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The NKJV says:

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” ‭‭I Peter‬ ‭2:1-3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Vs the NET:

“So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:1-3‬ ‭NET‬‬

Q: Isn’t the translation from the NKJV more accurate than the NET?

NOTE: Spiritual milk seems distinctly ambiguous compared to the “milk of the Word”.

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  • 1
    Good question, thanks for asking! As I understand it you seem to be focusing on whether the term 'word' should be there or not. If this is correct, it could be good to rephrase your question to make that explicit, as it's always possible for a translation to capture one aspect of a passage better than another, but be less helpful in other aspects. So there probably isn't a 'proper' translation, but rather different translations that capture different useful aspects.
    – Steve can help
    Jun 15, 2022 at 20:42
  • @SteveTaylor I’ll process what you said, sounds kinda confusing; but I trust you are speaking sensible info.
    – Cork88
    Jun 15, 2022 at 21:24
  • No worries - essentially it's just hard to translate perfectly from one language to another. I could write that 'our dog passed away' in English, but if you translated that to German you'd probably just have to say that it died, unless both languages use an identical phrase. Same sort of deal with the Bible - some translations try to translate passages word-for-word, and others try to translate the meaning of a passage. In this case the NKJV is trying to communicate the meaning, and the NET is translating the word into its nearest English equivalent.
    – Steve can help
    Jun 15, 2022 at 21:30
  • 1
    @SteveTaylor ah yes, formal equivalence vs dynamic equivalence.
    – Cork88
    Jun 15, 2022 at 23:40

3 Answers 3

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As I understand it, the question is effectively whether 'Word' is authentic to the earliest texts of this passage, and whether it is right to include or omit this term.

I was expecting this to be a divergence between later texts (e.g. the Latin / Vulgate, which the KJV often references) and earlier Greek texts that the NET and newer translations usually use. However, the difference is a little more subtle.

Vulgate (Latin):

"sicut modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite: ut in eo crescatis in salutem"

Vulgate (English transliteration)

"as newborn babes, desire the reasonable, without guileless milk, that in it you may grow to salvation"

NT Greek (Nestle 1904)

ὡς ἀρτιγέννητα βρέφη τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα ἐπιποθήσατε, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ αὐξηθῆτε εἰς σωτηρίαν

Note that the Greek does not include the word 'logos' / λογος, which is the key word we're looking for. It does, however, include the term 'logikon' / λογικὸν, usually understood as 'reasonable' or 'rational'.

This is explained in the Pulpit Commentary for this verse:

"It seems that in the adjective λογικόν (paraphrased in the Authorized Version "of the Word," rendered "spiritual" or "reasonable" in the Revised Version) there must be a reference to the Word of God (λόγος Θεοῦ), mentioned in 1 Peter 1:23 as the instrument of regeneration, and called by our Lord (Matthew 4:4, from Deuteronomy 8:3) the food of man (but the Greek in Matthew is ῤῆμα, as in 1 Peter 1:25). The paraphrase of the Authorized Version gives the general meaning; but the adjective means literally, "reasonable" or "rational."

The apostle is not thinking of natural milk, but of that nourishment which the Christian reason can regard as milk for the soul - spiritual food, pure and simple and nourishing, capable of supporting and strengthening those newborn babes who not long ago had been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the Word of God. The adjective occurs only in one other place of Holy Scripture (possibly St. Peter may have read it there) - Romans 12:1, τὴν λογικὴν λατερείαν ὑμῶν, where it means the service of the sanctified reason as opposed to the mechanical observance of formal rites. It is explained by Chrysostom as ebony ἔχουσαν σωματικὸν οὐδὲν ταχὺ οὐδὲν αἰσθηνπ´ν Thus it seems nearly to correspond with the use of the word πνευματικός, spiritual, by St. Peter in ver. 5 of this chapter, and by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:3, 4. St. Paul also speaks of milk as the proper food of babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:2; comp: also Hebrews 5:12), though the thought is somewhat different; for St. Peter's words do not convey any reproof for want of progress. This spiritual milk is ἄδολον, pure, unadulterated (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 4:2). That ye may grow thereby; literally, therein, in the use of it. All the most ancient manuscripts add the words, "unto salvation." The soul which feeds upon the pure milk of the Word groweth continually unto salvation."

So essentially the NKJV is following this paraphrase implementing what the translators understood as the intent of the word in English, whereas the NET is following the literal translation of the word as far as we understand it. When the Greek was translated into Latin by Jerome in the 6th Century it seems likely he also followed this literal form, so this tradition does seem to occur rather early.

I haven't actually dug through old Vulgate editions to confirm this was original to Jerome though, so it's possible it did occur later. But either way we know its basis in the Greek, which is earlier.

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  • you said: “All the most ancient manuscripts add the words, "unto salvation."” Does that imply that “unto salvation” is most likely the Ausgangstext (initial text)?
    – Cork88
    Jun 17, 2022 at 1:28
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The only textual quibble in 1 Peter 2:2 is whether the word translated "crave" should be ἐπιποθήσατε or ἐπιποθέω; almost all GNT editions prefer the former.

The matter raised by the OP is essentially about how the following central clause should be translated:

τὸ λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα ἐπιποθήσατε = (very literally) crave the reasonable/metaphorical pure milk

Thus, the OP's question reduces to how the word λογικὸν should be translated. Here are the options presented by modern versions:

  • "spiritual" as per NIV, NLT, ESV, BSB, HCSB, CEV, etc
  • "reasonable" as per BLB
  • "of the word" as per KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, CSB, etc

"of the word" is a big stretch since λογικὸν is an accusative adjective meaning (BDB):

pertaining to being carefully thought through, thoughtful, eg, Rom 12:1, "thoughtful service" ... Most likely τὸ λογικὸν is to be taken in a related way pure spiritual milk; it is to be borne in mind that λογικός means spiritual not only in the sense of pneumaticos, but also in contrast to 'literal' with the meaning "metaphorical'.

Thus, the KJV and NKJV and similar "of the word" must be regarded as interpretive translations.

Ellicott is correct when he observes:

Of the word.—This translation of the original adjective cannot possibly be right. The only other place in the New Testament where it is used, Romans 12:1, will show clearly enough its meaning here. There it is rendered “your reasonable service”—i.e., not “the service which may be reasonably expected of you,” but “the ritual worship which is performed by the reason, not by the body.” So here, “the reasonable guileless milk” will mean “the guileless milk which is sucked in, not by the lips, but by the reason.”

The Cambridge commentary is similar:

the sincere milk of the word The English version tries to express the force of the original but has had recourse to a somewhat inadequate paraphrase. Literally, the words may be rendered as the rational (or intellectual) milk, the adjective having very nearly the force of “spiritual” in such passages as 1 Corinthians 10:3-4.

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  • So given you knowledge of the original Greek text, it’s likely that God wants us to acquire spiritual milk, but is it from the Word of God or something else like the Spirit’s work? Or prayer? James says we are to receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save our souls(James 1:21) and the scriptures make one wise for salvation in Christ (2 Tim 3:15).
    – Cork88
    Jun 17, 2022 at 1:20
  • 1
    @Cork88 - interesting you should choose to associate 2 Tim 3;15 - "making wise" - most appropriate since the literal meaning of 1 Peter 2:2 is "reasonable" milk.
    – Dottard
    Jun 17, 2022 at 3:25
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Logical Religion

Neither of the versions are proper. The word is logical, not spiritual:

λογικός (logikos) 'spiritual' (G3050) (Adjective Accusative Singular Neuter) spiritual, logical

Thayer:

λογικη, λογικόν (from λόγος reason) (Tim. Locr., Demosthenes, others), rational (Vulg. rationabilis); agreeable to reason, following reason, reasonable: λατρεία λογικη, the worship which is rendered by the reason or soul (`spiritual'), λογικη καί ἀναίμακτος προσφορά, of the offering which angels present to God, Test xii. Patr. (test. Levi § 3), p. 547, Fabric. edition; (cf. Athenagoras, suppl. pro Christ. § 13at the end)); τό λογικόν γάλα, the milk which nourishes the soul (see γάλα), λογικη τροφή, Eus. h. e. 4,23at the end).

The Berean version is accurate here: Berean Literal Bible 1Pet 2:2

like newborn babies, crave pure reasonable milk, so that by it you may grow up in respect to salvation,

The word "to salvation" is not there in the Textus Receptus, so never mind if you're comparing the old versions. I think it is misleading to translate reasonable as spiritual which is too vague and open, especially when the readers want literal translation, and not your commentary of the Greek. Paul appeals in Romans 12:1 to offer yourself as living sacrifice for God, which is your reasonable service or religion. τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· The logical religion.

Turning the adjective logical as "of the word" (of logos) is also strange. Its meaning would be "according to scripture or word of God", but that is not the word used here. All the general epistles including Peter's are written to condemn unreasonable unsound doctrine, that depart from the truth. On this I am reminded of how some religious leaders, such as the father of the Protestant sect vehemently preached that "reason is the devil's greatest whore", throughout his life.

See: [Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148]
[Martin Luther’s Last Sermon in Wittenberg … Second Sunday in Epiphany, 17 January 1546. Dr. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe. (Weimar: Herman Boehlaus Nachfolger, 1914), Band 51:126, Line 7ff]

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  • I have read your answer 2wice, so you are suggesting, since “to salvation” is also not in the text, it should then instead read: “like newborn babies, crave pure reasonable milk, so that by it you may grow up in respect” ?? I read your note on the The Berean version, but I seek clarity.
    – Cork88
    Jun 17, 2022 at 1:15
  • 1
    My translation view about "logical" isn't related to the textual variant.
    – Michael16
    Jun 17, 2022 at 2:04

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