Incorrect and correct translations that account for Greek nuances
Translations of John 1:18
KJV w/Strong# - No <3762> man <3762> hath seen <3708> God <2316> at <4455> any <4455> time <4455>; the only <3439> begotten <3439> Son <5207>, which <3588> is in the bosom <2859> of the Father <3962>, he hath declared <1834> [him].
TOO LITERAL TRANSLATIONS (The incorrect translations are based upon a too literal translation that does not address Greek grammatical nuances. Unfortunately only a few phrase-by-phrase translations render Joh 1:18 properly. Virtually all word-for-word translations seem unable -- or lacking the courage -- to properly address the nuances of some Greek grammatical structures, such as the anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives found in Joh 1:1 and Joh 1:18, as explained below.)
ESV: 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
BibleTexts.com note: More preferred than the ESV or any other word-for-word translation, the TEV (1976 or 1992, a.k.a., GNT) has the rendering of this particular verse that would be the best substitute for the KJV rendering or for the ESV or any of the other word-for-word translation's rendering.
NRSV: 8 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
NAB: 18 No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.
NASB: 18 No man has seen God at any time ; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
CORRECT TRANSLATIONS - only found in a few phrase-by-phrase translations
BibleTexts.com translation 1: No one has ever seen God. The only-begotton one who is the same as God, who is in the lap of the Father, has made him known.
BibleTexts.com translation 2: No one has ever seen God. The divine* only-begotten one, who is in the lap of the Father, has made him known.
Goodspeed - No one has ever seen God; it is the divine Only Son, who leans upon his Father's breast, that has made him known.
Moffatt - Nobody has ever seen God, but God has been unfolded by the divine One, the only Son, who lies upon the Father's breast.
REB - No one has ever seen God; God's only Son, he who is nearest to the Father's heart, has made him known.
Schonfield - No one has ever seen God. God's Only-Begotten, who is in the Father's bosom, he has portrayed him.
TEV (1976 & 1992, a.k.a., GNT) - No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
Joh 1:18 - KJV wording: the only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father - corrected translation consistent with the original Greek text: the being who is the same as God, who is the only one born of God, who is in the lap of the Father or: the only divine son, who is in the lap of the Father
RNC note #1: Using the UBS4 Greek text, The Revised English Bible [REB] translates: "No one has ever seen God; God's only Son, he who is nearest to the Father's heart, has made him known." The TEV,also using the UBS4 Greek text , "No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father's side, he has made him known." The NRSV and most other versions that also use the UBS4 Greek text translate this verse too literally, thus not adequately representing the actual meaning. The NRSV translates, "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known."
As to the original Greek wording, even the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament Editorial Committee does not agree on the correct reading. The TEV translation is justified by majority of that committee, while the NEB translation is justified by at least one member of that five-person committee. Representing the majority view of that committee, Bruce Metzger (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, New York: United Bible Societies, 1994, pages 169-170) writes:
With the acquisition of P66 [a Greek codex* dated around 200 A.D.] and P75 [a Greek codex* manuscript dated in the 3rd Century A.D.], both of which read theos, the external support of this reading has been notably strengthened. A majority of the Committee regarded the reading monogenes huios, which undoubtedly is easier than monogenes theos, to be the result of scribal assimilation to Jn 3.16, 18; 1 Jn 4.9. The anarthrous use of theos (cf. 1.1) appears to be more primitive. There is no reason why the article should have been deleted, and when huios supplanted theos it would certainly have been added. The shortest reading, ho monogenes, while attractive because of internal considerations, is too poorly attested for acceptance as the text.
Some modern commentators take monogenes as a noun and punctuate so as to have three distinct designations of him who makes God known (monogenes, theos, ho on eis ton kolpon tou patros...).
[It is doubful that the author would have written monogenes theos, which may be a primitive, transcriptional error in the Alexandrian tradition... At least a D decision would be preferable. A.W.]
RNC note #1a: "A.W." (Allen Wikgren ) here seems to argue that the monogenes huios (only begotten son) reading was what was in the original text. The letter D , which was not used to characterize the Committee's conclusion, would have signified that the Committee had great difficulty in arriving at a decision.
RNC note #1b: The term codex is defined by Richard N. Soulen (Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 2nd Edition Revised and Augmented, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981) as follows: "Codex (pl.: codices). An ancient manuscript in book form, made of papyrus or vellum. When the codex as an alternative to the scroll originated is uncertain. But its existence in the 2nd century A.D. is certain. The codex found particular favor among Christians, perhaps because it facilitated locating Scriptural passages of interest and placing works in canonical order."
RNC note #2: The NIV and NASB translate this verse in a way that most reflects "the shortest reading, ho monogenes," which is "too poorly attested for acceptance as the text." (The only support for that reading is a deviant Vulgate manuscript and another 4th or 5th century writer.) The NIV translates, "No one has seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." And the NASB translates, "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."
The fact is that the NIV and NASB both may have used the UBS4 reading, but their translations of Joh 1:18 have the same shortcoming as with their (and most others') translation of Joh 1:1, of which Newman and Nida (A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of John, New York: United Bible Societies, 1980, pages 8-9) comment:
These many differences in translation are due to the Greek sentence structure. In this type of equational sentence in Greek (A=B) the subject can be distinguished from the predicate by the fact that the subject has the article before it and the predicate does not. Since "God" does not have the article preceding it, "God" is clearly the predicate and "the Word" is the subject. This means that "God" is here the equivalent of an adjective, and this fact justifies the rendering he (the Word) was the same as God.
For more details on the significance in Greek of the article preceding the noun -- and the theological controversy surrounding the interpretation of such Greek grammatical construction, see also two commentaries on Joh 1:1 at:
In addition to the REB, Edgar J. Goodspeed (The Complete Bible: An American Translation, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939) and Hugh Schonfield (The Original New Testament, Rockport, MA: Element Books Ltd., 1998; originally published by Waterstones &Co. Ltd. in 1985) also translate these two verses consistently, best taking into account the nuances of the Greek language.:
See additional notes on Joh 1:18 at http://www.bibletexts.com/verses/v-joh.htm#joh01v18.
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer
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