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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Where did all that water go? The NIV and Luke 14:1-4

In John chapter two, we read of Jesus turning water into wine. In Luke chapter fourteen, we read of Jesus making water disappear into thin air. Or do we?

And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy.

New International Version (©1984)
There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy.

New Revised Standard Version (1995)
Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy.

Contemporary English Version (1995)
All of a sudden a man with swollen legs stood up in front of him.

New and Improved International Version (2001, 2004, 2011)
There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body.

New Living Translation (©2007)
There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen.

International Standard Version (©2008)
A man whose body was swollen with fluid suddenly appeared in front of him.

Although the versions disagree as to the extent of the swelling, they are all agreed that the person afflicted with swelling is a man--despite the use here of the Greek word anqrwpos, which carries no innate connotation of gender, even though it is in the masculine form grammatically. Something happened here to prevent the TNIV from effecting the global change from 'man' to 'person;' perhaps it was the use of masculine pronouns throughout the rest of this short account. At any rate, there is no more indication in the Greek that this was an adult than that it was a boy of five years. But 'man,' as they have used it here, excludes that meaning in contemporary English.

Now one thing for which I can commend the CBT is their belated removal of this singular use of the word 'dropsy;' it really has no business in an English Bible. Google Ngram shows that the word was replaced by 'swelling' as far back as 1700 (other than in Bible commentaries, which perpetuated the word for another 200 years past its obsolescence), both words yielding to 'edema' in a medical context by 1900. Yet, interestingly, although 'edema' finds current usage in commentaries on Luke, it has not yet found its way into the text itself, even as recently as the 2011 NIV.

So, this person, whoever he was, had edema. The Greek word `udrwpikos basically means 'watery-looking' and refers to the puffiness of retained lymphatic fluid. It is sheer speculation on the part of the translators and even commentators who tried to specify which parts of his body were retaining fluid--simply using 'edema' could have held such speculation in rein. Now let's look at verse four:

King James Bible
And they held their peace. And he took [him], and healed him, and let him go;

New Revised Standard Version (1995)
But they were silent. So Jesus [Gk he] took him and healed him, and sent him away.

New International Versions
But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.

New Living Translation (©2007)
When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away.

. . . and so on. Once again, virtually all the modern versions add 'man' to the text; the KJV is the only one of the lot to allow for the age ambiguity of the Greek!

But one has to ask: from a medical perspective, what exactly happened? The medical treatment for edema is what are commonly called "water pills;" anti-edemics which release the extra fluid from the extremities into the bladder. This results, as you can imagine, in a copious flow of urine until the excess fluid is finally excreted. If Jesus immediately healed this person of his edema, one of two things must have happened:

1) The man left behind a huge puddle when he walked away.
2) Jesus caused all that extra fluid to disappear into thin air.

It would appear from the nonchalance with which Dr. Luke relates his account that the second is what occurred. But the NIV and virtually all other modern translations, in mistranslating `udrwpikos as some vague form of swelling, leave the reader unsuspecting of the true nature both of the disease, and of its cure.

1 comment:

  1. With all the other miracles Jesus performed, I'm not sure why anyone would doubt that the water could disappear. Plus, if it was something that the Lord felt we needed to know, he probably would have told us.


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