When Bibles Do, and Don’t, Follow the Greek. A Couple Examples. – Mondays with Mounce 320
Paul tells the Colossians church, “My goal is that their hearts may be encouraged (ἵνα παρακληθῶσιν αἱ καρδίαι αὐτῶν) and knit together in love (συμβιβασθέντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ), so that (καὶ εἰς) they may have all the wealth of full assurance of understanding, for knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ (εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ)” (2:2).
There are a couple things worth noting. The first is the value of keeping dependent clauses dependent. The text doesn’t say “encouraged and knit together.” παρακληθῶσιν is the main verb in the purpose clause, and συμβιβασθέντες is a dependent construction (adverbial participle) telling us something about how they are encouraged. Paul is not saying that he wants the Colossians to be encouraged and to be knit together. He is saying he wants them…
Wives “Submit” or “Respect”? Ephesians 5:22, 33 – Mondays with Mounce 318
I hesitate to open this particular Pandora’s box, and my intent is not so much to deal with the issue of submission as much as it is to give a potential example of semantic range.
It always confused me when Paul switches from “wives submit (ὑποτασσόμενοι, from v 21)” to “wives respect (φοβῆται).” Are they meant to be the same thing, or is one an explanation of the other?
Yesterday in church I saw in the CSB a potential answer, or at least part of the answer. I am used to the translation “however” for πλήν. “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (ESV, also NIV,…
Elect Exiles or Elect According to God’s Foreknowledge? (1 Pet 1:1) – Mondays with Mounce 317
One of the challenges in translation has to do with the nature of phrases. In English, we need to keep phrases closer to the words they modify. If we use an adverbial prepositional phrase, it has to be relatively close to the verb. If it is adjectival, it needs to be close to the noun.
In Greek, we don’t. The Greek mind creates linkages that can span much larger spaces, and the phrases can be quite far away (by English standards).
Another challenge of phrases is that if you just translate word for word you will often mistranslate because it puts ideas together that the Greek author never intended to be close. Take for example 1 Peter 1:1–2a. The phrases go in this order.
(v 1) Peter — Πέτρος an apostle…
What Is Our Assurance That We Are God’s Children? (1 John 3:19-20) – Mondays with Mounce 316
1 John gives us three ways that we can know we are God’s children.
The first is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. “And the one who keeps his commandments resides in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he abides in us: by the Spirit whom he has given to us.” (3:24). A second is grounded in the nature of God and our true belief in him. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (5:1, see also 4:2). The third is the fact that…
Is Everyone in your Church Going to Heaven? – Mondays with Mounce 315
One of the challenges of the letter to Ephesians is to understand how Paul could write a letter to a church where he had ministered for three and a half years, and yet in the letter it appears that he does not know the people to whom he is writing.
This explains the issues surrounding the inclusion of ἐν Ἐφέσῳ in 1:1 and the suggestion that the epistle is really a circular letter. But it does raise an interesting question about the translation of εἴ γε in 3:2 and 4:21.
“For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— you…
What Is a “Divided Tongue” (Acts 2:3) – Mondays with Mounce 313
If you were raised in the church with a biblical pastor, you might have some idea what a “divided tongue” is, but possibly not. My guess is that the most natural understanding is that you have multiple tongues (of fire), and each one is split into different parts (i.e., “cloven”), but one tongue. But then you get to the second half of the verse and you realize that this fire is going over each person present, possibly 120 people (Acts 2:3).
As you compare the translations, it can get even more confusing. The NRSV says, “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” As I said, I am not sure how people would understand…
Did the Laodicean Church Write a Letter? (Col 4:16) – Mondays with Mounce 312
Paul writes, “After this letter has been read to you (καὶ ὅταν ἀναγνωσθῇ παρ᾿ ὑμῖν ἡ ἐπιστολή), see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans (ποιήσατε ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ Λαοδικέων ἐκκλησίᾳ ἀναγνωσθῇ) and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea (καὶ τὴν ἐκ Λαοδικείας ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀναγνῶτε)” (Col 4:16; NIV).
This verse gives us a nice example of ellipsis; ἐπιστολή is not repeated but assumed in the final clause. τὴν modifies the unexpressed ἐπιστολήν.
It gives us another example as well of how we often write in short-hand and expect the reader to understand the missing parts. If you just read the final phrase, who wrote the second letter? The NIV’s “the letter from Laodicea” sounds like the church in Laodicea wrote a…
Translating All the Words of Scripture (Matt 24:34) – Mondays with Mounce 311
I know this is a difficult and controversial verse, and I don’t think I have anything new to add to the discussion — how’s that for garnering excitement to read the rest of the post? But there are a couple things that are interesting.
Jesus has been discussing the destruction of the temple and his second return. In vv 34-35 he says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away (οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ) until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (οὐ μὴ παρέλθωσιν)” (ESV).
First of all, most translations give up at trying to translate the emphatic οὐ μὴ plus aorist subjunctive, and I understand why. It is hard to do without over-translating or messing with…
Who is Jesus? (John 8:24) – Mondays with Mounce 310
Jesus says, “This is why I said to you that you would die in your sins, for if you do not believe that I am he (ἐγώ εἰμι), you will die in your sins.” This is one of the more interesting conundrums I have seen in a while.
Where does the “he” come from? More importantly, who is “he.” The “I” is Jesus, but who is the “he” Jesus is referring to? Does this really make any sense? Almost all translations say “I am he,” but that doesn’t make it right.
The reason this is an interesting conundrum is because there are several things at work. We all know of the use of ἐγώ εἰμι to make reference to God’s name in Exodus 3:15 (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה, Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν). Jesus says, “I tell you the solemn truth, before…
The Myth of Literal Translation (2 Thessalonians 2:3) — Mondays with Mounce 309
I know I have been beating this drum pretty hard recently, but it is so easy. I keep coming across example that clearly illustrate the problem.
The claim is that a translation can be at least somewhat literal, and that by doing so the translator reduces the amount of interpretation (often true) and the informed reader can see the Greek structure behind the English.
Frankly, the “informed” reader should be reading Greek if he or she is able to learn anything of significance from the English structure. But more importantly, I doubt there is even one verse in the English Bible that actually, clearly, reveals the Greek structure underlying it. The languages are just too different.
I am helping my friend Martin read Greek, and we looked at 2 Thessalonians 2 last Wednesday. In the ESV v 2 reads, “Let…
How Can You “Answer” When There is No Question? (Matt 14:28) – Mondays with Mounce 308
(Note: you can also watch this blog post on my YouTube channel. )
Translation is a trade-off. Often you will find different key policies in conflict with one another.
One policy may be that you keep concordance, so you try to translate a Greek word with the same English word. Another policy may be that the translation actually makes sense and does not confuse the reader.
Those two policies come into conflict in Matt 14:28. The gloss for ἀποκρίνομαι is “I answer,” and so the more formal equivalent translations try to use that translation whenever possible. But in English, “to answer” means that someone actually asked a question. Right?
In this story, Jesus is walking on the water toward the disciples. When they see him, they are fearful and Jesus responds, “Take courage, it is I! Do not…
Can the Singular “Man” Refer to Mankind in General? — Mondays with Mounce 306
I am working through the definitions of the vocabulary in my textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek, and got to wondering about ἄνθρωπος. I am trying to lay out the vocabulary in a way that doesn’t mash all the different meanings of a word into one long definition but recognizes the categories of meaning most words enjoy.
I was surprised when I went to BDAG. It has nine categories of meaning, but the main two are:
Definition 1. “a person of either sex, w. focus on participation in the human race, a human being.” Glosses such as “person” (plural: “people”) and “human (being)” (plural: “humanity”) work well here.
Definition 3. “a male person, man.
To be sure, ἄνθρωπος in both the singular and the plural can refer to a human being(s) without reference to gender. That’s not the question. The question…