I just got back from a week of teaching the Pastorals at the Carolina School of Divinity. In going through the Pastorals again I was reminded how difficult some Greek can be to exegete. The interpretation of some passages just ends up being 50/50, and 2 Tim 1:12 is one of them.
In my commentary I translated it, “I am not ashamed, for I know in whom I have trusted and I am fully convinced that he is able to guard my deposit (δυνατός ἐστιν τὴν παραθήκην μου φυλάξαι) until that day.”
I was asked about the subjunctive in John 3:16. The concern was that the NIV/NLT reads “shall,” which makes it a promise of salvation. His contention is that the subjunctive makes it a “condition of salvation” and it should be translated as “may,” and the Greek grammar does not “allow” the translation “shall.”
First of all, let’s have a little humility. To say that two major translations mistranslate a famous verse, choosing a translation that the Greek does not “allow,” is quite a claim.
I am beginning to think that the imperfect is perhaps one of the more subtle tenses, and one whose full significance is most often overlooked.
Sunday school last week was on Mark 8:14-21. Jesus just finished the Feeding of the 4,000, and as they are traveling across the lake he says, “’Be careful,’ Jesus warned (διεστέλλετο) them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod’” (NIV; cf. also NLT).
I had a great time at Lifeway a few days ago, and as I was leaving they handed me an HCSB study Bible. Pretty impressive, especially in its use of color. Not sure I like their lack of formatting on poetry, but time will tell. Anyway, I thought I would use it for my daily devotions for a while; it is fun to develop a better feel for the translation.
In talking about his ecstatic experience, Paul says that this “man” (i.e., himself most likely) “was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable (ἄρρητα) words that a person may (ἐξὸν) not utter.
There are two ambiguities in this verse. (1) ἄρρητος can mean “that cannot be expressed, since it is beyond human powers, inexpressible” (BDAG), or “of someth. that must not be expressed, since it is holy, not to be spoken” (BDAG). It is a NT hapax
This is not a big deal, but the NIV struck me as a little strange here. Jesus cries out, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani." The soldiers think he is calling for Elijah, and one of them offers Jesus some wine vinegar. The others respond, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
Every once in a while we find a Greek word or expression that simply cannot come into English. We want to translate every word, but in some cases, no matter what you choose, you create the wrong impression of what was being said.“Woman” is one of those words.
I was reading through the Parable of Sower and noticed something strange. It isn’t a big think, but isn't it nice when Greek slows you down and you start to notice God’s words?
The parable starts with the emphasis on what was sown. “And as he sowed, some seeds (ἃ) fell along the path” (Matt 13:4). “Seeds” is assumed from the relative pronoun. The antecedent is not explicit, but it is implicit from the infinitive (ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν).
Here is a great example of the ambiguity of personal endings. In Mark 13:29 Jesus says, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near (ἐγγύς ἐστιν), at the very gates ” (ESV).
Any first year Greek student knows that ἐστιν is third singular, and that the personal ending does not designate gender. So what is the subject of the verb?
I was teaching on the end of Mark 1 a couple weeks ago in Sunday School, and I hadn't read the text as carefully as I should have. I was using the NIV; because I am more familiar with this story in the ESV, I wasn't ready for the surprise.
So lesson #1: prepare for Sunday School by reading the entire passage in the Bible version from which you are teaching.
Every once in a while I am asked a question that surprises me because it alerts me to an exegetical option I have never thought of or read. (I am surprised quite often.)
The question is whether James 5:14 could be speaking of a person who is weary in their Christian walk (struggling, flagging in faith or courage); when this depressed person calls for the elders, their prayer will most assuredly help restore him to spiritual health and dedication to the Lord.
One of the greatest exegetical conundrums for me is this final phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. My assumption is that when asked how to pray, Jesus would have given an answer that was understandable. But then again, I am not Jesus.
As we all know, Jesus starts by orienting us to God, his immanence and transcendence. “Our Father in heaven.”
I have always said there is always a reason for any one specific translation. For all the versions out there, and all the different verses, there always seems to be a specific reason why the translators did what they did in every verse; there are no random translations.
I was reading through Mark 5 this weekend in preparation for Sunday school, and it was interesting to watch the prepositions. It illustrates how you have to watch context carefully in choosing just the right translation. I will be using the NIV to illustrate.
One of the strange literary characteristics of the gospel of Mark is the apparently inordinate use of εὐθύς. It is an adverb I memorized as meaning “immediately.”
It occurs 59 times in the NT, 41 being in Mark, 11 of them in chapter 1. The explanation I have always heard is that Mark was written for the Roman church, and part of the Roman psyche is an admiration for being a person of action. So Jesus does this, and then immediately rushes off to do that. It is exhausting just reading Mark 1.
First class conditional sentences are formed with a protasis (the “if” clause) with εἰ and the indicative (any tense). Their basic meaning is to say that if such-and-such is true (and we will accept the truth of the protasis for the sake of the argument), then such-and-such will occur.
I am back from Asia, safe and sound. I discovered, among many things, that the native language has four tones, and the differentiation in tones is as significant to them as a change in consonants would be to us. I was trying to say “Thank you” and almost no one recognized my feeble attempt. But when I changed the tone just a tad, their eyes lit up.
It is kind of like slurring the end of a German word. It doesn’t mean much in English since most of the meaning is front-loaded in English, but for German it is significant how a word ends.
Working in the gospel of Mark, I am impressed once again with the responsibility of the scholar to convey with accuracy not only the words of the Greek text but also the truth that is being communicated. We find a good example in the first six verses of Mark 3 where Jesus returns with his disciples to Nazareth (the text says πατρίδα, one’s native place, hometown -- but wouldn’t it be helpful to identify the place for those who might not know?) and on the Sabbath begins to teach in the synagogue.
In the Pastorals, Paul talks about “healthy (ὑγιαινούσῃ) teaching.” ὑγιαίνω has a range of meaning that is impossible to bring into English and provides an interesting study in semantic range.
ὑγιαίνειν, “to be healthy,” occurs twelve times in the NT, all but four in the PE (Luke 5:31; 7:10; 15:27; 3 John 2, all denoting physical health). This corresponds with BDAG’s first meaning: “to be in good physical health, be healthy.”
I have been playing around with word meanings lately. How do words get meaning? We understand that words have a semantic range, a bundle of meanings, and it is the context of the passage and not the word’s etymology that is determinative of meaning.
I came across an interesting situation this morning in Sunday School. (You remember Sunday School? That mid-level entry point into our mega churches?) The NIV translates Mark 3:21 as, “when his family heard about this… “?
"Family" is a translation of οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ, which is to say, rather strange. In which sense are these people παρά him?
We often distinguish between two types of translations, a formal equivalent and a dynamic equivalent. Formal tries to stick to the Greek/Hebrew grammar as closely as possible while still making sense in English. Dynamic focuses more on meaning; as the NIV says in its preface, “we have sought to recreate as far as possible, the experience of the original audience.”
Perhaps this is a little overstated, but it did get your attention.
I just got back from the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. One of the things I wanted to see is the new release of the standard Greek text of the New Testament, the NA28. I ran into a grinning Wayne Grudem, and he told me about Jude 5.