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 reverse interlinear approach that sees the purpose of…
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…
Wives “Submit” or “Respect”? Ephesians 5:22, 33 – Mondays with Mounce 318
I hesitate to open this particular Pandora’s box, and my intent is not so much to deal with the issue of submission as much as it is to give a potential example of semantic range.
It always confused me when Paul switches from “wives submit (ὑποτασσόμενοι, from v 21)” to “wives respect (φοβῆται).” Are they meant to be the same thing, or is one an explanation of the other?
Yesterday in church I saw in the CSB a potential answer, or at least part of the answer. I am used to the translation “however” for πλήν. “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (ESV, also NIV,…
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…