In my preceding post I surveyed BBB readers to find out what your understanding of the usual, ordinary meaning of “confess” is. Thank you to each of you who answered the survey; your answers confirmed my own intuitions about the usual meaning of “confess.” Oh, I also enjoyed your creativity in the fill-in-the-blank answers.
I also posted my survey on the Bible Translation Email Discussion List. Today one of the subscribers to that list wrote a followup message:
I like that wording by the “God’s Word” Bible. The word “declare”
seems better English to me, and perhaps more easily understood by those unfamiliar with Biblish.
I’ve been reading a bit from the God’s Word Bible recently, and
generally am impressed by it. I understand a new publisher is in
charge of that version now, and it can actually be found and
purchased. Just a short while back I could not locate new copies of that Bible.
I declare, ____! That’s exactly where I was headed with this. I’m glad you wrote it. I don’t think that the word “confess” is used in current English to state anything other than a wrongdoing. There is the church English usage, such as “Let us confess our faith,” but I don’t think that usage is understood by anyone who has not learned the church English dialect. It seems to me that English Bibles would more accurately translate the meaning of Peter’s “confession” if they translated it as Peter’s declaration.
Compare following Bible translations using the traditional word “confess” and translations which use words which more accurately communicate to current English speakers that no wrongdoing is being admitted to. (It is possible that English speakers in the past actually used the word “confess” both about admitting a wrongdoing as well as a declaration of faith, but if so, that is no longer the case, except in Church English which is no understood by most English speakers today.)
John 1:20, quoting John the Baptist (boldfacing added):
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. (KJV)
He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” (ESV)
He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ. (NIV)
He confessed – he did not deny but confessed – “I am not the Christ!” (NET)
He spoke openly and, remaining true to himself, admitted, “I am not the Messiah.” (ISV)
John did not refuse to answer, but spoke out openly and clearly, saying: “I am not the Messiah.” (TEV/GNB)
He told them plainly, “I am not the Messiah.” (CEV)
John didn’t refuse to answer. He told them clearly, “I’m not the Messiah.” (GW)
He did not refuse to answer, but he declared: “I am not the Messiah.” (HCSB)
He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” (NLT)
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (KJV)
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (ESV)
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (NIV)
because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord a and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (NET)
If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved. (TEV/GNB)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (NLT)
if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (HCSB)
If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. (GW)
If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (ISV)
So you will be saved, if you honestly say, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death. (CEV)
It requires an extra step of mental processing for those within a faith community to recognize that the usual meaning of “confess” is not used in these two passages. For many (perhaps most) people who are not members of faith communities, this non-standard usage of “confess” in John 1:20 and Rom. 10:9 will not communicate that the intended meaning is “declare”. And not communicating the right meaning is a form of inaccurate translation. We should not have to further translate words in a translation for people to understand that translation. The purpose of a translation is to allow people who speak their own language to understand the meanings of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and other linguistic forms in the original biblical language texts. Both churched as well as non-churched English speakers understand the Bible more accurately when it is translated in a standard dialect of English, not a special religious dialect.