Translating Bible Verses to Say What They Mean

I’m often rebuked with Bible verses that try to make critical thinking itself appear evil or unreasonable.

I recently decided to respond to a Christian posting these verses to my channel by “translating” them, in plain English, to say what they actually mean (which is pretty much always a fallacious philosophical argument).

The results have been fun. One of my subscribers joined in, too. Which made me think: maybe people should respond this way generally to bad Bible verses. 

RightouesPath2011 :

John 4:1-6
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.

Evid3nc3:

John 4:1-6 translated:
Guys, don’t believe everything you hear: test things you hear to see if they are from God, because there are many people out there who say false things. Here’s how you know if something is true: everybody who says [OUR RELIGION] is true is from God, and everybody who DOESN’T say [OUR RELIGION] is true is not from God. People who say [OUR RELIGION] is wrong are EVIL. But don’t worry: you are from God and will overcome them, because you are a member of [OUR RELIGION] and are greater than those “worldly” people who don’t believe in it. They are so deluded and lost and just delude each other. We are so much better than those poor deluded losers.

RightouesPath2011 :

Proverbs 26:24-26
Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

Evid3nc3:

Proverbs 26:24-26 translated:
If someone seems to make a cogent argument that disagrees with [OUR RELIGION], just tell yourself that he has hate in his heart and is deceitful. That will make you feel better. You know what, let’s just go ahead and say he has *seven abominations* in his heart. That makes him sound even more evil. And don’t forget that he is deceptive and hateful, too, in case you already forgot I said that. Repeating it makes it seem more true. Oh yeah, and he’s wicked. And his wickedness is going to be exposed in some assembly.

There. I hope you are convinced now that you shouldn’t listen to anyone who disagrees with [OUR RELIGION]. ESPECIALLY if his arguments are convincing. That’s just a sure sign that he’s a hateful liar.

RightouesPath2011 :

2 Timothy 4:3
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow thier own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths.

grom64pl:

2 Timothy 4:3 translated:
At some point in the future people MIGHT no longer listen to the OUR RELIGION.They will QUESTION IT and will look for teachers who PROVIDE REASONABLE ANSWERS. They will reject OUR RELIGION and follow REASON INSTEAD.

Evid3nc3:

2 Timothy 4:3 translated:
If people ever stop listening to the teachings of [OUR RELIGION], we will accuse them of *truth relativism*. Because, apparently, if people don’t believe in our religion it means they don’t believe in TRUTH. That’s right: we are equating our philosophically sloppy, evidentially unjustified religion with the PURSUIT OF TRUTH ITSELF.

A Possible Project:

Maybe we could put this together into some kind of project. For example, multiple people could submit translations for each verse of the Bible and users could vote on them. The most highly voted verses would appear in the “official”, seamless translation on the website (and change as better verses appear and are more highly voted).

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58 comments on “Translating Bible Verses to Say What They Mean

  1. John Davis says:

    This would probably make a good video, when and if you have the time.
    Some fun stuff here! Well done, translator!

  2. Sarah Elle says:

    Oh, please do one for I Tim 1:4-15…

    Here’s mine

    4 Don’t listen to anything that conceives questions in your mind about anything I have taught you.

    5 Which will mean you are not a good person

    6 Because those that think beyond what I have taught you will make mistakes

    7 Becoming as arrogant as me, telling people that what they are saying is the only truth. But they won’t know what they are talking about

    8 But we know that our historical ideas of right and wrong have been proven successful, as long as everyone follows them.

    9 With this in mind remember that all these rules and regulations aren’t necessarily truth, but they are merely to keep the riff raff scared enough to not cause trouble.

    10 And that includes anyone that even disagrees with anything I’ve said;

    11According to my own thoughts, arrogantly elevated and given to all of you as truth itself

    12 I am so thankful that I am more spiritual than the rest of you. I’m the ultimate example of how to view the world from single perspective and not consider any other possibility and I have chosen my perspective to encompass all of you because I have made myself a minister.

    13 Because before I was a terrible person, but when I realized what a terrible person I was, I immediately became better than everyone else, because everyone else does evil on purpose and I did it on accident.

    14 I was lucky to get out of that life alive. But now I attribute that luck to divine favor. Obviously, God likes me more than he likes the others.

    15 These words and everything that I say is my arrogant assumption that the only way out of a life of doing awful things it to insert spiritual fear amongst the riff raff. This must be true, because I was the worst of those riff raff, and this is how I changed my life.

    • evid3nc3 says:

      Great! Maybe we should put this together into some kind of project.. Like multiple people could submit translations for each verse of the Bible and then users could vote on them. Then the most highly voted verses would appear in the “official”, seamless translation..

      I’m putting this suggestion in the original blog..

      • Sarah Elle says:

        Hah! That sounds like so much fun. :o)

      • itsmaxinthebox says:

        I could code something that can do that. It might be a bit hard to protect it from abuse, but it is pretty doable. All around I think it would be a fun project to be involved in. I’ll post a ping-back from my blog with some ideas if you think it is worth pursuing.

  3. I’d seriously leave some translations for Numbers 31:17-18 and Psalm 137:9 but, like, some verses just don’t need translating. Don’t forget, there IS a lot of TRUTH in the Bible. Christians just don’t read those bits.

    I love this post by the way, translating the whole Bible like this would be freaking aaawesome. You should contact the guy that runs http://skepticsannotatedbible.com, I’m sure he’d be interested in this kind of project.

    Either way, count me in!

  4. 1 Corinthians 13:11

    “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” King James version.

    I say we can leave this as is, but place greater emphasis on it’s meaning…

  5. What if we do a project where we translate the ENTIRE BIBLE THIS WAY! Oh that would be epic!

  6. Richard says:

    I’d like to translate my favorite: 1 Timothy 2:11-15

    “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.”

    Translation:

    Women, keep your mouths shut. For Adam was created first, and everything was awesome. But then that damn woman came along and screwed everything up. But don’t worry. You can make up for the fact that you are also a woman by having as many babies as possible.

  7. Bolt says:

    Love the idea of a living bible translation into plain english. We just might deconvert a few people using it, too. I don’t mean from their religion, of course, I mean from their idiocy. Maybe a bit of harsh reality will jar some of these people out of their slumber and get them to actually examine their beliefs a little. Not sure how well I’d do, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot.

  8. Brandon says:

    Just curious: has anyone ventured to actually make a project for this yet?

  9. Carl says:

    I often have this scene in my head from a long time ago. Myself and my friends, as children, are letting our imaginations run wild, and we eventually come to creating some religion-esk idea. There are creation stories, and extremely powerful characters involved, and prophets, because, hey, prophets are cool. Especially when they get stuff right. Boy, would it ever be great if we could get other people in on this fantastic idea. Then one of us will take a step back from this fairytale land, and try to view it as an observer, and will point out, “other people will think we’re stupid”. We’ll all agree, and ponder for a moment. Then we realise that we have our first prophecy! Mockery is bound to happen, so why not predict it and claim a point for our side when it inevitably comes true! Their chiding of us will backfire as the resolve of our fellow fairytale goers is reinforced. What a beautiful system!

    I later grew up and found out that this idea of predicting mockery was not original. What I was not prepared for was that it would actually work, and so well.

  10. luvawl says:

    I just have tears of frustration,…. where is my heart and soul to go now???? Your Answer.. is really at the basic level..”no answer”. All of these translations,.. seem juvenile…. needing to convince. Believe what you will. Logic itself is just theory……. we all need to fill-up our time.. seem so important…. . Yes to have a purposeful life serves to feed our very souls. Simply love.

    • Gina Harvey says:

      First, the reason atheists offer no answer about what you should do with your life is probably in part because they know they do not have the authority to tell you what to do with your life, just as you don’t have the authority to tell them what to do with theirs.

      Logic is not “just theory.” The most basic of logical laws are necessary. That means, if they weren’t true, that there would be no such things as facts. There ARE facts about the world and this is epistemologically verifiable. Logic defines truth. No logic means no truth, and no truth means no purpose.

      Personally, I think the popularization of truth at the expense of myth is the single most noble cause one can undertake as a sentient being. It is performed out of love and concern for others. These “souls” are well-fed.

  11. Bolt says:

    Probably a stylized Wiki.

    • evid3nc3 says:

      I was thinking a Wiki where people can only edit verse translations that they themselves wrote and other people can vote on their translations as well as give them suggestions for improvements if they like the verse translation but would just like one or two things added. For the voting system, something like the Stack Overflow interface could be good.

  12. Kristine says:

    Have you seen this? Sam Harris makes a case that science can address moral questions and that an atheist doesn’t have to be a moral relativist – truth can exist without God telling us so? Preposterous!

  13. Matt says:

    Perhaps a paraphrased version of Genesis up to Abraham:

    God, bored with spending an undetermined infinity with either himself or boring angels, decided to create a universe that would properly worship him. So he spoke things into existence that would break the laws of nature that he created in order to confuse his later invention, man. One detail, for example, was that he would create light without having a sun to produce said light. God then created animals and man, but decided that man needed something other than a divine presence to keep this man company. So God knocked him out, took a rib from him, and made woman. Blonde or brunette, hmmm? So, anyway, God put these morally unaware people in a garden, and knowing full well that they were going to disobey him, he told them not to eat fruit that would make them morally aware. And, whats more, knowing they would disobey, he allowed that wily, crazy snake to tempt the woman. Now God knew all of this was going to happen anyway, but he still got pissed when they ate the fruit and kicked them out of the garden. In a fit of rage, he cursed not only them, but every generation to follow, even the animals! The cursed couple eventually had kids (even though one killed the other), and through some means that avoided the typical genetic disorders of inter-family relations, spawned a civilization.

    So a little while later, after humans have become the total degenerate partying species, so much so that even the angels wanted to hang with them and sleep with the chicas, God (again, knowing that this is what was going to go down) killed every living organism on Earth with a flood. And God was sad that he created all this mess, but he still wanted to keep a drunk guy and his family that had to put anywhere from 2-7 animals per species on a big wood boat. Eventually the waters went away, and Noah, the drunk guy, threw a barbeque. Maybe this is what happened to the dinosaur kind? Sadly, Noah had too much home brew, and got naked in front of one of his boys. This kid got the raw end of the deal because all of his progeny would be cursed for eternity. Now, God knew that his creation was going to get uppity again, and when they tried to build a big ass tower, he had enough and scattered all the population.

    Next up, a travelling nomad who almost kills his son, and a series of genocidal conquests!

  14. Joseph Patten says:

    Could you translate John 19:26-27 for me?

    • Something along the lines of:

      “Jesus Christ this Afghani Super Skunk is strong! Checkit out guys! My mother hehehe… is HAAAAAHAHAHAHAH, YOUR MOTHER ROTFLMAO!”

      Yea, that’s it.

  15. brian oconnor says:

    please could you translate nunbers 18 verse7 please ……..

    • Ya’ll my homies, I’ll put ya’ll in charge of the sheep. You make the rules and if any one of those little shits come nosing around in here, kill them till they die from it.

      Yo.

  16. portal001 says:

    @onefuriousllama

    How does writing that contribute in any way to anything?

  17. portal001 says:

    Say for example, I took The Odyssey and made fun of it by changing text to what I think it means, whilst trying to make other people laugh. How would this contribute to any sort of understanding? If someone is a great admirer of the works attributed to Homer, how does chopping up The Odyssey and laughing at it broaden their understanding of the text?

    • evid3nc3 says:

      If you want the answer, you should probably reread the original post.

      To summarize: the Bible is written using flowery language to make what it says appear sacred and unassailable. However, this flowery language is used to promote and defend what are actually pretty horrible ideas, once exposed.

      The flowery language becomes a smokescreen that distracts and blinds people from how horrible the ideas are. By writing the message in plain English, without the flowery language, we are exposing just how horrible they are.

  18. portal001 says:

    I have read the original post

  19. portal001 says:

    I think I know whay I am reacting like this. I think part of my motivation is because I’m fearful of what is in Revelation 22:19. And this is also why I was uneasy reading this post, as well as the changes or rewrites of verses.

    • evid3nc3 says:

      Interesting point. I had forgotten about that verse. The verse itself is problematic for a number of reasons.

      One is that it is only concretely associated with Revelation itself. The canon of the New Testament was decided by committees in 300 AD after Revelation had been written. Before then, many books floated in and out of common usage as “Scripture”. Even after the canonization, the categorization of “Scripture” was not taken seriously until the Protestant Reformation in 1500 AD.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_New_Testament_canon

      Another problem is that the translation of scripture necessarily requires interpretive variations from the text. Words are added or omitted whenever a new translation is made. There is no objective way to determine which of the many translations of the Bible is the “correct” one.

      Finally, we have no evidence that the threat made in Revelation 22:19 was made by anyone but a man. A man who may have believed he was writing the words of God. But we have no evidence that those words are any more wise or divine than his own opinion of what is divine. I could make similar threats in my own writing but it wouldn’t automatically make my words divine or prove there is even a God for me to represent.

  20. portal001 says:

    actually responding rather than reacting

  21. portal001 says:

    This verse seems to me to be referring to a book, so it could be referring specifically to Revelation.

    “Before then, many books floated in and out of common usage as “Scripture”

    I’ll look into it further.

    In relation to Revelation 22:18-19

    Like I mentioned, I do see the action of changing scripture to be dangerous. I know that I see this as dangerous because I believe these verses have Authority.

    I think this belief in the Authority in Scripture entirely changes the way any Biblical text is read and how it is understood.

    I think that is why it can be quite difficult for people of different faiths (or lack thereof) to come together and discuss different books that are considered holy. People will be seeing each text through different beliefs and this changes the way they use, share, preserve and discuss these texts.

    • evid3nc3 says:

      I agree. That is why I present my series, specifically the section on the Bible, from the perspective of myself as a Christian first and show the evidence that caused me to gradually see it instead from the perspective of an atheist.

  22. portal001 says:

    But then again Revelation 22:18-19 could be referring to the entire Bible.

  23. portal001 says:

    However, the question I ask myself is why do I believe The Bible has Authority if I have (from my memory) had no direct, personal conversation with God.

  24. portal001 says:

    I found that instead of jumping from belief to non belief I’ve kind of had moments where I would find myself in one state. For example a circumstance might come to pass like a friend of mine getting the help they need and me attributing this breakthrough to God.

    However, if I stop and think about it this help seemed to come through the effforts made by human beings, and although they have faith in God, it seemed to be human efforts and not God’s that helped this person.

    But someone might say – it was God that motivated these efforts, so God was working through them, but if that is the case God’s mercy and care can be attributed to human actions, yet if human actions are destructive or evil they are attributed to the devil? Bottom line is, I find that my beliefs vary and seem to jump from one end to another. I think at the moment I believe in God becasue I fear Him and I have been wrong before.

  25. portal001 says:

    also I realised I contradicted myself here:

    “I found that instead of jumping from belief to non belief I’ve kind of had moments where I would find myself in one state”

    and I later wrote

    “Bottom line is, I find that my beliefs vary and seem to jump from one end to another”.

    what I meant was that instead of a transition from place to place I seem to be going back and forward in my beliefs, which doesn’t really mean Im settling anywhere. Which I suspect isin’t a healthy position.

    • evid3nc3 says:

      It probably isn’t healthy if sustained for long periods of time, given the accompanying shift in emotions. But it is what happened to me (in 2.7 Losing God) and may be inevitable for strong believers.

      However, I don’t think there is anything unhealthy about being uncertain in general. Sometimes it takes a lot of personal research to settle on a position for a contentious issue. And I think we should all always be open to new evidence that may lead us to different conclusions.

  26. scarlettt whitley says:

    I was wanting to know if you could translate a couple verses for me so I can better understand them 1 Corinthians 10:31 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Thank you

  27. Katelin P says:

    can u traslate: Luke 12; 11-12

  28. sydney says:

    Psalm 25:7

    7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness,O Lord! EXPLAIN FOR ME ?

  29. katie narron says:

    What does Matthew 5:13 mean?

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