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Column: What is in a name?

This week's column by Tim Pippus
Moses, Bible

Imagine a green square. 

Have you done that? Good. Was your square dark green or light green? Was it big or little? Was the entire square green or just the outline? Was your square two-dimensional or was it more like a cube?

Any of those variations would qualify as a green square. None are more correct than the others, they are just different ways of interpreting what a green square looks like.

That simple exercise illustrates the challenge that Bible translators face. They must take something that they understand in the original language and find a way to communicate that idea in English. That is part of the reason that we have so many different versions of the Bible. Truth can be stated in different ways.

For example, in John 14:15, Jesus says that his father is going to send a special gift. The word that Jesus uses to describe that gift is clear in the original Greek, but there is no English parallel. Therefore, we end up with a bunch of different, but equally correct words to describe the promised Holy Spirit.

The New International Version says that God will send an advocate. This is a legal term for one who speaks on behalf of another. Therefore, the Spirit speaks to God for us.

The Revised Standard Version says that God will send a counsellor. This is one who gives direction or helps you find your way. Certainly, a good description of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth.

The Common English Bible and The Message say that God is sending a companion or friend.  J.B. Phillips chose to say that the Spirit was going to be “one to stand by you.” In other words, we are not alone.

Other translations call the Spirit our helper or intercessor, but I like the King James when it says that God is going to send a comforter. This is not just one who consoles but one who helps the discouraged become brave.

Taken together, those many words give us a better picture of the work of the Holy Spirit than one word could do alone.

Whatever word we choose, there can be no doubt that the Holy Spirit is a great gift to the believer.