Joy & Happiness

I had a discussion with a friend recently over the distinction in meaning between joy and happiness, as expressed by a pastor in a recent TV interview:

My friend makes a similar distinction in meaning as that pastor does, while I do not.  Dictionary definitions are not very helpful, since the dictionary that I generally use (Third College Edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, c. 1991) appears to make no distinction between the two terms, while the online dictionary that he regularly uses does.

In support of my view that any distinction between the two terms is blurred or not present at all, I’m listing the following songs, which cover a span of more than 160 years.  While we were in Liberia 40 years ago, we often sang #6 and #7.

1 Happy the Home by Henry Ware, Jr. (1846)

          Key Lines: Happy the home when God is there, and love fill every breast
Happy the home where Jesus’ name is sweet to every ear

2 Happy in My Savior’s Love by Harry Dixon Loes (1919)

3 Happy All the Time (author & copyright unknown, but prior to copyright of songbook, 1931)

           Key Line: With Jesus in my heart, from him I’ll never depart

4 Happy in Jesus Today by W.T. Chapelle (1936)

5 Happy Am I by Clayton P. Erb  (1956)

          Key Lines: Happy am I, Jesus loves me; He took my sins and He made me free

6 Happiness by William J. Gaither (1967)

I found happiness; I’ve found peace of mine
I found the joy of living, perfect love sublime
I found real contentment, happy living in accord
I found happiness all the time, wonderful peace of mind
When I found the Lord

7 Happiness is the Lord by Ira Stanphill (1968)

Happiness is to know the Savior
Living a life within His favor
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord

Happiness is a new creation
“Jesus and me” in close relation
Having a part in His salvation
Happiness is the Lord

Happiness is to be forgiven
Living a life that’s worth the livin’
Taking a trip that leads to heaven
Happiness is the Lord

Chorus:  Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start
I’ve found the secret – it’s Jesus in my heart!

8 Happy Am I by Mickey Holiday  (1971)

          Key Line:  Jesus is mine forever

9 Happiness Is by Bonnie Low (1982)

Happiness is Knowing that Jesus loves me
And Happiness is Knowing that God above me
Is looking after me And watching over me in love

10 Happiness Is by Evan Rogers, Nathan Fellingham (2007)

          Key Line:  Happiness is a sinner forgiven

Some Bible translators also have used the term happy in ways that blur a distinction from joy (see Matthew 5 in Today’s English Version – Good News for Modern Man, Phillips Modern English translation, Jerusalem Bible, The Source New Testament).

Now for your thoughts.  In terms of Bible translation, should translators avoid using the term happiness for the sake of readers who make a distinction between joy and happiness, or should they feel free to use the term happiness for the sake of readers who consider it synonymous with joy?

If a translation has a particular target audience, how can one determine whether that target audience makes a distinction between the two terms or not?

Thanks to Wayne for posting the relevant survey.  I’m wondering in what “important ways” those who selected that option consider the terms “different”.

Clarity in translation

Translation from one language to another often requires additional words to clarify the meaning of a text. For example, in Romans 5:16 there are 37 words in the New King James Version, 11 of which are in italics to indicate that they are not in the original Greek:

And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned.  For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

This is how the verse would read without the italicized words:

And the gift not like through the one who sinned. For the judgment from one in condemnation, but the free gift from many offenses in justification.

It is interesting to note how the King James Version translated this verse:

And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification.

Here there are only six words in italics, but I think you’d agree that this rendition is more difficult to read and understand than the New KJV.

I’ve put a line through the prepositions to highlight the variation between the KJV and the New KJV. This reflects the range of interpretation that a given text can offer.

Although the Contemporary English Version uses just one more word (38) than the New KJV, it conveys the meaning of the verse more clearly and naturally:

There is a lot of difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gift.  That one sin led to punishment.  But God’s gift made it possible for us to be acceptable to him, even though we have sinned many times.

Get behind me – or – Follow me

For the past several years my pastor and I have read his sermon texts in Greek and/or Hebrew and shared insights before he delivered his sermons.  In his recent sermon text of Mark 8:27-38, he noticed that the Greek word OPISO (usually translated “after” or “behind” in the KJV) occurs in verse 33 in the clause “Get behind me, Satan” and again in verse 34 in the clause “If any want to follow after/behind me…”

Our first thought was that the Greek word OPISO was used in two different senses; the occurrence in verse 33 in the sense in which the TEV (“Get away from me”) and the NIV (“Out of my sight”) translated it; the occurrence in verse 34 in the sense of following Jesus.  But then I began to wonder if the occurrence in verse 33 may have been intended to convey the same sense as the one in verse 34.  A look at a concordance supports that likelihood since nearly all uses of OPISO in the New Testament occur in contexts that convey the sense of following Jesus.

If Jesus were rebuking Satan in verse 33, I could understand why he might say “Get away from me” or “Out of my sight.”  But Jesus was scolding Peter, a devoted follower of his, who was not acting as a follower should.  I don’t think Jesus was rejecting Peter, which “Get away from me” implies.  I think Jesus was reminding Peter of what it meant to be his follower.  So I prefer the rendering of The Better Life Bible:   “Stop acting like Satan, who wants everything to go his way.”  I wonder if any other translations convey this idea.

Translating Doublets

A common expression among American English speakers is “pick and choose”.  Some people may associate a different meaning with “pick” than they do with “choose”, but Webster’s Dictionary indicates that their meaning overlaps for most people.  So I think this is a fairly good example of a synonymous doublet, two or more words within a sentence that convey essentially the same meaning.

The Bible contains hundreds of doublets.  In Doublets in the New Testament, Bruce Moore lists 654 doublets of various types in the New Testament alone.  Here are some examples of synonymous doublets from the Revised Standard Version:

          1 Timothy 3:3   not violent but gentle                                         
                            6:9    ruin and destruction           
                            6:18  do good . . . good deeds
                            6:18   liberal and generous

           2 Timothy 2:23   stupid, senseless
                             3:10   patience . . . steadfastness

Without knowing that many doublets convey the same meaning, readers often assume that different meanings are intended.  To avoid misunderstanding, many English translations express such doublets as a unit.  For example, the Contemporary English Version translates the doublet greater in might and power (RSV) in 2 Peter 2:11 as more powerful.

In a study of 121 verses containing doublets in the Hebrew scriptures (mostly from Psalms and Proverbs), translator/consultant Wayne Leman calculated what percentage of those doublets are conveyed as a unit in several English versions:

            69%   Contemporary English Version         
            37%   Today’s English Version
            20%   New Living Translation                
             11%   New Century Version             
               5%   New English Translation
               3%   God’s Word
               2%   New International Version
               2%   New Revised Standard Version

In The Better Life Bible, I’ve translated every synonymous doublet as a unit.  For example, in my translation of 1 Timothy 6:18, I expressed the doublet “liberal and generous” as “generously.”

Translating “Christ”

In my recent post entitled Translating “in Christ”, one commenter asked me to share my thoughts on how to translate “Christ”, and another asked why we go so far from the joy we are meant to know.  What I share in this post will hopefully address both of these points of interest to some degree.

Most English translations simply transliterate the Greek term CHRISTOS as “Christ” wherever it occurs in the New Testament.  The Greek term is a translation of the Hebrew term “Messiah”, both of which are derived from verb roots that mean “to anoint”. 

Many people in my target audience (those who rarely read or have never read the Bible) don’t understand the significance of the term “Christ” in the New Testament.  Even if it were translated as “the anointed one”, they would scratch their head as they wonder what that means.  So I decided to clarify the meaning of the term, which I believe includes the following focal points in the New Testament: 

* God promised that someone special would eventually come
* That person would help others enjoy a better life

The expression I finally settled on to translate “Christ” in The Better Life Bible (BLB), with some variation, is the following:

“the one that God promised would help people enjoy a better life”

Below are a few examples in context:  

Mark 8:29b     

NKJV   And Peter answered and said to him, “You are the Christ.”

BLB    Peter said, “You’re the one God promised would help people enjoy a better



Luke 23:35b

NKJV  “He saved others; let Him save Himself if he is the Christ, the chosen of

BLB     “He’s helped others and claims to be the one that God promised would
help us enjoy a better life, but he can’t even help himself.”

John 4:25b

NKJV  “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ).

BLB     “I know God promised that someone would come to help us enjoy a
better life.”

Translating “in Christ”

The expression in Christ (and its equivalents in Jesus, in the Lord, in the Son, etc.) occurs 174 times in the New Testament. While it does not occur in any of the Gospels, Hebrews or James, it occurs 21 times in the first two chapters of Ephesians and 10 times in chapter 16 of Romans.

The interesting thing about this seemingly simple expression is the wide range of meaning it conveys in various contexts. In Dr. Clarence Hale’s booklet entitled, The Meaning of IN CHRIST in the Greek New Testament, he suggests 241 ways to translate it. I’ll list just a few:

by Christ – Ephesians 2:22
Christians – Romans 16:7
through Christ – Ephesians 1:9
because of Christ – Ephesians 1:7
in the service of Christ – Romans 16:12
under the authority of Christ – Ephesians 1:10

Hale points out that the meaning of in Christ is unclear in many contexts. For example, in Romans 16:9 – “Greet Urbanus our fellow worker in Christ”  (NKJV), he suggests that in Christ could serve as an adjectival phrase to modify fellow worker, an adverbial phrase to modify greet, or a noun phrase to mean a Christian.

In my translation of this verse in The Better Life Bible, I convey the idea that in Christ identifies the common task of the fellow workers:

“Please give my greetings also to Urbanus,
who helps us tell others about Jesus.”

Translating "hell"

As I translated The Better Life Bible, I noticed that more than half (seven) of the occurrences of the term hell in the New Testament are in the Gospel of Matthew. So I decided to research where and how the term is used throughout the Bible. I discovered that the common definition of hell as a place of future punishment for the wicked dead has very weak support in the Bible. A more accurate definition would be the miserable life/condition that people experience when/because they reject God. I’ve written a seven-page paper that presents my findings. If you would like a copy, I’d be happy to send you one.

As a follow-up to the previous post, this is how I translated 1 John 3:11-24 in The Better Life Bible:

As I’ve said before, this is the same advice God gave our ancestors long ago. It’s obvious that Cain didn’t care about his brother Abel, because he killed him out of jealousy. So don’t be surprised when self-centered people make life miserable for you, too.

The more you care about others, the more you’ll realize that God is helping you improve your attitude and behavior. Eventually, you’ll even be willing to risk your life for others, as Jesus did.

Jesus demonstrated that the essence of God’s advice is caring about others. So you’re following God’s advice when you help others in need, and not just talk about it. Since self-centered people don’t help others in need, they obscure the fact that God cares about everyone.

God’s advice is more reliable than your conscience, so don’t hesitate to ask God to help you follow it.

BLB Translation Glimpses

I’ve recently published Glimpses into the Translation of The Better Life Bible, which is a compilation of the Translation Glimpses from my monthly newsletter during the seven-year translation process. This 42 page booklet (8.5 x 11) provides insight into how I translated more than 30 terms, including:

Eternal Life
Kingdom of God
Son of God
Son of Man

It also provides insight into nearly 30 other aspects of translation, including:

Adapting the translation to a particular audience
Focus and flow
Sacrifice and martyrdom in Jesus’ day

Translating "Law" in the New Testament

An important term in the New Testament is the Greek word nomos which the King James Version translates law in all of its 195 occurrences. However, this term conveys a wider range of meaning in the New Testament than many people realize, including the following:

1. law in general
2. the normal order of things
3. the guidelines God gave people so they could enjoy a better life
4. the traditions which contradict God’s guidelines
5. the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament)
6. the Old Testament as a whole
7. the teachings of Christ

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he uses this term 67 times to convey several of these meanings in various contexts. The problem with translating the term as law in every instance is that the reader may apply a meaning that Paul did not intend. The reader might even conclude that Paul contradicts himself, since in Romans 7:6 he says, we have been delivered from the law, implying that the law is bad, while in verse 12 he says, the law is holy, and in verse 16, the law is good.

In my translation of Romans in The Better Life Bible, I tried to clarify the meaning Paul intended for each context so the reader does not become confused. For example, I clarified that Paul’s remark in Romans 7:6 is a reference to delivering people from traditions which contradict God’s guidelines.

Merry Xmas!

After reading Wayne’s recent posts of Christmas-related topics, it occurred to me that it might be good to clarify the expression Merry Xmas. I sometimes hear people complain that the X in Xmas takes Christ out of Christmas. Actually, the X has long been an abbreviation of Christ since it represents the first Greek letter of Хριστος and resembles its form more closely than “ch” does. It might be more evident if Christ were commonly written as Xrist, or Xmas were written as Chmas.