A Question I Was Asked:

Which Of These Translations of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 is Best?

The Question:

Which of the following translations of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 are correct?

Here is one English translation I came across several years ago:

1 Thessalonians 5:12-14:
12. Moreover, brothers, we exhort you to have regard for the elderly people among you. We also admonish you, in the Lord, to take care of your own [old] people, 13. and to hold them richly in regard, in love. Because of their [earlier] work, let them [now] have rest among you. 14. Moreover, we exhort you, brothers: Warn those who are not working. Succour the stricken. Sustain the sickly.

The traditional New King James Version:
12. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13. and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.

The first translation is entirely different from the second. In the first tranlation it appears that Paul was very concerned about and addressing the Thessalonians behaviour. That can not be said for the second, so which one is closer to the truth?

I have studied the Bible for many years. I am multi lingual, Danish, German, English, Norwegian, Swedish and some Latin, but never did get to Hebrew and Greek. I always thought English was sufficient.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Thank you for your question. Okay, the language of the NIV is probably as accurate as we can get on this:

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thess. 5:12-14, NIV).

I checked about 15-18 English translations today but could not find a single one which rendered the verses as in this translation which you note that "you came across several years ago." So I have no idea what translation that was. To me, the words are not expressed exactly correctly in that rendition (though they are not a million miles away from the general sense), whereas the translations I went through today all substantially agreed. More importantly, they are somewhat more faithful to the Greek, but the NIV which I have quoted is, in my opinion, especially good.

Just to take one word, your quoted translation uses the word 'elderly' in verse 12, I have just gone through the original Greek wording in that one verse and I cannot see a single word which should be translated as 'elderly.' I can only believe that this was a freely paraphrased translation (claiming to be accurate to the general feeling of the Greek but not claiming to be a word-for-word translation).

(The questioner later got back to me suggesting that this was possibly originally a Byzantine text, presumably later translated into English).

Robin A. Brace. October 7th, 2012.