of the




Translated from the original languages

By C R Priebbenow

BA, B Ed, MA (Cantab.)



First printed August 2005



National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry


Priebbenow, Clarence BA Bed, MA (Trans) 1935-

God’s Eternal Word

ISBN: 0-646-41208-6



Revised Edition




List of Abbreviations to use in Search



This version does not enable calling up a chapter and verse directly. To find a chapter, use Edit / Find (Ctrl f) and type in the required abbreviation below, followed by a space and then the chapter number. The abbreviation for each chapter is listed in hidden text at the beginning of each chapter. (Do not add a chapter number after Obd, 2 Joh, 3 Joh, or Jd.).




1 KINGS 1 Kng
2 KINGS 2 Kng



1 PETER 1 Pt
2 PETER 2 Pt
1 JOHN 1 Jh
2 JOHN 2 Jh
3 JOHN 3 Jh


Pastor Clarence Priebbenow



        God-fearing translators work with the strong motivation of the redemption from sin and death that Jesus Christ has won for them. This motivates them to praise God and be humbly obedient for their great twofold task. They must be faithful in two respects in particular, faithful to the meaning of God’s Word in the original, and attuned to the nature of the receptor language.

        Faithfulness to the original means honest grappling with the witness of Bible manuscripts, and understanding of the biblical languages, Hebrew, some Aramaic, and Greek. Personal preferences must never decide what the Word of God is and what is not. Let one example suffice. In the KJV, “out the book of life,” in a passage that warns against adding or omitting (Revelation 22:19), cannot claim to be the Word of God. Erasmus had no Greek available for this section, and translated back from the Vulgate, which had libro (“from the book”) instead of ligno “from the tree.” The Greek manuscripts affirm that “from the tree” is Word of God.

        Those who ask, “Why another translation?” deserve an answer. Some recent translations have far too readily assumed that some readings in the Hebrew of the Old Testament were corrupt. They have often had recourse to Greek and other versions, which the footnotes in editions of the Hebrew text reproduced, instead of translating the Masoretic text, and even put conjectures into the text as the Word of God. Several versions have designated these in footnotes as “corrections.” Hebrew copyists had never tampered with the text. Even when they recognised that what they read differed from copyists’ transmission of what the inspired authors had written, they placed what people were to read in the margin. The Dead Sea Scrolls have affirmed the accurate transmission of the Hebrew text in books such as Isaiah. Some translations have exposed their biases towards higher criticism.

        An important principle in translation should be the rule that the context should determine the shades of meaning in words in the original, not the mere words themselves. “To shed blood” often meant, “to commit murder.” However, it is wrong to replace the word “blood” by “death” in sacrificial and redemptive contexts. Lock-step translation of a word in the original Hebrew or Greek by the same equivalent in English is a barrier to intelligibility. An idiomatic translation does not try to retain the forms of the original languages, but the meaning of the original, which is God’s message.

        Idiom should be appropriate for the people who speak the language. Idioms differ from one language to another and in a language over time. An American does not like saying that Stephen was “stoned,” because they want to avoid suggesting that he was drunk! Luther was more successful in finding appropriate expressions in the receptor language than translators like Jerome had been before him. Hebrew had a meagre supply of adjectives and adverbs, and often used nouns that depended on other nouns, where Modern English abounds in adjectives and adverbs. Modern English prefers to translate many event-nouns by verbs. People who have been translating the Scriptures in some third-world countries have shown the way towards the translation of abstracts, events, and relations by the route of “kernel sentences” like “God declares me righteous” for “justification.” They had to work in some languages without a passive voice, and had to recast sentences in the active voice. Such expertise has shown the way to translation into Modern English. Grammatical spell-checkers in computers for Modern English call attention to passive formulations, which increase reading difficulty. Passives are wordier, and are less precise if there is no mention of an agent or instrument. Jewish people who spoke Greek, including Jesus, often reverently avoided direct use of God’s name through passive formulations like “will not be judged.” Speakers of Modern English find difficulty with very long sentences, as Ephesians 1:3-14 is in the original Greek. In short, translators must be keenly aware of the language into which they are translating.

        Some recent English translations handled well relational words such as connectives, prepositions, and genitive nouns. Translators often ought to handle the Hebrew construct-absolute relation and the Greek genitive that depends on another noun in a broad variety of ways. They may have to render “the blessing of God” as “the blessing that God gives” or “our praising God.” “The Promise of the Father” in Acts means, “the Spirit, whom the Father has promised.” However, “the gift of the Spirit” is not “the charismatic gift that the Spirit gives,” but “the Spirit, whom the Father gives.”

        What a translator chooses often has profound effects. Translators have often exposed their doctrinal biases when they have rendered relational words into English. Examples abound. Jerome’s use of gratia for both charis (grace) and charisma (charismatic gift) led to the Roman Catholic understanding of God’s grace as something in human beings. A crucial test for some translators has been the relationship of the two event nouns “repentance” and “forgiveness” in Mark 1:4, “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The translators of the GNB and the CEV have demonstrated their conviction that there is no direct relationship between baptism and God’s forgiveness. Modern English often does not need to express particles in the original like “for” and “therefore” because they are obvious from the context. However, some translators have simply omitted theologically important relational words like “for” in passages like Galatians 3:26-27. The GNB reflects a Baptist bias. The NIV and some others reflect a Reformed bias. The Jerusalem Bible reflects a Roman Catholic bias when it frequently translates dikaiosynê by “justice” instead of “righteousness.” Some of the passages on which the Pentecostals base wrong doctrine (like “received the Holy Ghost since ye believed,” Acts 19:2) have been unfortunate translations in the KJV, and they often refuse to use any other translation. Baptists rely heavily on the mistranslation “teach” as the main verb in Matt 28:19 before “baptising and teaching.”

        In addition, Australian idiom is closer to British than to American usage. Bible translations from America often ignore the fact that the Greek Aorist was wider than the English past tense. It is appropriate to translate it by an English perfect tense in primary sequence when there is no definite reference to time. Therefore “The Son of Man has come” is preferable when Jesus speaks to His disciples, rather than “The Son of Man came.” There is a difference between “Jesus rose from the dead on the third day” and “Jesus has risen from the dead.” The effect of the past event continues up to the present. The two Hebrew tenses had to cover the whole range of meaning in all the English tenses. Some translators have far too often ignored options such as the pluperfect, and the perfect continuous for the Hebrew perfect, and have often unnecessarily translated the Hebrew perfect as a present tense in English. The context often suggests that “I have been crying to You” is more appropriate than “I cried to You.” American translators unnecessarily avoid “may” in final clauses as if it were always permissive. In final clauses, they often use “might” in primary sequence, and even “do,” “does,” “will,” and “can.” In historic sequence, they often use “could” or “would” instead of “might.” When you listen for the final clause in a collect in the liturgy, you can easily tell if it comes from America. Imperatives, in collects and everywhere else, are primary verbs.

        People should acknowledge that their language changes over time. In formal written English, the use of “shall” and “will” is almost the opposite of what it was in 1611. Besides, modern spoken English often reflects a different usage from formal written English. In spoken English “I will” mostly does not mean, “I am determined to.” This translation consistently uses “shall” for the simple future after “I” and “We.”

        Here is a paradox. There are good and bad ways to be literal. When we interpret the Scriptures, we usually require the literal meaning, not a figurative one as the intended one. Exceptions arise only when the context requires a figurative meaning. However, in translation, an idiomatic translation readily conveys the right meaning. A literal translation encourages people to allegorise when they have misunderstood the meaning.

        Greek often preferred to subordinate one clause to another. Modern English, which is closer to Hebrew than Greek in this respect, prefers to co-ordinate ideas. Therefore final verbs often replace participles.

        Some translators should have been more aware of the need to retain key words as important bearers of meaning in some passages and contexts.

        Translators into Modern English can often avoid Semitic idioms without being unfaithful to the meaning of the original. “And it came to pass” was a device that kept an expression of time away from the beginning of a sentence. Modern English does not feel the need for this. Hebrew often used a second verb of speaking or “saying” to introduce direct speech, where English simply uses inverted commas. Hebrew sometimes used the verb “add” to express repetition. “He added to do it” means, “He did it again.” Hebrew uses the word “if” to introduce a strong statement with the main clause omitted. “If I see him again (may God treat me severely)” means, “I shall certainly not see him again.” Hebrew often used the future indicative to express a command, and a negative future to express a categorical command, as in the Ten Commandments. In the Commandments, “You shall not” is appropriate, but not “”Don’t”. Hebrew used expressions like “sons of” freely, but English prefers to translate the meaning differently. “Israelites” or “people of Israel” catches the meaning of “sons of Israel.” “Wedding guests” is preferable to “sons of the wedding hall.” Hebrew often used a pronoun or adverb later in an adjectival clause to focus the meaning of a relative pronoun. These are redundant in English. “…Who…his” means, “…whose”. Hebrew sometimes expressed distributive ideas by repetition. “Two two” means, “in pairs,” or “two by two”. Most of these Semitic expressions occur also in the Greek of the New Testament.

        Sometimes the loss of imagery in a translation is regrettable. That may happen when a translator goes for meaning only. Sometimes the imagery in the original makes it difficult for the English hearer to understand the meaning. Agricultural people understood about a bullock being “stiff-necked” when it refused to submit to a yoke. “Stubborn” may convey the meaning, at the loss of some of the imagery.

        The translators of the GNB have often ruled out suggestive ambiguity by opting for one meaning. They should have recognised that putting in more words often limits meaning. “By water and by blood” has fuller meaning than “by the water of His baptism and the blood of His death.”

        Hebrew people often used parallelism in poetry. Translators should be cautious not to telescope the two parts of a parallelism, because it results, at least, in a loss of emphasis. Fine liturgical language, as Cranmer has shown, can result from carefully chosen synonyms used together. It is a pity when translators destroy parallelisms in the Psalms and elsewhere. Telescoping should not compress: “I shall be merciful to anyone to whom I am merciful; and I shall have compassion on anyone on whom I have compassion.” The GNB telescopes Exodus 33:19, for example.

        English is not particularly fond of beginning sentences with “and” and “but.” Count the number of times this occurs in Mark Chapter 1 in the KJV. However, it is unnecessary to try to exclude “ands” and “buts” from the beginning of all sentences. Since the distinction between Law and Gospel is theologically important, and part of this is the difference between imperatives and indicatives, this translation generally marks commands and prohibitions with an exclamation mark.

        Masoretes and editors of the Greek New Testament did not add punctuation until later. A good translation should not rely on punctuation or capitalisation for meaning, because people obviously do not hear them.

        According to English grammarians like Partridge, after a definite antecedent (a name, or a noun with some way of defining it), a relative clause is essentially parenthetical. It adds more information, and does not provide definition. Accordingly, a comma should regularly precede a parenthetical “which,” except when a preposition governs it. “That” without a comma before it should be the relative that introduces defining relative clauses.

        In formal English, translators should avoid abbreviations like “can’t,” “don’t,” and “isn’t,” except where colloquial expressions are appropriate to the context.

        Both Hebrew and Greek often did not add words like “only” and “other” where speakers of Modern English feel that they are necessary. The translator may supply these from the context without fearing the accusation that he is adding to God’s Word.

        Hebrew and Greek often expressed a reflexive or an emphasising idea by using words like “body,” “soul,” and “spirit.” “Every soul” sometimes meant “everyone.” Jesus talked about exchanging one’s “soul” (or “life”) alongside of the expression “denying oneself.” “He poured out his soul” may mean, “He poured out himself.” In some Psalms, “My soul” is a rough equivalent for the personal pronoun. However, in contexts of death and dying, the Bible says different things about the body and the soul.

        People who spoke Hebrew and Greek regularly used words like “heart” and “life” in the singular where English idiom prefers the plural. No one should criticise the use of plurals for these.

        The headings and sub-headings owe much to those in God’s Word to the Nations (NET), but in Romans the headings follow the outline in Nygren’s commentary.

        The Old Testament has gone a little further in avoiding “And” and “But” at the beginning of sentences, and reducing the use of semi-colons.

        This translation has capitalised personal pronouns that refer to God. It has used exclamation marks after sentences with imperatives, prohibitions, and wishes. This second edition makes a number of slight corrections, several resulting from further study. In the prophets paragraphing and quotation marks have made clearer the interplay between the words of the Lord and of His prophets.

        Words in the Old Testament that are quoted or alluded to in the New Testament are in bold font, and words in the New Testament that are quoted or alluded to in the Old Testament are also in bold font. The principle is that the New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New; and Christ is the centre of both.