Day 8: Propaganda Added
Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or Sabbath days, things which are a [mere] shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB)
Mere – When you read the word “mere” in this verse, does it communicate the idea that those things which Paul has just described are of lesser importance? We see that Paul lists those activities that would be part of Torah observance, but when the translators introduce the word “mere” into this verse, they change the emphasis, don’t they? Since there is no Greek equivalent for the word “mere”, the translators put the word in brackets. They better! What they have done is alter the text so that it reads according to their theological bias. It makes the text appear to discount Torah observance. Try reading the verse without the word “mere” and you will get a different message. The NASB is committed to a two-covenant theology, and the translation puts it into this verse without giving the reader any explanation or justification.
The NIV is worse. The translators of the NIV actually change the tense of the Greek so that this verse reads, “These are a shadow of things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” This is blatant theological propaganda disguised as an accurate translation. You will also notice that the rest of the verse has been changed to further diminish the connection to Torah by adding the word “however.” Now you know why I often refer to the NIV as the “Nearly Inspired Version.” The translators alter, add, or subtract from the Greek and Hebrew in order to communicate their particular theological position. Of course, they don’t tell the reader anything about these decisions, so the poor reader doesn’t know that they are being spoon-fed theological propaganda instead of an accurate translation.
The NIV and NASB aren’t alone in this anti-Semitic view. The New Living Translation changes the tense and the secondary phrase. The RSV adds the word “only” instead of “mere” – with the same effect. Only the KJV, NKJV, ESV, and NRSV actually translate the verse as it is written in the Greek text. Unless you know something about the bias of the translating committees, you will always be subject to their interpretations hidden in their choice of words. There is no English translation that accurately conveys the full meaning of the Greek or Hebrew. As you can see, this is not simply the result of the difficulty in capturing the nuances and depth of meaning in one language and converting it to another. There are deliberate alterations at play here as well.
So, do you find this as frustrating as I do sometimes? Don’t let that discourage you. Now you know that every translation is more than a translation. In some ways it’s a commentary. A commentary on how the translators want you to read the Bible, from their theological interpretation. What you are now learning is that there is no one “right” interpretation. To really understand what the authors were saying might take a little work on our part. But don’t feel alone. There is a worldwide grassroots movement that is working to recapture the cultural understanding that shaped the language, the historical events referenced throughout the stories , and the context in which these authors spoke. You are not alone in this, but it does take some effort on your part. But hey, that’s what the journey is all about.
As you read your Bibles, look for the brackets, the footnotes, and read other translations. You may even look for an online site or app that has an interlinear/ concordance. This will give you the Greek or Hebrew words as they appear in the original text. To be a follower of Messiah isn’t easy, it takes work. If we truly wish to know what the authors actually said, we need to dig. Let the investigation begin!