Culture and Bible translation.

Jim Wilder brought an interesting example in his webinar of how our culture can even influence a Bible translation. He discovered this when speaking to churches in Poland. His interpreter was very surprised when Jim read Hebrews 12:2 from his English Bible:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:2)

The Holy Bible : New International Version, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).

The Greek word αντι can be translated in two ways:

a) for, because (instead of)
b) because of

In the case of in Hebrews 12:2 this results in the following difference. It can be translated either as:

1) Jesus … who instead of the joy set before him endured the cross, or as
2) Jesus … who because of the joy set before him endured the cross

Most English translations chose the second option.

The New Living Translation also chose the second option but provided the first option as alternative reading in a footnote.

Because of the joy* awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.

* Or Instead of the joy.

Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible : New Living Translation.,  (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004).

The Polish Bible translations chose option one. This is understandable when we consider the history and cultural context:

The culture in Poland is rather low joy and the church is considered to be about suffering, not about joy. Therefore joy did not belong in the church and is even perceived as offensive. The Bible translators therefore chose the first option because of their cultural background and Jim’s interpreter was quite surprised when Jim quoted this verse from his English Bible.

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