The Bible verse that no (credible) Chinese version ever translates literally

Luke 14:26 – “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”

In all widely accepted versions of the Chinese Bible, “hate” is always replaced with something similar to “love Me more than”.  Being a strongly family-oriented culture, where respect of (and often deference to) one’s parents is paramount, any suggestion of hating one’s parents would be highly offensive.

Of course, actual hatred of one’s parents would be considered inappropriate in any culture, ancient or modern; any culture that adopts such a concept in general would quickly collapse.  I have also pointed out earlier that this Bible verse is not appropriate for use in one-on-one settings, due to the high risk of misinterpretation.

Was Jesus advocating hatred of one’s parents?  It is important to realize, along with the Chinese Bible translators, that Jesus was presenting a comparison, that to be a disciple of Him, one must consider the relationship with Christ as superior to all others, thus rendering all other interpersonal relationships as “hate” by contrast.

An excellent presentation of this was made by Pastor Steve Irvin at Bayview Glen Church:

What It Takes To Be A Disciple

Pastor Steve did not mention this, but the reason the word “hate” is used in this Bible verse is due to a limitation in the Aramaic language used in Jesus’ time, namely the lack of words to express preference.  Suppose I want to have lunch, and am at a place with a McDonald’s and a Burger King beside each other.  If I were to choose McDonald’s instead of Burger King, I would express this in Aramaic by saying “I hate Burger King”.  Does this mean I am filled with hatred against Burger King?  Of course not; in fact, if Burger King were the only option, I would have gladly went in and ordered a Whopper meal (without pickles).  The language limitation is that I have no choice but to use the Aramaic word for “hate” to express my preference, when in fact the English “I’m lovin’ McDonald’s more” is a closer and more specific expression of my thoughts.

This brings up an important observation.  All Bible versions, including the ones written in the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), are constrained by the limitations of human language in their expression of God’s truth.  Simply put, no human language can fully and completely express the will of God, so no Bible version can ever represent God with 100% accuracy.  In other words, for Bible versions that are reasonably accurate, disputes over which version is superior in nature are meaningless.  Choice of Bible version is to be guided by audience and personal preference.

While no Bible version can fully and completely express God’s will, God did provide the Bible to us “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  One of the most important functions of the Bible is “truth-checking”:  upon encountering some particular teaching, one can check its content against the entire Bible, to determine whether that teaching is indeed Christian.

Despite the inherent limitations of the Bible in fully and completely describing the infinite God, Christians do know God intimately, fully, and completely, because God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).  We do not worship a book, we worship a living God.

Is your God revealed and represented by a book, golden plates, or other human objects?  If so, consider getting to know a God who actually walked on earth and died so that you can be liberated from your sins and obtain eternal life (John 3:16)!

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4 Responses to “The Bible verse that no (credible) Chinese version ever translates literally”

  1. AY Says:

    新漢語聖經註釋:

    路加福音14:26 愛我⋯⋯超過愛直譯作“恨”,這是一種文學修辭手法,用一種較強的手法表達馬太福音10:37、38的“愛父母過於愛我”。耶穌既教導我們要愛我們周圍的人(10:25-37),自然包括我們的親人在內。為免讀者誤會,按中文譯本的傳統,不譯作“恨”。

    http://www.chinesebible.org.hk/new_b.asp

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