Gott) this means literally ‘God Greet’. In this greeting there is an insinuation as ‘God Greet You’. the word “you” is insinuated, they don’t actually say ‘You’- (yes this is proper German Grammar.) This particular greeting is limited only to southern Germany, in a state called ‘Bavaria’. Here you will find very conservative Catholics whom you must greet with Groß Gott. This shows them your not a pagan savage from the North, and so not a threat to them. They are now at ease in mind you haven’t come to burn down their village and steal their food. 😀
while this is somewhat exaggerated, pagan savages actually did come
from the North to burn Bavarian villages down and steal people’s food, at generally the same time people here started saying Groß Gott. ‘Guten Tag’ here is a greeting that gives Bavarians the cue to basically ignore your existence. They will only speak to you on a bare minimum level until you’ve left town, and they no longer have to deal with you. This will make better sense in a minute.
Think of it like a secrete password. Use the right password and they will talk your ear off night and day. A stranger here will now be a BFF you just haven’t met yet.
Guten Tag + Bavaria = snub
Groß Gott + Bavaria = ❤
Guten Morgen, Guten Tag, Guten Arbend, Guten Nacht. Here’s where we discover the time of day way to great people. ‘Guten’ means Good and the next word is the time of day respectively- morning, day, afternoon, night. Are you ready for a twist?
You also say this for ‘Good bye’ 😀 of course depending on what time of day you leave your friend. Anyway. This is more popular in North western Germany – though universal it’s mainly everywhere North and West of Berlin that uses these in Germany. Remember some places have passwords like Groß Gott, dont forget to know the correct password if one applies. Guten Tag = pagan savages/communists. This is why Bavaria uses its own ‘hello’ as a password, this is where pagan savages came from to burn down their village – they have always been at odds with each other.
Hallo means Hello – simple Ja! Hallo is mostly just used in Berlin fairly exclusively. There are actually people in Germany who do not understand ‘Hallo’, only use it if your in Berlin- if you use it at all. Also Aufweidersen is a Berlin word for ‘Good bye’. For some reason the rest of Germany understands Aufweidersen perfectly but not Hallo. Well I have a theory- Berlin is a HUGE city like New York and Tokyo, the rest of Germany is villages, fairly small towns and semi large towns (a step up version of suburbia). So whenever an inner city person from Berlin says ‘Hallo’ they tell him ‘Aufweidersen’ to make sure he knows his city slick, street rat, rif-raf self is not welcome in town. 😀 it’s their way of saying ‘Keep the city folk out among decent people’. When Berliners come, the whores drugs and gun fights come with them. ‘No Thank You’ they seem to say- the door is closed right from the start. Hallo is considered a very trashy, sleezy way to say hello. (I told you this would be fun)
So now we understand Germany has a unique system with greetings. Oh and by the way, each town and city in Germany has a unique and distinct accent. Really it’s not just the greeting, it’s the way you say the greeting too that gives you away. If they don’t like what town your from (for what ever reason),they will snub you. However were keeping this simple.
Americans in Germany though needn’t worry about a thing, most Germans love you automatically with you pronouncing ‘W’ instead of ‘V’ except when your supposed to pronounce ‘W’. Some German woman will adopt you as her child simply by mentioning Ronald Regan! As an American I found no matter what I did in Germany I was incapable of committing any wrong. No matter where I went people automatically befriended me and accepted me into their inner circles. Practically tossing the rose petals at my feet as I rode into town, and offering unconditional warm friendship. Oh and did I mention I never once had to actually buy chocolate in Germany 😀 People just kept giving it to me 😀 (beer too)
Back to language
Remember I told you 1 word can have as many as 12-27 meanings outside the English language?
Ich Lieben Oma!
Well that sentence is a loaded cannon of crazy.
I love Grandma
I make love to Grandma
I am mildly fond of Grandma
I set fire on Grandma
I am artistically passionate about Grandma
I throw Grandma
I vomit Grandma
I love… what’s oma?
-Ich obviously means I
-Lieben has several meanings and contexts
-Oma is a word only used in northern Germany, more so in the Baltic states (former Prussia) Literally translating as ‘Old Lady’- however in a specific grandmotherly context. There is a reason I can’t just say “Grandma”- but I will anyway.
Now your translating Ich lieben Oma without Google translate. How do you determine which English sentence is the correct use? The fun part is you can’t 😀 they are all correct, until you add a sentence.
Ich Lieben Oma. sie hat Schokolade!
I Blank Grandma. She has Chocolate!
I set fire on Grandma. She has Chocolate!
Now ask yourself, would someone set fire on the grandma who has chocolate? NO, it’s just plain common sense.
I am mildly fond of Grandma. She has Chocolate!
Would you consider the person is mildly fond of Grandma… Yet follow on to say: She has Chocolate! It could fit the context except there’s an ‘!’. This person is excited therefore we can rule out a mild fondness for grandma.
I make love to Grandma. She has Chocolate!
Would you have sex with grandma because she has chocolate? Hmmm, knowing people are capable of anything- would you suppose grandma is enticing a child with chocolate as a sexual predator? There’s several ways to interpret this “I make love to Grandma. She has Chocolate!” (Were just going to pretend I completely ruled this out, without adding another sentence for the sake of time).
I Love Grandma. She has Chocolate!
Or could it simply just mean this is a little kid saying he loves his grandma because she has chocolate for him.
Yes we have our winner, more importantly you understand why it’s our winner.
Ich Lieben Oma. sie hat Schokolade!
I Love Grandma. She has Chocolate!
Context is very important in foreign language. When you look at one sentence, you must look at the next – sometimes the whole paragraph just to understand the use of 1 word.
Now specifically in German most words have about 6 meanings, never usually more then 12. In Hebrew or Greek- they can mean up to 27, largely because their of the oldest of languages. As a general rule of thumb the older a language is, the more meanings get assigned to words. It’s not an accident, those languages just had a lot more time for people to mess them up, splice slang terms in, create alternative contexts, etc… they never really change entirely, yet they do.
German is about 1000 years younger then 1st century Greece, But ancient Greek is at least 4000 years old. By the time Germans established itself as a country with help by the great Arminius in 9 AD (arguably), the Greeks already had 2000 years worth of slang and other mess mixed up into common speech. English was invented around the year 1100- over a millennium after Germany became a country, certainly well after Greeks began speaking Greek. So we see 2x’s – 3x’s the amount of definitions to words then German. What this means is we have a TON of unknown words and Unknown contexts for both the German bible and the English bible. (though generally, the German bible is more accurate then English)
In 1611 the King James authors were faced with just such a dilemma. In their day they had to find meanings for words Greeks didn’t even use anymore or the context Greeks didn’t use anymore. So how do we discover what an unknown word is?
Look at other ancient Greek texts is often the solution. Try to understand the context of the word rather then the word itself.
Prosit und Gemütlichkeit!!
It is a cultural word it’s something the English, French, Italians don’t do, nor think this way. It is distinctly German. For other languages Gemütlichkeit is completely untranslatable and special, we wouldn’t understand it even if it were translated because it’s heavily engraved in German culture based on the natural German personality. I’m sorry the Germans did not ask the English dictionary if they can have such words in their language 400 years prior to the invention of the English language. However neither did the Greeks or Hebrews. (yes English was invented, not evolved naturally- a history lesson for another time)
We find a clue ‘Prosit’- is a toast like “Cheers” we also know this word is commonly found in Oktoberfest and Beer Gardens! We know we are excited because of the ‘!!’.
Prosit und Gemütlichkeit!! = “Cheers and Oktoberfest”?
Prosit und Gemütlichkeit!! = Cheers and Togetherness!!
Yet somehow, it is not quite the same as all the detail I gave you about the word. This translation simply will not do! But we mustn’t add to it, hmm a puzzlement…. I know, how about:
Prosit und Gemütlichkeit!! = Cheers and Fellowship!!
Better, well keep it but still slightly off point because we are trying to describe the ‘Experience’ of ‘Fellowship’ and ‘Togetherness’. But here’s what the original translators did in the 1611 KJV.
They added footnotes of alternative definitions on the side of the page to each word or phrase they felt could have been better elaborated on. These words ranged in context, definitions, unknowns, and regional variances of the words they translated. They did not want to leave alternatives out, because it can give people a stronger and deeper meaning of the word – it was the best way they could translate Greek and Hebrew into English, without loosing the original full context of certain words and phrases. However most people ignored the footnotes anyway, so they took them out in the 1700’s. Over time they would reprint, KJV swapping the original footnotes instead of the original main text. It all amounted to the same thing however, because over time English changed from Old English. It is best to have a copy of the original 1611 kjv book, for this reason! (They have reprints of it as cheap as $5-$10 on Amazon).
However, as you see, the KJV has never been “re-written”, they just used the original alternatives differently over time. Even today the King James Version is the most reliable text- however it is worth your while to study up on some Ye Olde English.
I have read the bible in English from King James Version bible, then read many parts of it in German from the Luther bible. There’s certain differences between the 2, yet not really. Side by side both resulted in the same message, carrying the same context not taking from or adding to any story line. Yet both of these texts were translated independently from another. These are the first 2 protestant Bibles published, and all other language translations today are based entirely on 1 of these 2 Versions (I believe some are based on a mix of both). They came by 2 independent and completely different groups, using the same sources of ancient text. Yet here we are without any difference between the beliefs of the church in Germany and the church in America or Canada or Australia, Japan, Norway, Brazil etc…
So today you learned a little German, and a little about Germany, and you see the world is a little bigger than you may have thought. You may have came here looking to discredit the bible, in altering translations.
Do you not see how hard it is for 2 languages to translate from 6 ancient languages and come up with the same meaning within the respective culture of their language?
The poetry, symbolism, abstract concepts… things intellectuals in the 1400’s Infact rejected like the earth being round like a ball. Yet Scholars who had no way of knowing, thinking the earth was round like a disc, printed a bible with the word “Kreis” instead of “Runde” for Isaiah 40:22 from the an ancient Hebrew word pronounced Jibb (I can’t type the Hebrew spelling). oh yes it’s all in this book! Don’t try to tell me it is a lie to say this is the signature of god speaking to us all!
(Kreis means Circle, specific to ball or sphere context. Runde literally translates “Round” it is a standard any way round. Jibb is Hebrew “round” like a ball or sphere, specifically like Kreis. Martian Luther did translate from the original literal Hebrew, despite his own common knowledge the earth was flat)
If you are here to find mistranslations – Why don’t you learn Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Persian, Latin and German and translate to me what it says in English? That is what the KJV translators spoke Fluently. You are obviously smarter and superior to men in 1400s! Certainly smarter then me, yes?
Copy and paste this into google translate, you can see for yourself something is not quite right:
“Jesus ist der Herr; denn er ist Auferstanden! niemand kommt zum Vater, aber durch ihn, kann nicht warten, um Sie in den Himmel zu sehen”
Then we get into things like names, which I will let the fuel project answer for you.