What is an “Accurate” translation? – Mondays with Mounce 294
A friend asked me this question the other day, and I thought I would take this opportunity to flesh out what I think the answer is.
The standard answer is that a “literal” Bible is the most accurate, and by “literal” they generally mean word-for-word. If the Greek has a verb, the English should have a verb. If the text uses the same Greek three times, the same English word should be used three times.
This understanding is seriously flawed at two levels.
First, the English word “literal” has to do with meaning, not form. Webster gives these three definitions of “literal.”
Involving the ordinary or usual meaning of a word Giving the meaning of each individual word Completely true and accurate: not exaggerated
Meaning 1 and 3 are purely about meaning.…
Whose Wrath? (Romans 5:9) — Mondays with Mounce 293
No matter how word-for-word a translation tries to be, there will always be some confusing sentence that requires interpretation. Sometimes, the more word-for-word translations just leave it confusing, but other times even the NASB and ESV (for example) feel the need to interpret.
Rom 5:9 says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (NASB). The italics show that “of God” is not in the Greek, which reads, σωθησόμεθα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς.
The ESV simply says “the wrath of God” and footnotes 1 Thess 1:10 and 2:16, referencing also Romans 1:18. Cranfield adds the reference to 1 Thess 5:9.
HCSB and KJV simply say, “from wrath.” Others say “God’s wrath” (NIV, NRSV), and the NET adds the footnote, “Grk, “the wrath,” referring to God’s wrath…
Donald Miller and the Aorist (Mark 8:34) – Mondays with Mounce 292
Thankfully, the days are long gone when we think that an aorist verb automatically describes a punctiliar action. No more describing the aorist as the bat hitting the ball (although the error is still present in some older commentaries).
I was reading Miller’s latest book, Scary Close, and it reminded me of a verse that illustrates the aorist.
What is discipleship? What is it to be a Christian (since all Christians must be disciples)? Jesus tells us in Mark 8:34. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself (ἀπαρνησάσθω), take up (ἀράτω) his cross and follow (ἀκολουθείτω) me.”
The aorist ἀπαρνησάσθω may suggest that the denial is a once-off event, as might the aorist ἀράτω. In this case, both words would be referring to conversion.
However, in the parallel passage…
“A Teacher” or “The Teacher”? (John 3:10) – Mondays with Mounce 291
What a difference an article can make! This is an example of one of those subtle uses of the article that can often be missed, and is also an example of why we need to do our exegesis and translation looking at the bigger picture.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, either because that is when rabbis study, or because he did not want others to know. In the case of the latter, it would give us the best example in the NT of the genitive of kind of time; Nicodemus came as one who comes in the night (νυκτὸς).
He addresses Jesus with some politeness in v 2: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God.” Note the anarthrous διδάσκαλος;…
The Power of a “So” (John 13:4) – Mondays with Mounce 290
It is a well-known fact that Greek sentences tend to be longer than English, and therefore a translator will regularly turn a long Greek sentence into two of more English sentences.
The problem with this is that often the connection between the two English sentences will lose some meaning. In other words, the Greek will convey meaning that the English does not.
I came across a great example of this today in the NIV of John 13:4. This is the beginning of the Upper Room Discourse. V 4 reads, “so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.”…
Is the Bible an Ancient Book? – Mondays with Mounce 289
This is one of the more interesting questions that is answered in each translation’s “Philosophy of Translation.”
For example, the NLT reads like a modern book. It is so interpretive that many of the cultural expressions are lost; but that is its approach, and as long as the reader understands this, it is fine.
The ESV on the other hand wants to be in the translation stream of the KJV, and in most places reads like an ancient book. Just count the percentage of the occurrences of “shall” and “will” in the Old Testament vs. the New Testament and you will see what I mean.
When Verse References Get in the Way (Luke 24:33–34) – Mondays with Mounce 288
When the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem, the Eleven and the other disciples told the two that Jesus had indeed risen and that he had appeared to Peter. But our translations aren’t that clear.
Here is the passage. “33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, where they found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has indeed been raised and has appeared to Simon!” The relevant Greek is, ἠθροισμένους τοὺς ἕνδεκα καὶ τοὺς σὺν αὐτοῖς λέγοντας ὅτι ὄντως ἠγέρθη ὁ κύριος.
The problem is three-fold. (1) The twice repeated subject is the two, not the Eleven. “They” got up and “they” found the Eleven, so it is natural to think that “they” are “saying.”…
Two Unusual Translations (Romans 5:6)
Paul wants to stress that the “utter dependability of our hope” (Rom 5:5a) is based not on the power of human love (v 7) but on God’s love as demonstrated by his death for sinners (vv 6, 8).
In v 6 Paul writes, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Ἔτι γὰρ Χριστὸς ὄντων ἡμῶν ἀσθενῶν ἔτι κατὰ καιρὸν ὑπὲρ ἀσεβῶν ἀπέθανεν). There are a couple of interesting points to be made about the Greek.
First, γάρ is introducing not just v 6 but vv 6-8 (see Moo). If we used the simplistic gloss “for,” as do most translations, it makes the connection between paragraphs a little harder to parse. How does Christ’s death for sinners relate to our hope stemming from our justification? But when you see the γάρ introducing all…
Lots of Noise in Heaven (δεῖ; Luke 15:32) – Mondays with Mounce 287
I was reading Luke 15 this morning and concluded that heaven is a “happening place.” Celebration. Shouting. Rejoicing.
Luke 15 is the primary biblical passage for the joy God feels when someone repents. But not only God but also the angels. This is the happy side of the spiritual realities in which we live. True, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). But there is more than struggle in the spiritual realm. There is joy.
Just like the joy of finding a…
Nuances of Lost Meaning (James 1:6) – Mondays with Mounce 286
I just came home from Houston where we were recording Bruce Waltke’s class on Psalms for BiblicalTraining.org. We didn’t quite finish so I will be traveling to his house in a month or so to finish, so the class should be ready in a couple months. It will be a good companion class to his on Proverbs. But sorry I missed the blog last week.
I was looking at the NIV of James 1:6, and while the point I want to make may seemed nuanced, perhaps even picky, I think it becomes an issue when this same situation is repeated hundreds of times throughout the Bible.
James sets the stage with the preceding verse: “If any…
Was Apollos Lazy? (1 Cor 16:12) – Mondays with Mounce 285
The Corinthian church is well-known for its factions. Among others, some identified themselves with Apollos and others with Paul (1 Cor 1:12).
This makes Paul’s admonition in 16:12 quite interesting. “Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him (πολλὰ παρεκάλεσα) to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now (πάντως οὐκ ἦν θέλημα ἵνα νῦν ἔλθῃ), but he will go when he has the opportunity (ὅταν εὐκαιρήσῃ)” (NIV).
πολλὰ could be adverbial, meaning that Paul urged him repeatedly, but contextually it is more likely that πολλὰ carries the idea of “strongly” (as per most translations).
In response, Apollos strongly (πάντως) resisted Paul’s request. The usual explanation is that Apollos did not want…
Mounce Archive 27 – The Semi-Colon
Bill Mounce is traveling this month and is taking a break from his weekly column on biblical Greek until April. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some classic, popular posts from the “Mondays with Mounce” archive for your Greek-studying pleasure.
You can read the entire post here.
In a world of dwindling sentence length and complex sentence structures, the semi-colon has fallen on hard times. It is too bad. It has the ability to stop the reader ever so slightly, and indicate that while there is…