Are Ants People? (Mondays with Mounce Archive)
Poetry can be exceptionally difficult to translate. It often conveys meaning more with pictures than with individual words, the words working together to create images more powerful than words.
Metaphors are only slightly easier, but here there is even less context and so the meaning of the metaphor is easily loss.
Four things on earth are small
but they are exceedingly wise:
the ants are a people not strong,
yet they provide their food in the summer;
the rock badgers are a people not…
Ellipsis’ Ugly Head (John 12:7) —Mondays with Mounce 254
We don’t talk much about ellipsis in first year Greek, but it is a grammatical fact that occurs more than you might think.
An ellipsis is when words are left out, and the assumption is that the context is sufficient to fill in the gaps. It especially happens in the second of two parallel thoughts, words from the first assumed in the second.
But John 12:7 gives us a good example of ellipsis when there is no parallel. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, Judas objects, and Jesus responds, “Leave her alone…. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (NIV). ἄφες αὐτήν, ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ μου τηρήσῃ αὐτό. In other words, the words “It…
Does the Order of Phrases Matter? (Rom 1:5) – Mondays with Mounce 276
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…
Mounce Archive 29 — Money Bags (Luke 10:4; 12:33; 22:35, 36)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t carry a purse. Call me old fashioned, but I wouldn’t even carry my wife’s purse unless I grab the straps in a way that makes it clear the purse isn’t mine. And unlike some of my friends, I don’t carry a “man-bag.”
The other problem with “moneybag” is that the similar “moneybags” is used pejoratively for a wealthy person.
The problem is that there really isn’t a word in English for this. The ESV has…
What’s a Janus? (1 John 3:19) – Mondays with Mounce
Every once in a while we come across a phrase that can either look back to the previous or forward to the next. Sometimes the phrase or verse is truly a Janus, looking both directions. But other times it only goes one way or another.
Bruce Waltke introduced me to the expression “Janus.” It refers to a mythical god with two heads, one looking forward and the other looking back. Wikipedia comments, “In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.”
A common example is 1 Timothy 4:11. “Command and teach these things.” “These things” could be the previous instructions to avoid…
The Subtleties of Word Order (2 John 3) – Mondays with Mounce 295
This is a little thing, but it shows how subtleties can be lost in translation. In the salutation of 2 John, word for word we read, “will be with us (ἔσται μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν) grace mercy peace (χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη) from God the Father (παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς) and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father (καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς) in truth and in love (ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ).
The Greek reads, ἔσται μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ.
The word order makes it clear that “grace mercy peace” not only “will be with us” but also that it is from God. That is why it is placed between the triad…
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.”…
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…