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…
What is the “Literal” Meaning of ἄγγελος? (James 2:25) – Mondays with Mounce 296
In James 2:25 we read, “Was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she took in the spies (ἀγγέλους) and sent them out by another way?”
BDAG defines ἄγγελος as referring to both humans and divine powers.
a human messenger serving as an envoy, an envoy, one who is sent a transcendent power who carries out various missions or tasks, messenger, angel
Where, Oh Where Did the Antecedent Go? (Phil 1:19) – Mondays with Mounce 295
Usually it is no big deal to find an antecedent. Start looking for a word with the same number and gender as the pronoun. Every once in a while, however, the antecedent can be a little elusive.
In Phil 1, Paul explains how his imprisonment and all that has happened to him (τὰ κατ᾿ ἐμὲ) has served to advance the gospel throughout the Palace Guard, which in turn has emboldened the Philippian Christians (1:12–15). He then includes a short caveat, explaining that different people have different motives, but at the end of the day he concludes ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω (1:16–18a).
Paul then shifts tenses from the…
English Style and Loss of Meaning (1 Peter 5:6–7) – Mondays with Mounce 294
Alistair Begg preached a sermon the other day on Truth for Life about 1 Peter 5:6–7. “Humble yourselves (ταπεινώθητε), therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast (ἐπιρίψαντες) all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).
His question was on the relationship between ταπεινώθητε and ἐπιρίψαντες. In the Greek, as well as the more formal equivalent translations, the answer is obvious. ἐπιρίψαντες is an adverbial participle explaining something about ταπεινώθητε; part of humbling yourself is to cast your anxiety on God. A proud person thinks that they can handle life and wants to stay in control; the humble person realizes that they can trust God to handle the anxious issues of life. So the ESV writes, “Humble yourselves…
What’s the Point? (James 1:18) – Mondays with Mounce 293
One of the things I am sensitive to is the difference between an indicative and a non-indicative form. English style often blurs the distinction, but for Greek students it can be important to feel the difference. Often, the difference is one of nuance, but a difference nonetheless.
Look at James 1:18 in the English and tell me what is the main point?
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…
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