Idioms, though non-essential, have become common to many languages, binding words to cultural & temporal (time) fractions. The challenge of Bible idioms within source languages must be overcome by the translators, while the use of idioms in translation confronts readers.
Some English translations have avoided most idiometry, while others (such as the New International Version) incorporate idiom in what has become doctrinal vice. Paraphrase-translations, such as Eugene H. Peterson's "The Message Bible", may be flooded with idioms -- a literary style in idiomology.
There is insufficient space here to address all of Peterson's idiometry or hyperbole. Rather, this page will highlight a few known idiomatic intersections from different translations that have pushed some readers into a tail-spin. [idiom intended].
A more concordant or literal translation can help to prevent idiomatic twists, though these may not assist to untangle any possible idioms penned in the original or transitional Hebrew, Aramaic & koine Greek.
An idiom in its origin may be cultural (social; art or ethic), sub-cultural (including corporate), religious (i.e., Christianese), private (inside), or forced (immediate use toward language-invention through association). Further, an idiom may be overt (language-part which on its face is incongruous) or obscured (language-part that may simply or alternatively be understood with literal/direct meaning). A few idioms are merely assumed to be in the Bible somewhere, such as, God helps those who help themselves.
Why do translators sometimes succumb to idiometry?
- An absence of inspiration toward translation that would otherwise come to them from God.
- Failure to recognize the short life and weaknesses of idiom.
- Short-term interest to produce another commercially viable English translation.
English Idiom Impacts:
In 1973, the New International Version introduced millions to a sinful nature, consequently forcing an English idiom from Peter & Paul. The word nature is defined within western culture as what is native and apart from the actions of man. These 2 little words worked to disassociate sin from the sinner within the minds of many Bible readers still in their sins, even unawares.
(~23 occurrences of sinful nature in the NIV.)
Some attempts in rendering this section to English have, over time, left a door ajar for an idiomatic understanding: Do what is right in the view of all men. Curiously, though harmfully, this idiom fosters cognitive dissonance in that, what is "right" to one man may not be so in the mind of the next. Literal reading & rendering helps to remove the idiomatic false-front, identifying that we provide ideally (what is best; excellent) for others. With charity in mind, core meaning trumps the absurdity of this English ethic idiom.
Authorized version: Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lies in you [plural], live peaceably with all men.|
Concordant Literal: To no one render evil for evil, making ideal provision in the sight of all men, if possible that which comes out from yourselves. Being at peace with all mankind
New American Standard: Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in [the] sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
linear: to-that no one [is] rendering worthlessness/evil for/in-place-of worthlessness/evil; in-view of all humans providing [what is] ideal out of y'all; if-as able/enabled, being at peace with all humans;
I Thessalonians 5:22
Cliché has helped to sustain this moral-religious idiom, whose etiology is in part with the change in meaning of words over time. As western culture became more deeply enthralled with virtual imagery (i.e., television, movies), appearance could then be understood as real or imagined. Virtually anything imagined may then be regarded as an appearance!
Authorized version: Abstain from all appearance of evil.|
Concordant Literal: From everything wicked to the perception, abstain.
New American Standard: abstain from every form/appearance of evil.
linear: from every wicked idea/form/conception of wicked/evil, you are abstaining.
This single verse, deprived of its source meaning, has become the rationale for many suspicions, superstition, and the requisite of various sectarian viewpoints.
eidon, translated appearance, is for what may be perceived in reality by physical senses --not by way of fear, suspicion, deduction, implication, nor imagination.
Greek Bible Idioms