Jesus Ran Away

Written around May 2,

and finally posted…

This past week I have been going through the final checking process for the Gospel of Luke in four related languages in Papua New Guinea. Here is one of the most interesting translation problems that we were able to resolve so far…

In Luke 5:15-16 here is what the NASB says:

“But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”

Clearly, the intended meaning of the imperfect verbs is that these are things that were repeatedly happening throughout a period of time (including the news spreading, the crowds gathering, and Jesus slipping away). The implied information must be that Jesus would actually teach and heal the people when they came to him before he slipped away for prayer. However, in all four of the translations that we are checking, they understood this passage to mean that the people were coming to Jesus to be healed, but he wasn’t there when they sought him out because he had run away from them to be by himself and pray!

It’s not surprising that they would have this interpretation, since the second sentence begins with an adversative conjunction. Even most English versions begin vs. 16 with ‘but’, which certainly may suggest the faulty reading. But ‘but’ may often over-translate the Greek connective DE, which is better seen as the normative connecting particle for narrative when there is a shift in the subject. Expressing any more contrast begins to err in this passage.

“And from time to time he would withdraw to remote places for prayer.” (REB)

“So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (NKJV)

The implied information is expressed well in these translations without ‘but’…

“And from time to time he would withdraw to remote places for prayer.” (REB)

“So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (NKJV)

“As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” (The Message)

Other versions include the word ‘often’, so their use of ‘but’ does not give the wrong impression (NASB, NIV, NLT, NCV, CEV).

Also, consider these excellent renditions…

“However, he continued his habit of retiring to deserted places and praying.” (ISV, Version 1.1)

“Yet Jesus himself frequently withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.” (NET)

Several versions present the faulty possible interpretation that Jesus was nowhere to be found when the people were seeking him out…

“But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.” (RSV)

Compare the KJV, Darby, Young, ASV, Phillips, Wuest, TEV, NAB, NRSV, GW, and ESV, which also leave the interpretive possibility open that Jesus would hide from the crowds.

Jesus didn’t run away from the crowds of people when they were coming to hear him and to be healed by him. But he did often withdraw from them to be alone with his Father in prayer.

Remote Blogging by Email


After my multiple posts in January about posting via Flickr to WordPress using email, I must apologize for never putting this method to use. I seem to have disappeared from blogdom without a word of explanation. I did try once to post via email during these last few months, but the Flickr requirement of including a picture seems to have messed me up. Since I connect to email in our remote village through a high frequency radio connection, attachments normally get separated from the message body.

Anyway, here’s where I’ve been…

January-April: My family moved to Madang for these months as I fulfilled the role of Academic Coordinator for all the new members of our organization arriving in the Pacific. Major responsibilities included teaching Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin) and giving other lectures in Anthropology.

May: I barely made it out to our village in order to help do final checking of the Gospel of Luke for 4 related Austronesian languages. This was thoroughly enjoyable, especially working together with another translation consultant through the 24 chapters of this book.

I am now happily reunited with my family, and I am preparing to help check Luke for another group of 4 related languages in mid-July. I am also helping the 3 related languages that I normally advise to prepare their drafts of Luke for checking at the end of July.

In my next post, I’ll include the message that failed to survive the radio transmission earlier this month.