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When does a singular better translate a plural? — Phil 4:13 (Monday with Mounce 134)
All major translations other then the NIV (2011) translate the plural πάντα as a plural. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV, so also NASB, NRSV, HCSB, KJV, NET). The 1984 NIV and NLT say, “ I can do everything,” which in essence says the same thing as the plural.
While this is one of the most searched for verses on BibleGateway, and one of the most quoted verses in the church, the vast majority of people mistakenly think it means, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This, of course, is obviously untrue. There are many things Paul could not do. He couldn’t fly. He couldn’t remove the thorn in his flesh. He couldn’t get released from his second Roman imprisonment.
The NIV has a great solution. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” It translates the plural (πάντα) as a singular (“all this”), but it does it in such a way that when you hear the verse in isolation you have to ask yourself, “What is ‘all this’?”
The question forces people to the context and to understand the verse properly, which of course is part of the function of a good translation.
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