Mediating translation comparison #4: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:11, 17-18

The comparison series between mediating translations continues with the rest of Acts, ch.2

Acts 2:11

TNIV:
(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs–we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

HCSB:
both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own languages the magnificent acts of God.”

NAB:
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

NJB:
Jews and proselytes alike-Cretans and Arabs, we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

v.11a: The HCSB directly renders προσηλυτοι (prosēlutoi) as proselytes. The TNIV and NAB chose to render it as converts.” “Converts” is easier to understand than “proselytes.” It then tags on “to Judaism” to add clarity. Not everyone understands the meaning of the word “proselytes” because it is an insider’s term; moreover, it may also be a little outdated. I prefer the TNIV and NAB rendering of “converts to Judaism.

v.11b: μεγαλεος (megaleios) is defined as magnificent, excellent, splendid, wonderful, or mighty works. Where the Greek says: ta megaleia tou theou, the HCSB and NAB renders this as “acts of God.” The Greek includes the“magnificence of God and his works. Traditionally translations have rendered megaleios to include only the deeds, works or acts of God but not the magnificence of God himself. Current renderings like “wonders of God” (TNIV) or “marvels of God”(NJB), “might works” (ESV) is still missing the expression of God’s own magnificence. This shows the limits of the English language to include a multiplicity of meanings in a word. For megaleios, I would even suggest some alternate renderings of: “magnificence of God and God’s wonderful works,” or “greatness of God and God’s marvelous doings”. Perhaps someone others can suggest alternate renderings.

Acts 2:17

TNIV:
‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

HCSB:
And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.

NAB:
‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.

NJB:
In the last days-the Lord declares-I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young people shall see visions, your old people dream dreams.

v.17: it is interesting the NAB would render this as “pour out as a portion.” The word for “portion” is not in the original Greek. This implies that God only pours out some of his Spirit, rather than all, upon human flesh. It also connotes the idea that God’s Spirit given to humanity is only part of the experience in God. Perhaps this rendering lends itself better to Roman Catholic theology of the Eucharist or Holy Communion, in which a portion of God’s Spirit is present in the bread and wine. For this verse, I prefer the HCSB and NJB’s rendering because it implies that all of God’s Spirit is poured out upon human flesh in the last days at Pentecost.

v.17: the Greek also uses σρξ (sarx, flesh) but only the NAB renders sarx literally as flesh. However, for a mediating translation philosophy, I prefer to go with “humanity” (HCSB) because this connotes the inclusion of human flesh. This is more accurate but just as easy to understand as “people” (TNIV) and “everyone” (ISV).

Acts 2:18

TNIV:
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

HCSB:
I will even pour out My Spirit on My male and female slaves in those days, and they will prophesy.

NAB:
Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.

NJB:
Even on the slaves, men and women, shall I pour out my Spirit.

v.18: In the original Greek, the literal rendering is “upon the male slaves of mine upon the female slaves of mine.” The word δολος (doulos) means bondslave. A bondslave is bound to one’s master or owner. A servant is different from a bondslave because one is not bound to serve one’s master. The word δικονος (diakonos) is the proper word for servant. The proper translation for doulos is rendered in the HCSB, NJB and ISV. 

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

20 thoughts on “Mediating translation comparison #4: TNIV vs HCSB vs NAB – Acts 2:11, 17-18”

  1. I actually prefer the HCSB in every instance of this round Kevin. I like this translation as a mediating one, but I will always be in favor of more literal ones.

    On the thought behind the NAB’s rendering of “portion of Spirit” I would ask you to look at Numbers 11:25 where God takes some of the spirit that is on Moses and puts it on the seventy elders. This is the only thing I can think of that might be behind such a rendering.

    Numbers 11:25 NRSV
    Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

    I don’t know if this played a part in their thinking, but it is the OT reading paired with the Acts 2 reading in the lectionary. Just thought I`d run it by you.

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  2. Kevin, great discussion, again!

    @2:11, I like TNIV and NAB and your explanatory notes.

    @2:17, I like TNIV over against those with “all humanity” as mediating choices. “All humanity” seems like it is going to be an indiscrimate out pouring on every single human being that would have been around and thereafter.

    @2:18, as you know, I have to go with the HCSB and NJB.

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  3. This post has nothing to do with the comparison, but I just happened to remember if anyone is interested in pre-ordering the ESV Study Bible, they are offering 35% off if you order by May 15th.

    http://www.esvstudybible.org/?m2#home

    Sorry about the interruption of the discussion with this post, just thought it might be beneficial to some of you.

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  4. L.Wells, there is nothing in the Greek that would indicate that v.17 should be rendered “portion of my spirit”. You pointed out Num. 11:25.

    I also found a few other instances of this type in 2 Kings 2:9 where Elijah requested of a “double portion of your spirit on me” (HCSB); and in Malachi 2:15 “a portion of the Spirit in their union” (ESV). However, I am not convinced that these renderings are correct either. Other translations do not render it using portion or remnant.

    Hey LW, you aren’t getting commission from ESV are you? 😉

    TC, you said: “All humanity” seems like it is going to be an indiscriminate out pouring on every single human being

    I don’t see why “all people” (TNIV) doesn’t seem indiscriminate either?

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  5. Kevin, here’s the NET on “the mighty works of God”:

    “the great deeds God has done!” (footnote, “Or “God’s mighty works.” Here the genitive τοῦ θεοῦ (tou qeou) has been translated as a subjective genitive”).

    They see the genitive as subjective. I guess a solid case could be made for that position.

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  6. “Hey LW, you aren’t getting commission from ESV are you? ;)”

    LOL, nope, and if I was they’d cut me off the payroll if they saw the few posts where I’ve been critical of them. Who knows, if I keep advertising, maybe they will pay me to be a spokesman representing the common laity, lol.

    Good job of pointing out other scriptures comparable to the usage in the Numbers passage Kevin. I am not qualified to make statements concerning original languages but the NAB seems to be reaching and interpreting in this verse of Acts. I still do not know the exact motivation for it though.

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  7. Kevin, I also feel the term “slave” is more accurate than “servant.” I am wondering if servant hasn’t been chosen by more translations in the past as being less offensive than the term slave? I remember doing a series of sermons on servanthood and brought out the same point on the difference between servant and slave. A member came up to me afterwards and said the term slave disturbed her and she would prefer me not to use it anymore. She didn’t want to consider herself a slave to anyone, even the Lord!

    I believe the issue in our nation’s past has made us hesitant to use the term, but it is the best translation in the context of first century culture. And if it challenges our sensibilities about ourselves, and what Christ became for us, perhaps that makes it best of all.

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  8. “Kevin, I also feel the term “slave” is more accurate than “servant.” I am wondering if servant hasn’t been chosen by more translations in the past as being less offensive than the term slave?”

    I wonder that same thing Robert. If that is the case, it is a shame that political correctness takes away from literal accuracy, because there is a big difference between the concepts of slave and servant.

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  9. Sorry I didn’t think of this earlier, guys, and you may already know about this, but Holman is offering a free leather HCSB for preachers who will evaluate it for 30 days, then go online and answer some questions about their experience with it. The website is: http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/hcsb/ and the link is at the bottom of the page, “Pastor’s 30-Day Challenge.” If anyone is interested.

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  10. TC, thanks for that info. I could very well be wrong on that one because I’ve been wrong before and can eat humble pie.

    Robert and LW, I think political correctness does play a part in translations. Slave isn’t a popular term to use these days since it brings back bad memories. That’s too bad because it more accurate illustrates how our relationship should be with Christ—as slaves.

    Nathan, thanks for that tip. You can bet some of us will go for that deal.

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  11. TC, about the subjective genitive of τοῦ θεοῦ in Acts 2:11, in your opinion, is there a possibility that “magnificence of God” or “mightiness of God” could also work, or do you think this would out of the question?

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  12. TC, about the subjective genitive of τοῦ θεοῦ in Acts 2:11, in your opinion, is there a possibility that “magnificence of God” or “mightiness of God” could also work, or do you think this would out of the question?

    Kevin, going for either “mightiness of God” or “magnificence of God,” I’m assuming would be leaning toward the objective genitive, “the magnificient things about God.”

    Maybe we should go for the plenary genitive, which captures both the subjective and the objective genitive. I think it is a good fit.

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  13. Acts 2:11
    The TNIV and NAB get good marks for “converts” yet lose them with the use of the term “tongues.” HCSB ultimately gets the nod for “magnificent acts of God.”

    Acts 2:17
    I prefer “pour out my Spirit.” I also prefer “people.” Thus, the TNIV wins here.

    Acts 2:18
    Not using the word “slave” is not good translation. HCSB and NJB win here.

    What would modern day “slaves” prefer to be called? “Servants”? I haven’t done a survey but I don’t think so.

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  14. TC, thanks for your info. You’re the man. Then plenary genitive it is. In this case, how would you render this?

    Thanks Stan. Thus far, our consensus seems to be leaning towards “people”, “slaves”, “languages”, and “converts”.

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  15. Kevin, with the plenary genitive we’ll translate it “wonderful acts of God” or “mighty acts of God” but keep in mind both the subjective and objective concepts.

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  16. “Kevin, with the plenary genitive we’ll translate it “wonderful acts of God” or “mighty acts of God” but keep in mind both the subjective and objective concepts.”

    TC, this is precisely what the NKJV has done:

    Acts 2:11 NKJV
    Cretans and Arabs–we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.

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  17. I. Wells, the NKJV did good, but both the subjective and objective must be married in the mind of the reader, hence the plenary.

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