Acts 19:8-9 NLTse

8 Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. 9 But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

Many times when we read a passage it seems the words go into our head, and we think we understand what is being said, but something just doesn’t quite mesh. That was the case for me with this passage.

Paul has gone to the synagogue, the Jewish local congregation meeting place, very much the same concept as the local church.

Some there who heard him became stubborn and obstinate. Some versions would say they were hardened, or their hearts were hardened. They rejected the gospel Paul was preaching and spoke out against it.

Now here’s the part that I didn’t catch until I read it in the NLTse. “…Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him.” Simple. There was this big disagreement, Paul shook the dust off his sandals and left, with those who were true believers following along with him. They looked for, and found, a new place to meet: the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

The NASB puts it this way:

9But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.

He withdrew from them? He took away the disciples? He reasoned daily in the school of Tyrannus? Now that I know what it means, I can see it. But before reading the NLT, it was pretty muddy.

Do you want to see muddy? Here’s the KJV:

9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

I didn’t know the Bible spoke about divers, except maybe Jonah, and Paul when he was shipwrecked. I guess there was Peter as well, when he started sinking when Jesus walked on the water; and later in John 21 when the disciples recognized the risen Christ on the shore and Peter dove into the water to swim to Him.

The HCSB does considerably better for today’s readers:

9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them and met separately with the disciples, conducting discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

The TNIV does fairly well also, though it still isn’t as clear as it is in the NLTse:

But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

The truth of the matter is that the original Greek doesn’t say that they left “the synagogue”, it is only implied. But doesn’t it make it easier to understand when it says that?

So what is better: to translate the words exactly as they were in the original languages, or to translate what is actually meant? I know it’s a lot more complicated than that, but isn’t it true that when we know what the originals actually meant, then we know what they said? Then we can really understand the message of God.

P.S. Speaking of the message of God, here’s how the passage is translated in Eugene Peterson’s “The Message“:

8-10Paul then went straight to the meeting place. He had the run of the place for three months, doing his best to make the things of the kingdom of God real and convincing to them. But then resistance began to form as some of them began spreading evil rumors through the congregation about the Christian way of life. So Paul left, taking the disciples with him, and set up shop in the school of Tyrannus, holding class there daily. He did this for two years, giving everyone in the province of Asia, Jews as well as Greeks, ample opportunity to hear the Message of the Master.

Interesting, but I don’t think it’s any clearer than the NLTse!