When Scripture’s Meaning Gets Lost in Translation

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Charmaine called in to ask Patrick about the translation change in Luke’s telling of Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River. According to Chapter 3 in the New American Bible, heaven was opened, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven as a dove, and a voice said, “‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:22) The gospel used to read, “This is my beloved son; with whom I am well pleased.”

Charmaine explained that this was a confusing change because it muddied the waters about who God the Father was addressing during the Baptism. When before it was clear that He was talking to those around Jesus (and the rest of the world), it was like He was making us aware of the Messiah, the Christ who had come to redeem us. Now, as God addresses Jesus, it’s almost as if He is letting Jesus know that He is the Christ, like He didn’t know that before this moment. Charmaine recalls that some years ago, there was a heretical idea going around that claimed Jesus didn’t know He was the Christ, and this seemed reminiscent of that idea.

Patrick understood Charmaine’s confusion and he offered several thoughts, beginning with the Douai Rheims translation of the Bible (originally published in the 16th-17th centuries). That translation reads as follows, “‘Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:22) In other words, it is actually the versions directly following Douai Rheims that were more loose interpretations. The New American Bible is a return to the original, literal translation.

Patrick pointed out that translations can often be tricky because of the variability from passage to passage as well as the common usage of certain words or phrases as they were originally uttered or used.

This is seen in something like Patrick’s next call from Mary Ellen who had a similar question. She asked Patrick why the New American version of the Bible omits half a sentence from Isaiah 10:27 while the Douai Rheims and King James versions do not.

While Patrick could not give a surefire answer to the question, he ventured a guess that it had something to do with biblical glosses. Glosses are similar to sidenotes or annotations that are written in the margins of manuscripts or older writings. What likely happened was the Douai Rheims and King James versions were translations that included glosses in the final text, while the New American Bible had chosen to leave them out, giving a more accurate translation of what was originally provided as final text.

Listen to the full question(s) and answer(s) below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.