Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. — NA28
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was fully god. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, and nothing came into being apart from him. In him is life, and that life is the light of all peoples. The light in darkness shines, and the darkness cannot contain it. — My translation
In the very beginning the living expression was already there. And the “Living Expression” was with God, yet fully God. They were together—face to face, in the very beginning. And through his creative inspiration this “Living Expression” made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him! Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity. And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom—the Light that darkness could not diminish! — The Passion Translation.
The Passion Translation first came on my radar as a curiosity, in my searching for Bibles that exhibit a readability the concept of how the Passion Translation is currently being released as individual volumes (with from my understanding a New Testament volume to come out when the remaining epistles are also published [a final collection of Paul’s letters 1,2 Thess, Titus, and Philemon, and the book of Revelation]) The Passion Translation bills itself as a translation “To bring words that go right through the human soul, past the defenses of our mind, and go right into our spirit. There is a language of the heart that must express the passion of this love-theology. That’s why The Passion Translation is an important addition to peoples’ devotional and spiritual life with Christ.” And this is where the crux of my issue with this translation lies, I firmly believe that it fails to do this, I have chosen the opening verses of John because I believe that this is a prime example of where this breaks down.
Translational issues in this passage
The novelty of translating λογος as “Living Expression” makes the reading clunky and the footnote explaining the translational choice for this while informative of the milieu into which John wrote only further brings the reader out of the text rather than communicating the heart of God to the reader. The footnote reads as follows; “The Greek is Logos, which has a rich and varied background in both Greek philosophy and Judaism. The Greeks equated Logos with the highest principle of cosmic order. God’s Logos in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and redemption. In the New Testament we have this new unique view of God given to us by John, which signifies the presence of God himself in the flesh. Some have translated this rich term as “Word.” It could also be translated “Message” or “Blueprint.” Jesus Christ is the eternal Word, the creative Word, and the Word made visible. He is the divine self-expression of all that God is, contains, and reveals in incarnated flesh. Just as we express ourselves in words, God has perfectly expressed himself in Christ.” This footnote interestingly follows one that comments on the nature of the opening of John being revered and used as a hymn in the early church/Johannine community, if this is the case then we should opt for a simpler and smoother translation.
The next issue is the insertion of “through his creative inspiration…” the footnote does not shed light on why this idea has been imported into the text and neither the alternative translation nor the translation of the Aramaic translation of John provided lend credence to this. This is a complaint that I have found often in reviews of other portions of TPT.
One of the things that comes up in the FAQ on the TPT website is the utilisation of the Aramaic in the translation. Reasons for this utilisation boil down to;
- The use of Aramaic in portions of the Old Testament
- The assertion of Aramaic as the common tongue in the Holy Land in the first Century
- Especially in connection with Jesus
implicit in this answer is the now dropped assertion that the Aramaic New Testament portions utilised are closer to the original documents, there is no evidence for this, and while it is good that such an assertion has been dropped we’re left wondering why the Aramaic matters. There has been recent research that suggests that Jesus was likely polylingual and at least bilingual in both Aramaic and Greek, if not Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. Given his time spent in Alexandria (one of the centres of Greek Judaism) Jesus’ trade as a carpenter and his ability to discourse with the Roman soldiers I think this is likely. And if Jesus knew Greek, and the earliest extant manuscripts of the New Testament we have are in Greek until we have an Aramaic document that precedes the New Testament in antiquity it is merely an assumption and not a fact and shouldn’t be relied upon.
Further as is evidenced here and complained about elsewhere there are times when the TPT will ignore both the Greek and Aramaic and go off into lala land for no good reason. Supposedly this is what we mean by “go right through the human soul, past the defenses of our mind, and go right into our spirit.” I sense that there is a deep distrust of the work of the Holy Spirit in enlightening the Scriptures and working them into our bones, and I believe that this is covered over with the smoke screen of meeting our “emotions” or “heart” for a Charismatically oriented translation there isn’t a trust in the Spirit to “guide us into all truth”