Who doesn’t want to own a mansion?
How about a ten car garage? An Olympic-sized pool? A movie theater? From my childhood, I’ve heard about mansions prepared for me in heaven. Will I finally have that giant house of wonders? But wait a minute. What does the word “mansions” really mean in the Bible?
“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, King James Version
This is a very comforting verse, but let’s examine two important words.
“Oikia” The Greek word translated as “house.”
This word means “home” and makes sense with the Bible’s description of heaven. The word is generally defined to mean “place where someone lives” or a “place where everyone comes together.” This would be much like being with your family at the holidays; you may not be at your house but you are “home” because you are with family.
“Monai” The Greek word translated as “mansion.”
This is where the KJV gets into trouble. The word simply means “room.” Does this English sentence make sense?
“In my father’s house are many mansions.”
Do you normally have mansions within a house? Aren’t mansions bigger than houses? Would you build a “house” and then put a bunch of “mansions” in it?
It might make a little sense if it said, “In my father’s mansion are many houses.” At least the size difference could logically be understood, but even that sentence doesn’t really make sense.
Here is where the translation “mansion” came from.
The word “mansion” comes from the Latin word manere meaning “to remain.” Eventually manere became the word mansion. A mansion would be like a hostel, or a place where one could stay overnight comfortably.
This Latin word “mansion” eventually mixed with the Old French and became manor, used to describe a room within a large home. Finally, the idea of a “mansion” became what we understand as the manor itself – a vast home.
So “mansion” at the time the KJV was written over 400 years ago, never meant “mansion” as we understand it today.
The King James Version is certainly not wrong, it was translated accurately at the time using the word defining “a place where someone lives.” We’ve just developed a different understanding of the word over time.
“In my father’s house are many rooms…” is not only a better and more accurate translation today, but it also clarifies our understanding of heaven. We will never be separated into vast empty houses. Instead we will all live together, in our own “rooms” to be sure, but no longer alone.
Read the Bible more. Enjoy the tradition and romance of the language of the past, but be sure to also read it critically or you may never understand its true meaning or intent. Believe me, God’s Word can handle the scrutiny, and you may grow in Him with each new discovery.