I have been attempting to read through 1 John (or should I say 1 Jean) in the Louis Segond translation of the French Bible in order to gain more familiarity with the language for my theological French course. I know this is not a brilliant observation but it occured to me (a novice) that the translation decision has an important impact on how I understood what I was reading.
In 1 Jn 2.1 most English translations render the Greek word δίκαιον as “righteous”:
…Jesus Christ the righteous. (ESV)
…Jesus Christ the righteous. (NASB)
…Jesus Christ the righteous. (NKJV)
…Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (NIV)
And even more descriptive:
…Jesus Christ, the one who is truley righteous. (NLT)
I know the English word “righteous” has a broad range much like the Greek δίκαιον. Both can mean anything from godly or moral to just or in the right. For whatever reason when an English translation decides to use the word “righteous” it makes me think in moral terminology with less of a legal emphasis.
Therefore, in English, I .tend to think of this passage as saying Jesus Christ is our advocate before the Father and his trustworthiness is dependent upon his moral uprightness. When I read this verse in the French Bible it says “… Jésus Christ le juste.” I am unsure about the etymological range of juste but it seems that the word vertueux would have been chosen, since it has connotations refering to virtue and moral goodness, if the same translation theory was being implemented.
When I read it in French I am inclined to think of this passage as saying Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father and he is just; therefore, we will not be misrepresented but we can count on Jesus to be our faithful representative.
I said all that to say that translation matters. Likewise, our presuppositions about the meaning of words matters. How we render the text impacts the way it is understood (which again, I know is obvious)!