Harper's Standardized Study Bible - New Testament

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Philosophy of Translation

Learn what makes the New Testament in Harper's Standardized Study Bible different from the rest.

My purpose in creating this translation of the New Testament is to provide a translation that will allow the English reader to more clearly see the Greek text that stands behind the translation. To that end, I have enclosed my translation of each morphological (word) unit in square brackets. And there are three guiding principles to which I have endeavored to adhere while translating:

  1. Use only one English word or phrase to translate each Greek word, and translate only that Greek word with that English word or phrase.
  2. Define words by using phrases that more clearly express the denotative meaning those words had in the mind of the author rather than just the connotative meaning they had in general usage.
  3. Translate the same grammatical construction the same way in every instance.

When trying to determine the meaning of a word, most translators simply rely on the definitions they find in the Greek lexicons that are currently available today. The difficulty with that approach is, the definitions they find in those lexicons don’t always fit every context. That most likely explains why the NASB translation uses six different words to translate the same Greek word:

NASB usage: affliction(14), afflictions(6), anguish(1), distress(2), persecution(1), tribulation(16), tribulations(4), trouble(1).

I have tried to define the meaning of each and every Greek word so that its definition fits every context. Here is the lexical entry for my translation of the Greek word mentioned above:

singular: [Turmoil]
plural: [Things That Cause (someone) Turmoil]

Faith = Belief in God’s Promise

My understanding of the connotative meaning of the Greek term routinely translated “faith” in every English translation since Tyndale, who spelled the word as fayth, is fairly straightforward. Faith is nothing more than belief. But therein lies the difficulty with ascertaining the denotative meaning of the Greek term ordinarily translated “faith.” Since it is impossible to believe nothing at all about God, even if one claims not to believe there is a God, “faith” must always have a content. Therefore, a translator cannot say he has given the reader his understanding of denotative content implied by that biblical term if he translates it as “faith.” My understanding is, the biblical term translated “faith” implies belief in the promise of God.

Gospel = Good News of the Fulfillment of the Promise

The connotative meaning of the Greek word normally translated “gospel” is nothing more than “good news.” And that is the crux of the problem. The denotative meaning of the term depends on what one chooses to believe regarding the content of that “good news.” In the biblical context, I believe the content implied by the use of that term can only be what the Apostle Paul explains about the fulfillment of the promise of God in Galatians 3.

Righteous = blameless/One Who Is Blameless

The Greek term routinely translated “righteous” was a legal term at the time of Christ, as was the English term rightewes at the time of the Protestant Reformation. But things can change, especially over the 500 years since Tyndale translated the Greek New Testament into English. The term righteous retains little of its original meaning today, which is why I chose to translate it as “blameless.” I could have easily chosen to use the term innocent, but that would have implied there was no guilt to begin with, which is not the case.

Righteousness = Declaration of Not Guilty

Like the Greek term routinely translated “righteous,” the term just as routinely translated “righteousness” was a legal term in the time of Christ, just as the English term rightwisnes was when Tyndale used it in his translation of the New Testament. In both cases, the connotative meaning and denotative meaning of the term point to a verdict of not guilty that results from a legal proceeding. I choose to use the translation “declaration of not guilty” to remind the reader that their exoneration of all charges against them is the result of a declaration that God Himself made in regard to their sin.

Condemnation = Verdict of Guilty

The opposite of a verdict of not guilty is, not surprisingly, a verdict of guilty. To make that contrast more obvious, I chose to translate the Greek term that way instead of “condemnation”; in spite of the fact that a condemned person has received a verdict of guilty.

Justification/justified = Acquittal/be acquitted

The terms traditionally translated as “justification” and “justify” were also legal terms in the time of Christ. To make that obvious, I chose to translate them as “acquittal” and “be acquitted” to show they derive from the same legal term.

Obedience = Willingness to Attentively Listen and Comply

The Greek term normally translated as “obedience” is a compound word comprised of a preposition that means “subject to” and a noun that means “what is heard.” To incorporate both of those senses into my translation, I have translated the term as “willingness to attentively listen and comply.” This translation points to the fact that hearing and believing the truth is the denotative meaning of the term as it is used in the New Testament.

Disobedience = Unwillingness to Attentively Listen and Comply

The Greek term normally translated as “disobedience” is a compound word comprised of a preposition that means “contrary to” and a noun that means “what is heard.” Once again the term indicates that its denotative meaning is an unwillingness to listen to and believe the truth.

Some of the basic grammatical rules I have used in determining how to translate the Greek text are these:

The Definite Article:

  • is sometimes used with names/other nouns to indicate the case of the noun.
  • is sometimes used as a relative/demonstrative/personal pronoun in restrictive clauses [that/who/which (it/he/she) (is)] + (adjective/participle).
  • is used with a possessive pronoun in restrictive clauses has the sense of [that/who/which (it/he/she) has].

The Noun

The nominative form of a noun has the sense of "as" when restating the subject of a verb.

The genitive form of a noun has the sense of [of/during/to/in(to)/at/from/via/by/against/ regarding/among/between/through/for/on the part of/belong to/pertains to] something.

The dative form of a noun has the sense of [at/to/for/in(to)/on/with/between/through/because of/by/against/before/belong to] something.

The accusative form of a noun often has sense of [as/for/during/with] something.

The Verb

A verb with a prefixed preposition is sometimes used with the same sense as the root verb.

A preposition that is prefixed to the verb is often restated after the verb for emphasis.

An adverb implied in the verb is sometimes stated specifically after the verb.

A subjunctive verbal form has the sense of [should/could/would/may/might/can].

The third person imperative has the sense of [must]/negative = [you must [not] let].

A “present tense” verb is sometimes used with a past tense verb to indicate continuing action in the past.

A “present tense” verb (sometimes followed by a future tense verb) sometimes indicates what someone is [going to] A future tense verb is sometimes used with the sense of [can] or [must] do.

The direct object of a verb is often implied in the verb and stated in the main clause.

The indirect object (object of [to]/[for]) is sometimes implied by the verb.

The indirect object (dative case) is sometimes translated as the subject of verb to indicate possession.

The Participle

A participle sometimes has the sense of an imperative when used before an imperative.

A present participle is sometimes used to indicate durative action in the past.

A passive participle of a stative verb and a perfect passive participle are sometimes used as adjectives/gerunds.

The subject of a participle is often implied by the verb in the main clause.

The Infinitive

The subject of an infinitive is often implied by the verb and stated in the main clause.

An infinitive sometimes carries a subjunctive meaning of what [could/would/may] happen.

An infinitive is often used with a preposition to indicate the reason/purpose/relative time of the action of the verb.

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What the Future Holds

Harper's Standardized Study Bible (New Testament) Application is far from being complete. The application will only get better as it continues to undergo regular updates that include additional functionality and bug fixes.

Some Things That Are Coming Soon:

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Some Things That Are Going to Take A While:

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  • Harper’s Old Testament Lexicon
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