At What Point Does Interpretation Run Counter to Biblical Intention?
This morning in church the pastor read Acts 27 out of the NLT, and I was bothered. I understand that the NLT’s policy is to make the text readable and understandable, and I applaud the desire. I read the NLT often, not so much to know what the biblical writers say but what the NLT committee understand what the writers meant. And since all translation involves interpretation, I am okay with this.
But I am disturbed by the NLT’s translation of Acts 27. Some examples:
V 1. “And when it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they delivered…
Do you feel like a “glorious inheritance”? (Eph 1:18) – Mondays with Mounce 260
In the words of Iron Man, “It’s good to be back.” I had a good session with the CBT on the NIV, except that a good friend dropped dead at 42 years of age and I left early to do the funeral. Good break this summer, fantastic board meeting for BiblicalTraining.org topped off with a trip to the Bahamas. Now it is back to work.
I have been reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. It is an exceptionally good book and I encourage all of you to read it. This part caught my eye on the flight back yesterday. “The wildest part is that Jesus doesn’t have to love us. His being is utterly complete and perfect, apart from humanity. Yet He wants us, chooses us, even considers us His inheritance (Eph. 1:18).…
Bill Mounce on Learning Biblical Greek Online
We recently sat down with Bill Mounce to discuss learning biblical Greek online. Here’s what he said:
Part of being successful in any task is starting the task with the end in mind.
So it is a really good question to ask, “What will you be able to do when you are done with this class?”
Like most first year language classes, what we are doing is giving you building blocks.
What you will have are all the building blocks necessary to get into exegesis, to get into the sermon preparation, to really be able to study the New Testament. Building blocks—that is what this class is about.
How to study the original languages
The best way to begin your study of the biblical languages is by signing up for the Biblical Languages Certificate Program.
In this program,…
Is κυριος Nominative or Vocative? – Mondays with Mounce 259
Someone pointed out the other day that the only time Jesus is directly addressed in the nominative κυριος as opposed to the vocative κυριε is in Thomas’ declaration, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28, ο κυριος μου και ο θεος μου). Is there any significance?
On the one hand, the nominative can be used to function as the vocative, so there is no necessary significance. And yet it is interesting that this is the only example of κυριος being used this way of Jesus. In every other case (as far as I can tell) it is κυριε.
I wouldn’t have thought much about this distinction except that it is such an important passage. It is one of clearest statements of the divinity of Christ, and although our Christology does not depend…
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…