Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Gospel of Glory," or "Glorious Gospel" (1 Tim 1:11)

Functional equivalent translations are used to taking exegetical positions. After all, they are committed to trying to convey the meaning of a passage, at least the meaning they see in the text.

Formal equivalent are less comfortable doing this. They tend to try and replicate the ambiguity of the original Greek/Hebrew and let the reader decide as to meaning.

What is really frustrating for formal equivalent translations like the NASB and ESV is when they have to make a decision. There are certain types of constructions that simply can not be moved into English in a way that retains the ambiguity of the original. It just isn’t possible.

The “Hebraic Genitive” is one of those categories. Due to the nature of Hebrew and how it lines up modifiers, this is a common use of the Greek genitive. The word in the genitive is functioning as an attributive adjective.

In a phrase like “the judge of unrighteousness” (Luke 18:6), the author means, “the unrighteous judge.” The problem is that there are situations in which leaving the “of” construction would never be read by the English reader as an attributive adjective.

A great example is in 1 Tim 1:11 where Paul says, “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted” (ESV). Most translations read this as an Hebraic genitive and translate, “the glorious gospel” (NIV, NRSV, NLT, NET). It is interesting that the CBT changed to “the gospel concerning the glory” in the TNIV.

Regardless of the correct interpretation, this is one of those situations in which a decision has to be made. A normal English reader would never read “gospel of glory” as “glorious gospel,” or vice versa. You have to make a choice. You have to decide if the gospel is a glorious thing, or whether the gospel is concerning the glory of God. We know that both are in fact true, but the question is what does Paul mean in this passage?

All translations are interpretive. They have to be. It’s just the nature of language.


Was working on translating Ephesians 1:17 tonight and found "ὁ πατὴρ τῆς δόξης". I would have typically translated this as "the father of glory" but I remembered reading this and thought to look back on the parallel construction of 1 Tim 1:11. They look very similar. In fact, after consulting other translations I see that the NIV translates this as "the glorious Father". Very helpful blog post!