translationA couple of months ago we had a guest preacher at our church.  He was a seasoned preacher, and overall, his message was edifying.  There was one point he made, however, that had me shaking my head.  He quoted John 14:2 where Jesus says “in my house are many mansions,” and then went on to explain that in the Greek this literally means “spiritual bodies.”

When we got home my wife asked me what I thought of the message.  I told her I liked it, except for his absurd interpretation of John 14:2.  She asked if I had looked up the Greek to know that this was the case.  I told her no.  She asked how I knew it was absurd, then.  Here is what I said, and what I want to share with you: If someone says the correct translation of a certain word is radically different than the translation appearing in mainstream translations, then you can bet your bottom dollar the person is mistaken. Think about it, what are the chances that hundreds of individuals who dedicated their entire lives to understanding the Biblical languages are going to miss the boat by a mile, but an individual who has no specialized training in Biblical languages is going to get it right simply by looking up a few words in Strong’s Concordance?

Usually when preachers make claims like this it is because they went to their Strong’s or some Greek lexicon and picked out one of the many definitions offered for a word (the one they liked), not recognizing that context rather than dictionaries determine the meaning of words.  In this case, however, neither “spiritual” nor “bodies” was even within the semantic range of meaning for either of the two Greek words in question.  Where the preacher came up with his translation, God only knows.  What I do know is that whenever you hear a preacher say the proper translation of some Greek or Hebrew word is miles apart from the way it is translated in mainstream translations, you should be highly skeptical of the claim.  And if you are not able to verify it yourself, you are probably safe to reject it out-of-hand as exegetical nonsense.

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