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.”
If you think about it, this is simply not true. Is everything that is corruptible going to be made incorruptible when this world is destroyed and we inherit the new heavens and new earth? I hope not.…
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…
Is Celibacy the “Right” Thing? (1 Cor 7:37)
Does καλῶς mean “right” or “well”? This is one of those situations where I would think we hear things differently.
Paul has been arguing for celibacy, the gift that no high school or college student wants. His basic argument is that it is better to remain celibate so as to be able to focus on ministry, but it is only right for those with the spiritual ability to do so. (And all students sigh a sigh of relief.)
Within that context Paul says, “However, the man who stands firm in his resolve is under no compulsion but has control over his desire, and has determined this in his heart to keep her as his virgin, he will do well” (v 37).
The problem surfaces in the NIV 1984, which says,…
When is Greek Grammar Bad English Grammar? (1 Cor 9:6) – Mondays with Mounce 270
This blog can be placed in the category of the inconsistencies of formal equivalent translations, which try to keep Greek word order if possible. But what if the word order isn’t really incorrect grammar, but poor style?
Paul writes, “Or is it only I and Barnabas (ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς) who have no right to refrain from working?” Do you see the problem? Paul writes, “I and Barnabas,” but English style requires “Barnabas and I.”
The Many Faces of γάρ (1 Cor 14:23) – Mondays with Mounce 269
We all know that a word has a range of meanings. In fact, I am not sure there is a word that only means one precise thing. And while a word may have a dominant meaning, that doesn’t preclude it having secondary meanings that are sometimes used. After all, what’s the point of a secondary meaning that is never used?
We also know that Greek wants to start sentences with a conjunction that indicates the relationship of the second sentence to the first.
For example, δέ can mean “and” or “but.” It can also be translated by a period. After all, with the way English works, if you have two sentences in the same paragraph, we naturally read the second sentence as being in relationship to the first.
Take γάρ. Its dominant meaning is “therefore.” BDAG gives this as its…
Idioms and Context (1 Cor 2:7) – Mondays with Mounce 268
Idioms are notoriously difficult to translate. When they occur in isolation, they are a little easier since you can just find an English expression that carries the same meaning. But when they fit into the context of the passage, they are more difficult.
To most English readers, “before the ages” is meaningless. What ages? The Ice age? Which one?
To someone who understands the linear nature of the Jewish concept of time, it is…
Should You Practice Your Sermons? (1 Cor 1:17) – Mondays with Mounce 266
Paul tells the Corinthians, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom (οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου), lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17; see the NJB, “wise words”).
The problem with this translation is that it would mean no pastor should speak with eloquence. I guess that means all pastors can speak wisdom but they can’t sound fluent or persuasive. And it means the two days I used to spend practicing my sermons were an unbiblical waste of time.
The NIV (2011) has, “not with wisdom and eloquence,” a poor change from the 1984, “not with words of human wisdom,” which makes…
“If” or “Since” We Stand Firm (1 Thessalonians 3:8) – Mondays with Mounce 264
In a first class conditional sentence, the protasis is assumed true for the sake of the argument. In other words, if the protasis is true, then the apodosis must follow. So Paul says, “If you live according to the flesh, you will certainly die” (Rom 8:13).
Where first class conditional sentences get a little tricky is when the “if” injects an element of uncertainty where none is intended. The tendency of some is to translate εἰ as “since” in these situations. “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matt 12:28). Jesus most certainly was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, and so some prefer “Since I cast out ….” Wallace…
Let’s Play “Fill in the Blanks” (1 Timothy 4:3) – Mondays with Mounce 263
Paul can hardly be accused of mincing his words. He is an apostle, knows the truth, and says it clearly and unapologetically. Sometimes he uses sentences that are so long we struggle a bit to follow his discussion, but the Greek often has clues that help.
In describing the false teachers, Paul says that “some” people (τινες) will depart from the faith, and then follows with a series of participles that tie the argument together. When the NIV and NET start a new sentence at 3, and the NLT starts a new paragraph, they break the flow of thought and…
Do all things really work for good? (Romans 8:28) – Mondays with Mounce 262
The reason these are poor translations is because they make it appear that “all things” mystically make everything that happens good.
Part of this is just common sense, after you have stripped away the religiosity and shallowness of the church’s stereotypical response. Don’t get me wrong; I believe our sovereign God is all good all the time, but it is just nonsensical to say that every evil thing that happens is good, regardless of how you massage…