I was teaching yesterday at congregation. I do an interactive hour of teaching every week after the shacharit (morning prayer) service. The subject was Luke 8. I was talking about how you can see over Luke’s shoulders to an issue from his own time that he was addressing in the way he ordered and shaped the stories from Luke 8:4-56. That’s also what my podcast was about Friday. The issue is the scandal of the delay of the Second Coming and the hostile reaction to the gospel in Luke’s day as a message hard to believe.
At the end, I went to John 21, and especially to John 21:22, to make a final point: that the dying off of apostles without the realization of the Second Coming was an issue that made the community nervous and caused them trouble (and the issue still causes us trouble, doesn’t it?).
That’s when my translation goofed me up.
I said something impromptu based on the translation I was using at the moment. It happens to be the NET Bible. That’s the New English Translation. It’s not one of the big sellers. Many have not heard of it. The full version comes with over 60,000 notes on the translation process. It is a dynamic translation which in many places is excellent.
But it is uneven. And there is little consistency between books. Different books have different translators and the translation philosophy widely varies. I particularly don’t like their Psalms translation.
But in the gospels they had been doing well so far, I thought.
Then I saw their rendering of John 21:22 and decided to digress into an impromptu point: If I want him to live until I come back, what concern is that of yours? You follow me!
I said, Someone correct me, but this is an unusual reference to the Second Coming here. I don’t think there is another place which so specifically refers to the coming of Yeshua in power as a return or a coming back, a second coming.
I did not mean that there are no verses in the New Testament which refer to the idea of a return of the Son of Man or the idea of a coming of Yeshua that we know is a return. What I meant is that I did not know of another place where the language is so specific about the coming of the Son of Man or Yeshua being a return or a coming back.
It felt good. For a while. Then, that afternoon, one my good friends was sitting with a Greek concordance looking for another occurrence of a coming back verse. He shook his head and showed me what he found.
The word in John 21:22 did not mean “come back.” It simply meant “come.” I had been duped by the NET translation.
Oy. It is the common (632 times) word for come in the New Testament: erchomai.
The NIV (of course) screws it up: If I want him to remain alive until I return, and the NLT as well (of course, same as NIV).
But many translations get it right: RSV, NRSV, NASB, ESV, KJV, NKJV, HCSB, CJB: until I come.
Of course, some will argue that “return” is in the semantic range of erchomai. They will say “return” or “come back” is legitimate.
But I don’t want assistance from translators in thinking about meaning. I don’t want them to assume I am too dumb to figure out the word come in this context fits into a theological framework of a second coming.
I want to think for myself. I want to not goof up when I am speaking publicly.
No wonder the gospels scholars and historical Jesus scholars at SBL walk around with Greek New Testaments. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to start reading more from the Greek myself.