I have vivid memories of using last Spring’s COVID-19 shut-down to study the Bible in its own language. I used that time to create my own translation of Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. Just a few weeks later, I created my own translation of Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians.
Even re-reading those translations now, I feel instantly transported back to the fear and frustration of those weeks. We were just learning to live with COVID-19 at the time. So those were not the happiest weeks of my life. But as time has passed, a strange fondness has grown. Both for that season of life and for those books of the Bible. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians spoke to the challenges of that season in surprising and meaningful ways. I learned profound new ways to pray and depend on God. He walked with me through that experience, and I’m very grateful for that now.
So it seems poetic — and hopeful — that I’ve been able to use our recent Family Shut-Down in a similar way. I just finished my own translation of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. I started it back in January. It felt like another pseudo-shut-down (because of winter weather and higher COVID-19 case numbers). I finished my first draft by the end of February. This last week, however, has provided the time that I’ve needed to completely finish the project. I’ve had space to do more study, cross-checking, and personal consideration. So I’m now ready to share my translation more publicly.
I humbly present the fourth book in what I call the Asp’s Suggested Paraphrase of the Bible — or “The ASP” or short. As noted previously, going with a name like “The ASP” is tongue-in-cheek. I really don’t want to take myself too seriously. But I did put a lot of time, study, and heart into this translation project.
I followed a very similar process for Colossians that I followed for 1 Thessalonians. I started with the original text in Greek. Then I used study resources to fill in the gaps in my knowledge. Eventually, I established a literal translation that didn’t read very smoothly. After that, I created my own idiomatic translation (or paraphrase) of the text, often while referencing other translations. I leaned especially on the English Standard Version, the New Living Translation, and the New International Version. To further polish my first-draft translation, I brought in a few other translations and commentaries (especially to work out the tricky sections). And after one final read-through, to check for readability and cadence, I created the time-stamped PDF.
My ASP is far from perfect. In fact, I reserve the right to edit, update, and amend my version of Colossians as my knowledge of Greek, my relationship with God, and my general life of faith might dictate in the years to come. But for whatever it’s worth, you are welcome to download this version of Colossians (or “To the Colossians,” as it’s literally named in the Greek), for your own study and enjoyment:
With each of these translations that I’ve posted here on my website, I’ve included a few little notes on what I learned in the process of translation. I don’t know if any of the insight feels game-changing or earth-shattering. But for whatever it’s worth, here are some things I noticed about — and some favorite excerpts from — my translation of Colossians:
- This book of the Bible features some really loooooooong sentences! Such eloquent, educated prose is a general characteristic of the Apostle Paul’s writing, but I think it was next-level in this Letter to the Colossians. The first chapter, for instance, includes just six sentences in the original Greek! For 539 words in the original Greek! That means an average of almost 90 words per sentence. By comparison, my Asp’s Suggested Paraphrase of this same chapter breaks things up quite a bit more — both in words and in sentences. Specifically: 775 words and 41 sentences (thus about 19 words per sentence)! Is that taking too much license, or is it providing more helpful handles for understanding the content? You tell me!
- Colossians 1:19-20 (ASP) – For in [Jesus], all of the fullness of God found its happy home. And through him and in him, God reconciled everything, both on the earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood from his crucifixion.
- I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s important to figure out effective ways to highlight the plural “you” instead of the singular “you” in our translations of the Bible. We American Christians, in particular, are too self-centered, too individualistic. Almost every mention of the word “you” in Colossians (and Philippians, and 1-2 Thessalonians) is plural! Jesus hasn’t just reconciled you, the individual. He’s reconciled you, the community. The process of sanctification (becoming more holy) doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sanctification is a communal process! I know that my use of “you guys” and “you all” and “all of you” get to be a little bit clunky. Still, I think it’s one of the most important things that these translation projects have revealed to me.
- Colossians 2: 6-7 (ASP) – So, just as you guys received Christ Jesus as your Lord, you guys must continue to walk in his ways. Keep letting your roots grow deep, growing taller and stronger through faith in him — just like you guys learned how to overflow with thankfulness.
- Paul uses a lot of repetition to get his points across. “Growing with a growth” and “Energizing with an energy” and that sort of thing. I wanted to try and preserve some of those instances of doubling down, in order to help draw attention to these “nuances” that aren’t actually all that nuanced in the original Greek.
- Colossians 2:18-19 (ASP) – No one gets to disqualify you guys because of their masochistic obsessions or cultish fixations on angels. They make a show of their “visions,” propping themselves up on the flimsy foundation of what’s in their human heads, even while they fail to hold onto the Head, from which the whole body stays together with its connective tissues, united and growing with a God-given growth.
- I tried something creative with the section about δοῦλοι (slaves) and κύριοι (masters) at the end of Chapter Three and the beginning of Chapter 4. I was trying to provide something of a cultural translation, in addition to my linguistic translation. And even though I’m not completely satisfied with the result, I’m ready to put it out there and see what others think.
Anyway, I’d love to hear any reflections you might have, if you give the ASP a read. Whether you’re a Greek expert or not, I really believe it will be helpful to get other perspectives. With the caveat that I reserve the right to edit, update, and amend my version of Colossians, as my knowledge of Greek, my relationship with God, and my general life of faith might dictate in the years to come — I’m excited to put this out there.
May God bless the reading of His Word!