Self Directed Study: Renaissance Period

While trying to think of something to write for my self directed study, I thought of something I found on my mission. Since we were talking about the translation of the bible, and I’m doing the poem translation exercise for the second paper, I decided this would be appropriate. The translation difference that I found in the bible, between the King James version and a German translation. The differing translations can be found in 1 John 5: 7-8.

The story that I heard about this difference in translation was that when the English bible was being translated the translator was told to add in a passage of scripture that supports the notion of the trinity. However the translator refused to translate anything that wasn’t in the original Latin. So “they” went and added these bits to the scriptures in Latin.

Keep in mind that this really is little more than hear-say and rumor. I have no way of proving this true, but I do know that there is a difference in the translation.

Here, let me show you:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one.
And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

1 John 5: 7-8

Now here is the same passage from the German translation:

Drei sind es, die Zeugnis ablegen:
Der Geist, das Wasser und das Blut, und diese drei sind eins.

1 Johannes 5: 7-8

Just from looking at word count it’s quite obvious that the German translation is quite a bit shorter. Here’s the German Translation, translated back into English:

There are three that bear witness:
The Spirit, the Water and the Blood, and these three are one.

This re-translation takes a big chunk out of the King James Version verses. In fact, the entire meaning of the passage is changed. It isn’t about the godhead or trinity in any way, but instead in the German version it speaks of only the Spirit, aka/ the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, the influence it has on us, The Water, aka/ The Waters of baptism, and the Blood, aka/ The Blood shed for us, the atonement. Essentially the passage seems to be talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost, and The Atonement. Only half of what is in the KJV is even mentioned.

I bring this up because it is quite interesting, how different the translation of the scriptures can be, when compared between languages. From the poetry translation exercise I am learning that there is a great difference in meaning just when the words are changed during translation. I don’t know what it means when entire sentences are added, or removed, depending on which one, the KJV or the German translation, is actually the more faithful translation, but meaning is definitely changed between translations.

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