THERE ARE TIMES when the Bible gets it wrong. It’s not that the writers got it wrong, as far as we can tell. It’s that the Bible translators can’t figure it out.
They have to guess.
Sometimes translating the Bible into English is a bit like betting on a horse race. You put all your money on one horse. Or maybe you hedge your bet with some pocket change on another horse or two.
When it comes to making bets like this in Bible translation, the horse is a word that scholars aren’t sure belongs in the Bible.
But it’s their best guess. So they put it there.
If there’s another strong contender, the translators might add it as a footnote.
Remember the Bible story of Joseph with the “coat of many colors” getting sold as a slave to an Egyptian named Potiphar?
Scholars aren’t sure how to describe that guy Potiphar.
He could have been a eunuch and a butcher – which means he chopped liver and had no testicles.
Or he could have been “an officer to the king of Egypt and the captain of the palace guard” (Genesis 39:1).
The Hebrew words describing him are vague.
Potiphar was a eunuch, according to Jews who translated the Bible for the first time. They translated their Bible from Hebrew into Greek, the international language in Jesus’ time.
Today, The Complete Jewish Bible says Potiphar was “Pharaoh’s chamberlain, chief of the slaughterers.”
Even that’s vague. A “chamberlain” could have been a butler who put the king to bed or someone who managed the household. A “slaughterer” could have been a butcher or an executioner.
One literal-minded English Bible says Potiphar was “a eunuch of Pharaoh, head of the executioners” (Young’s Literal Translation).
So what do we call him.
Maybe we just call him Potiphar, and say we’re not sure what he did for a living.
I know students of the Bible who swear by their Bible translation. One of my Bible study colleagues kids our group when he reads aloud from his preferred version, the New King James Version. He says this is the official Bible that came down from heaven. I sometimes remind the group that newer Bible translations are based on manuscripts 1000 years older and probably more reliable than the ones used to translate the King James Version and the New King James Version.
A reader recently disagreed with something I wrote and she simply said, “I’ll trust in my ESV.” English Standard Version.
I remember thinking, “I thought we were supposed to trust in God.”
There’s a temptation to treat the Bible like it needs defended, as is.
Some people would argue that the Bible needs to be read, as is.
It should not diminish the Bible, they argue, to recognize that it contains some mysteries we may never solve. And that it’s okay not to know everything. And to admit it.
Bible Gateway Blogger