One of the things which really stood out to me when I translated the New Testament for myself, was how inconsistently we translate a lot of well known verses.
Definitely when you are translating one language to another you cannot just literally translate one word to one equivalent word in the other language. But Mark 1:2 quotes Malachi 3:1. “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me”. And in both those verses, the word translated “messenger” is translated as “angel” in almost every other place in the Bible. Why?
In Greek άγγελος (angelos) is just the word for “a messenger”.
In Hebrew מַלְאָך (malak) is also the word for “a messenger”.
Why don’t we just translate it as “messenger” everywhere. Why did we choose to transliterate the sound, “angel” instead of the meaning, “messenger”?
I can see that in Mark, we know that this is now talking about John the Baptist, (“baptism” by the way, is another Greek word, βάπτισμα (baptisma) which is transliterated as “baptism”, instead of being translated as “immersion”), so we can’t translate άγγελος as angel in Mark 1 because we know he’s not an angel, he’s a man.
But this is a quote from Malachi. And when Malachi was writing, wouldn’t he have thought it was an angel? Wouldn’t he have been thinking that Yahweh was going to send an angel ahead of himself to announce that he was coming?
And further down in Mark 1, when Yeshua was in the wilderness being tempted. We transliterate again and say, “he was attended by angels”.
This seems pretty inconsistent, kind of like we’re deciding what we want it to say based on what we believe, then shoe-horning it to say that. We should be consistent with our translation, not translating in one place, then transliterating in another.
My point is not about whether John was an angel or not, it’s that we should be translating the meaning
of words, not their sounds. When we transliterate we lose meaning, and this can also confuse and mislead us about what the Bible is really saying.
I already mentioned baptisma, so now every denomination of the church has it’s own idea of what “baptism” is. Because we only transliterated the sound. But the meaning is immersion. Like putting your arms in water to wash them. Or having a bath. If it was translated as immersion I think there would be less disagreement on what “baptism” is.
The Greek Χριστός (christos) is transliterated as “Christ”, instead of being translated as “anointed one”, just as מָשִׁיחַ (mashiach) is transliterated “Messiah”, but it too means “anointed one”. In most modern English translations it reads a bit like a name, like Jesus’ surname was Christ. But it’s a title. Jesus the Christ. But if it was translated it would be much clearer. Yeshua anointed one, or Yeshua the Anointed. (Why Jesus real name is Yeshua
The Greek απόστολος (apostles) is transliterated as “apostle” but it means “one who is sent”, kind of like “emissary” or “ambassador”. So when it’s a verb it is usually translated as “send”, (like it is in Mark 1:2), but when it is a noun we transliterate as “apostle”. That’s inconsistent. I would think most Christians would think, that apostle means one of the 12 disciples that Yeshua chose. But that’s just how we’ve restricted it based on our tradition and our transliteration. In the original language it meant anyone who was sent.
So. John, (actually Yohannes, but somehow we use Latin names when we translate the Bible? Why is that?), was no angel. But he was a messenger. And so are the beings we call angels.
But this is only one of many words which have lost their meaning by being transliterated instead of being translated.