From Eternity or From Ancient Times?
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At the back of his translation of the Bible, An American Translation, Dr. William F. Beck has listed a number of scriptural passages in both Testaments that he had felt some other translators have not rendered correctly in regard to the Messiah. One of these is Micah 5: 2.

I have included the whole verse as it is translated by Dr. Beck. However, it is the end of the verse that is in question. Thus, I have quoted only that part with the thirty-nine other versions. Because a basic Christian doctrine is involved, I have chosen to compare so many. The changes are so subtle that the average Christian may not recognize them or may not feel that they are of any consequence.

After listing all of these, I have made comments on what I have seen. However, I leave it to the reader to decide for himself whether or not these variations are important.


Versions Compared

 

AAT An American Translation (Beck)
AB Amplified Bible
DHB Darby Holy Bible
EBR The Emphasized Bible
EVD English Version for the Deaf
GW God's Word
HBME The Holy Bible in Modern English
HBRV Holy Bible, Revised Version
IB Interlinear Bible
IV Inspired Version
KJV King James Version
KTC Knox Translation
LB Living Bible
LBP Lamsa Bible
LXX The Septuagint
MNT Moffatt New Translation
MRB Modern Reader's Bible
NAB New American Bible
NAS New American Standard Version
NBV New Berkeley Version
NCV New Century Version
NEB New English Bible
NIV New International Version
NJB New Jerusalem Bible
NJPS New JPS Version
NKJ New King James Version
NLT New Living Translation
NLV New Life Version
NWT New World Translation
REB Revised English Bible
RSV Revised Standard Version
SARV Standard American Edition, Revised Version
SBK The Shorter Bible
SGAT An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed)
SNB Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible
SSBE Sacred Scriptures, Bethel Edition
TDB The Dartmouth Bible
TEV Today's English Version
TJB The Jerusalem Bible
YLR Young's Literal Translation, Revised Edition


Micah 5: 2
AAT You, Bethlehem [Ephrathah],
too small to be one of Judah's clans,
from you there will come out for Me,
One Who Is to Rule Israel
who real comings are from the eternal past.
AB Whose going s forth have been from of old, from ancient days -- eternity.
DHB whose goings forth are from of old, from the days of eternity.
EBR Whose comings forth have been from of old from the days of age-past time.
EVD His beginnings are from ancient times.
      from long, long ago.
GW His origins go back to the distant past, to days long ago.
HBME Who brought you, long ago, in old times from the East;
HBRV whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
IB and His goings forth have been from old, from the days of eternity.
IV whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
KJV whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
KTC Whence comes he? From the first beginning, from ages untold!
Footnote: 'From ages untold'; literally, 'from the days of eternity,' but this is a phrase used somewhat loosely by Hebrew authors, and no certain theological inferences can be based on it.
LB who is alive from everlasting ages past.
LBP whose goings forth have been predicted from of old, from eternity.
LXX and his goings forth have been from the beginning, even from eternity.
MNT one whose origin is of old,
      of long descent.
MRB whose goings forth are from old, from ancient days.
NAB Whose origin is from of old,
      from ancient times.
NAS His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.
NBV His goings forth are from of old, from days of eternity.
NCV He comes from very old times,
      from days long ago.
NEB one whose roots are far back in the past, in days gone by.
NIV whose origins are from of old,
      from ancient times.
Footnote: origins: Hebrew goings out.
Footnote: ancient times: Or from days of eternity.
NJB whose origins go back to the distant past,
      to the days of old.
NJPS One whose origin is from of old,
From ancient times.
NKJ Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.
NLT one whose origins are from the distant past.
NLV His coming was planned long ago, from the beginning.
NWT whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite.
REB one whose origins are far back in the past, in ancient times.
RSV whose origin is from of old,
      from ancient days.
SARV whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
SBK And his origin is from of old,
From ages long past.
SGAT Whose origins are from of old,
From ancient days.
SNB whose comings forth have been from of old, from the days of age-past time.
SSBE whose origin is from an ancient era, from ages of eternity.
TDB whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
TEV whose family line goes back to ancient times.
TJB his origin goes back to the distant past,
to the days of old.
YLR And his comings forth are of old,
From the days of antiquity.


Word Definitions

There are a few words that carry specific meanings in this passage. I shall state the meaning of each, as is found in Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of the English Language, International Edition.

Age Any great and distant period of time in the history of man, of the earth, etc.; era; epoch.
Ancient Existing or occurring in times long gone by, especially before the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, in 476; belonging to or having existed from a remote antiquity.
Antiquity The state or quality of being ancient; ancient times, people, or civilization.
Beginning The starting point in space, time, or action; the source or first cause of anything.
Day A time or period; an age.
Era A historical period or reckoning of years, dating from some important event or fixed point of time; an epoch; the beginning of a period.
Eternal Having neither beginning nor end of existence; infinite duration; everlasting; having no end; independent of time or its conditions.
Eternity Infinite duration or existence; an endless or limitless time.
Everlasting Lasting forever; eternal; past or future endless duration.
Origin The commencement of the existence of anything; a primary source.
Time A considerable period marked of by some special characteristics; indefinite duration viewed in the concrete as measurable and terminable, but not precisely limited.


Commentary

 

The only words which refer to beyond the parameters of time are eternal, eternity, and everlasting. All others have limits, thus not defining pre-creation. A few versions infer, by their terminology, pre-creation. Several infer post-creation. Others tend to hedge on the issue, using both, thus creating an incongruous situation. Can an element be of a pre-creation factor, yet be limited by a post-creation factor? Time is of no essence in eternity.

The whole passage states that Bethlehem would be the site of the birth of the Messiah and that the Messiah would rule Israel. Then, there is a difference in interpretation as to whether or not He existed before the creation. This implication may or may not have been the intent of the translators. It is recognized that there can be problems in accurately translating a word or idea. However, the word usage in the various versions creates the dilemma.

The use of the words origin, origins, and beginnings negates the fact that the Messiah could be eternal in existence. This poses a question asked in university philosophy classes. Who created the Creator? John 1: 3, in most versions, states that the Messiah (or the Word) is the creator. The plural forms would suggest the commencement of His existence more than one time. Not one of the forms suggests that He is eternal. The phrase goings forth carry a different connotation, having the sense of activity, not origin. Also, these words and those words which imply a time element would negate the doctrine that Yahshua is Yahweh. Christian religions already have a difference of opinion as to the status of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit in relation to each other. This is a fundamental matter in regard to Christian doctrine.

A few versions refer to His earthly lineage. Which is more important, His earthly heritage or his pre-creation existence? This would depend upon whether His role as ruler of Israel is from a mortal or immortal perspective.

The problem is now before the reader. Based upon the quotations, who is the One to be born at Bethlehem, and what is His status? Are the differences in the wording merely semantics, or do they involve basic doctrine? If the differences are considered to be of major consequence, has there been an evolution in doctrine? If they are not major, does it really matter what the wording is? If you see a problem with this passage, might there not be problems with others? Are you willing to be diligent in searching the Scriptures and seeking guidance from Yahweh for proper understanding?

I have presented a question of translation and interpretation to you, the reader. The next step is up to you.