Mounce Archive 7 — Mounce Needs Help: Why is Ἰάκωβος James and not Jacob?
Everyone needs a sabbatical once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from Koinonia blog until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some of our favorite and most popular posts for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.
Almost two years ago one of Bill Mounce's students asked this real riddle of a question that sparked one of the more engaging discussions we've had here on "Monday with Mounce." Mounce admitted he hadn’t thought about it before and hesitated to answer without resources, but he provided some thoughts anyway and asked for help.
The discussion relates to a shift from “Jacob” to “James” in New Testament translation, where the Greek is clearly Ἰάκωβος. For instance, Matthew 4:21 states, "Καὶ προβὰς ἐκεῖθεν εἶδεν ἄλλους δύο ἀδελφούς, Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ." Yet it is translated, "Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John." (NIV)
So, why the shift? Read the excerpt below and then follow the link for the fuller explanation. If you have any more light to shed on the discussion, please share!
One of my students asked this rather fundamental question last week. Good question, and I hadn’t thought about it before, and I need your help to answer it.
BDAG says that the name Ἰακώβ (יַעֲקֹב) is “the un-Grecized form of the OT, is reserved for formal writing, and esp. for the patriarch. It is also spelled Ἰακούβ.
The Greek lexical form Ἰάκωβος, with an alternate spelling Ἰάκουβος, is the Hellenized form of Ἰακώβ.
The normal English translation is “Jacob”; “James” does not appear in the OT (of the ESV). “Jacob” occurs in the NT 26x, always of the patriarch except for the two references to Jesus’ paternal grandfather (Matt 1:15f.).
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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