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King James Bible - Translation or Paraphrase?
By John Howard Reid   

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Here are four versions of a little episode in the temple which may help gauge our own thoughts on this question: Is the King James Bible a translation or a paraphrase?

 

Mark 12: 41-44. Five Versions Compared. Translation or Paraphrase?

 

 

Mark 12: 41-44. Five Versions Compared. Translation or Paraphrase?

 

I’ve had the good fortune in my time to serve as a deacon under three pastors. All were men of the finest quality, but they did share a common weakness – an inordinate love of the King James Bible which all regarded as God’s Infallible Word. As a result, they tended to despise all other translations which they regarded at best as paraphrases that never accurately represented the original texts with anything like total fidelity. In their eyes, only the King James translators faithfully fulfilled this task. So here are four versions of  a little episode in the temple which may help gauge our own thoughts on this question: Is the King James Bible a translation or a paraphrase?

First of all my own translation from my book, Mark and John: The First and Last Gospels: Jesus sat opposite the collection bowls for the temple treasury and took note of the various people that put money into the coffers. Many rich men threw in large sums, but a poor widow came and offered two miserable copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Jesus called His disciples’ attention to this, and said to them, "Truly, that poor widow has put more money than anybody else into the treasury. The others all contributed but a small portion of their abundance, but this destitute woman has offered to God everything she possessed and left herself with absolutely nothing to live on. [But God sees her action and He will reward her]."

Now a translation by Father Alexander Jones from his book, The Gospel According to St Mark: And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."

Now, the same passage from The Living New Testament Paraphrased: Then He went over to the collection boxes in the Temple and sat and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Some who were rich put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two pennies. He called His disciples to Him and remarked, "That poor widow has given more than all those rich men put together! For they gave a little out of their surplus, while she gave up her last penny." 

Finally the King James Version: And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast unto the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Now, the original, translated word for word from Mark's Greek text. In the original, of course, the words are not separated, but I shall take this liberty: AND SITTING OPPOSITE THE TREASURY HE BEHELD HOW THE CROWD PUTS COPPER MONEY INTO THE TREASURY AND HOW MANY RICH MEN PUT MUCH AND COMING ONE WIDOW POOR PUT LEPTA TWO WHICH IS A QUADRANS AND CALLING TO THE DISCIPLES OF HIM HE SAID TO THEM TRULY I TELL YOU THAT WIDOW THIS POOR MORE ALL PUT THE PUTTING INTO THE TREASURY FOR ALL OUT OF THE ABOUNDING TO THEM PUT BUT THIS WOMAN OUT OF THE WANT OF HER ALL THINGS HOW MANY SHE HAD PUT ALL THE LIVING OF HER 

My view? What I've just written above is a translation. Admittedly, I've separated the words to make it easier to read, but otherwise it's a direct translation of what Mark actually wrote. All the other versions, including the King James, are paraphrases.

However, a paraphrase is not less accurate than a translation. In fact, a paraphrase is far more accurate than a translation. A translation may not only offer little sense but, even worse, it may convey a wrong meaning!




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