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The Language Donut

Language Donut

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament), as well as Greek (New Testament). The language donut visually portrays how the NASB 1995 translators decided to translate one word from the original language into English based on the context in which it lives in the different verses it appears. This tool can broaden a reader’s understanding and appreciation of how and where a word is used throughout the Bible.

Language Donut Examples

A great way to dive into using the language donut is to first look at the other occurrences where the translators chose to translate the target word into the same English word. This can help paint a picture of how this word is used in similar contexts in the Bible. For example, the Hebrew word “kalah” (כָּלָה) in Genesis 2:1 is also translated “completed” twelve times in the Old Testament.

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To study the target word in further depth, one could look at other different but similar English words listed in the language donut. This can often add another layer of understanding. A different word could actually offer further depth to its meaning. For example, the word “completed” from the Hebrew word “kalah” (כָּלָה) in Genesis 2:1 has other usages such as “finished” in 1 Kings 8:54 or “end” in Ruth 2:23 that gives the nuance of a completion in act or time.

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To study the word even further, one could look at uses of the word that are not similar to the one being studied. These contrasting words can direct and sharpen our understanding of both words in their different contexts. For example, the other usages of “kalah” are translated into “destroy” (e.g. in Job 9:22) or “consume” (e.g. Joshua 24:20). Both provide seemingly contrasting ideas to “completed”, but ultimately adds color to recognizing that those usages may not necessarily imply obliterating violence; rather, has a stem of meaning that also encompasses the thought of a completion or end.

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Finally, it’s important to note that while the various English words listed in the language donut can enrich our understanding of the word, the context of each usage in the Bible also needs to be respected. It would be improper to look at Genesis 2:1 and render the word “kalah” in this context as “Thus the heavens and the earth were destroyed…”. Another example is how the Greek word “ekklesia” (ἐκκλησία), most commonly translated into “church” to refer to the spiritual body of Christ, is translated as “assembly” in Acts 19 due to the nature of the angry mob of pagans described in the chapter. In this case, it would be erroneous to simply insert the word “church” into the context of Acts 19 although the same Greek word is used.

In the words of Edward W. Goodrick, “The many meanings a word might be able to convey do not constitute a cafeteria from which a student can select one according to his taste. We are enslaved to the ‘tyranny of the context.’” (Do It Yourself Greek & Hebrew by Edward W. Goodrick, 1980.)