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As Jesus was going to the cross, some of the people were weeping. He turns to them and says that they shouldn't weep for him, but they should weep for their children because of the days that are coming. He prophecies that their children will then “say (ἄρξονται λέγειν) to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”
From a grammatical point of view, it's worth noting that almost every major translation translates both ἄρξονται and λέγειν as “begin to say.” Only the NIV and NLT don't convey the inceptive idea — “to begin”: “they will say to the mountains”; “People will beg the mountains.”
We all recognize that there is not necessarily a Greek word behind every English word. Sometimes they are implied by another Greek word, or sometimes they are necessary so the translation does not miscommunicate. When Paul says that we are not to look after our own interests in Phil 2:4, does he really mean that?
One of the beauties of Greek is that it is possible to indicate the expected answer to a question. A question prefaced by οὐ means the intended expected answer is “yes,” and μή shows that the expected answer is “no.” While we can do the same thing in English, it is pretty clunky and so most translations under-translate questions, not giving the expected answer.
Sometimes a Bible translator must alter the order of the Greek phrases so the English isn't confusing or miscommunicates. A good example is in 1 Thess 2:14. The majority of even the formal equivalent translations alter the phrase order, which illustrates why formal equivalent translations are not always transparent to the Greek.
This is a common question. People think the Greek New Testament says "brother," and translators therefore add to the Bible when they say "brother and sister." The fact of the matter is that the word "brother' is English, and the New Testament is written in Greek and says ἀδελφός. So the Bible, technically, does not say "brother." The real question is, what does ἀδελφός refer to and how do you convey the meaning in your culture?
One of the real values of knowing Greek is to be able to clearly see the sequencing of ideas. Greek is more than capable of lining up a series of prepositional, participial, infinitive (and other) phrases, since it is a paratactic language. This means it can place series of phrases side-by-side (παράταξις), without conjunctions to indicate the relationship between them.
Imperfects can be tricky to translate. Do you let the meaning of the word carry the aspect, is it a plain continuous idea, or one of the specialized uses of the imperfect such as the inceptive? Such is the challenge of translating imperfects.
All translations add English words that have no direct equivalent in English. Every one of them. The NASB and ESV tend to add just a single word here and there; CSB too. NIV is open to adding a few more words as is the NET, and the NLT can add significantly more. They are different types of translations, and more or less freedom is required to achieve their goals. But no translation is totally transparent to the Greek; otherwise, its English would be senseless.
Is there a difference in saying that John has no greater joy than hearing his children are walking “in the truth,” or walking “in truth”? If the Greek article in not in the prepositional phrase, then why do most English translations include it?
Paul is encouraging the Philippian Christians to “conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, which means they will stand firm (στήκετε). This is a fun passage to phrase because it forces you to see the connection of ideas.
We will look at two passages that have the same Greek construction, οὐ μή and an aorist subjunctive verb, and in one passage you can bring the force of the double negation into English using "never," and on one you can't.
When John first hears the voice behind him, he turns and sees the seven golden lampstands with Jesus standing in their midst, dressed in a robe with a golden sash. His hair was as white as white wool, his eyes were like a blazing fire, and his feet were like bronze polished in a furnace. His voice was like the “sound of many waters” (ἡ φωνὴ αὐτοῦ ὡς φωνὴ ὑδάτων πολλῶν). What are "many waters?
Because Greek sentence structure, especially Paul’s, can line up a series of clauses that are not necessarily sequential, it can be difficult for us to know how to make sense of it in English. If we simply translate in Greek order, we run the risk of miscommunicating.
The relationship between time and aspect can sometimes be a tad elusive. Is Paul talking about God’s prior knowledge (“knew”) or his ongoing knowledge (”knows”) of the true believer? ἔγνω is an aorist, and how does an aorist relate to Covid-19?
Sometimes the meaning of a verb is sufficiently imperfective (continuous) that you don't need to make it explicit in your translation, although at times you still should. Is there a difference between Jesus "continuing to grow" and Jesus "grew up"?
One of the ongoing attacks on modern translations has to do with the Trinitarian formula in 1 John 5:7–8. The accusation is that modern translators are dropping out the divinity of Christ from the Bible. I’ve now actually seen the factual evidence of why this is not true.
Every once in a while I see a translation where there is no Greek in any form behind the English. I know at times this is necessary for convey meaning, but every once in a while I suspect something else is in play.
I was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, from kindergarden through Junior High School, and one of the oddities I picked up is the tendency to end a sentence with a preposition. Whenever I say, “Do you want to go with?” my California-raised wife smiles. But maybe this is why Paul’s use of verbal compounds formed with σύν sounds so natural.
Why do we do what we do? Some of us are motivated by duty; we do things because we ought to. Some of us are motivated by a sense of right and wrong; we do things because it is the right thing to do. But how many of us are motivated by love?
Have you ever been in a new church and were asked to say the Lord’s Prayer out loud? What almost always happens? You say, “Give us this day our daily bread ...” and then you pause. Does this church say “debts” or “trespasses”? What is the difference, and why?
λόγος can refer to a "word," or a series of words (i.e., "statement"), or in a much larger sense to the matter to which the words refer. So what were the disciples not to talk about after Jesus' transfiguration?
I received an email the other day that reminded me that we all need to remind ourselves to have a little humility in doing our Greek exegesis. I'm not talking about arrogance as the opposite of humility, but humble caution. The question had to do with the translation of three participles in Mark 16:16, and why the NASB is the only translation to get it “right,” and why the other translations got it “wrong.”