How is “Woord en Getuienis” different from other Translations?

There is a significant number of verses in Woord en Getuienis that are translated slightly differently when compared with the majority of translations that are available today. This is over and above the more stylistic changes like changes in the names of people and places and other proper names (in order to reflect the original words and pronunciation as correctly as possible). The majority of the non-stylistic differences will be found in the New Covenant or Messianic Scriptures (New Testament). It is a known fact that the various available manuscripts containing texts relating to the Old Covenant Scriptures, are relatively unanimous and agree largely with one another. However, the same can definitely not be said with regards to the New Covenant or Messianic Scriptures.

Some scholars estimate that there are far more than 200 000 textual variants in the New Covenant Scriptures alone – that is, more than 200 000 instances where one or more manuscripts differ from other manuscripts on a certain verse or part of a verse or even a group of verses. Some of these manuscripts are very old – up to 1800 years old, while others are much "younger" – some less than a 1000 years old. Sometimes a decision as to what reading should be considered to be the true, original reading can be made on grounds of the age of the manuscripts alone (older manuscripts are generally considered to be more reliable than younger manuscripts).

There are instances, however, where a decision cannot be made on grounds of age alone. There may be different readings coming from various manuscripts that do not differ significantly as far as age is concerned. In such cases there are a number of other conditions and factors that need to be taken into consideration, in order to come to a good and reliable translation. Over the last 40 odd years scholars have done very valuable research and groundwork in this regard and the outcome of this work is invaluable for anyone who becomes involved with the translation of Scriptures.

It has to be said, however, that even this important research that has been done in the field of textual variants over the last couple of decades, is NOT enough to fully equip a translator to come to a proper and reliable translation. There is still a great number of variant readings out there, with regards to which even the best scholars are not in agreement. There are still many suggestions being made by scholars, that come to us in a cloud of uncertainty, because the scholars themselves have put a small (and sometimes even a very big) question mark behind what they believe to be "the best translation". In other words, we need to be honest enough to admit that even the best translations today will most probably not be without a certain degree of error.

And then, perhaps the most important "gray area" as far as the results of the scholarly work in this field is concerned: these results are mainly based upon grammatical considerations and the identification of so-called "unintentional scribal errors". One gets the idea that most modern-day scholars have made up their minds that the early scribes have all been extremely negligent and careless in the task of preserving the original texts and were hardly able to rewrite a single chapter of Scriptures without making a fair number of oversight and misreading mistakes. This, of course, is only an assumption and may not be true at all.

Very seldom do the findings of modern-day textual scholars reflect possible changes that some of the earlier scribes may have forced upon the texts intentionally for doctrinal or theological reasons. This is the case, even though scholars are aware of at least a number of instances where earlier scribes have changed texts deliberately. The so-called "Comma Johanneum" of 1 John 5:7-8 is the most well-known example of such an intentional scribal change to a text for the sake of lending credibility and Scriptural support to the Trinity doctrine. Today there is hardly anyone who will dispute the fact that the translation of 1 John 5:7-8 as it is reflected in Bibles like the King James Version and the Ou Afrikaanse Vertaling (1933 and 1953), is NOT correct and that the original text did not, in fact, say anything at all that may support a trinity viewpoint.

Category 1. Let us in this category reflect on some of the verses in WeG where a choice has been made for a certain reading that does not agree with the translation in some popular Bibles, but does reflect the most recent findings of scholarly research in the field of textual variants and the comparison of these variants. When studying the additions and/or omissions in this category, one can easily see that NO obvious doctrinal or theological factors were involved in these changes and that the variations between the manuscripts may probably be attributed to "honest changes" on the part of the early scribes.

Mat 6:4 (WeG): "Jou Vader wat in die verborgene sien, Hy sal jou beloon … (Translations, among others, that are in agreement with WeG: RSV and NIV).

Mat 6:4 (KJV): "Thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly (or: in the open)…"

Comment: The words “in the open” are absent from the oldest manuscripts of several types of ancient text. It seems that they were added at a later stage to make the contrast with “in secret” stand out more clearly.

Mat 22:30 (WeG): "Maar hulle is soos boodskappers in die hemel …" (Translations, among others, that are in agreement with WeG: NAS and NCV).

Mat 22:30 (KJV): "But they are as the angels of God in heaven …"

Comment: The words "of God" are missing from manuscripts of several types of ancient text and it is possible that they were added at a later stage to make this passage agree with the wording of Mark 12:25.

Category 2. In this category we shall look at a couple of examples where WeG reflect a translation that does not agree with some of the other translations, does not agree with the findings of (some of the) scholars in the field of textual variants, but does agree with the readings found in some of the most ancient manuscripts. In these cases the scholars had to compare various readings that did not differ significantly from one another as far as age and reliability is concerned and could therefore only come up with an "educated guess" as to what the original reading was. The choices being made in the translation of WeG in cases like these, were mainly based upon factors like the immediate, as well as the wider context in which a particular verse is set, together with the combined testimony of the rest of Scriptures.

John 1:18 (WeG): "Niemand het ooit Elohiem gesien nie; die eniggebore Seun wat in die boesem van die Vader is, Hy het Hom verklaar. (Translations, among others, that are in agreement with WeG: KJV, ASV and SCR).

John 1:18 (ISV): "No one has ever seen God. The unique God, who is close to the Father’s side, has revealed him."

Comment: Both readings ("only begotten Son" and "unique God") appear in various old manuscripts but, in line with the majority of other translations, WeG have chosen the first translation, based upon the fact that this is in total agreement with verses like John 3:16; John 3:18; John 5:23; John 5:26; John 6:27; John 10:36; John 14:13; John 17:1; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:10 and 1 John 5:11, written by the same author. Notice also, how the text of the rest of the verse needed to be slightly changed in translations that have chosen NOT to use the words "the only begotten Son": "unique" in stead of "only begotten"; "close to" in stead of "in the bosom" and "the Father’s side" in stead of "the Father".

1 Tim 3:16 (WeG): "En, onteenseglik, groot is die verborgenheid van ware toewyding, Hy wat geopenbaar is in die vlees, is geregverdig in die Gees, gesien deur boodskappers, verkondig onder die heidene, geglo in die wêreld, opgeneem in voortreflikheid." (Translations, among others, that are in agreement with WeG: NIV, ASV, LEB).

1 Tim 3:16 (KJV): "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."

Comment: In this case, many scholars today agree that some of the early scribes have changed the Greek word for "He who …" to "theos" (meaning "Elohim"). This constitutes the difference between (a) "He who was manifested in the flesh … " (implying Y’shua, the Son) and (b) "God was manifested in the flesh …". In the Greek these two variants are almost identical and one can understand that this was seen as yet another opportunity to provide added support for the Trinity viewpoint. However, to change the text to "God was manifested in the flesh" would not only be an injustice to the text at hand, it would also stand in sharp contrast with the rest of Scriptures, where it is stated many times that Y’shua (or the Messiah) is the One who was manifested in the flesh, or came in the flesh – not Yahweh or "Elohim" or "Theos" or "God" (see Luk 24:39; Rom 1:3; Rom 8:3; Rom 9:5; 2 Cor 5:16; Gal 4:4; Eph 2:15; Col 1:22; Heb 5:7; 1 John 4:2-3 and 2 John 1:7).

The following abbreviations for various translations have been used:

ASV American Standard Version
CJB The Complete Jewish Bible
DBY Darby Translation
ISV International Standard Version
KJV King James Version
LEB Lexham English Bible
NAS New American Standard Version
NCV New Century Version
NIV New International Version
OAV Ou Afrikaanse Vertaling (1933)
RSV Revised Standard Version
SCR The Scriptures
WEB Word English Bible
WeG Woord en Getuienis
WNT Weymouth New Testament

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