When Did the Angels Come? (Mark 1:13) — Mondays with Mounce 339
Language is imprecise. It would be great if all of us said exactly what we meant, and meant exactly what we said, but that is neither human nature or the nature of language.
That’s why context is king. That’s why a “verse of the day” is the worst exegetical tool there is (sorry). In every class on Bible study methods (“hermeneutics”) that is taught, the central emphasis is context, reading verses in context. I heard a sermon the other day that illustrates the need for this emphasis, using the imperfect tense.
After Jesus’ baptism, in Mark, we read, “At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted (πειραζόμενος) by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended (διηκόνουν)…
Are All Translations Wrong? (The “Net” in Mark 1:16) — Mondays with Mounce 338
Rarely do I find a translation that makes no sense to me, and since this particular one is replicated in all the translations, I am assuming I am missing something, but I have no idea what it could be. Can you help?
Jesus has just announced his public ministry, and in Mark 1:16 Mark writes, “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net (ἀμφιβάλλοντας) into the lake, for they were fishermen (ἁλιεῖς)” (NIV).
ἀμφιβάλλω means “cast, a t.t. for the throwing out of the circular casting-net (δίκτυον)” (BDAG). A ἀμφίβληστρον is “a circular casting-net used in fishing, casting-net“ (BDAG). The fact that ἀμφιβάλλω is not followed by ἀμφίβληστρον suggests that ἀμφίβληστρον is implied and therefore unnecessary to state explicitly, and the…
What Benefit Do You Receive from Your Giving? (Philippians 4:17) — Mondays with Mounce 337
(You can watch this blog post on YouTube.) One of the fundamental lessons everyone who does word studies needs to understand is that words have a range of meaning. When students memorize Greek vocabulary, we have to give them the basic meaning (or meanings) of the word, but it is a mistake to think that the most common use of a word is somehow its “literal” meaning.
σάρχ does not mean “flesh”; it means many things. One of its “glosses” may be “flesh,” but the word means so much more than just “flesh.”
So whether you are in a church learning Greek for your Bible study, or a first year Greek student, at some point you will need to make the transition from glosses to a full definition of a word and understand how to use context to…
Greek Students Should Do Two Translations (Matthew 13:11) — Mondays with Mounce 336
(Note: you can watch this blog post on YouTube.) In first year Greek we historically do just one wooden, word-for-word translation. This way the teacher knows that the student knows the tense of the verb or case of the noun. The problem is that the students leave first year class thinking that word-for-word is acceptable English and is the most accurate translation method, neither of which is accurate.
Take Matthew 13:11 for example. “And (δὲ) answering he said to them (ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν), ‘because (ὅτι) to you it has been given (δέδοται) to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (οὐρανῶν), but to them it has not been given (δέδοται).’”
But translating δέ in this context is redundant. In v…
When Does “No” Become “Never”? (Mark 10:15) — Mondays with Mounce 335
It is often said that translators are traitors. They are traitors because they either over- or under-translate the meaning of the original text. Either they say too much in an attempt to convey the full meaning of the Greek, or they say too little and leave some of the meaning untranslated.
A typical example is the Greek construction of οὐ μή and the aorist subjunctive. It conveys an emphatic negation, not just “no” but “no no no” (as one of my children used to say when he was little). Of course, you can’t say “no no no” in translation, and we do not have a grammatical construction in English similar to οὐ μή plus aorist subjunctive. So are we to try and bring the emphatic nature of the negation into English, or do we leave it out?
A good example…
Why Do We Learn? — Mondays with Mounce 334
One of the advantages of formal equivalent translations is that they tend to maintain the distinction between dependent and independent constructions. Often the key to understanding an author’s flow of thought is the difference between an indicative or imperative and a participle. And yet sometimes functional equivalent translations maintain the distinction as well.
There is a cycle in Colossians 1:9–12 (NIV). Paul prays that God fill the Colossians “with the knowledge of his will” (πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ).
This is going to happen through the work of the Spirit (ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ). The purpose of this is expressed with an infinitive: “so that you may live a life (περιπατῆσαι) worthy of the Lord.” What it means to be “worthy” is spelled out with a prepositional phrase: “and please him in every way (εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρεσκείαν).”…
Who or What Is the “Old Man”? (Colossians 3:9) — Mondays with Mounce 333
Translation without interpretation is impossible. There may be verses where there is no question as to what the author meant, but there are thousands of verses where interpretive decisions must be made.
Paul tells the Colossians, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off (ἀπεκδυσάμενοι) the old self (τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον) with its (αὐτοῦ) practices” (ESV, also NASB, CSB, NET, NRSV).
1. “Seeing that” interprets the participle as causal. Paul is looking back at the conversion experience and saying that based on the realities of what happened at that point, therefore, in the present, they should not lie to one another. However, the participles could also be imperatival; the Colossians are to put off the remnants of their pre-conversion selves and not lie. I suspect the former is correct, but the point is that this calls…
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,…
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…