Timely Bible translation
Notice that the following three sentences are what native speakers would consider proper, standard English:
- I saw him on Tuesday. (But not, "I saw him in Tuesday.")
- He will arrive on Christmas. (Not, "He will arrive in Christmas.")
- He came on the day that he said he would. (Not, "He came in the day that he said he would.")
In standard English, can we ever use "in" with a time word? Yes. Compare these sentences:
- In January we will go skiing. (Not, "On January we will go skiing.")
- In the summer I worked as a forest ranger. (Not, "On the summer I worked as a forest ranger.")
During the summer I worked as a forest ranger.The preposition "at" can be used when we refer to a point in time as measured by a clock:
- At the stroke of midnight Cinderella returned home. (Not, "In" (or "On") the stroke of midnight Cinderella returned home.")
- We will have supper at 6 p.m. (Not, "We will have supper on 6 p.m.")
Now, what does this have to with Bible translation? Well, that's a timely question, and this is intended to be a timely post.
A number of English Bible versions do not use the correct prepositions with the time objects of prepositions that they occur with. Compare these examples from Phil. 2:16, found on my chart evaluating standard English in Bible versions (which now has 100 examples):
- so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain
- that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain
- In the days of King Herod of Judea ...
- During the reign of King Herod of Judea ...
- During the time when Herod was King of Judea ...
English versions correctly use "on" with the time word in Acts 20:7:
- On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, ...
- On the first day of the week, when we had met to break bread, ...
When wrong English time prepositions are used in Bible translations, it makes those versions sound like they were translated by people who are not native speakers of English. The forms, including any prepositions, were correct in the original Greek from which the English is translated. Better Bibles are translated by people who ensure that they are using English forms that are the proper equivalents to the Greek forms. The good news is that it is possible to have English in Bible translations that is both accurate as well as grammatical, natural, and standard. A number of English Bible versions demonstrate that, when we examine specific examples of word usages.