Defining Difficult Words in the Bible

I’ve been perusing Kevin DeYoung’s newest book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? from Crossway. He makes it clear from the start that his book “is a Christian book, with a narrow focus, defending a traditional view of marriage.” (p. 15) The book is characterized by pastoral sensitivity without compromising his convictions. That’s a tall order given the volatility of the debate. As he begins his discussion of two important Greek words (malakoi and arsenokoitai) he lays out some principles in defining difficult words. Here’s his first of three points.

“The English translations are almost always right, especially when they basically say the same thing. Think about it: each of the nine translations listed above was put together by a team of scholars with expertise in biblical scholarship and the original languages. That doesn’t mean they can’t make mistakes or that we can’t learn new things they missed. But it does mean that after reading a few commentaries and perusing a couple of articles online you will certainly not know the ancient world or Koine Greek better than they did. If the translators thought a specific world really meant X (as seminary students and bloggers are apt to say), they wouldn’t have translated it as Y. Our English translations, imperfect though they may be, are faithful and reliable translations of the original languages. They do not need decoding.” (p. 62)

The nine translations he cites are ESV, HCSB, KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV (2011), NKJV, NLT and NRSV.

He’s right. I see this almost weekly as people come in looking for a resource that will tell them what the words in the Bible “really” mean. This mentality is nurtured by pastors who all too frequently feel the need to correct the translation they are preaching from. “The word here really means . . .” is a chorus heard too often in sermons today.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?  is a paperback with 158 pages and sells for $12.99.

Kevin DeYoung (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He blogs at the Gospel Coalition and has authored or coauthored numerous well-known books such as Just Do Something and The Hole in Our Holiness, as well as the award-winning books Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church (with Ted Kluck).

What Does the Bible Really

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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