William Barclay and the New Daily Study Bibles
William Barclay has sold over 17 million copies of his Bible commentaries around the world which, while not in quite the same league as JK Rowling or Ian Rankin undoubtedly puts him high on the list of bestselling Scottish authors.
Born in Highland Wick in 1907, William Barclay studied Classics at Glasgow University before being ordained a minister in the Church of Scotland. It was in 1946 that Barclay first became a lecturer at Glasgow University, lecturing in New Testament Language and Literature. His encyclopaedic knowledge of Ancient Greek and his unbounded enthusiasm for the subject made for a fantastic lecturer, and many of his pupils still speak fondly of him today. In 1956 his Daily Study Bible series was published - the Church of Scotland founded Saint Andrew Press specifically to publish his work - and it became an instant bestseller.
Since then, the Daily Study Bibles have been sold into 27 territories and translated into 14 languages.
Barclay's translation of the New Testament from Greek allow a whole original perspective, unbiased by centuries of mistranslation and editing. His understanding of the social and historical context of the Bible's stories make the them come to life and offer new understanding to texts that have long been accepted without thought.
Barclay's revelations can be truly stunning to the layman. For example, Matthew 5:5:
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
A phrase so ubiquitous that few ever question its slightly odd sentiment. It is however a fundamental mistranslation! The word translated as meek was originally the Greek word praus which is a word with a huge depth of meaning: Aristotle defines meekness, praotes, as the balance between orgilotes, which means excessive anger, and aorgesia, which means excessive angerlessness. Proates, meekness, as Aristotle saw it, is the happy medium between too much and too little anger. And so the first possible translation of the beatitude is:
"Blessed are those who are always angry at the right time, and never angry at the wrong time."
However, there are many other meanings to the word praus. It is clear that there is no one English word which will translate it, although perhaps the world gentle comes nearest to it. The full translation of this third beatitude may therefore read:
"O the bliss of those who are always angry and the right time and never angry at the wrong time, who have every instinct, impulse and passion under control because they themselves are God-controlled, who have the humility to realise their own ignorance and their own weakness, for such people can indeed rule the world!"
Bit different, eh?
Jonny Gallant, Saint Andrew Press