Aktionsart and Ask, Seek, Knock (Matt 7:7-8) – Mondays with Mounce 283
In first year Greek, we teachers need to make a bigger deal of Aktionsart. Meaning isn’t conveyed just by the meaning of the word, or its tense, or its aspect. Language gives us many tools to nuance what we want to say, and our students need to know that meaning can also help convey aspect.
For example, Matthew 5:2. “And he opened his mouth and taught (ἐδίδασκεν) them” (ESV, also NRSV). ἐδίδασκεν is imperfective, but the ESV thinks that the meaning of “to teach” is sufficiently continuous that the verb doesn’t need to be expressly continuous. Most translations treat it as an inceptive imperfect: “he began to teach” (
When Not to Say “Hello” (2 John 10) – Mondays with Mounce 282
How do you treat people who disagree with you theologically?
There has been a lot of dissension in the church over this question. My computer’s dictionary describes “dissension” as a “disagreement that leads to discord,” and this may be part of the key. There is a type of disagreement that does not produce discord, disagreement over which friends can agree to disagree. That’s just healthy discussion.
Then of course there are those who think that any minor disagreement is worthy of a church battle, church discipline, and a church split. The words of Paul to Titus apply to them. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them” (3:10 NIV).
But what about those in the middle? “If anyone comes…
What Is a “Just” Man? (Matt 1:19) – Mondays with Mounce 281
I came across another example of how word-for-word translations aren’t always translations, assuming that a translation is meant to convey meaning.
Joseph was a δίκαιος man, and as such wanted to divorce Mary quietly. But think about it; depending on your understanding of “just,” this may not make any sense. Would a person characterized as “just” ignore what appeared to be the fact that Mary had been sexually active during their engagement? (Again, we know she wasn’t, but for all appearances, she was.) A man of “grace” might not want to shame her, but a “just” man? Wouldn’t a “just” man have her stoned, which is the penalty under Jewish law?
The ESV writes, “and her husband Joseph, being a just man…
That Pesky γάρ (Rom 5:6) – Mondays with Mounce 280
By now we should all recognize that γάρ means much more than “for,” and yet so often I hear people complaining that translators don’t always translate γάρ.
Someday we will get away from the simplistic attitude that the connecting tissue in Greek corresponds to words in English. Because of how English views words in sequence, and because of our use of punctuation and paragraphing, we can often convey the meaning of γάρ without using an English word.
BDAG gives these three basic meanings for γάρ.
1. marker of cause or reason, for 2. marker of clarification, for, you see 3. marker of inference, certainly, by all means, so, then
But our passage is even more complicated than this. Paul has gone through his list of the benefits of true peace within the context of suffering, concluding that “hope does not…
When Word-for-Word Is Ambiguous (John 9:7) – Mondays with Mounce 279
I have been sensitive lately to finding passages in which a word-for-word translation is not clear but is ambiguous and perhaps even misleading. I am finding lots of examples.
The one that jumped out to me this morning is John 9:7. Jesus tells the man born blind, “‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam [τὴν κολυμβήθραν τοῦ Σιλωάμ]’ (which means Sent [ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται ἀπεσταλμένος]).” The ESV here is traditional and is reflected in the CSB (the new edition of the HCSB), NET, NRSV, and KJV.
So why then does the…
Clarity or Ambiguity? (John 1:13) – Mondays with Mounce 278
This is another way of asking the age old question, do you err on the side of word-for-word translation or on the side of meaning? Do you want clarity of meaning, or do you want to stay closer to the Greek and be less meaningful and more ambiguous?
You can’t have it both ways. Period.
Look at John 1:13. My interlinear reads that children of God “were born (ἐγεννήθησαν), not from human stock or from a physical impulse (οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς) or by a husband’s decision (οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ), but by God.” But even that is moving toward clarity.
If you really want transparency to the Greek and to be as little interpretive as possible, you would write, “who were born not out of bloods nor out of…
What Is Worse? Removing from Scripture or Adding to Scripture? (Matt 18:11) – Mondays with Mounce 277
I was asked why all modern translations “omit” Matt 18:11. “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (KJV). The form of the question betrays the basic problem, that people think modern translations omit verses rather than other translations add verses.
There are probably two reasons for this assumption. One is that the verse is in the KJV. The second is that in modern translations the verse number is skipped.
The first Bible to have verse numbers was the Geneva Bible (1557). Verse numbers allowed readers to cross-reference passages (see Wikipedia). This was 54 years before the KJV; but like the KJV, the Read more
If Only We Knew What μόνον Means (2 Thess 2:7) – Mondays with Mounce 276
I don’t know what kind of mood Paul was in when he wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians, but it is remarkable how many grammatical incongruities there are.
Read, for example, 2 Thess 2:7. Paul writes, τὸ γὰρ μυστήριον ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται τῆς ἀνομίας· μόνον ὁ κατέχων ἄρτι ἕως ἐκ μέσου γένηται. He has just said that something (τὸ κατέχον) — and will later say someone (ὁ κατέχων) — is restraining the coming of the antichrist. However, despite this restraint, the mystery of lawlessness (τὸ μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας) is already at work (ἤδη ἐνεργεῖται), a mystery that will some day (ἐν τῷ ἑαυτοῦ καιρῷ) give way to the obvious truth…
The Ambiguity of Substantival Adjectives (1 Cor 15:53-54) – Mondays with Mounce 275
When an adjective is used as a noun, it is usually clear what it is referring to. But every once in a while the ambiguity is unclear.
Take, for example, 1 Cor 15:53. “For this corruptible (φθαρτὸν τοῦτο) must be clothed with incorruptibility (ἀφθαρσίαν), and this mortal (θνητὸν τοῦτο) must be clothed with immortality (ἀθανασίαν)” (HCSB, see also NIV, NASB). φθαρτός, ή, όν is an adjective meaning “subject to decay/destruction” (BDAG), hence perishable. The TEV moves the statement fully into the theoretical.” For what is mortal must be changed into what is immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die.”
The Challenges of Apposition (Acts 3:20) – Mondays with Mounce 274
Apposition is when you want to use a substantive to qualify another substantive. One way to do this is by putting the second substantive in the same case as the first.
In Acts 3, Peter calls for repentance so that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the one appointed for you, Christ Jesus (τὸν προκεχειρισμένον ὑμῖν χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν).”
What does τόν modify? If it goes with χριστὸν (NAS8 uses lower case), then we have the construction, article (τόν) – modifier (προκεχειρισμένον ὑμῖν ) – noun (χριστόν), and Ἰησοῦν is in apposition to χριστόν. The Christ (Messiah) who was appointed is in fact Jesus.
It is also technically possible that τὸν προκεχειρισμένον is…
Is “He is Risen” Passive? (Matt 28:6) – Mondays with Mounce 273
The other day in class we translated what Herod said about John. “This is John the Baptist; he has risen (ἠγέρθη) from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him” (Matt 14:2; NASB). ἠγέρθη is an aorist passive and a student asked why the NASB didn’t translate it as a passive.
This becomes a more important question when we realize that passives are used of Jesus being raised from the dead. “He is not here, for He has risen (ἠγέρθη), just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying” (Matt 28:6). The NIV also uses “he has risen,” which is transitive but I am not…
More on Aktionsart and How Words Convey Meaning – Mondays with Mounce 272
I have been thinking more these days about how words convey meaning. The challenge in any first year Greek class is to create a solid, accurate base of learning, simplified enough so students don’t get discouraged, but not so simple that they have to relearn their grammar in second year.
One area where this is especially sensitive is in translating verbal tenses. Teachers are divided in choosing the perfective or imperfective aspect as the default translation of the present tense. However, since Greek has the two past tenses that are clearly imperfective (imperfect) and perfective (aorist), we are generally pretty strict at always translating the imperfect as continuous and the aorist as undefined. Makes sense.
But what I am considering is that perhaps we need to be more nuanced even in first year Greek. Aktionsart describes all the factors that…