I recently overheard a boy make a declaration to his mother as she was changing his shirt in a crowded waiting room. Eagerly pointing to a shiny gold painted crucifix hanging conspicuously high on an adjacent wall. “That makes me scared!” The anxious insistence of his words provoked immediate and restrained laughter. His mother vehemently scolded him, which seemed to make the scene all the more humorous. The crucifix is a symbol that evokes much that surrounds the most common bible mistranslation of one word, sin.
Out of an estimated 7000 languages worldwide, the complete bible, (Old, and New Testament), has seen 600 language translations. In addition, over 1400 languages have access to the New Testament, and at least some part of the bible has been translated into 3,223 languages. With well over 70 versions of the english bible in print, biblical translation remains a persistent hot topic of controversy and debate among theologians and scholars.
Tribulations of Biblical Translations
Biblical text translations have historically been costly, time-consuming projects that, at times, had to be postponed or abandoned due to issues such as budget constraints. Notably, there remains one common dilemma at issue. When words could not convey the full meaning of the original text, they were Anglicized in english translations, or adapted to other languages. This means the content and character of original texts were sometimes altered, replaced, or compromised.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Some debate the New Testament was transcribed around 60 A.D. in Koine, (common), Greek. The word sin was translated from the Hebrew word Chait, or Chata. The definition means to miss the mark, miss, or err. There is no ancient Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent for the English word sin, although it is referenced in the King James version of the complete bible 441 times. Correspondingly, the language Jesus would have spoken would have also been Aramaic, commonly used at the time in the Assyrian empire.
What’s wrong with a Sinner?
The word sin not only implies something morally reprehensible, it dismisses the concept of free will. This is commonly demonstrated in the statement, “We are all sinners”. Expressly, the word provokes a complacency which validates and invites sin. Contrast this with the word’s origin, Chait. The word and concept of the original text implies that the pursuit of knowledge is our redemption, as life is a learning process. Ultimately, it seems more relevant to vow to learn from mistakes than to pledge our eternal moral failure.
Benner, Jeff A. “Good and Bad”. Ancient Hebrew.Org.
Lewis, Nicola Denzey. Bible Odyssey “What was the Original Language of the Bible”.
Christian Bible Reference. “How Many Times Does a Word Appear in the Bible”.[http://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_wordcount.htm]. [08/22/2017];
King James Bible Online.
Silinsky, Rabbi Schmuel. Aish.com. [01/22/2000]. “Sin, not what it Seems”. [http://www.aish.com/jl/p/ph/48964596.html]
Image credits: Sofia, Samantha. “Photo of Child with Bible”.[https://pixabay.com/users/242387/].[09/04/2017].