Bryan has written a couple thought provoking posts in response to Paul Komorebi’s article Deliberate Mistranslations in the NIV. He concludes,
The “dynamic equivalence” approach doesn’t produce anything more objectively “correct” than “formal equivalence” does. The main problem is not with conservative translations; it is with the uncritical way that Christians think and write about translation itself.
He helpfully points out that all translation is interpretation and the argument for choosing a certain rendering of a passage should take place in the realm of interpretation and not translation.
Read part 1, part 2, and his paper presentation titled Translation, Rhetoric, and the Literal Word of God
Is John 2:10 a mistranslation in the ESV and other translations? The NA28 reads,
καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· πᾶς ἄνθρωπος πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τὸν ἐλάσσω· σὺ τετήρηκας τὸν καλὸν οἶνον ἕως ἄρτι. καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· πᾶς ἄνθρωπος ⸉πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τὸν ἐλάσσω· σὺ τετήρηκας τὸν καλὸν οἶνον ἕως ἄρτι.
My translation – And he said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first and whenever they have become drunk then they bring out the cheap wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
- ESV – and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
The issue is over the translation of μεθυσθῶσιν (ESV – drunk freely). It was my recollection that this word means to “get drunk/intoxicated” but here it gives the connotation that John just means drinking as much or little as one wants. BDAG confirms this with the definition cause to become intoxicated. The same goes for Louw & Nida, to become intoxicated. And Logos’ Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the GNT on the entry for Jn 2:10 says, “to make drunk.” Interestingly, Mounce’s Greek dictionary gives the definition of to inebriate, make drunk, to be intoxicated but under Jn 2:10 he says, “to drink freely.”
There is nothing in this passage to suggest that μεθυσθῶσιν would mean anything other than “get drunk.” The reason that the person throwing the party does this is because when one becomes drunk they are less likely to notice or care about the quality of drink. Is this translation to limit the possibility that Jesus gave wine to intoxicated or soon to be intoxicated guests? If so, the translation is misleading. The KJV 1611 reads “well drunk.” My question is whether in this time period it meant “drunk” as we understand it today or “drunk freely” as the ESV has? If it is the latter it would seem that the ESV is just following the tradition of the translation (though their still could be theological bias). Let’s see how the ESV translates this word other places:
- Luke 12:45 – χρονίζει ὁ κύριός μου ἔρχεσθαι, καὶ ἄρξηται τύπτειν τοὺς παῖδας καὶ τὰς παιδίσκας, ἐσθίειν τε καὶ πίνειν καὶ μεθύσκεσθαι ,
- My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk
- Eph 5:18 – καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι,
- And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit
- 1 Thess 5:7 – Οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες νυκτὸς καθεύδουσιν καὶ οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν· Οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες νυκτὸς καθεύδουσιν καὶ οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν·
- For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night.
- Rev 17:2 – μεθ᾿ ἧς ἐπόρνευσαν οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐμεθύσθησαν οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν γῆν ἐκ τοῦ οἴνου τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς.
- with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
The ESV seems to be inconsistent here because they translate μεθύσκω as getting “drunk” in all other occurrences. There is no reason based on the context that this should be translated any differently.
Other translation are closer but only the NRSV says “get drunk” . The NIV and others have “too much to drink”, which implies drunkenness much more than “drunk freely.”
- NRSV – and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.
- NIV – and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
- NASB – and *said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.
- HCSB – and told him, “Everyone sets out the fine wine first, then, after people have drunk freely, the inferior. But you have kept the fine wine until now.
- CEB – A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
- NLT – A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!
- KJV – And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
What are your thoughts on this? Does anyone know why this is translated as “drunk freely?”
Luke depicted by a winged bull
As I study the Gospels I am always amazed at the emphasis of bringing in the Gentiles and outcasts into the kingdom of God. The new people of God are defined by their faith rather than ethnicity or ritual purity. The Gospel according to Luke is no exception. From the start there is emphasis on the Gentiles and outcast being brought into the kingdom of God (Lk. 2:31–32; 3:6; 4:18–19 etc.).
One emphasis that is played out in the Lukan narrative is the key phrase ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε (your faith has saved you). This phrase occurs four times in the Gospel and each time it is in relation to an outcast.
- Luke 7:50 – In the surrounding pericope Jesus is eating with the Pharisees and a “sinful woman” comes and anoints Jesus’ feet. This alarms the Pharisees, to which Jesus replies that she will be forgiven much because she loved much. Jesus tells the woman that she has been forgiven and concludes with “ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε· πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην” (your faith has saved you; go in peace).
- Luke 8:48 – In this section a woman who had “a discharge of blood for 12 years” goes to Jesus and touches him and she is healed. He says to the woman, “θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην” (Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace).
- Luke 17:19 – This story Jesus approaches 10 lepers between Samaria and Galilee and has mercy on them. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priest and Luke says that they were ἐκαθαρίσθησαν (cleansed). The Samaritan returns to give praise to God and Jesus tells him “ἀναστὰς πορεύου· ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε” (Rise and go; your faith has saved you).
- Luke 18:42 – Finally, Jesus heals a blind man who cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus replies, “ἀνάβλεψον· ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε” (Regain your sight; your faith has saved you).
In each one of these stories it is the outcast from society (one was even a Samaritan!) that Jesus saves because of their faith. In my opinion Luke has intentionally blurred the lines between spiritual and physically healing. The individuals who come to Jesus are saved, both from physical illness/disability and spiritual illness. The kingdom of God is one in which the people of God have been restored. We are told that the already-not-yet(ness) of the kingdom says that we are restored spiritually but Jesus gives us a glimpse of the physical restoration that will also happen in the new kingdom.
The theme of peace is also present in these stories. Jesus told both woman to go in peace. The gospel is a gospel of peace. At the beginning of the Gospel the angels are praising God saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. The woman can go in peace because through their faith they have found God’s favor.
Side note: The ESV makes a hard and fast distinction between spiritual and physical healing. In the encounter with the “sinful woman” the ESV translates “your faith has saved you” but in the other pericopes it is translated “your faith has made you well.” I think this interpretive judgment actually weakens Luke’s use of σῴζω, which he has purposely intended a two-fold meaning. The Greek word σῴζω carries this two-fold meaning while the English word “save” is primarily used biblical only in a spiritual salvation context. A word that could possibly bring out this double meaning would be “restored”. This word carries the idea of bringing something back to its original state. This is probably an imperfect solution but I think we should attempt to bring this two-fold meaning into English the best we can.