For an Informed Love of God
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καί and an Apparent Contradiction
Greek wants to start sentences with a conjunction, showing the linkage between the new sentence and the previous one. However, καί can be nothing more of a “daaa” or “ummm.” It does not necessarily imply sequence as it does in English. When we translate it as “and,” sometimes it creates problems that don’t need to exist.
It has been a good summer. I spent most of my study time working on issues relative to trusting the Bible. I think I will use this newsletter periodically to share some of my ideas, so don’t be surprised if you get a Monday w/ Mounce that isn’t about Greek grammar. But not today.
I came across Matt 8:19 as I was working on apparent contradictions. Jesus has just finished the Sermon on the Mount. He comes down the mountain, heals the man with leprosy, heals the centurion’s servant, heals many others including Peter’s mother-in-law, and then goes across the sea.
8:13 then begins, “Then (καί) a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go’” (NIV). Most translations use “then”; the ESV says “and.” Wisely, the CSB does not translate the καί.
The problem is that the same passage is in a totally different context in Luke 9:57. It too starts with καί, but interestingly, no one translates the καί, not even the NASB or ESV. So much for seeing the Greek behind the English in formal equivalent translations. (To be fair, there is a textual variant, but both NA27 and NA28 have καί.) Jesus experiences the transfiguration, and it is followed by a series of stories, none of which parallel Matthew 8.
Then in Luke 9:57 we then read, “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’” Here’s the problem. If you translate καί as “then” in Matthew 8 or Luke 9, then it ties this story into a specific context, which in turns creates a problem, unless you think this rather unique event happened more than once, which seems doubtful.
Greek wants to start sentences with a conjunction, showing the linkage between the new sentence and the previous one. However, καί can be nothing more of a “daaa” or “ummm.” It does not necessarily imply sequence as it does in English. Much better to follow the lead of the CSB and let the period translate the καί, not implying the idea of sequence. This also removes a possible contradiction.