The Vocabulary Method
The concordant method has been used in a fragmentary way for a century. So far as we know, the
CONCORDANT VERSION is the first
attempt to employ it systematically and exhaustively by applying it to the complete
vocabulary of the sacred text. From this has sprung the complementary "vocabulary"
method. It insists, not on uniformity, but the opposite. If PLACE-CARE
means foundation, and its elements and contexts clearly agree with that
meaning, then DOWN-CASTing, which our versions so translate,
does not mean foundation. In some languages we may not always have enough
words to cover all cases, but English certainly ought to furnish sufficient. In
this extreme example, the words are totally unlike in elements, association and
contexts. One means foundation, the other disruption.
meaning or usage of one word is necessarily distinct from that of all other words.
If we have placed all the words in the vocabulary of the Greek scriptures but
one, we have a vast fund of information as to what it does not mean. This, of
course, is not necessary with many words, but it is of the utmost value in dealing
with words of similar or related meaning. Let any on study a passage in our accepted
versions in which a number of synonyms are used together and he will find that
our translators were forced to better work by the presence of words of nearly
the same signification. What a pity they did not use such renderings elsewhere!
Let us take an example from the so called Authorized Version.
It translates twenty-one words depart. We will give the CONCORDANT
standard of each and a passage, if possible, where they agree:
they render led up (Mt.4:1) and departed (Ac.28:10).
is both return (Lu.12:36) and depart (Phil.1:23).
meaning retire, they render departed (Mt.2:12).
meaning clear, is departed (Ac.19:12).
meaning pass away (Re.21:4) is depart (Mt.8:18).
meaning release (Mt.27:26) or dismiss (Ac.15:30) is sometimes depart
FROM-SPACE is always correctly
depart (Mt.7:23 Lu.9:39 Ac.13:13) as also in the CONCORDANT
they have tried to distinguish on one occasion by adding asunder (Ac.15:39),
but in its other occurrences departed (Re.6:14). It means recoil.
withdraw (1Ti.6:5) is usually rendered departed (Lu.2:37)
sever, they make depart also (Lu.9:33)
pass through (Lu.4:30) is once depart (Ac.13:14).
be off, is twice depart (Ac.17:15).
come out, (Mt.5:26) is depart (Mt.9:31) a few times.
go out, is depart (Mt. 20:29).
come down (Lu.4:31) is once depart (Ac.13:4).
proceed, is usually depart.
withdraw, is also depart (Mt.13:53).
pass by (Mk.2:14) is once departed (Mt.9:27).
(Mt.2:8) is occasionally varied to depart (Mt.2:9).
go away (Jn.14:28) is rendered depart (Mk.6:33).
separate (Ro.8:35) they have, on good grounds, rendered depart when
it refers to a place (Ac.1:4; 18:1,2), and the English seems to have no nearer
term, and the Greek word differs but slightly from FROM-SPACE.
it not very evident that the translation of twenty words depart, when English
has an abundant supply of synonyms, is in itself a departure from the dictates
of reason and real reverence? How is it possible for the English reader to grasp
twenty-one different ideas through the medium of one word? But the confusion is
worse confounded by the fact that twenty different sets of contexts are throwing
a false flood of light upon the word, and the light is darkness.
vocabulary method, used in the CONCORDANT VERSION,
insists that each of these distinct ideas be distinguished from each other by
a special symbol, if that is possible. It will be seen that, in most cases, the
Authorized Version itself uses the proper word on some occasions. No plea for
pious or venerable diction will convince the honest truth seeker that their erratic
renderings are justified.
In the trying task of transcribing
the thoughts of another mind, which far transcends that of the translator, the
ordinary methods of turning a human composition from one language into another
are entirely inadequate. What a man has written a man can comprehend. The most
effective course is to seize the foreign author's thought and express it afresh
in a different tongue.
But once we acknowledge that
God, and not man, is the Author of the revelation which we will call the Sacred
Scriptures, we are face to face with a spiritual problem akin to that which the
scientist encounters in the sphere of nature. He can apprehend some, but never
comprehend all. It has been demonstrated mathematically that the distance
from one branch to another of a very common weed cannot be measured by any human
scale. It is in a ratio whose solution demands a square root which is incommensurable.
Now if a mere weed baffles the human intellect, what shall we say of His highest
and greatest work? The Scriptures are for our apprehension, but very far beyond
The ideal way of producing a perfect
translation would be to find a man who could understand it all, fully and perfectly,
and then have him turn it into English. But where is he? The staff of the CONCORDANT
VERSION makes no claim whatever to such necessary
knowledge and spiritual skill. On the contrary, the method employed is an admission
on their part that such a task is entirely beyond the sphere of human attainment.
The vital differences between the greatest of theologians make manifest the fact
that no man or company of men can fully grasp divine revelation.
the past decade an average of one new translation has appeared annually, yet all
differ in numberless details. That there can be such variety in results shows
that the translations partake largely of the mind which acted as a medium. The
differences are not in the text.
Unless science had
reduced its scattered facts into a system so that the human intellect could deal
with its phenomena as the expression of law, it would still be groping in the
dark domains of medieval philosophy. It would still be teaching that the heavier
a stone, the faster it will fall. One single experiment would have demolished
that dogma, but, in those days, "truth" rested on tradition and authority,
not on fact. Science has made enormous strides ever since, despite the hindrance
offered by unfounded theories. It resorts to experiment and founds truth on the
regular recurrence of facts, that is, on law.
theology is still largely dominated by tradition and dependent on authority. The
extent to which translations agree with such tradition and authority rather than
with the inspired autographs is the measure of infidelity to fact and distance
A true transcript of a divine revelation
must be based on the laws of language rather than on the bias of theologians.
What are these laws? How can they be applied? We will briefly consider them in
this connection. We must remember, however, that English is not a pure language.
It is a conglomeration of fragments from several languages. Sacred Greek, on the
contrary, is one of the most perfect and law-abiding of all tongues. In English
the same letters and sounds have a dozen distinct meanings. Each thought has a
variety of close synonyms. Such difficulties are practically absent from the first
Everything in nature and revelation
is known to us by its relation to other objects. We know nothing absolutely, only
relatively. The same is true of the symbols, spoken or written, which we use to
represent ideas. Hence, in studying words and their meanings, we are not so much
concerned with the sign for a word, as with the relation this sustains to other
signs. The meaning of a word depends on its usage, that is the other words
with which it is used; on its etymology, that is, the family from which
it springs; and on the whole vocabulary of which it forms a part.
simple and common-sense laws have been discovered and confirmed which are of the
greatest help to the linguist, the infraction of which is fraught with the most
confusing consequences. One is,
No word is the exact equivalent of any other word.
If a language, like English, is made up of several tongues, this rule seems to be
contradicted. But such is the vitality of this law that such a condition refuses
to be permanent. Many words once exactly alike, from the French and Anglo-Saxon,
have gradually drifted apart, so that now no good writer will confuse them.
Pork en pig were once the very same. Now the pig is in
the pen and the pork is on the table. One is a living animal, the other, the flesh
of a dead one.
In the languages of inspiration such
confusion is practically unknown. The few foreign words fill a vacant place. Each
word stands for a definite idea. When, for instance, the divine Author wished
to speak of life, what valid reason could be given if, occasionally, He
should substitute the word soul? If He meant soul, why did He not
use the symbols that expressed it? We are satisfied that He did not mean
life when He used the symbols for soul.
The Law of Location
Every word in the original should have its own English equivalent.
If no two words are precisely alike in meaning in the original, it should not be
necessary to prove that accuracy demands that each Greek word be supplied with
a distinct English equivalent. This, however, cannot be successfully done without
a comprehensive system. It is not sufficient that we have the same number of different
words in each vocabulary. Each English word should be the one which comes nearest
to covering the same domain of thought as the original, and, more particularly,
sustains the same relation to the other words of the language.
make this clearer, we will compare the world of thought to the surface of the
earth, and the words to the geographical and political divisions. There is, indeed,
a signal instance - the ancient province of Asia - which shows how confusing its
is to use geographical names in English which do not correspond with those in
the Greek. Asia now includes a vast continent, and the English reader, unless
warned, must get the idea that the entire territory of Asiatic Russia, China,
Japan, Korea, Siam, India, Persia, Arabia, Palestine, and Asia Minor are included.
So we have translated it "the province of Asia", for only a small part
of the present Asia Minor is meant. In precisely the same way it is misleading
to translate a general term for one that is specific.
out our figure, we will call this the Law of Location. If the geographer
must not confound England with New Zealand, the lexicographer should not confuse
yea and nay (A.V., 1Co.4:3;6:8), or pour out and fill
(A.V., Rev 14:10;18:6).
But such accidents are rare
and easily avoided. It is when two words are similar in meaning that the danger
is greatest. Great Britain covers three countries but there are times when it
is most important to distinguish between England, Scotland and Wales. Similarly,
though all are sin, it is of the highest value to discriminate between injustice
and transgression and offense.
is practically impossible when one of them, offense, is rendered sin (Eph.1:7),
trespass (Eph.2:1), which is practically the same as transgression,
as well as the usual word offense. The translators were restrained from
rendering it sin in the first verse of the second of Ephesians by the immediate
presence of the real word sin. In the vocabulary method of the CONCORDANT
VERSION this restraint is always present, and debars
it from following their example and lapse in to sin in the fifth verse.
only practical safeguard in apportioning to each Greek expression its most fitting
English equivalent is to arrange the whole vocabulary in alphabetical order, so
that any duplicates will immediately become apparent. If, for instance, we wish
to translate FROM-LOOSing redemption, as it is ordinarily
rendered, we will be confronted by the fact that this term is already appropriated
by LOOSing. We then find that we need, not merely another
word, but one which will register the difference indicated by the prefix FROM-.
The word deliverance admirably performs this function.
vocabulary used by a translator should be such that, when superimposed on the
vocabulary of the original, it will not only coincide as far as possible, but
clearly define the boundaries between the words and their relation to one another.
Such a task is necessarily imperfect in its results, due to radical differences
in the idioms of language and also to the usage of words. The question arises
whether these imperfections can be removed and, if so, how it is to be done.
It is not enough, that each word should harmonize with
its contexts. If a single English word seems to suit different sets of contexts,
in which the original uses two expressions, that is evidence that we have failed
to grasp the finer phases of concord. The difference is there, though we may not
be aware of it. The vocabulary method is the only means of discovering what our
dull senses otherwise overlook. We must find a word for each set of contexts which
will fit that and no other. We must compare it with the whole vocabulary and so
prove that there is not a better word for the place it fills.
leads us to consider the greatest and most powerful of all the laws of language.
The Law of Reciprocation
Every thought symbol,
the moment that
it is placed is connection with others,
both influences the meaning of its neighbors
itself modified by them.
antagonistic to each other will not associate. We never read of hot ice.
If we did the word hot would gradually become chilled and lose its present
meaning. If we did not know the meaning of cold, its close company with
ice would soon assure us of its signification.
get their color from their contexts. Without any dictionary whatever, it is possible
to determine the meaning of almost any word if it is seen in a dozen sentences.
From this we may deduce the notable conclusion that the actual and understood
meaning of an English word in the Bible is not necessarily its current of dictionary
meaning, but that which it absorbs from the passages in which it is found. A dictionary
simply records the usage of words as employed by careful writers.
find, then, that we have discovered a law which will practically adjust the minor
differences which exist between Greek and English equivalents. An English word
will expand or contract, color or blanch, become purified or tainted, to conform
to the thought environments which surround it in the Scriptures. If an English
word is not an exact counterpart of the Greek, the contexts in which it consistently
occurs will correct its inaccuracies. It will take on a special scriptural signification.
This is why the uniform renderings of the CONCORDANT VERSION
are the most valuable yet simple means of transferring the truth into English.
The Penalty of Lawlessness
like all law, its benefits depend on its unvarying observance, and a penalty follows
its infringement. If we inject into one English word all the virus of five false
contexts, it will not only fail to furnish us with the truth, but it will reflect
a false light when used in its proper place. A version which mixes its renderings
subconsciously confuses its readers.
One example will
suffice. The ecclesiastical meaning of "ordinance" is a religious rite
Five different Greek words are
translated ordinance in the Authorized Version.
of them means decree (Lu.2:1 Ac.16:4;17:7 Eph. 2:15 Col.2:14). In the first
three passages they so render it. Why not in the last two?
is mandate (Ac.7:53 Ro.13:2). In the first they translate it disposition.
Another is statute (Heb.9:1,10).
is always translated creation or creature elsewhere (1Pt.2:13)
Another is uniformity tradition except in 1Co.11:2.
no case does it mean a religious rite. Yet it injects this meaning into almost
every passage. If the translators had used some of their own renderings consistently,
or even a synonym, we should have been saved untold confusion. It is a flagrant
violation of the laws of language to render five different words by one word,
and, in each case, to translate these words by other terms as well. The truth
is lost in such a maze.
So valuable and vital is the
law of reciprocation that we believe its observance puts the CONCORDANT
VERSION in a class by itself. We urge all who are
sincerely desirous of knowing God to test this matter fully. The continuous use
of a version which obeys this law bridges the gulf between God's thoughts and
human apprehension; the constant use of a lawless version puts an impassable chasm
between us and God. One is clear concord; the other is subconscious confusion.