The Way To Yahuweh

I am Yahuweh - That is My Name
Isaiah 42:8

March 2nd, 2009

‘Ask’ or ‘asking’ – Translational error

As I've been translating the eye-witness account of Lucus/Luke, I thought it'd be nice to just have a look at a blatant translational error in one of its chapters.

In Chapter 11:5-10, we read (ESV/English Standard Version):
And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.’’

I'd like to focus on the words “ask”, “seek”, and “knock”. In the Greek, they are the words αιτεω/aiteo, ζητεω/zeteo, and κρουω/krouo, and each of them, each and every time they are mentioned in this passage, are in the present, active tense.

Now, anyone who's at least read a book on Koine Greek will know that the Greek present tense indicates “a processing” or an “undefined” aspect – context will aid you with deciding which one. And what does the context of this passage indicate? That you ask, seek or knock once, and then you receive, find, or have something opened for you? Not what I can see, and certainly what isn't implied at all by the word impudence.

The man in the example wasn't “rude” by asking his friend once to give him what he needed and then going away; the point of the passage is that the man was continuously pestering his friend until he got what he needed, to which Yahushua actually says, Keep asking, and it shall be given to you; keep seeking, and you shall find; keep knocking, and it shall be opened to you.” Anyone who's studied Greek learns about the processing aspect of the Greek present tense as soon as he learns the Greek Alphabet! How is it that Ph.D Scholars can't even get such a simple, basic thing into their translation?!

The ESV and its scholar's pride themselves on their “translation” being, and I quote, “a new, essentially literal Bible translation that combines word-for-word precision and accuracy with literary excellence, beauty, and depth of meaning(italics mine).” (source) “Precision”, “accuracy” and “depth of meaning”? Really?! And yet they can't even get the actual meaning of three damn words across properly!? One thinks that the ESV translators need to go back and do a first-year koine Greek course again before they make such claims of being “precise” or “accurate”.

But enough about the ESV. Let's have a look at some other popular English Bible Translations, and see how they fair.

Lucus 11:9

  • NJB:
  •  ‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.
  • ASV:
  • And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  • CEV:
  • So I tell you to ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.
  • Darby:
  • And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
  • Geneva:
  • And I say vnto you, Aske, and it shall be giuen you: seeke, and yee shall finde: knocke, and it shalbe opened vnto you.
  • God's Word:
  • So I tell you to ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
  • Good News Translation:
  • And so I say to you: ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.
  • The Message:
  • Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.
  • NET:
  • So I tell you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
  • NCV:
  • So I tell you, ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you.
  • NIV:
  • So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
  • NKJV:
  • So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
  • NRSV:
  • So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
  • RSV:
  • And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
  • Revised Websters:
  • And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
  • KJV:
  • And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
  • WNT:
  • So I say to you, ‘Ask, and what you ask for shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you.
  • YLT:
  • and I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you

These 17 Bible translations all miss the point, and are inaccurate translations of the processing aspect of the Greek Present tense. And most of these (ESV, NRSV, The Message, KJV, NKJV, NIV) are some of the most popular English Bible Translations – and none of them are able to do their job properly. They also (apparently) follow the “Formal Equivalence” or “Essentially Literal” translational philosophy – bar the NIV and the Message of course – One's a Dynamic Equivalence (NIV (“Thought for thought” translation)), and the other's a piece of crap that isn't worth mentioning (The Message).

There are a few, though, that actually translate the words correctly and get the processing aspect of the Greek present tense across:

  • NLT:
  • And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
  • LB:
  • And so it is with prayer—keep on asking and you will keep on getting; keep on looking and you will keep on finding; knock and the door will be opened.
  • ISV:
  • So I say to you: Keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you.
  • HCSB:
  • So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
  • AMP:
  • So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.
  • DRP:
  • So I say to you: Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and it will be opened to you.

Six compared to seventeen, only one of which (NLT) is actually considered “popular” compared to the rest. It's shocking to say the least.

A translation that deserves a special mention is the NASB (New American Standard Bible). In its main text, it translates the passage as So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you, but it has little notes next to ask, seek, and knock, and states that Or Keep asking/seeking/knocking. The NASB managed to to put the wrong meaning in the main text, but the right meaning in the margin! Why bother doing that, when you could've just put the correct meaning in the main text itself, and not have anything in the margin!

Problem is, people are far too familiar with the KJV, and none of the “major” translations have the guts to break away from it.
Just compare the KJV to the ESV, for example: KJV:And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.; ESV:And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Apart from updating the KJV's English, what exactly makes the ESV different to the KJV?

Not very much, I can assure you of that. And trust me, this isn't the only place where the ESV and other “Bible Translations” can't get simple meanings of Greek words across. But pointing them all out requires several volumes of books; not a mere blog.

Post Date: Monday, March 2nd, 2009 at 9:01 pm; Category(ies): blog. RSS 2.0 feed. No comments or pings allowed. Post ID: 406

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