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 1:15).
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 “divided tongues.” And then later you have a single tongue over each person.
The problem is that you…
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 letter to the Colossian church. However, most people (if…
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…
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…
Who Did the Miracle? (Mark 6:41) – Mondays with Mounce 304
NOTE: you can also watch a screencast on this blog on YouTube.
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 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…