Are Metaphors Inspired? – Mondays with Mounce 292
I have been thinking a lot about some of the general issues of translation, and one of the points that keeps coming up is the issue of metaphors. I would like your opinion.
Are metaphors inspired?
I am asking if the inspired authors chose to use a metaphor to convey meaning, are we required to use a metaphor?
There are, of course, metaphors that make no sense in a target language. We have no choice with those and must interpret the metaphor. Consider the story of the prodigal son. When the father saw his prodigal son returning, he ran and “fell on his neck” (KJV, Luke 15:20). While that is a word for word translation, it certainly is not what the text means. Even the NASB, the most formal equivalent translation…
Nobody Talks Like That! (Ps 102:12) – Mondays with Mounce 291
You know you have been talking too much about translation when your spouse throws your own words back in your face. Robin was reading Ps 102:12 the other day. “But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations” (NIV).
“Renown,” she laughed, what’s renown? And then she quoted my common response: “That’s not English; nobody talks like that.”
Now Robin knows precisely what “renown” means. “The condition of being known or talked about by many people; fame.” But would we use a word like that? Probably not; “fame” would be the normal way of saying it.
The Case of the Missing Object (Matt 5:25) – Mondays with Mounce 290
I was reading in Matt 5 this morning and came across v 22. “Everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment (κρίσει). Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court (συνεδρίῳ). Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire (τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός).”
The progression of the three punishments has always been a difficult exegetical decision.…
Doesn’t ἀντί Always Mean “Instead of”? (Heb 12:2) – Mondays with Mounce 289
I came across a really strange use of ἀντί the other day. It serves as a good example of semantic range.
Speaking of Jesus, Heb 12:2 says, “For (ἀντί) the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The most common meaning of ἀντί, by far, is the idea of replacement. BDAG’s first two definitions are: (1) “indicating that one person or thing is, or is to be, replaced by another, instead of, in place of”; (2) “indicating that one thing is equiv. to another, for, as, in place of.”
This would give a strange interpretation of verse 2.…
Ambiguous and Meaningless (John 3:21) – Mondays with Mounce 288
Sometimes Greek can really be frustrating, especially when it is succinct. Here is a good example: John 3:21 reads, “But the one who does the truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be clearly seen (φανερωθῇ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα), that (ὅτι) they have been done (ἐστιν εἰργασμένα) in God (ἐν θεῷ).”
Most of the translation is pretty straight forward except for the final phrase. If ἐν is given its normal meaning of sphere, it doesn’t make any sense. If ἐν is instrumental, then you have the awkward idea that the person does the truth, but actually they were done by God.
As always, it is fun to check out the translations.
“what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (NIV) “that his works have…
There Is Always a Reason (John 2:1) – Mondays with Mounce 287
We just completed another week of work on the NIV in Cambridge, and I was again reminded that there is always a reason. No matter how unusual a translation of a certain verse may appear, there is always a reason. Like Jason Bourne, nothing is random.
A good example is John 2:1 in the NLT. “The next day (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ) there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee.” Someone might respond, how would you ever get “next” from τρίτῃ? But before you pronounce the NLT translators as incompetent — which they are not — repeat after me: “There…
Is the ESV Literal and the NIV Gender Neutral? – Mondays with Mounce 286
This blog is purely on translation and not directly on Greek, but I have been thinking about this a lot lately so thought I would share it.
Most people say there are two translation camps, formal equivalent and functional equivalent (or dynamic equivalent). The longer I am in translation work, the more I see how simplistic this division is.
There actually are five methods on translation with three sub-categories for the handling of gender language. Translations are all on a continuum, overlapping one another, and hence it is misleading to picture them as different points on a line. I am guessing, but for example, about eighty percent of the ESV and the
When οὔν Doesn’t Mean “Therefore” (John 11:6) – Mondays with Mounce 285
One of the better known conundrums in NT exegesis is Jesus’ response to hearing about Lazarus. “Now Jesus loved (ἠγάπα) Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So (οὖν) when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” Jesus loved them, and “therefore” stayed longer (i.e., so Lazarus would die).
Some kind of love, or is it?
I find the NLT’s solution the least acceptable. “So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed…” It is impossible to get the concessive “although” out of the Greek (ἠγάπα). The NLT is moving out of translation into commentary.
A better solution is to spend some time in…
Translating Every Word (Matt 10:4) – Mondays with Mounce 284
When it comes to particles and conjunctions especially, it can be difficult to translate every single one. Sometimes the best translation is punctuation, and other times it feels like the word is superfluous and should just be dropped in order to write in proper English.
But extreme caution is urged in the case of the latter. There is a reason for every word, even if we don’t understand why it is used.
In Matthew 10 we find the list of the disciples. In v 4 we read, “Simon the Cananaean (Σίμων ὁ Καναναῖος), and Judas Iscariot (καὶ Ἰούδας ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης), who betrayed him (ὁ καὶ παραδοὺς αὐτόν).” ὁ … παραδοὺς αὐτόν is straightforward Greek, a phrase modifying Ἰούδας. But why is καὶ…
Aktionsart and Ask, Seek, Knock (Matt 7:7-8) – Mondays with Mounce 283
In first year Greek, we teachers need to make a bigger deal of Aktionsart. Meaning isn’t conveyed just by the meaning of the word, or its tense, or its aspect. Language gives us many tools to nuance what we want to say, and our students need to know that meaning can also help convey aspect.
For example, Matthew 5:2. “And he opened his mouth and taught (ἐδίδασκεν) them” (ESV, also NRSV). ἐδίδασκεν is imperfective, but the ESV thinks that the meaning of “to teach” is sufficiently continuous that the verb doesn’t need to be expressly continuous. Most translations treat it as an inceptive imperfect: “he began to teach” (
When Not to Say “Hello” (2 John 10) – Mondays with Mounce 282
How do you treat people who disagree with you theologically?
There has been a lot of dissension in the church over this question. My computer’s dictionary describes “dissension” as a “disagreement that leads to discord,” and this may be part of the key. There is a type of disagreement that does not produce discord, disagreement over which friends can agree to disagree. That’s just healthy discussion.
Then of course there are those who think that any minor disagreement is worthy of a church battle, church discipline, and a church split. The words of Paul to Titus apply to them. “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them” (3:10 NIV).
But what about those in the middle? “If anyone comes…
What Is a “Just” Man? (Matt 1:19) – Mondays with Mounce 281
I came across another example of how word-for-word translations aren’t always translations, assuming that a translation is meant to convey meaning.
Joseph was a δίκαιος man, and as such wanted to divorce Mary quietly. But think about it; depending on your understanding of “just,” this may not make any sense. Would a person characterized as “just” ignore what appeared to be the fact that Mary had been sexually active during their engagement? (Again, we know she wasn’t, but for all appearances, she was.) A man of “grace” might not want to shame her, but a “just” man? Wouldn’t a “just” man have her stoned, which is the penalty under Jewish law?
The ESV writes, “and her husband Joseph, being a just man…