Defending the Faith: Original languages can shed light on scriptures

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Some critics have claimed that by using the pronoun “they,” Paul was actually distancing himself from the practice. But there is no “they” in the Greek of the passage. That’s an unavoidable artifact of the English translation, but Paul didn’t use it. Except when a pronoun is included for emphasis, Greek typically doesn’t require one because, as in this case, it’s already included in the verbal form. Had Paul included it, he would indeed have been emphasizing that he didn’t count himself among those endorsing vicarious baptism for the dead. But he didn’t include it here, because that wasn’t his point.

Finally, there is the beautiful eighth psalm, which, in the King James Bible, reads partially as follows:

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.”

The King James translators followed the ancient Greek Septuagint version here, which speaks of “angeloi” or “angels.” They ignored the original Hebrew text, which declares that God has made humans “a little lower than the Gods” (or “than God,” Hebrew “elohim”). Interesting, that.

Daniel Peterson, BYU professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, edits the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, founded MormonScholarsTestify.org, chairs "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture," and blogs daily for Patheos.com. His views are his own.

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