“For what is exalted among people is an abomination before God” (Luke 16:15) – Mondays with Mounce
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Before I get into the Greek, I think it is helpful for us to stop and ask ourselves if we really believe this. Think about the things that we value, to which we aspire, what we respect in other people, what we secretly long for. How many of these things are actually “detestable” (NASB), an “abomination” (ESV), “revolting” (CSB) in God’s eyes? I suspect the list is rather long.
The Greek of this verse is pretty simple, but it does illustrate several points.
“What is exalted among men (τὸ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ὑψηλὸν)” shows the use of the article (τό) to turn…
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
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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,…
We All Hear Words Differently (Gal 2:10) – Mondays with Mounce 300
The longer I translate, the more I realize how subtle language is, and how different people hear the same word or phrase differently.
In Galatians 2, Paul is talking about his relationship with the Jerusalem church and their agreement with his theology. His conclusion is in v 10. “All they asked was that we should continue to remember (μνημονεύωμεν) the poor, the very thing I had been eager (ἐσπούδασα) to do all along” (NIV).
μνημονεύωμεν is a present subjunctive, which the NIV makes explicit with the “continue.” The NLT has, “keep on helping the poor.” Other translations have the simple, “They asked only that we would…
When does “Immediately” Not Mean “Immediately” (Gal 1:16)? – Mondays with Mounce 299
BDAG gives the only meaning of εὐθέως as “at once, immediately.” In our passage it describes Paul’s resolve to not confirm his divine call with the leaders of the Jerusalem chuch.
“But when God, who had set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, εὐθέως I did not consult with flesh and blood” (1:15–16). How would you translate εὐθέως?
The Line between Translation and Commentary – Mondays with Mounce 298
Every once in a while you read a verse that obviously cannot mean what it says. Whether you are working with a formal or a functional equivalent translation, both are going to just translate the words and leave the exegesis up to the reader (and the commentaries). But if you are reading a natural language translation like the NLT, they will often try to help the reader. A couple examples.
The Tongue, Evil, and Defilement (James 3:6) – Mondays with Mounce 297
There are several things going on in James 3:6. Two of the more interesting are the placement of γλῶσσα and whether καθίσταται is a middle or passive.
“And the tongue is a fire (ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ)! The tongue is a world of iniquity (ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας ἡ γλῶσσα) set among our members (καθίσταται ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν ); it defiles the whole body (ἡ σπιλοῦσα ὅλον τὸ σῶμα), sets on fire the course of our life (καὶ φλογίζουσα τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως), and is set on fire by hell (καὶ φλογιζομένη ὑπὸ τῆς γεέννης).”
If the second γλῶσσα goes with the preceding, it means “The tongue is a (or “the”) world of iniquity, and this means that the subject of καθίσταται is drawn from its personal ending.
If γλῶσσα goes…
What is the “Literal” Meaning of ἄγγελος? (James 2:25) – Mondays with Mounce 296
In James 2:25 we read, “Was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she took in the spies (ἀγγέλους) and sent them out by another way?”
BDAG defines ἄγγελος as referring to both humans and divine powers.
a human messenger serving as an envoy, an envoy, one who is sent a transcendent power who carries out various missions or tasks, messenger, angel