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The Subtleties of Word Order (2 John 3) - Mondays with Mounce 295

Categories Mondays with Mounce

This is a little thing, but it shows how subtleties can be lost in translation. In the salutation of 2 John, word for word we read, “will be with us (ἔσται μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν) grace mercy peace (χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη) from God the Father (παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς) and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father (καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς) in truth and in love (ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ).

The Greek reads, ἔσται μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ.

The word order makes it clear that “grace mercy peace” not only “will be with us” but also that it is from God. That is why it is placed between the triad and the verbal phrase. The problem is that in English you can’t keep the same word order, and once you shift phrases around you lose connections.

For example, the ESV reads, “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love” (see also the NASB, HCSB, NET). No doubt you can figure out that “from God …” refers to the triad of grace, mercy, peace, but the intervening “will be with us” makes it a little difficult to see.

The NIV keeps the phrases closer, and the comma reconnects the verbal phrase with the triad. “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”

The NLT actually makes the connections the best, I think. “Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.”

There is no perfect way to connect the two phrases to the triad, and you can see how some of the translations struggle to help us see the connection. But in the end, there is no better solution than to know the Greek, at least know a little Greek.

If you don’t mind a slight ad — that is why I wrote the Greek for the Rest of Us textbook, video series, and companion books. One of the advantages of learning just a little Greek is that you can work through an interlinear and learn from the word order.

All translation involves a slight loss in meaning, so let’s get behind the English to God’s words, however you want to do it.

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Greek for the Rest of UsOrder your copy of Greek for the Rest of Us today at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book.

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