Change: Dr. Scot McKnight on Reviving the Original Context in His Second Testament Translation

A World of Difference
A World of Difference
Change: Dr. Scot McKnight on Reviving the Original Context in His Second Testament Translation

Discover the unexpected twist in Dr. Scot McKnight’s journey toward creating a more literal Bible translation that will leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about the New Testament. Are you ready to slow down, think, and immerse yourself in the first-century Christian world?

Words matter, especially in translations of the Bible. Join us as we dive into the world of New Testament translations with Scot McKnight and uncover the importance of accurate translations and the impact they can have. When it comes to women in ministry, though, and the use of certain words, will the translation choices make or break their place in the church? Find out in this thought-provoking discussion.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the value of cultural understanding and meticulous translation in the proper interpretation of the Bible.
  • Delve into the intricate dynamics of power within the church and their varied consequences.
  • Learn how to address spiritual abuse effectively and foster a support system for survivors.
  • Embrace the core principles of good leadership and the altruistic use of power in ministry.
  • Highlight the vital insights shared by women scholars and survivors for a more inclusive faith community.


My special guest is Dr. Scot McKnight

Meet Dr. Scot McKnight, a renowned New Testament professor at Northern Seminary in Illinois and a prolific author with a passion for diving deep into the cultural context of biblical texts. As a guest on Lori Adams-Brown’s podcast, Scot brings his expertise in Bible translation and interpretation, having written over 90 books, including widely-read titles like “A Church Called Tove” and “The Blue Parakeet.” A dedicated advocate for abuse survivors and a favorite professor among his students, Dr. McKnight’s insights are sure to enrich your understanding of the Bible.

Scot blogs on substack and hosts the Kingdom Roots podcast.

“I believe in the power of a more literal translation.”- Dr. Scot McKnight

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  • Pre-order Dr. Scott McKnight’s new translation of the New Testament, The Second Testament.
  • Subscribe to Dr. McKnight’s Substack newsletter, the Jesus Creed.
  • Consider taking classes with Dr. McKnight at Northern Seminary.
  • Purchase Dr. McKnight’s books, including A Church Called Tov, The King Jesus Gospel, and The Blue Parakeet.
  • Follow Dr. McKnight’s blog, the Jesus Creed.
  • Read Dr. McKnight’s contributions as general editor of the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.
  • Explore the Everyday Bible series, including the First Testament by John Golden Gay and The Kingdom New Testament by Tom Wright.


The Way of Jesus

Good leadership in the church involves recognizing, using, and sharing power in ways that are faithful to the teachings of Jesus. Followers of Jesus should strive to cultivate humility, compassion, and an attitude of serving others, often forgoing one’s power to benefit those who are more vulnerable. Dr. Scot McKnight, during the podcast interview, mentioned several examples of power abuse in the church, contrasting them with the biblical teachings of Jesus. He specifically cited Romans 16 and Philippians 2:1-11, which emphasize the concept of Kenosis – the act of laying down one’s power to serve others. McKnight believes that understanding this concept and applying it in the context of leadership and church relationships is essential to embodying the way of Jesus and countering the negative aspects of power dynamics in churches.

“Words deeply matter, and those words can wound and they can hurt for a long time.” – Dr. Scot McKnight

Women in Ministry

An accurate translation plays a crucial role in recognizing and valuing the contributions of women in the early church. Being mindful of the words used to describe women’s roles is crucial as language can shape our understanding and reinforce stereotypes or power dynamics within the church. By translating words and phrases accurately, women’s contributions to the early church can be acknowledged and celebrated more fairly. During the conversation, Dr. McKnight emphasized the importance of using accurate translation to highlight women’s roles in the church, such as translating the word Phoebe to mean “deacon” rather than “servant.” He also mentioned the prevalence of false narratives and power dynamics in church culture that can negatively affect how people perceive women’s roles in ministry. By ensuring accurate translations, he believes we can better acknowledge, value, and empower women working in the church.

Keeping Names Authentic

One of the essential aspects of ensuring cultural authenticity in a Bible translation is the use of names as close as possible to what they would have sounded in the original language. This offers a sense of novelty and unfamiliarity for readers, prompting reflection on the context and culture surrounding the text. By preserving the original names, readers can gain deeper insights into the characters and their significance in the narrative. Dr. McKnight uses transliteration in his translation, meaning that names in the Bible are rendered more authentically, closer to their original language. For instance, Yakobos is used instead of the English equivalent, James. Dr. McKnight argued during the podcast that using such authentic names invites readers to reconsider the context and culture of the Bible’s characters, creating a more engaging and meaningful reading experience.

“We need to be careful with the words we use for translations because if we don’t get it right, it can hurt people.” – Dr. Scot McKnight

Timestamped summary of this episode:

00:00:02 – Introduction,

Dr. Scott McKnight is an advocate in the survivor community and a professor at Northern Seminary in Illinois. He has written over 90 books and blogs on the Jesus Creed. He talks about his new translation of the New Testament, the Second Testament, which he made more literal to help people understand the ancient context of the text.

00:06:01 – Reason for New Translation,

McKnight believes that the capacity to translate Greek into English has reached near perfection, but people miss things when they try to make it a natural English equivalent. He wants to show people the differences between the original Greek sentence and the English sentence.


00:11:37 – Distinctives of the Second Testament,

McKnight was inspired to translate the New Testament after reading John Golden Gay’s translation of the Old Testament. One of the distinctives is the transliteration of names, which may be confusing but creates an authentic ancient context. McKnight’s translation sometimes sounds clunky because it is formally equivalent, but that helps readers slow down and think.


00:14:57 – Keeping Names Authentic,

The Second Testament transliterates names to help readers understand the ancient context. This makes the text feel foreign and distant, which is appropriate, as it helps readers dig deeper into cultural exegesis. McKnight believes that being familiar with the text can be a hindrance to truly understanding it.


00:15:47 – Familiarity with the Text,

Familiarity with the text can sometimes hold us back in understanding it.


00:16:13 – The Impact of Names on Reading,

Dr. Scot McKnight discusses the impact of names on reading and how different names can lead readers to think differently and understand a text in a new way. He suggests that using the original Greek text can take readers into the first-century Christian world and help them understand the text in a new light.


00:18:10 – Women in Ministry,

Dr. Scot McKnight discusses the controversy around women pastors, using the example of the lack of pastors in the Bible. He suggests that titles such as Presbuteros, Episkopos, Diakonos were used instead. He also refers to Romans 16, which mentions several women involved in church ministry, including an apostle and a deacon.


00:22:54 – Multiculturalism in the Early Church,

Dr. Scot McKnight discusses the multicultural and multiracial nature of the early church, with a mix of slaves and free people, men and women, and Jews and Gentiles. He draws attention to the several women mentioned in Romans 16, performing ministries that today would be called pastoring.


00:27:39 – The Importance of Language,

Dr. Scot McKnight emphasizes the importance of language and translation, pointing out that the wrong translation can hurt people. He uses the example of King James’ Bible, which made choices to keep its subjects subdued. He also discusses the power dynamics in evangelical churches and how they favor men and certain behaviors that have become manly.


00:33:10 – The Four Types of Power,

Dr. Scot McKnight discusses the four types of power: power over, power to influence, power with, and power for. He explains how power over is the most corrupted form of power and how it is prevalent in the business world, sports, and even the church. He also highlights the importance of using power for the good of others and sharing power with others.


00:35:25 – The Power With,

Dr. McKnight delves deeper into the concept of power with and how it involves the willingness to share power with someone else to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. He cites his experience of co-authoring a book with a young man and how they worked together to create a cohesive product.


00:36:53 – Power For,

Dr. McKnight discusses the last type of power, power for, which involves using one’s power for the good of another person. He cites Jesus Christ as an example of this type of power, as He came not to be served but to serve and give His life for others.


00:40:00 – Dealing with Spiritual Abuse,

Dr. McKnight advises people who are experiencing spiritual abuse or know someone who is to first become healthy enough to handle the blowback that comes with going public. He also stresses the importance of having a support system and following the proper protocols or guidelines for reporting abuse. Lastly, he emphasizes the need for patience and resilience as it may take a long time to see change.


00:50:50 – Abusing Power in Churches,

Dr. Scott McKnight discusses how some pastors and church leaders abuse their power, particularly with vulnerable members such as children. He encourages readers to follow his work in understanding power dynamics and using power for good, especially with survivors of abuse.


00:52:00 – The Way of Jesus,

Dr. Scott McKnight emphasizes the way of Jesus in using power for good and elevating others. He references the Kenosis passage in Philippians 2 and encourages listeners to learn how to understand and wield their power for the benefit of others.


00:53:38 – Call to Action,

Lori Adams-Brown issues a call to action for listeners to use their power for good, particularly with survivors of abuse. She encourages finding a survivor and listening to their story while respecting their autonomy and using power to elevate their voice and support them.


00:54:48 – Tov

Lori Adams-Brown references Dr. Scott McKnight and Laura Behringer’s book, A Church Called TOV, and highlights the importance of using power in tov, or goodness, particularly with survivors of abuse. She encourages listeners to find ways to support survivors and let them lead the way in how they want to share their stories and move forward.


00:56:03 – Conclusion,

Lori Adams-Brown thanks listeners for their work in making a difference and encourages them to read Dr. Scot McKnight’s book, Second Testament. She also hints at future episodes with Dr. Scot McKnight and his new book with Laura Barringer as a follow up to A Church Called TOV.

More Key Takeaways

  • Appreciate the role of cultural context and precise translation in interpreting the Bible effectively.
  • Comprehend the various power dynamics at play within the church and their implications.
  • Recognize signs of spiritual abuse, ensuring adequate support for survivors.
  • Grasp the crucial need for responsible leadership and the ethical use of power.
  • Discover the valuable contributions of female scholars and survivors in the ministry.
  • Realize the importance of context and accurate translation in unlocking the true meaning of biblical passages.
  • Uncover diversities in church power dynamics and their impacts on members.
  • Identify the nature of spiritual abuse and the ways to help survivors heal.
  • Understand the significance of virtuous leadership and the fair exercise of power for communal benefit.
  • Shed light on the often-overlooked perspectives of women scholars and abuse survivors in ministry.




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