COMPARING WILLIAM TYNDALE’S TRANSLATION OF

1 THESSALONIANS WITH MODERN VERSIONS
(A letter from New Matthew Bible Project editor R. M. Davis
to subscribers of the New Matthew Bible scriptures. June 16, 2011)

Dear all:
Progress has been good and I am pleased to say that 1st and 2nd Thessalonians
are now complete.
Below are two interesting comparisons of Tyndale’s translation with others:
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
Matthew Bible 1549 (spelling modernized): We beseech you brethren that ye
increase more and more, and that ye study to be quiet, and to meddle with
your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you:
that ye may behave yourselves honestly toward them that are without...
New Matthew Bible: We beseech you, brethren to progress more and more
... as we commanded you, so you can conduct yourselves honourably toward
those who are outside...

In Tyndale’s translation, the emphasis is upon how we conduct ourselves toward
the world. The KJV followed Tyndale. However in the RSV a significant shift in
emphasis occurs. It is no longer about how we conduct ourselves toward people;
rather, it is about obtaining respect or trust from them:
RSV: We exhort you, brethren, to do so more and more .... as we charged
you, so that you may command the respect of outsiders.
NIV: Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life .... so that your daily life may win
the respect of outsiders.
Living Bible: This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life .... As a result,
people who are not Christians will trust and respect you...

How different is the understanding of the modern Bibles. So it is also with:
1 Thessalonians 5:7
Matthew Bible: For they that sleep sleep in the night: and they that be
drunken, are drunken in the night.
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New Matthew Bible: For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who
are drunk, are drunk in the night.

Note the verb use “be/ are” in “who be drunken” and “are drunken”. The KJV
retained this use. In my view it is important, because this translation allows the
Spirit to teach the mystery of spiritual drunkenness that is upon a person lost in the
darkness of unbelief, error, or false teaching. A person so lost is “drunk” and walks
“in the night”. But the day – the Lord’s truth – makes sober.
Jesus alluded to such day and night imagery at John 11:9: “Jesus answered, Are
there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not,
because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he
stumbleth, because there is no light in him. (KJV)”
Isaiah speaks of spiritual drunkenness at 29:9, explaining that it does not arise
from strong drink: “Pause and wonder! Blind yourselves and be blind! They are
drunk, but not with wine; They stagger, but not with intoxicating drink. (NKJV)”
Thus in the Matthew Bible and the KJV, those who are “drunk” include, for those
who have ears to hear, persons who are beguiled with falsehood, especially false
prophets, and the “night” refers to the state or condition of unbelief and error.
However modern versions have obscured this understanding by limiting the
application of the passage to worldly drunkenness and natural night-time. The shift
began as early as the RSV. These versions changed the verb ‘be’ to the verb
‘get’, and also “in the night” to “at night”:
RSV: For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk
at night.
NIV: For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk
at night.
Living Bible: Night is the time for sleep and the time when people get drunk.

What a difference in understanding, and a loss of the spiritual imagery that is so
fundamental to a right and full understanding of God’s word.
R Magnusson Davis
New Matthew Bible Project

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