Why You Need to Read Multiple Translations of the Bible

While translators of the Bible try their best to make sure their translations convey the right meaning of the original texts, it is inevitable that the translator's biases and opinions are reflected in the translated text. Here are some examples from the Bible.
Genesis 27:39

[KJV] And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 

[ESV] Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, away from the fatness of the earth shall your dwelling be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. 

We can see that the two translations are opposite in meaning. Why is that so? 
We can look up the translation with strong numbers using KJV+

Gen 27:39  And IsaacH3327 his fatherH1 answeredH6030 and saidH559 untoH413 him, Behold,H2009 thy dwellingH4186 shall beH1961 the fatnessH4480 H4924 of the earth,H776 and of the dewH4480 H2919 of heavenH8064 from above;H4480 H5920 

H4924 is fatness.
H4480 has many meanings:
properly a part of; hence (prepositionally), from or out of in many senses: - above, after, among, at, because of, by (reason of), from (among), in, X neither, X nor, (out) of, over, since, X then, through, X whether, with.

It is either with or away from.

Which one is correct?

We have to go by the context. In this case, it is easy to find out. Because in an earlier verse Gen 27:28 Isaac had blessed Jacob with the blessings of fatness and dew:

[KJV] Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 

[ESV]  May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. 

Since that blessing have been given to Jacob, then Esau have to go elsewhere, away from the fatness and dew. So in this particular case, ESV is correct and KJV is wrong.

The implication of this verse is of less important for us since it is meant for Esau. However, there verses that have great implication for us. Below is one.

Joh 15:2  

[KJV] Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away(G142): and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 

[ESV] Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Here KJV and ESV both agree. However, 

(CBr)  Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He raiseth [from grovelling on the ground] and every branch that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, in order that it may bear more fruit. (CBr is Companion Bible Revised, 1909 by E.W. Bullinger)

The issue is the word G142 has different meanings as in:
G142 ah'ee-ro
A primary verb; to lift; by implication to take up or away; figuratively to raise (the voice), keep in suspense (the mind); specifically to sail away (that is, weigh anchor); by Hebraism (compare [H5375]) to expiate sin: - away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up).

Which one is the correct one?
Again, we have to go by the context. 
In Joh 15:6  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away.
In John 15:2, Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, the branch is in Jesus. Such a branch will surely bear fruit (as in John 15:5) but it is not due to the present bad circumstances. It is covered with dirt or blocked from the sunlight. Hence, it must be lifted up, be encouraged, then it can bear fruit. 

We have many verses telling us to watch out for and encourage one another such as 
  • Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
So, in your reading of the Bible and if you find something that seems incorrect, then look up multiple translations, check the meanings of the original words with a concordance, and most importantly, read the whole context, cross-check from the other books of the Bible.

One More Thing just for fun:
For Chinese, same words with multiple meanings are not rare. We have to determine the right meaning from the context. Here is an examination question from level 10 Chinese.

1. 冬天:能穿多少穿多少; 夏天:能穿多少穿多少。
Winter: wear whatever much you can. Summer: wear whatever much you can.

While the words are the same, in winter it means wear as much as you can whereas in summer, it means to wear a little as possible. For more see https://www.ptt.cc/bbs/joke/M.1374795813.A.715.html

So, when reading the Bible, always read in context so that we don't misunderstand it.

Lim Liat (c) 23 May 2017

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