Regarding Luke 14:26, a Muslim asked me the following question:

I can understand that this might be confusing, but nobody has changed anything actually. The issue is the question, how do you translate? In English there is an idiom that says: It is raining cats and dogs. If you translate that literally it will make complete nonsense in most languages. But most languages have have expressions that are equivalent to convey the meaning of "really heavy rain". Should you then translate literally or should you translate the intended meaning?

In earlier centuries or even 50 years ago, most Bible translations were made on the literal side. Today the principle becomes more and more to do translations with dynamic equivalents. I.e. not a literal word for word translation, but the translator asks himself "what is the meaning of this sentence or phrase or even paragraph?" and then asks the second question "how would this same meaning be best expressed in the the language I am translating into". So for example, with the cats and dogs, he might decide to translate it as "it was raining long and hard". Is that a false translation? A new version? No. Even though the "cats" and the "dogs" disappeared and "long" and "hard" appeared and are not in the text, he has faithfully translated the meaning of the passage so that it can be readily understood by the reader. If he had literally taken the cats and dogs, he would probably have mistranslated it because the idiom does not make any sense in the other language. Or at least it is very much prone to being misunderstood. Some might think that literally cats and dogs fell out of the sky. And the literal translation can be the wrong translation.

The case you bring above is similar. Jesus uses a Hebrew idiom. He uses hyperbole. In Hebrew it is clear that the word "hate" does here not mean literally to hate them, but is used in order to make a strong contrast. He makes clear that the allegence and love for him needs to be so strong and so much more than all other love in your life if you want to be a true disciple that all other love looks like hate in comparison. He did not call to hate our parents (in fact, he states various times that we are to honor them and to love them), but the hyperbole is used to make this strong appeal that your priorities need to be really clear.

The problem then is for the translator. In English (or in Western culture) we don't usually speak in such hyperbole. In the Middle East exaggeration is very common. People love to speak in superlatives and extremes (I certainly have that impression). In England the way of communicating effectively is the "understatement". And in fact, many have misunderstood this verse and were really troubled to read that we should hate our parents, children and siblings. Just as you misunderstood it due to its literal translation. Therefore, since the literal translation is not well understood in our culture, the newer translation decides to translate dynamically instead of literally and so the true meaning is better understood in the newer translation. It is not a new version, it is not corruption, it is in fact the attempt to make better understood what was always the true meaning of the passage.

You can look it up in old commentaries on the Bible for example. A commentary from 1900 will say you the same thing as a commentary from today. They will use a different translation but they will explain the meaning similarly since that was well known all along among those who know Biblical language, but it might not be easily as clear for the layman or those who read the Bible the first time. Just as it was not clear to you.

In this particular verse, I think the Living Bible gives a very clear translation: "Anyone who wants to be my follower must love me far more than ..."

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