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What is Lost in Translation
If you read the Bible—and even if you don’t—you may think you know what Jesus said. Maybe you can’t quote chapter and verse—or maybe you can—but you feel you have heard Jesus’s message. For most of my life, I thought so too. However, when I began studying the original Greek fifteen years ago, I was happily surprised. What Jesus really said is a lot more entertaining and interesting than what we read in English translation.
A lot of the articles here are about Jesus’s use of humor. Subscribers will get long articles weekly. Paid subscribers will also get short “Jesus Fun” emails about the fun things I find in translation that week. Only paid subscribers will get all these “Fun” articles. Paid subscribers will also get longer articles a month earlier than unpaid subscribers.
These articles are written so they can be enjoyed by anyone of any faith. They are never about what I believe personally. They simply offer linguistic facts and the definitions of what the Greek words meant in the time of Jesus rather than what they came to mean through history. The work here is based on my detailed research at ChristsWords.com, which dissects each verse of Jesus’s words, showing the original Greek and parsing each word’s form. The work at that site is an accumulation of fifteen years of effort, but it is raw research, for those who want to interpret the Greek for themselves without having to learn the language. The articles here link to that research, but they are meant to be of interest to those who just want to know what Jesus originally said and how he said it.
My greatest pleasure during these years of study is discovering Jesus’s glorious sense of humor. I deeply love Jesus, but the Jesus that I love isn’t the dull, modern version. Since uncovering Jesus’s methods of entertaining his listeners, I can see the pure fun in most of his verses. In Greek, we see the common techniques in humor that are still used today: lines ending in surprising twists, catchphrases, repetition, exaggeration, and so on. However, this humor is edited out in English. Unlike Jesus, many of us today do not understand our need to laugh at ourselves, at our religious pretensions, and, occasionally, at the Divine. In my articles, I explain the fun of Jesus’s words in detail.
Also edited out in English translation is much of the drama of Jesus’s speaking, especially in his storytelling. Repeatedly, the dramatic, impactful words he used are changed into boring, religious terminology. He also utilized dramatic word order to keep his listeners interested, in suspense, until eventually surprising them. Sadly those features are also sacrificed to make his sentences read as though they were written as lessons, not spoken to entertain.
Very little of what he taught was as cut and dried—and biblical translations do make it dry. If you want to be told by others what Jesus meant, the biblical translations are fine. Plenty of people want to tell you what Jesus meant. I only want to show you what he actually said. I do not speculate about the theological or philosophical meaning of Jesus’s words. My interest is only in making the most accurate translation possible, preserving the original word meanings, forms, and even word order.
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