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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,,,,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under .

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,.

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

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,.

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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One Word Can Make All the Difference – Mondays with Mounce 272

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,,,.

I came across a couple interesting verses. My comments are not so much about grammar as they are about translation, but thought it would be fun to look at the LXX a little.

In Job 1:3 we read, “He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants (וַעֲבֻדָּה רַבָּה מְאֹד, ὑπηρεσία πολλὴ σφόδρα)” (NIV). In neither the Greek nor the LXX is there a word for “had” in the final clause. Can you tell why the NIV added it in (as does the NLT)?

Part of the answer lies in the meaning of עֲבֹדָה, which can refer to slave labor or to non-slave…

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Can you have a “twice Sabbath” (Luke 18:12)? – Mondays with Mounce 271

Bill Mounce on 1 year ago. Tagged under ,,.

This phrase in Luke gives us a great example of how words have bundles of meanings, and you have to move beyond the one or two word glosses in your first year Greek grammar.

In Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the arrogant Pharisee parades his accomplishments in his prayer: “I fast twice a week (νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου).” δίς is an adverb meaning “twice,” and in this verse σαββάτου is singular.

A related idiom is the more common, “the first day of the week” (Τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, Luke 24:1; cf. Matt 28:1;

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