There is an Italian proverb which says, “Translators are traitors” (Traddutore, traditore; “Translators, traitors”), and it’s true. All translation loses meaning. All translators are traitors to the actual meaning. There is no such thing as a noninterpretive translation. . . . Are you going to translate words [formal equivalence] and be interpretive, or are you going to translate meaning [dynamic equivalence] and be more interpretive? [emphasis added]4The concept is this: as a disciple of Jesus Christ, we want the minimum distance between the inspired inerrant text and our own understanding. A word-for-word (formal equivalence) translation tends to minimize the interpretive layer which separates us from the original. A thought-for-thought translation (dynamic equivalence) steps in to interpret things for us. What is particularly damaging about the latter is that ambiguity in the text—involving issues that we as students of the Word need to wrestle with and recognize involves ambiguity—is masked by the interpretive decisions of the thought-for-thought translators. In effect, they are performing both translation and interpretation. It is the latter which we seek to minimize:
Translators have to ask themselves, “What am I going to do with ambiguity?” If the Greek or Hebrew isn’t clear, when it can mean several different things, what am I going to do? The KJV, NASB, RSV, and ESV generally answer that question, “Leave it alone. If we can reproduce in English the same ambiguity that is present in the Greek, then we will leave it ambiguous. We will not make up the reader’s mind.” On the other hand, the NIV will not leave any ambiguity. They make up the reader’s mind whenever they feel it is necessary, and the NLT goes to even greater lengths than the NIV.5One helpful rule of thumb on this matter is as follows: the only reliable translations for detailed study are those which include italicized words. These translations use formal equivalence as evidenced by the italicized words which signify phrases and conjunctions added by the translators for clarity of reading, but for which no corresponding words exist in the original language text. This also helps the careful student to know when he is standing on solid ground (words not in italics) or thin ice (italicized phrases).6 Now it is certainly true that every believer is a “translation” of God’s Word and not necessarily a word-for-word representation. God uses our testimony, even though imperfect, to witness of Christ and the Bible to others around us. This is as it should be. We need not always carry a Bible with us and read from it with precision for people to hear and respond in faith. Yet, when it comes to studying God’s Word where we have a choice of which written text to study and how close we adhere to the original, this is another matter entirely. We should always opt to stay as close to the Words of the Master as possible.This is illustrated by the popular game where people sit in adjacent positions and a story is told by the person on one end of the row of chairs. Each person in line whispers the story to the next person in line. When the story reaches the opposite end of the line, it is retold to all. It is amazing to observe how the story has changed little-by-little as it goes along until significant differences have occurred between its source and its destination. The student of God’s Word ought to be concerned about how many chairs separate him from the Words of the Master. Some of those chairs might be unavoidable—perhaps the student is unable to learn the original languages of the Bible so he must depend upon a translation into his own tongue. Yet why choose to sit two or three chairs further away from the Master by using a paraphrase which allows His Word to be distorted and misunderstood?7 this prophecy
And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)the time is near
The word used in Revelation 1:3+ . . . is kairos. It does not speak of an era or time span, but signifies “the right time,” “the right moment,” “the opportune time.” It is used in Galatians 4:4 wherein the Bible states, “But when the fulness of the time [kairos] was come, God sent forth His son. . .” Christ came at just the right moment. The time was “ripe” for the coming of God’s Son.9
[Engus] can refer to any event predicted by the prophets, as when Mark indicates that “the time [kairos] is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand [engus]” (Mark 1:15). Something was “at hand” that has to do with kairos time. It was the Kingdom hope and aspiration of every Old Testament Jew who knew the writings of the Hebrew prophets.10This word for “time” differs from chronos which generally refers to what we would call chronological time:
Καιρός [Kairos] (“time”) frequently has a technical sense in the NT, referring to the end times when the earthly kingdom of Israel will be instituted (cf. Acts 1:7; 3:20; 1Th. 5:1). The events of this book are thus identified with the last of the critical epoch-making periods foreordained of God. From the perspective of prophetic anticipation this period is declared to be ἐγγύς [engys] (“near”).11
Time does not translate chronos, which refers to time on a clock or calendar, but kairos, which refers to seasons, epochs, or eras. The next great era of God’s redemptive history is near.12James makes an almost identical statement using the same Greek verb concerning the coming of the Lord for believers (not in judgment): “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (ἤγγικεν [ēngiken] )” (Jas. 5:7-8). The meaning in James is that “of approaching in time . . . [and concerns] the Lord’s return.”13 Peter uses the same term: “the end of all things is at hand” (1Pe. 4:7).As with the previous statement concerning things which must shortly take place (Rev. 1:1+), this perspective of time is that of God and concerns the last times when prophetic predictions would come to pass. “Some interval, however, is presupposed between the vision and its fulfillment, otherwise it would be futile to write the visions down, and to arrange for their circulation throughout the churches. A certain career is anticipated for the book of Revelation.”14 Preterist interpreters generally argue that this phrase must denote fulfillment in the lifetime of John’s readers. Yet they are not consistent on this point when the phrase occurs elsewhere:
This creates a contradiction within [moderate] preterism. Since Rev. 22:6+ is a statement referring to the whole book of Revelation, it would be impossible to take tachos as a reference to A.D. 70 . . . and at the same time hold that Rev. 20:7-9+ teaches the Second Coming. [Moderate preterists] must either adopt a view similar to futurism, or shift to the extreme preterist view that understands the entire book of Revelation as past history, thus eliminating any future Second Coming and resurrection.15A better way to understand the text, as in verse 1, is denoting the imminency of the events John records. See Imminency.
1 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), 6.
2 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 13.
3 Contrast this with our own day which enjoys unprecedented ability to duplicate and distribute materials worldwide, but where Christian teaching and worship music suffers at the hands of restrictive copyrights (Mat. 10:8).
4 William D. Mounce, Greek for the Rest of Us (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 30.
6 As a case in point, suppose we are studying the Scriptural teaching on Israel? We use a concordance or computer search to find all the occurrences of the word “Israel” in the NT. Using the NIV translation, we find Ephesians 3:6 among the verses listed: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”. Yet in the Greek below this verse, the word “Israel” (Ισραηλ [Israēl] ) never appears! This may seem like a fine point to some, especially since in this particular verse the idea captured by the NIV would seem correct. But over the long haul it is problematic to rely on a dynamic equivalency translation for study—you simply do not know when you are looking at a detail which is not there in the original. We suppose such translations may be suitable for devotional study—that is, if you don’t mind having flawed devotions.
7 “The Message” is one such paraphrase which distorts God’s Word to such a degree that it undermines the very Message after which it was titled! How close must we come to violating Revelation 22:18-19+ before we realize we are doing a disservice to God’s Word?
8 “One of the chief eschatological terms. ὁ καιρὸς [ho kairos] the time of crisis, the last times”—Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 394.
9 Larry Spargimino, “How Preterists Misuse History to Advance their View of Prophecy,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 142-143.
10 Ibid., 143.
11 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 61.
12 John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), s.v. “Time does not translate .”
13 Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.
15 Kenneth L. Gentry and Thomas Ice, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), 112.