When Translations Get Out of Control

Let’s look at the word “heart” in five different verses from the King James Bible.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Genesis 6:5

Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Exodus 23:9

Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?
Job 38:36

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
Psalm 40:8

Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit: one speaketh peaceably to his neighbour with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.
Jeremiah 9:8

In each of these verses it’s not the same Hebrew word, yet the translators thought it prudent to translate each word as “heart” regardless. Take a look at the table below to see what I’m referring to here.

Verse English Hebrew Meaning
Genesis 6:5 Heart lev heart/mind
Exodus 23:9 Heart nephesh soul/person
Job 38:36 Heart sekviy covering
Psalm 40:8 Heart me’ah guts/bowels
Jeremiah 9:8 Heart qerev insides

I understand this may seem trivial, but it changes the meaning the writer originally intended. Ah, but maybe this is really the intended meaning and the translators are just getting there by simplifying these words to all mean “heart.” If this is the case, then the opposite shouldn’t have this variety of words. Everywhere lev is used should be translated as “heart” or “mind,” right? This would make sense seeing that this is the true meaning of lev. But let’s take a look at a selection of verses that use the word lev. The word in bold is the Hebrew word lev which should mean “heart” or “mind.”

Verse lev translated as…
Deuteronomy 4:11
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
midst
Genesis 31:20
And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.
unawares
Exodus 9:21
And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.
regarded
Psalm 83:5
For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:
consent
Proverbs 19:8
He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.
wisdom

Wow, even more translation confusion. When this happens, we’re left with a translation of the Bible that is adjusted to match the translator’s paradigm and belief system rather than what the text actually says. To have this many inconsistent translations of the same word isn’t good.

Yes, of course, we can all read our translation and get the basic gist of the story, come to repentance, and understand that Yeshua is the Son of God. But we’re also urged to dig deeper. The authors of the Bible encourage us to study more and in so doing, we have to read the original texts in the original languages as best we can. If not, all the other doctrines we create are basically based on someone else’s paradigm and understanding.

This post is based on Jeff Benner’s video.

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