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…
Do We Rejoice in the Midst of Pain, or Run from It? (Phil 2:18) – Mondays with Mounce 314
Having established that God is at work in his children, giving them godly desires and the ability to accomplish those desires (Philippians 2:12–13), Paul then draws out one way those desires manifest themselves. “Do all things without grumbling or arguing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe.” (2:14–15)
As an aside, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this actually characterized the church? No negative words. No senseless debate. We would actually shine into the darkness of this world. And isn’t it interesting that if we could stop grumbling and arguing, then we will be “ blameless and innocent”? (And please…
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…
“For what is exalted among people is an abomination before God” (Luke 16:15) – Mondays with Mounce
Note: you can watch the blog on my YouTube channel.
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…