Why do modern translations have John 14:2 say “In my Father’s house are many ROOMS” or “In My Father’s house are many DWELLING PLACES”? The King James Version says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” A mansion is very different from a room. Are the modern translations wrong, or is the King James Version wrong?
To start off, let’s compare the various English translations:
John 14:2 (KJV)
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:2 (NKJV)
2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:2 (ASV)
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:2 (NASB)
2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:2 (ESV)
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
John 14:2 (NIV)
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
The Greek word translated “mansions” (KJV, NKJV, ASV), “dwelling places” (NASB), and “rooms” (ESV, NIV) is mone. Mone is used only one other time in the New Testament, just a few verses away from John 14:2 in verse 23 when Jesus says that He and His Father will come to the person who loves Him and “make our abode with him.” According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, this Greek term literally means “a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode.” It has to do with where one lives or abides or stays. “Mansion” is not found in the definition, nor is there any hint that the “dwelling” or “abode” is in fact a palace. So why do some English versions have mone as “mansion” in John 14:2?
We define mansions today as palaces where the extremely wealthy live. Think of the Biltmore Mansion over in North Carolina, that huge house in Downton Abbey, or the home inherited by Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne which is called “Wayne Manor.”
Indeed, ask your average church member what they picture in their head when they sing the lyrics found in the two beloved hymns below. I guarantee you they’re not thinking of a “room” or a “dwelling place.” No, they’re thinking of something akin to Downton Abbey or Buckingham Palace, only even grander. That’s the implied message of the songs below:
I’m a-gonna trade my earthly home for a better one, bright and fair/Christ left to prepare a mansion for His children in the air/I’ll join Him in that land where tears nor sorrows can be found/And I’ll receive my mansion, robe, and crown/Lord I want a brand new mansion, robe, and a crown in glory/There love will always abound/Let me Your throne surround/And I’ll receive my mansion, robe, and crown. (“Mansion, Robe and Crown”)
I’m satisfied with just a cottage below/A little silver and a little gold/But in that city where the ransomed will shine/I want a gold one that’s silver lined/I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop/In that bright land where we’ll never grow old/And some day yonder we will never more wander/But walk on streets that are purest gold. (“Mansion Over The Hilltop”)
However, the concept behind the term mansion did not always have to do with huge houses lived in by extremely wealthy people.
The term mansion originally came from the Latin term mansionem, which meant “a staying, a remaining, night quarters, station.” Mansionem came from the Latin term manere, which means “remain” or “stay.” The French got their Old French term mansio (which means “place where someone stays”) from Latin’s mansionem. During the Middle Ages, English people who spoke Middle English used the term mansion to refer to a room where one stays. In fact, the majority of the time they used the term mansion, they were referring to a temporary room in which one stays while traveling. In other words, a hotel room or an apartment.
Thus, it’s understandable why those who put together the King James Version in the early 1600’s looked at the Greek term mone (which has to do with where one stays, one’s abode, one’s dwelling place) in John 14:2 and translate it as “mansions.” To them, “mansions” did not mean a huge house for the wealthy and privileged. It meant what mone means, a place where one stays, a room one stays in while traveling. When they see Jesus saying that within His Father’s house are many mone (places where one dwells), the word they tended to use to refer to one’s quarters or room would naturally come to mind: “mansion.”
And because mone has to do with one’s dwelling place, it also makes sense that those who put together the more modern translations like the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, and the New International Version would choose terms like “dwelling places” or “rooms” to describe the mone (where one stays or abides, one’s abode) that Jesus said were within His Father’s house.