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 1:15).
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 “divided tongues.” And then later you have a single tongue over each person.
The problem is that you…
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 letter to the Colossian church. However, most people (if…
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…
Should We Capitalize Divine Pronouns? — Mondays with Mounce 305
There seem to be at least four reasons why not.
1. The originals did not mark divine pronouns. Hebrew letters are all the same height (אבגד), and the original Greek manuscripts would have been all capitals (ΑΒΓΔ), or what is called majuscules (uncials are a form of majuscules). Capitalizing what we believe to be divine pronouns adds an extra layer of interpretation on the translation, something…
Who Did the Miracle? (Mark 6:41) – Mondays with Mounce 304
NOTE: you can also watch a screencast on this blog on YouTube.
I am a bit hesitant to make the point below since I can’t find a commentary that agrees, but I also can’t explain the imperfect any other way.
When Jesus fed the 5,000 men (Mark 6:35–44), where did the actual miracle take place? In Jesus’ hands or in the hands of the disciples? Did Jesus keep handing out the bread every time a disciple came back to get more, or did it multiply in the hands of the disciples? If it is the latter, I have often imagined what it must have felt like to feel the bread multiply in their own hands. Must have been weird.
When I read some of the translations, there is nothing to…
Is There an Evangelical Bias in Translation (Mark 5:23) – Mondays with Mounce 303
Sometimes we translators are accused of having an evangelical bias, of altering the translation of a passage to make the New Testament not contradict itself, or artificially conforming a New Testament citation to its Old Testament source.
It is an interesting charge, and is somewhat based on the assumption that the New Testament contradicts itself or that the New Testament authors were not able to quote their Old Testament accurately.
Mark 5:23 provides a good example of the former. This is the famous crux when it comes to inerrancy. Was Jarius’ daughter dead, or almost dead, when her father was speaking with Jesus?
The NASB translates, “My little daughter is at the point of death” (also ESV, NRSV); the NET has, “My…
Translating the Word but Missing the Context (Mark 5:4) – Mondays with Mounce 302
“This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot (διὰ τὸ αὐτὸν πολλάκις πέδαις καὶ ἁλύσεσιν δεδέσθαι), but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet (καὶ διεσπάσθαι ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ τὰς ἁλύσεις καὶ τὰς πέδας συντετρῖφθαι). No one was strong enough to subdue him” (NIV).
Notice that διὰ goes with three accusatives, each with its own infinitive.
αὐτὸν … δεδέσθαι διεσπάσθαι … ἁλύσεις…
When καί Is a Comma, and Deceptive Marketing (Mark 3:16–19) – Mondays with Mounce 301
One of the differences between Greek and English style is in expressing a series. When English translations mimic Greek style, they are writing poor English style, or miscommunicating altogether.
Greek tends to say conjunction + item + conjunction + item + conjunction + final item. English says item + comma + item + comma (if you use the Oxford comma) + conjunction + final item. Take, for example, the listing of the 12 apostles. The NASB goes very much word for word.
“And [καί] He appointed the twelve: [καί] Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and [καί] James, the son of Zebedee, and [καί] John the brother of James ( [καί] to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”); and [καί] Andrew, and [καί] Philip,…