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The goal of Bible translations is to render the Biblical Hebrew clearer. The consequence is the multiplication of translations for a given word.
Bible translations have taken a lot of time, and translators put much effort and scholarship into their work. They are very helpful, but they are incomplete for one excellent reason.
The original words of the Bible, mainly in Hebrew and Greek, have more meaning than what we can express in any word-for-word Bible translations.
How can I affirm this? Because if you take any of the Bible translations, you’ll see that a SINGLE original word, let’s say in Hebrew, translates into MULTIPLE foreign language words.
If it were so simple, every single Hebrew word would only have ONE and the SAME translated counterpart. We have such mechanical or simple Bible translations, but even there, they have appendices to expand on these single words.
The fact is, each Hebrew word has more than one simple meaning. Some Biblical Hebrew words have fifty different translations. Yes, you read that correctly, fifty different renderings as we’ll see.
You need to ask the fundamental question:
How can ONE Hebrew word have FIFTY varying Bible translations?
This is the work of accomplished language and Bible scholars. With each translated word, they are doing their utmost to stay faithful to their understanding of the meaning of the original text.
The answer to that question is the FIRST Key to master Biblical Hebrew and Unlock Bible Meaning.
Here’s how most Bible students study the Bible. They read a passage and it’s unclear. They want more clarity. So they reach for two other Bible translations they have in their library. Then they compare the words. They are probably still not satisfied, so they go online and find a website with ten Bible translations, maybe with the verse side-by-side. Now they have ten renditions to meditate.
But that Bible translation comparison chart with 10 different texts is almost a drop in the bucket. There are 450 Bible translations in English. Did you ever stop to ask yourself why there are so many? We probably think this is a boon, very helpful to promote scholarship. In fact, every Bible translation exists because the other Bible translations do not satisfy the translators. They don’t like the style, the grammar, the tenses, and more often than not, the vocabulary used to render particular words.
There are not fifty shades of gray, there are four hundred and fifty shades. Your study comprises Bible translations compared one to the other. I’m not saying that can’t be helpful. But please realize that you’re studying interpretations of the original Biblical Hebrew language.
Biblical Hebrew words do have MANY meanings. There are only 8700 words compared to about 170000 in English. Here’s a comparison chart of some major languages from Interpreters and Translators, Inc.
|Language||Words in the Dictionary|
Modern Hebrew comes in with about 30-35K words, double if you consider compound words and anglicisms. As you can see, Biblical Hebrew is really on the short end.
Another consideration is the number of words in the Hebrew Bible. I couldn’t find data for the entire Masoretic text. But the sole book of Genesis has 20K+ words. That’s just one book! I leave it to your imagination to realize that the 8700 Hebrew words HAD to have multiple meanings and nuances to portray the vast variety of people, places, things, actions, descriptions, emotions, sentiments, and a myriad of other expressions we find in the Bible.
Just 8700 words to express the entirety of human beginnings, life, stories, wisdom, history, and prophecies all the way through to Christ’s Birth. Those 8700 words express all of God’s plans for His creation. This is an amazing feat of and by itself.
As we proceed beyond the first key, multiple meanings for one Hebrew word, we shall see the power of the original language of the Bible.
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