Mounce Archive 19 - Relying on Headers
Everyone needs a break once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from his weekly column on biblical Greek until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some classic, popular posts from the “Mondays with Mounce” archive for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.
Quite often, we put too much faith in the headings translators have added to our Bibles. As Mounce explains in this post, a quick glance at the header can shape the way we read the passage. He calls us to read the Word carefully.
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Usually adjectives used substantivally (i.e., as nouns) are pretty easy to figure out. Between the meaning of the adjective and the context of the passage, the translator can figure out how to treat the word. But every once in a while things can confuse the picture, and one of those things are headings in modern Bibles.
The most notorious heading is the one before Eph 5:22 and I have already blogged on that, but another bothersome heading is the one at 1 Cor 12:1. The NIV has “Concerning Spiritual Gifts” and then starts with, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.” “Spiritual gifts” is a translation of the adjective πνευματικῶν, a masculine or neuter plural adjective from πνευματικός, meaning “spiritual.” But spiritual what?
By the time you get to verse 4, you can see Paul is speaking about Spiritual gifts, but nothing in vv 1-3 is necessarily about gifts. But because Bibles put a heading before v 1, the assumption by many is that the entire chapter is about the gifts of the Spirit. “After all,” many would respond, “the Bible says, ‘Concerning Spiritual Gifts.’”
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.
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