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"The entrance of thy words giveth light (Psalm 119:130)."

Bible: Beware "If" and "Unless."

One thing that every new Christian needs to realize is that the Bible was not written in English. The Old Testament (Genesis through Malachi) was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament (Matthew through Revelation) was written in Greek. That is why there are various English translations of the Bible.

There is no such thing as a 100% perfect translation from one language to another. Something—to some extent—is always lost in translation.

This is not really a problem unless you fail to realize that what you are reading is a translation and not the original text.

But there is one particular issue of concern in the New Testament. Remember that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, a far more precise language than English.

Whenever you see the words "if" and "unless" in the New Testament, recognize that these words are particularly difficult to translate from Greek into English. To simplify, I'll confine the following discussion to the word "if." But the same reasoning applies to "unless" (and some similar words) since this word is often translated from some of the same Greek words as "if."

The word "if" can mean "if and of course what follows is true." It can also mean "if and maybe what follows is true and maybe it is not." Or "if and maybe you will and maybe you won't." "If" can also mean "if for the sake of argument." In this case what follows can be either true or untrue. There are other intricacies as well.

Just remember that when you see the words "if" and "unless" in the New Testament, that the translation can be a little bit tricky. So don't read too much into these passages and think, for example, that you might have lost your salvation.

For those who want a more scholarly presentation of this issue, you can click on this link.

Failing to recognize the translation difficulty can result in a number of unnecessary problems.

It is unrealistic to expect the average Christian to develop a proficiency in the Greek language. Not to mention Hebrew or Aramaic! For this reason, I believe every Christian should have in his or her possession an accurate and reliable Bible commentary. No commentary is 100% perfect, however, this is the Bible commentary I use and recommend: Bible Knowledge Commentary (2 Volume Set) (Bible Knowledge Series).

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