THE CONCORDANT METHOD
As an earnest Bible student, desiring to understand the word of God, I discovered that practically all solid progress in the recovery of truth during the last century had come through the use of the concordance. I found that those of my friends who based their study on a concordance made the surest and speediest advance in their knowledge of God. Hence I also began to test and correct my ideas as to the meaning of Bible words by tracing them through all their occurrences. The immense profit and pleasure of this plan awoke in me a strong desire to do all in my power to assist others in this safe and satisfactory method of assuring themselves of the real revelation which God has given.
But I found that even keen students of exceptional intelligence were not able to derive much benefit from concordances based on English translations. Only those who used concordances based on the original languages received real help. And even they were harassed by using a version which continually counteracted the benefits of their concordant study. So it gradually dawned on me that it was foolish to fill my mind with a discordant version if I hoped to advance in the knowledge of God. It would be just as save to tangle up a ball of twine before trying to use it.
Thus it was that the idea of a concordant version suggested itself to my mind. Instead of correcting current translations occasionally by a concordance, why not make a version which is already concordant, so that the simple reading of it will give all the benefits otherwise won by prolonged and arduous study? Indeed, such a version might do far more to bring the unschooled reader into accord with the truth than would be possible by the patient and prolonged study of a concordance. For instance, it would be easy to explain what the soul is if our translators had never rendered it life. It would be an impossible task to correct all the mistranslatings in the minds of Bible readers. Why not make a version in which psuchê is always soul, and zôê life?
A REVERENT METHOD
No one could honestly object to this method, for it is not based on human scholarship but on a worshipful recognition of the divine Author's ability to make Himself understood. Most versions always render zôê life, so that no one is at a loss to know the significance of the word. But how few know whatsoul means! That is because it is not uniformly translated. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is rendered by over forty different expressions, such as appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, ghost, heart, lust, man, mind, pleasure, but especially by life. The Greek word is rendered mind, heart, and life (more than thirty times) besides soul.
A SANE PRINCIPLE
I appeal to the sanctified common sense of the saints, "the spirit of a sound mind" (2Ti.1:7). If the holy spirit intended us to understand life in so many places where the original has soul, why was not the word for life used? I came to the definite conclusion, which has been strengthened by tests extending over a quarter century of study, that wherever possible, each word in the original should be represented in translation by only one English word. Then the English reader, seeing this English word in all of the correct contexts, subconsciously acquires its exact signification and force and color.
Another principle I found to be of just as great importance. The same illustration will serve. Even the word life has lost its distinct meaning by being used for soul. No one would tolerate such a translation as : The first man Adam was made a living life." Why, then translate "Take no thought for your life"? (Lu. 12:22). Why not "Do not worry about the soul"? No English word should do duty for more than one word of the original. This is quite as necessary as using only one English word for each Greek or Hebrew expression. Between the two we have the best possible safety device for insuring purity, clarity, and accuracy in the translation of God's holy word.
A SIMPLE SHORT CUT
The CONCORDANT VERSION is not another burden for the student to bear, but an easy, simple, short cut to knowledge which would cost him more than a lifetime of study by any other method. Instead of giving him a puzzle to solve, it gives him the solution. He does not need to study a concordance of the original to find out the exact meaning of any word. First, he is assured that he has the nearest English equivalent. Second, he knows that when he sees it he may depend upon it that the light of the context is true and not a false beacon to lead him astray.
The greatest benefit will come, not to the student as such, but to the humble reader who will simplyuse the version and allow the contexts to color each word and define its force for him. He will be a constant attendant in the school of God, quite independent of human learning or scholarship.
NOT A MODERN VERSION
The CONCORDANT is not a "modern" version. Neither is it archaic. The method is such that little regard could be paid to the outward embellishment of thought. All appearances are subordinated to truth. Yet truth is itself so desirable and beautiful that only the superficial and unbelieving will prefer error because it is arrayed in robes rich and venerable. The living Word was not clothed in sumptuous garb to entice the eye. He had no form or comeliness. There was no beauty, that they should desire Him. So is the written word. The desire to dress it up is of the world and not of God. Those who despise its meanness ally themselves with the throng who crucified the Lord of glory.
We are warned that, in the latter eras, religious men will want their ears tickled rather than their hearts aroused (2Ti.4:3). They will prefer the musical to the true. Familiar, finely phrased error will appeal to their ears rather than inspired facts to their minds. But truth has a spiritual harmony and sweet accord which no dissonance can mar, and which is unutterably more pleasing to the anointed ear than all the music of mere sound.
BASED ON THE ORIGINAL
The concordant method of studying the scriptures uses a concordance to discover the meaning of a word, not in any version, but in the original. It is based on its occurrences in the Hebrew, Chaldee, or Greek, however it may be translated into English. The aim is to discover the usage and fix its signification by its inspired associations. It is in line with the linguistic law that the meaning of a word is decided by its usage. In this version the efficiency and value of this method has been greatly multiplied by extending it to the elements of which words are composed and by combining with it the vocabulary method, which deals with each word as a definite province of the realm of thought which must be carefully kept within its own boundaries.
The evidence for the exact force of a given expression is multiplied many times if we separate it into its elements. Take one of the two words which are usually rendered "foundation". Its elements areDOWN-CAST, and the Greek has found its way into English in the word catabolism. The element DOWNbrings in two hundred witnesses, while CAST commands over fifty, These we may call its near relatives. They arouse a suspicion in our minds that DOWN-CASTing is a strange and unlikely word for "foundation". It does not suggest building up but casting down. By testing this new thought in all the contexts we discover that DOWN-CASTing means disruption, not foundation.
THE ENGLISH-GREEK SUBLINEAR
Not only does the separation of the Greek vocabulary into its elements help in fixing its true meaning, but it enables us to build up an artificial English-Greek for use in the Sublinear which brings the two languages together in a most interesting and profitable way. The reader who knows no Greek is easily able to follow and grasp the idiom of the original, and to enjoy God's revelation in the very mold in which He cast it. There is the same relation between His thoughts and words, and between the words themselves that exists in the inspired autographs.
Such an English-Greek translation is by far the best instrument for making a version in which the thoughts, rather than the identical symbols of thought, must be used. The human mind at its best is limited. The keenest intellect needs this assistance. The mathematician might be able to count without the use of figures. But how far could the science of mathematics go if it had no numerals? So the Elements used in this version help to convey the precise values of the Greek into the English. Such a word as repentance in far more colorful when we find that, in Greek, it is called "after-MIND".
Still greater is the gain in the grammatical elements. Take the word usually rendered Who hath abolished (2Ti. 1:10). Now we know that death has not been abolished yet. From the ending of the word we see that its grammatical elements associate it with indefinite verbals, which do not state the time of the action. Hundreds of other passages, where this form is used, focus their light on this, and we are practically compelled to render it Who abolishes. The great value of this change is instantly evident, for we can literally believe it, though we could not believe that death has been abolished.
We unhesitatingly make two tremendous claims for concordant uniformity in transferring the grammatical elements into English. The probability of such renderings being correct is increased many fold, for all the evidence is continually before us, and subject to scrutiny. Moreover, even if a standard should be wrong, or, what is more likely, is not a perfect equivalent, the very fact that it occurs in all the divine contexts will tend to modify and correct it. Uniformity in rendering Greek grammatical elements into English is even more important than present exactness, for it is the only way to eventual exactitude.
We have taken the Greek grammatical elements and given to each a corresponding English form. Any one can see what confusion will result if we should not always translate a past by a past, a future by a future, and a present by a present. We must fort out our equivalents in this way or truth is turned into pious error. The very fact that there is a special form of the past proves that the indefinite is not a past. If the past can be rendered I wrote, the indefinite must be different. The existence of the present incomplete form, I am writing, bars the indefinite from this rendering. If we assign all available English forms except the Greek indefinite and have nothing but the English indefinite left, that alone goes far to prove the correctness of I write. No other method can be so save of satisfactory.
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.
The 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:
UP-LEAD they render led up (Mt.4:1) and departed (Ac.28:10).
UP-LOOSE is both return (Lu.12:36) and depart (Phil.1:23).
UP-SPACE, meaning retire, they render departed (Mt.2:12).
FROM-CHANGE, meaning clear, is departed (Ac.19:12).
FROM-COME, meaning pass away (Re.21:4) is depart (Mt.8:18).
FROM-LOOSE, meaning release (Mt.27:26) or dismiss (Ac.15:30) is sometimes depart (Ac.28:25).
FROM-SPACE is always correctly depart (Mt.7:23 Lu.9:39 Ac.13:13) as also in the CONCORDANT VERSION.
FROM-SPACEize 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.
FROM-STAND, withdraw (1Ti.6:5) is usually rendered departed (Lu.2:37)
THRU-SPACEize, sever, they make depart also (Lu.9:33)
THRU-COME, pass through (Lu.4:30) is once depart (Ac.13:14).
OUT-BE, be off, is twice depart (Ac.17:15).
OUT-COME, come out, (Mt.5:26) is depart (Mt.9:31) a few times.
OUT-GO, go out, is depart (Mt. 20:29).
DOWN-COME, come down (Lu.4:31) is once depart (Ac.13:4).
WITH-(after)-GO, proceed, is usually depart.
WITH-LIFT, withdraw, is also depart (Mt.13:53).
BESIDE-LEAD, pass by (Mk.2:14) is once departed (Mt.9:27).
GO (Mt.2:8) is occasionally varied to depart (Mt.2:9).
UNDER-LEAD, go away (Jn.14:28) is rendered depart (Mk.6:33).
SPACEize, 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.
Is 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.
The 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 our comprehension.
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.
During 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.
But 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 from truth.
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 century Greek.
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 itsusage, 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.
Certain 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 lifewhen 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.
To 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.
Carrying 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), orpour 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.
This 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.
The 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.
The 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.
This 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 and is itself modified by them.
Words antagonistic to each other will not associate. We never read of hot ice. If we did the word hotwould 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.
Words 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.
We 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
But 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 or ceremony.
Five different Greek words are translated ordinance in the Authorized Version.
One 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?
Another is mandate (Ac.7:53 Ro.13:2). In the first they translate it disposition.
Another is statute (Heb.9:1,10).
Another is always translated creation or creature elsewhere (1Pt.2:13)
Another is uniformity tradition except in 1Co.11:2.
In 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 CONCORDANTVERSION 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.
from CONCORDANT GREEK TEXT © 1975 Concordant Publishing Concern