Not all Bible translations are equal!

Not all Bible translations are equal. I was doing some research for my Easter sermon and noticed how significantly different Revelation 5.5 is translated in the New Living Translation (NLT). In the NLT Jesus, the Lion of Judah, is described as the heir to David’s throne; whereas, in the KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, and others the Lion of Judah is described as the Root of David.

The words root and heir clearly do not mean the same thing. Now there must be a reason why previous translation committees did not use the word heir or something very similar. Instead, they chose to use root. Rhiza, root, in the Greek has a double meaning it can be talking about that which proceeds before the plant and it can be talking about an offshoot. The root is in the ground underneath the plant it existed before plant; the root will be growing before you ever see a plant or tree. Likewise Jesus existed before David when the word heir is used instead of root the preexistence of Christ before King David is completely lost.

The idea that Christ came after David and is a descendent of David by blood is not supernatural per se; however, the idea that the one that came after David was before David is special and supernatural and highlights the uniqueness of Christ as God.

While it is true that rhiza does at times speak of being an offshoot or branch it seems best to not interpret the verse in such a way that forces a meaning upon the text; instead, a good word-for-word translation like the KJV does its best to give the reader a literal rendering—root in the case—and allow the interpretation to be determined through prayer, mediation and additional study.

Herein is the difference between a word-for-word translation (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV) and a thought-for-thought translation. The NLT does not make it a priority to be accurate in the word for word rendering of the text. The NIV is somewhere in the middle. Give me a literal translation and let me study the text. At the present time, I can’t read the Greek, but I can study the English, can’t you?

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