Translation of the word slave.

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Puritan Board Graduate
I was wondering if some one could please explain on how diffrent translations get diffrent meanings for the word slave?

Example the word slave. In my new HCSB the English word slave is used every where. So I looked it up in Strongs Blue Letter Bible and found the word slave in the KJV was only used 1 time in Jer. 2:14.

Other bible translations KJV (1), NKJV (31), ESV (60), NIV (79), NASB (98), ASV (3), WEB (1), NLT (93), RSV (73), DBY (4), HNV(13) times.

So why the big difference? Should the Hebrew and Greek word's be rendered slave or servant?


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Are you sure there was not more uses in the Hebrew? Consider the language of "bondage" as used for the children of Israel in Egypt.

Translations try to render original terms in as understandable terms as possible. In Elizabethan England, and for some time afterward, the class-structured society meant that translating "doulos" (Gk) as "servant" clearly conveyed the lowest end of the working spectrum, and even deference owed to superiors. The original term could be applied to just as broad a range of services, insofar as many "douloi" would have been highly educated, or specially skilled persons, who might have enjoyed a degree of freedom commensurate with his value to his lord.

The abolition of formal class-structure has led to reconsideration of whether "servant" conveys as much information inherent in the Gk term as it used to. Terms like "bond-slave" and "slave" emphasize the quality of the subjugation, rather than the estate. But today, we don't have as much emphasis on "estate", because we don't have as much (obvious or formal) class-distinction. So, the use of a term like "slave" highlights the "bound-to" nature of the relationship, whereas "servants" come and go these days (in a sense) as they will, not as the employer wills.
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