I’ve been on a Textus Receptus kick lately, so I’ve been doing my Bible reading in the New King James, since it’s the only modern translation based on the TR. I can’t quite make myself dig straight into thees and thous. But today in my reading, I come across 2 Timothy 2:17:
And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort.
Really? Cancer? I’m having a hard time believing Paul knew much about the spreading of cancer. Totally pulls me out of the text. So now, I’m looking it up… KJV says, “canker,” which at least sounds more legit, and is possibly where the cancer thing came from. My KJV has glosses from the Revised Standard Version for some reason, and the RSV says “gangrene”.
Now I’m on a mission. New Living Translation says “cancer.” Wuest says “cancer.” What is with these people? NIV says “gangrene,” a surprising relief. New English Trans. says “gangrene”; So does Young’s and Mounce’s. The Message says, “accumulate like poison,” because why not?
The Greek word is γάγγραινα, which means… gangrene. Literally. That’s all it means. You can even make that out by looking at the shape of the Greek word. I have no idea what cankers or cancer has to do with it. Gangrene spreads rapidly, has no incubation period, and isn’t limited to unsightly spots on your upper lip. It has to be cut out immediately or the patient will die. This is clearly the image that Paul was aiming at.
And this is why I get frustrated with Bible translations and translators. They need to just. translate. the text. As much as possible, leave the interpretation to the reader. If the original is vague, make your translation vague. Because if you help me out, and I catch you, all it will do is undermine my confidence.