A friend emailed me a question about a variant he found between the King James Version and the New International Version of 2 Corinthians 6:7. As there were no textual variants, the difference is purely interpretive. Never-the-less, I thought that it was an interesting discussion. Here was my reply to my friend:
This is a good verse for a word study, because as you found, there is quite a difference in translations. A literal translation of the Greek would look like this:
2 Corinthians 6:7
In truth of word, in power of God: through the weapon (hoplon) of the righteousness of the right (dexion) and the left (apisteron).
The term hoplon, which I agree with the NIV and translated as “weapon”, can refer to a weapon or a tool of some sort. Literally, dexion means “right” and apisteron means “left” but both carry military connotations. Dexion can refer to the weapon of attack that is held in the right hand and apisteron can refer to the defensive weapon that is held in the left hand.
Perhaps this is the idea where the KJV got the idea of armor, but that does not seem to work well. If you make the argument that a shield is a defensive weapon, you can perhaps make the argument that this is military language. I would argue that this is likely gladitorial language, where two weapons were common. Certainly in history, by the time Paul was writing this letter, Nero was happily throwing Christians into the ring with lions in Rome. I expect that the Corinthians would have had familiarity with the Roman games.
While I think that the KJV was a very good translation for its day, we have a better understanding of Koine Greek due to archeological evidence within the last century or so. And even though this variation in translation is not due to a variant reading of the text, there are also many more manuscript variants that we have found that help us to understand the context of the passage better.