Different Translations of Galatians 3:24
Let’s check out a Greek example with a line from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia—Galatians 3:24
. He uses the Greek word paidagogos
(guardian/tutor), which is challenging to convey in English, and this passage has been a source of debate for centuries.
English Standard Version, ESV
So then, the law was our guardian (Grk. paidagogos) until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
King James Bible, KJV
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster (Grk. paidagogos) to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
New American Standard Bible 1995, NASB 1995
Therefore the law has become our tutor (Grk. paidagogos) to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
New Living Translation, NLT
Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian (Grk. paidagogos) until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.
Contemporary English Version, CEV
In fact, the law was to be our teacher (Grk. paidagogos) until Christ came. Then we could have faith and be acceptable to God.
New Revised Standard Version, NRSV
Therefore the law was our disciplinarian (Grk. paidagogos) until Christ came, so that we might be reckoned as righteous by faith.
The Message, MSG
The law was like those Greek tutors (Grk. paidagogos), with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.
The Living Bible, TLB
Let me put it another way. The Jewish laws were our teacher and guide (Grk. paidagogos) until Christ came to give us right standing with God through our faith.
So is the law like a tutor, a teacher, a guardian, a disciplinarian, or a schoolmaster? We can conclude that the meaning of paidagogos must include more duties than any one English job title can hold, having something to do with instruction, assistance, and protection. This, then, teaches us both the purpose and limitations of the law.
With the help of all these fresh translations, revisions, and paraphrases, we can better understand the layers of meaning offered in Paul’s brilliant use of metaphor.
Wisdom in Reading Multiple Translations
No single English translation will ever represent the original biblical languages perfectly. Why? In part because the Bible’s ancient languages do not function like English. A word in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic might not have an exact English word to match. And each language constructs sentences differently, which means a variety of words or reconstructed sentences will always be necessary.
This is okay, even good. It keeps us in an inquisitive, learning mode alongside others who are also trying to understand the Bible. It helps us remember that our Bible is not an answer book or instruction manual—it is a collection of sacred Scriptures we are to meditate upon within community.
When translations differ, we can wonder: Did English culture change? Or is something so fascinating and complex happening in the original languages that it can’t be resolved with only one English word?
When we notice what appears to be a disagreement between translations, instead of getting argumentative, discouraged, or confused, we can get curious. We can receive an invitation to discover more. We can read the full context, meditate on the biblical text with other people in our community, and read it in as many translations as possible.