Here are the definitions of "world" in the American Heritage Dictionary:
1. The earth. 2. The universe. 3. The earth with its inhabitants. 4. The inhabitants of the earth; the human race. 5.a. Humankind considered as social beings; human society: turned her back on the world. b. People as a whole; the public: The event amazed the world. 6. Often World. A specified part of the earth: the Western World. 7. A part of the earth and its inhabitants as known at a given period in history: the ancient world. 8. A realm or domain: the animal world; the world of imagination. 9.a. A sphere of human activity or interest: the world of sports. b. A class or group of people with common characteristics or pursuits: the scientific world. 10. A particular way of life: the world of the homeless. 11. All that relates to or affects the life of a person: He saw his world collapse about him. 12. Secular life and its concerns: a man of the world. 13.a. Human existence; life: brought a child into the world. b. A state of existence: the next world. 14. Often worlds. A large amount; much: did her a world of good; candidates that are worlds apart on foreign policy. 15. A celestial body such as a planet: the possibility of life on other worlds.When we consider different meaning senses of a word in a dictionary, we also need to consider which of those senses are most common to most people. In other words, in typical literary or speech contexts today, which of the AHED meaning senses do most English speakers have active in their minds?
I suggest that the most common meaning sense for most English speakers today is AHED #1. A number of the other meaning senses, including 2, 3, 4, and 12 are not so commonly known today.
One of the most common meanings of kosmos in the Bible refers to a realm that is opposed to God, a sphere of unspirituality, as in Rom 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (RSV)I don't think that the meaning intended in translations of Rom. 12:2 is commonly known to English speakers, except to those who are familiar with the dialect of "church English."
What would be an English wording that would accurately translate the meaning of kosmos in Rom. 12:1 for most English speakers today? I suggest one possibility would be: "the way that ungodly people live."
John 3:16 is probably the most commonly known verse in the Bible. It begins in most English versions as:
For God so loved the worldI suggest that if we field test this translation wording, even within its larger context of John 3, with a significant number of native speakers today, we will discover that they do not share the meaning of kosmos which is most likely for this verse, which is probably AHED meaning sense 4. I suspect that the first meaning of "world" that most English speakers would have if they heard John 3:16 in English would be AHED meaning sense 1, namely, 'the earth.' They might have some sense that that meaning may not fit, since they may not think it too likely that God would love the earth, but I'm not sure whether they would come up with the meaning intended by the biblical author. I'd like, of course, to be proven wrong by adequate field testing.
What would be a more accurate translation of kosmos in John 3:16 for most English speakers?
I suggest "everyone." But I have not found a single English Bible version which agrees with me, not even the most idiomatic translations, TEV, CEV, and The Message.
What do you think?