Some Important Mistranslations in Hebrews -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 110:437 (Jan 1953)
Article: Some Important Mistranslations in Hebrews
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Some Important Mistranslations in Hebrews

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

One of the many values of a knowledge of the Greek New Testament is its usefulness in verifying the accuracy of the English translations. In fact, the busy pastor-teacher often finds this to be the chief value to be derived from the knowledge he so diligently (somewhat overstated, perhaps!) acquired in seminary days. The purpose of this article is not to criticize the translations, but rather to help the busy expository preacher in the use of the Greek New Testament. If the original text is the inspired text, then its light should be reflected in the preaching of the Word. This study will be confined to five passages in the doctrinal section of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The first passage to be considered is the sixth verse of chapter one. The point at issue is the adverb palin, translated “again” in the Authorized Version. Does it introduce another citation from Scripture as it does in verse five ? If so, the rendering “And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world…” is correct. Or is it to be construed with the verb eisagagēi, translated “bringeth in” in the common version? If so, the verse should be translated as follows: “And when he again bringeth in the firstborn into the world…” The author would then be referring to the second coming of our Lord.

There are several things that lead one to believe that the palin is to construed with the verb eisagagēi. In the first place, the adverb by position is within the indefinite temporal clause introduced by the hotan, rendered “when” in the Authorized Version. In the second place, the argument of

the writer supports this. As Westcott remarks, “The first introduction of the Son into the world, described in v. 2, had not issued in an open triumph and satisfied man’s desires, so that there was good reason why the writer should point forward specially to the Return in which Messiah’s work was to be consummated.”1 Finally, the context of the Old Testament quotation supports this, because it speaks of the final revelation of God in judgment, a judgment the Son is to accomplish (cf. Deut 32:43; Ps 97:7). The adverb palin always has the sense of “a second time” in the epistle when it is joined to a verb (cf. 4...

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