Mounce Archive 23 – Missing Verses

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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.

Mounce asks one of most baffling questions about the Bible in today’s post: why are some verses missing? Thankfully, as he concludes, our faith does not rest on any of these verses in question. In his sovereignty, God has directed the copying and translation of his Word.

You can read the entire post here.

My wife Robin came home from a Christian speakers conference yesterday and told me about a discussion they had. John 5 was the passage under discussion, and when they arrived at Read more

Is Paul’s apostolic call for God’s sake? (Rom 1:5) – Mondays with Mounce 283

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One of the difficult tasks in translation is how to order phrases. In English, we use proximity to connect ideas. Consider the NIV on Rom 1:5.

“Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.”

In English, “for his name’s sake” must modify “the obedience that comes from faith.” But in Greek, this is probably not the case. As you know, Greek’s phrases do not have to be next to the word they are modifying. Sometimes there are grammatical “hooks” such as a relative pronoun agreeing with its antecedent in gender and number. But other times the hooks are more subtle.

In his commentary, Doug Moo makes a good case for seeing χάριν καὶ ἀποστολήν…

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Common Sense to the Rescue (James 3:7) – Mondays with Mounce 282

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I came across an interesting Greek conundrum in small group tonight. James is talking about the tongue and its power to destroy.

He writes, “For every kind (πᾶσα φύσις) of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed (δαμάζεται) and has been tamed (δεδάμασται) by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue” (3:7-8a, ESV).

Part of the issue is that there is no Greek word or grammatical construction meaning “can” (contrary to the ESV, NRSV).

The NLT simply skips the entire construction; “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue.” In my…

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When is an Adjective not an Adjective? – Mondays with Mounce 281

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Wouldn’t it be nice if grammar rules were absolute? What if nouns were always nouns, adjectives were always adjectives and nothing else, and adverbs were adverbs and not particles? But that’s not the way it is with grammar in general. As I like to say, grammar is analog, not digital. There is rarely, if ever, a hard and fast rule that is always followed as if there were a digital on and off. Language is analog; it exists on a continuum.

A good example of this is the well-known admonition from Jesus to his disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give (δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.)” (Matt 10:8). δωρεάν is technically the accusative singular of the noun δωρεά meaning “that which is given or transferred freely by one pers. to another,…

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Are the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah currently being punished? (Jude 7) – Mondays with Mounce 280

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I was asked the other day about the present tense of “undergoing” in Jude 7. “What is the likelihood that Jude believes the inhabitants of Sodom are presently experiencing eternal fire (in Hades for example) — as opposed to having undergone the penalty when fire and brimstone came upon them?”

Jude writes, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve (πρόκεινται) as an example by undergoing (ὑπέχουσαιa) punishment of eternal fire” (ESV).

ὑπέχουσαι is present tense, so it might imply a present punishment. However, remember there is no absolute time significance outside the indicative, and this is a participle. So all the tense of ὑπέχουσαι says is…

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Hearing and Doing (James 1:23-24) – Mondays with Mounce 279

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Anyone involved in translation knows that it is almost impossible to hit the nail directly on the head, so to speak. We either say too little, not conveying all the information of the Greek, or we say a little too much, being too interpretive at conveying the full meaning of a sentence.

Add to that our ignorance of certain constructions, whether they be Greek or Semitic, and it is easy to see why translation is as much an art as it is a science.

I was looking at James 1:23–24 and his call to not only hear the word but to do the word. “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at (κατανοοῦντι) his face (τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως…

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Can the Future mean “Should” (Malachi 2:6) – Mondays with Mounce 278

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Malachi 2 contains a serious warning to the priests, and I would apply the warning to preachers today.

The priests refused to honor God’s name, and so God will rebuke their descendants. They should have followed Levi’s example, who revered God and “stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips” (vv 5-6).

What caught my attention was the use of “ought” in translating v 7. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge (יִשְׁמְרוּ), because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth” (NIV). יִשְׁמְרוּ is a Qal…

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What’s a Magi and are they “Wise” (Matt 2:1) – Mondays with Mounce 277

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We were singing Christmas hymns in church yesterday and I was reminded about words that are either unknown or misleading.

The lyrics to “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear” include, “For lo! the days are hastening on by prophet bards foretold.” What’s a “bard”? Wikipedia says, “In medieval Gaelic and British culture, a bard was a professional poet/story teller, employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate one or more of the patron’s ancestors and to praise the patron’s own activities.” I guess we have to give some poetic license, but I do struggle when we use words that the vast majority of people can’t know what they mean.

A more serious example, in this case a misleading word, is the word “Magi” (μάγοι) in

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Does the Order of Phrases Matter? (Rom 1:5) – Mondays with Mounce 276

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One of the harder things to do in translation is line up the phrases properly. Since English uses sequence and proximity, related phrases need to go together. Greek doesn’t care (as much).

Take for example Rom 1:5. Speaking of Jesus, Paul writes, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (ESV). The Greek is, δι᾿ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ.

The prepositional phrase translated “to bring about the obedience of faith” (εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως) is adjectival, modifying “grace and apostleship” (χάριν καὶ ἀποστολήν); it is the end result of God’s grace and his apostolic call.

“Among all the nations” (ἐν πᾶσιν…

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Did Jesus Lie? (John 7:8) – Mondays with Mounce 275

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One of the basic rules in textual criticism is to choose the “more difficult” reading. Another way to say this is to ask what reading would most likely give rise to the other reading, and to prefer the former.

In John 7:8, Jesus’ brothers are taunting him, telling him he should go to Jerusalem for the festival of Tabernacles. Jesus responds, “You go up to the festival yourselves; I am not going up to this festival (ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην), for my time has not yet fully come.”

The problem of course is that he does go to Jerusalem (v 10). So was Jesus being honest?

This is certainly what gave rise to the alternate…

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Love “for” the Father – Mondays with Mounce 274

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Is “of” clear enough?

Here is a simple illustration of a subjective/objective genitive distinction, and also an illustration of translation philosophy in action.

Remember: if a noun is a subjective genitive, it is doing the action implicit in the head noun. If it is an objective genitive, it is receiving the action.

John the Apostle says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father (ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς) is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Is πατρὸς doing the action in ἀγάπη or receiving it? Is the Father doing the loving, or is the Father receiving (our) love? There is little question contextually or theologically that it is objective, that it is our love for God.

But then the question is, do you make this explicit or…

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My Good Pleasure? – Mondays with Mounce 273

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Paul tells the Philippians that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work on behalf of his good pleasure (ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας)” (v 13).

My wife Robin came home the other day dumbfounded, having heard the lyrics of a song that says God is working for “your good pleasure.”

True, there is no explicit pronoun present, neither αὐτοῦ or σου, so where does the “his” come from? The τῆς. ὁ is way more than the definite article, and one of its other functions is to perform the work of a possessive.

But what kind of narcissistic theology would think that God works for our pleasure? My goodness, someone needs to take a class in theology or worship, or just read the Bible.

God works for his good pleasure – as every translation says…

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