Dr. Scot McKnight: Wouldn’t it be cool?

Worth your read if you are interested in learning about the challenges of Bible translation.

How many ways can you understand that short statement? Is it referring to someone’s temperature as below average? Is it referring to someone’s attitude as aloof and impersonal? Is it referring to someone doing well under pressure? Is it referring to someone’s popularity? All of these are common understandings of the word “cool,” but only one would be the correct understanding in a specific situation. To determine which was correct, you would need to know something about the situation and the subject to determine the speaker’s intended meaning.

Bible translators face choices like this on a regular basis. As with many words in English, words in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek can have more than one meaning and only careful study of the context can determine the correct English word choice. The very common Hebrew word elohim can refer to the one true “God,” as in Genesis 1:1 and more than 2,300 other verses. But, it can also refer to pagan “gods,” as in Genesis 31:30 and more than 200 other verses. There is no built-in meaning to the Hebrew word elohim that is correct in every context.

Read it all.