Author: Kevin George
This book is a work in progress. Posts on this blog are to enable readers to examine the manuscript and make commentary. These blog posts are NOT the final version!
Most Bible translations have been translated by committees that are committed to the Penal Substitution Atonement doctrine, and other translators seem to be at least partially committed to this view. Therefore, when they translate, they naturally choose word translation options that seem to best fit their view, which is only natural and not necessarily malicious. Part of translation is called “dynamic equivalence”, and to some degree, all translations require this method since no language can always be mechanically converted into another language. However, a lot of doctrine rides on the particular words chosen often with the intent of enabling the reader to find a desired doctrine in the text.
For example, there is not a single passage that states that Jesus made a literal payment or an exchange in our place. Yes, Jesus died “for” our sin, but the English word “for” can have various meanings, like an exchange or a cause of action. There is a Greek word that can be translated as “for” and can imply an exchange or replacement, and it is the word “anti”. An example of this is when Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for [anti] an eye and a tooth for [anti] a tooth.'” Both of the words translated as “for” in this verse are the Greek word “anti”. It’s literally, “an eye in place of an eye”, or “an eye instead of an eye”, or “an eye against an eye”. However, the word “anti” is never used even once in any statement regarding the fact that “Christ died for us”. The word “for” in all of the statements of “Christ died for us” or “Christ died for our sin”, are the Greek words “dia” (meaning through), “hyper” (meaning over), and “peri” (meaning around). Not once is there a direct substitutionary statement used about Jesus literally taking our place as an exchange or a payment. Nevertheless, translators (for unknown reasons) seem to have preferred to use the much more ambiguous word “for”, which enables the reader to assume things about the text that were never intended.
Because of the above-mentioned choices of ambiguity of certain words, a determined effort must be made to reveal a more accurate underlying textual claim. This requires that most of the atonement passages be reexamined and retranslated while considering the Old Testament, grammatical and historical contexts, common logic, and the revealed character of God which is primarily relational, not legal. As the following chapters will show, other equivalent words could have been chosen that would have yielded an entirely different understanding and which would have been more consistent and more sensible while still faithful to the underlying Greek text.
Since PSA has become the default thinking of virtually all of Protestantism, whenever the PSA advocates utilize their dynamic equivalence or paraphrases, they see no problem in the text because their choice of words matches their assumed doctrine. Therefore, any claim to expose the erroneous PSA translations will naturally be considered suspect, a tampering of the translation to import a new (in their view) doctrine. The question which the reader must ask is which translation is faithful to not only the immediate text but also avoids contradictions with the entirety of Scripture and the character of God. Only after wrestling with these texts and their doctrinal implications can we determine the original intent and the truth that the texts are intending to convey.
With this in mind, the chapters which follow will seek to examine and reveal alternative translations of key PSA passages, yet keep each passage within the acceptable range of Greek translation words and their textual context.