Do You Ever Leave a Translation Meaningless? (Hebrews 13:3) – Mondays with Mounce 331
I am reading a paper this week at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. It is entitled, “Do formal equivalent translations reflect a higher view of plenary, verbal inspiration?” Because of my research, I am particularly sensitive to the claims of formal and functional equivalent translations and the relationship between words and meaning.
Hebrews 13:3 provides an interesting test case. The ESV (see also the NASB) writes, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body (ὡς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὄντες ἐν σώματι).”
“In the body”? What does that mean? In the church, the body of Christ? This is a good example of when a slavish following of the Greek produces meaninglessness. The CSB has, “as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.” See also,…
When Is Then, Then? (Matthew 27:38) – Mondays with Mounce 330
The longer I work in Greek, the more curious I am about conjunctions, and the more I am concerned about how we teach glosses.
Take τότε for example. BDAG give two meanings using the gloss “then.” It can mean “at that time,” which conveys no idea of sequence. It can also mean “then” in the sense of “that which follows in time.” The problem of course is that if you translate with the simple gloss “then,” we hear it as sequential.
Coupled with this is how English hears a series of events. Even without conjunctions, we default to hearing them as sequential. This happened, then that happened.
The sequencing of events around Jesus’ trial illustrates the issue. There is a series of events introduced with τότε, with καί, and with aorist and present participles. I can’t do it here, but…
Jesus’ Possible Play on Judas’ Words – Mondays with Mounce 329
When Jesus says that one of the disciples will betray him, Judas responds, μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι (Matt 26:25). μήτι shows that he expected to answer “no,” and since μήτι is more emphatic than μή (see BDAG), I would argue that translations must include the expected response.
Most do, usually with “surely.” “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” (NIV, also CSB, NET).
Unfortunately, the ESV and surprisingly the NLT undertranslate at this point. “Is it I, Rabbi?” (ESV). ““Rabbi, am I the one?” (NLT). Judas was not only a traitor; he was also a liar. The translation should bring that out.
Jesus responds, σὺ εἶπας. I find myself wondering about his answer. Translations do something like, “You have said so” (NIV, ESV). I find myself wondering if Jesus isn’t saying something a little more specific, even if the other disciples would…
What Does This Prepositional Phrase Modify? (Acts 14:1) – Mondays with Mounce 327
Prepositional phrases are generally adverbial, but certainly not always. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what they modify.
Take Acts 14:1 for example. Paul and Barnabas have just been run out of Pisidian Antioch and have entered Iconium. The NIV reads, “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual (κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ) into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.”
The Greek is, ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν Ἰκονίῳ κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ εἰσελθεῖν ⸀αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν τῶν Ἰουδαίων. So what does κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ modify?
I thought the NIV was pretty straightforward. “According to the same” is adverbial, the point being that it was their custom to first go to the synagogue…
Did the Disciples Have Any Faith in Jesus? (Mark 4:38) – Mondays with Mounce 326
I have had a great summer off from my daily routines and have been busy on some major writing projects. They will be announced at this year’s ETS annual meeting (2018). You’ll like them.
But during the summer, Robin (my wife) and I were listening to some sermons from an excellent preacher. I want to emphasize that he is really good. But even really good exegetical preachers can make mistakes, and his mistake, as subtle as it was, should serve as a reminder that we should always check the Greek before we preach.
I have no doubt that this preacher knows the Greek rule I am going to share with you, but I don’t think he checked the Greek this time.
Jesus is out on the sea with his disciples, the storm comes up, and the disciples wake up Jesus…
Lots of Little Things (John 21:1-14) – Mondays with Mounce 325
There are lots of little things in this section that make translating fun. If you are in class, make an experiment. Have everyone do their own translation on this section and compare notes.
21:5. Jesus calls out to them, παιδία, a word describing “a child, normally below the age of puberty.” It can also be used to describe someone “who is treasured in the way a parent treasures a child” (BDAG). Translations try words like “friends,” “children,” and “fellows,” none of which work in this historical situation. I wonder how a bunch of grown fishermen first responded when a stranger yelled out over the water, “Hey you prepubescent kids.” Sounds almost like The Goonies.
21:6. Jesus then tells them to throw their…
When You Read the Greek, Are You Reading the Original? – Mondays with Mounce 324
This question can be answered several ways, but this morning I am not interested in the issue of the faithfulness of the manuscript tradition to the original autographs. I am interested in the faithfulness of our modern Greek texts to the ancient Greek manuscripts we have.
I was proofreading a statement I made in my textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek. In 8.13 I say, “The ν in the third singular ἐστίν is a movable nu, but ἐστί occurs only once in the New Testament (Acts 18:10).”
This statement is true for NA27 (the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland text) and UBS4, but in NA28/UBS5 it isn’t true because the modern editors have standardized spellings. There are other examples of this, but ἐστί illustrates my point.
Why do this? Have the…
What Makes a Translation Accurate? (Phil 2:13) – Mondays with Mounce 234
I saw a chart the other day that mapped out how “accurate” different translations are. Unfortunately, based on the translations that were deemed “accurate,” you could see that the author had a defective view of what “accurate” means.
The old adage is that you measure what you value. If you value the replication of words, then the most formal equivalent translations will win.
I am only somewhat amused at the marketing of the Bible that champions what they call “optimal equivalence,” and surprise, surprise, they are the most optimally equivalent translation. The problem with their marketing is that I know the programmer who did the math, and his work is based on a
Does John 3:16 Say “Whoever”? – Mondays with Mounce 323
I have received several questions about the use of “whoever” in the translation of John 3:16, so I thought it would be good to clarify at least one thing.
Correct, the indefinite relative pronoun ὅστις does not occur in John 3:16, but language is not so monolithic that there is only one way to say something. In fact, whenever a commentary argues that if the author had meant to say one thing, he would have said it “this way,” you should be suspicious. That’s a naïve approach to language.
However, we do have an indefinite construction in John 3:16 with the use of πᾶς and an articular imperfective participle (πᾶς ἡ πιστευών) used to indicate a generic, “general utterance” (see Wallace, 615f.). Just do a search for that construction and you…
Aorists and Imperfects (John 3:22) – Mondays with Mounce 322
Greek scholarship is doing a better job these days at reading larger units of text and looking for more macro patterns rather than just looking at individual words or phrases.
One of the patterns that has emerged in reading historical narrative material is that the aorist is the default tense, used to begin the narrative. Then, the imperfect is inserted in appropriate places to move the story along. This means that there is something explicitly significant about the tense change, and that emphasis should (I think) be explicit in translations.
“After this, Jesus and his disciples went (ἦλθεν) to the Judean countryside, where he spent (διέτριβεν) time with them and baptized (ἐβάπτιζεν)” (CSB, see also NIV). The narrative begins with an aorist and is followed by two…
The Curse of Paragraphs (John 1:7) – Mondays with Mounce 321
One of the functions of the article ὁ is anaphoric. It points back to a previous reference. A simple but clear example is in John 1:7.
John introduces the topic of Jesus being light in v 4. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (NIV). It occurs again in vv 5 and 7–9. The problem is that most translations start a new paragraph at v 6 when John is introduced. Thankfully, there generally is not a heading here, just a new paragraph.
Here is the problem. In this…
When Bibles Do, and Don’t, Follow the Greek. A Couple Examples. – Mondays with Mounce 320
Paul tells the Colossians church, “My goal is that their hearts may be encouraged (ἵνα παρακληθῶσιν αἱ καρδίαι αὐτῶν) and knit together in love (συμβιβασθέντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ), so that (καὶ εἰς) they may have all the wealth of full assurance of understanding, for knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ (εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ θεοῦ, Χριστοῦ)” (2:2).
There are a couple things worth noting. The first is the value of keeping dependent clauses dependent. The text doesn’t say “encouraged and knit together.” παρακληθῶσιν is the main verb in the purpose clause, and συμβιβασθέντες is a dependent construction (adverbial participle) telling us something about how they are encouraged. Paul is not saying that he wants the Colossians to be encouraged and to be knit together. He is saying he wants them…