Interpretation Even Impacts the Formatting of Scripture

Helped by this? Tell a Friend! ---->

You may not pay much attention to it but there are interpretations that affect the way Bibles are formatted. Here are a few places this shows up:

Red letters:
There are passages of scripture that are hard to tell where Jesus starts and stops talking. John 3 is probably the best known instance of this. Read that chapter without considering the red letters and see if you can tell if it is Jesus talking the entire time or if Jesus is only talking part of the time with John giving his own commentary on what Jesus was saying. It is hard to tell where to make the red letters start and stop in some instances. The decision is based on interpretation of the text.

Section Headings:
Obviously, chapter and verse numbers were not in the originals and neither were the headings. Even the headings of the psalms came much later to the text and were not thought to be original in most instances. Then you have modern English translation chapter and section headings that were added by the translators to give the reader an idea of what the section is about. That takes interpretation, not just what to call the section but also where to place the headings. For instance,

Eph 1:3-14 in the NIV is called “Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ” but if you read the section you will notice that the subject of the section is God the Father and not Jesus. I believe Dr. Oster was the one who first pointed that out to me in his class on Paul’s prison letters. Here is what I wrote in my notes based on his lecture,

“We need to notice how Theo-centric Paul is in these verses. In the 20th century, we have been very Christo-centric. This is really a misstatement of Paul. He is really theo-centric. The subject of all the verbs in this section is God. Christ is the agent through whom God did all these things. Most modern Christians are too Christo-centric. People have a heavy view of God and a warm fuzzy view of Christ, that is not a Biblical picture/contrast.”

The NIV made a heading correction in the TNIV that they got wrong in the 1984 NIV. In the 1984 the heading “Wives and Husbands” was placed between 5:21 and 5:22. That left the verse “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” in the previous section and would be missed if people are reading whole sections just based on the headings. The TNIV changed that to “Instructions for Christian Households” and placed that heading between 5:20 and 5:21 where it belonged. That was retained in the 2011 NIV.

Capital “S” Spirit:
Last one I want to mention is the capitalization of the S in Spirit for the Holy Spirit. There are verses where it is hard to tell which spirit is being discussed, whether our own spirit or the Holy Spirit. I will just give one example and that is 1 Peter 4:14,

If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.” – NRSV

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” – NIV

If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” – NASB

The word spirit/pneuma is only used once in this verse. The NRSV carries it over to make sense of the final phrase in the verse which just ends with  “glory the of God.” All the translations recognize what Peter is doing here is that it is not just the Spirit of glory but also the Spirit of God. It is interesting that the NRSV doesn’t capitalize the first spirit since they do the second. Determining if a verse is talking about our spirit or the Holy Spirit makes a difference that boils down to your interpretation.

The translators want to make sure that the reader has everything at their disposal they need to have the best text in front of them possible. That is why translators include footnotes with additional possibilities of what the text may have had in it they didn’t include. If it is in a footnote, the translators don’t believe it is the best/original reading but there is enough evidence make them think it is possible that it could be. So even the footnotes reflect interpretation and which texts the translators believed were the best, most accurate/original reading of the text.

All that to say, interpretation affects everything, even how Bibles are formatted.

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe To Weekly Newsletter!

Get updates and learn from the best

Read this Next!


Defining a Miracle

One question that comes up a lot when we talk about whether or not miracles still happen is to define

Want to Plant Churches or make disciples?

I would love to hear from You!