It’s fascinating to see how divisive the interpretation of a single line of the Bible can be. People ask, “How should a line be translated? What was the original intent?” as if there is some secret decoder key. The exact intent is important only when you begin to base your entire ideology on the literal interpretation of the Bible. Then, an exact translation is very important. Otherwise, you are not sure what to believe in.
My favorite example is Luke 17:21: “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Or, is it? Here is how this line is translated in some of the most popular English translations:
- New International Version – “the kingdom of God is within you.”
- New American Standard Bible – “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
- The Message – “God’s kingdom is already among you.”
- Amplified Bible – “the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].”
- New Living Translation – “the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
- King James Version – “the kingdom of God is within you.”
- English Standard Version – “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
- Contemporary English Version – “God’s kingdom is here with you.”
- New King James Version – “the kingdom of God is within you.”
- New Century Version – “God’s kingdom is within you.”
- 21st Century King James Version – “the Kingdom of God is within you.”
- American Standard Version – “”the kingdom of God is within you.”
- Young’s Literal Translation – “the reign of God is within you.”
- Darby Translation – “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
- New Life Version – “the holy nation of God is in you.”
- Holman Christian Standard Bible – “the kingdom of God is among you.”
- New International Reader’s Version – “God’s kingdom is among you.”
- Wycliffe New Testament – “the realm of God is within you.”
- Worldwide English – “the kingdom of God is inside you.”
- Today’s New International Version – “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Even though a few of these contain footnote references, this is the text that the editors decided was the best translation of the original Greek, “tou qeou entov umwn estin”. Or, perhaps the Latin, “regnum dei intra vos est.” From the Nag Hammadi texts, the Gospel of Thomas is translated like this, “the Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don’t see it.” It’s a bit more verbose, but the meaning is very similar.
After you get over the fact that there are so many different English Bibles, you’ll probably still be wondering to yourself … how could there be so many different translations of the Greek phrase, “tou qeou entoV umwn estin”? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think this specific line of the New Testament has been given quite a bit of thought. A lot is riding on this particular line because this is Jesus telling us where the kingdom of God is. Wouldn’t you like to know where the kingdom of God is? I sure would. But if even the experts can’t agree on the proper translation how can I know what to believe? Where is the kingdom of God?
If you do a search on Google for Luke 17:21, you’ll find endless debate over the ‘proper’ translation of this line.
I guess we will just have to make up our own minds on this one. All of the translations above probably capture what Jesus was trying to say. If there is a kingdom of God, I doubt it would have artificial boundaries. I’m guessing that the kingdom of God is within, inside, in our midst, and also in our hearts. I think when people get too caught up in a literal interpretation of the Bible they sometimes miss the point. The point is that God’s kingdom is everywhere. I think that is what Jesus was trying to tell us.
What do you think?