Meekness to Polite

The word “polite” is defined in dictionaries as having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people. I wondered why politeness seems to be disappearing from today’s society. I also wondered what the Bible had to say about being polite. In the ERV translation I found what I was looking for in Titus 3:2.  But I also found that different translations rendered the original Greek using different words. It’s a lesson on how to make use of different translations to have a better understanding of the original meaning from Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek.  The following excerpts are listed in order by publication date, or last revision. 

Titus 3:2 “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” (KJV), 1611

Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be mild, shewing all meekness towards all men.” (DBY), 1890

Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no man, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all meekness toward all men.” (ASV), 1901

Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all humility toward all men.” (WEB), 2000 (Derived from ASV)

Titus 3:2 “Tell them not to speak evil of anyone but to live in peace with others. They should be gentle and polite to everyone.” (ERV), 1987 (Derived from EVD), Rev. 2004

Titus 3:2 “They must not slander anyone, but be peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people.” (NET), 2005

Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all courtesy to all people.” (LEB), NT-2010, OT-2011

Titus 3:2 “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (ESV), 2001, Rev. 2016

The original Greek word πρᾳότης transliterates to praiótēs.  Transliteration in this case is from ancient Greek alphabet to modern Greek alphabet, while maintaining (best guess) pronunciation. Translated into English, this word means anything from “meekness” (KJV) to “humility” (WEB) to “polite” (ERV) to “courtesy” (NET).  They all mean roughly the same thing, but we don’t use “meekness” today because that is an archaic word from over 400 years ago. A perfect one-to-one translation is not always possible. But, if we want people to understand God’s Word, we need to use their current language. The English of more than 400 years ago is not how we talk today. Indeed, the KJV is not even God’s original Word, but only a translation for its time. The English language, and others, are constantly changing. An argument can be made that a new Bible translation is needed for every generation because of constant language change.

A special case can be made for the ERV (The Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read-Version) as the written translation of choice for the Deaf community. ASL is the “heart language” for American Deaf, but they do not have a written language to call their own. Indeed, a complete Bible in their heart language (ASL) is not yet available. While the ERV is not the most current Bible version I can quote online, it was derived from the EVD (English Version for the Deaf). Most Deaf in English speaking countries are familiar with written English. The ERV, because of its roots in the EVD, is a good translation for the Deaf. The use of the word “polite” is the appropriate translation choice for the Deaf because their sign for polite also can mean courtesy.

I will continue to quote from different translations on this blog. Each translation has its own “flavor” and sometimes one translation can be more clear than another. Also, by looking at more than one translation we gain a better perspective of God’s Word.

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