Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, November 1

What Word Should I Study, and Why Italics Annoy Me

Everyone likes to do a Greek word study. Of all the things that we learn in Greek class, this is the one that stays with us the longest. The trick, of course, is to know which words to study. I was at the Biblical Literacy Conference in Philadelphia this weekend, and Sunday morning we had a reading from Genesis 1–3. I saw one of the really important hints as to which word to study

The reading was from the NKJV. In Genesis 1:29 it says, “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.’” Really? God gave us “herbs” to eat? Season our food, yes. But eat?

This is the first clue that a word needs to be studied. The translation simply makes no sense. You don’t eat herbs.

The easiest way to run this down is to look at other translations, and we see “seed-bearing plant” (NIV, CSB, NET, NLT) or some variation (NASB, ESV, NRSV) in all the other translations. The KJV/NKJV tradition is clearly in the minority, and wrong (at least in terms of what the word “herb” means today). HALOT defines עֵשֶׂב as, among other things, “herbage, weed,” and “green vegetables, cereals.” (Oops, there goes the argument of the inherent evil of gluten!) Whatever the specific translation, it has to be something to eat that sustains people and animals. I don’t think I could live on salt, pepper, and mint. While most tomatoes aren’t green, I suspect we can eat them.

The reading Sunday morning continued into Philippians, and I saw another really annoying thing in the NKJV. In 2:22 it says, “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” The Greek is κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός. It is the use of italics that annoys me. Every first year Greek student knows that κύριος is a predicate noun, and as a predicate noun the verb is part of the grammar. The translators are not adding “is” to the Bible, as if the word were not represented in the Greek. Of course it is. It’s a predicate noun.

As long as translations continue this practice, it promulgates the myth that accurate translations are word for word; and when English requires a word not directly represented in the Greek, the translators are somehow adding to the text. Can we please move past this? It is a defective view of language and does a disservice to our people to suggest that faithful translation must be word-for-word. Faithful translation is one that faithfully conveys the meaning of the original into the target language, not its form.

Comments

Dear Bill, Thank you for another interesting observation and series of comments. Without wishing to be pedantic, did you know that there are extraordinary healing properties in herbs, including black pepper? In fact, black pepper mixed with tumeric or honey significantly enhances the properties of many substances. Having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis just over a year ago I have turned to the plants and herbs that G-d almighty has created for us in order to help treat my condition. What I have learnt about flowers, leaves, herbs, roots and berries have blown my mind and enriched my faith, my mind and my body. I encourage you to look at these much maligned and overlooked source of G-ds blessing for mankind. I can now testify that through prayer, fasting and a radical change of diet that I now sit in an absolute minority of people who have been diagnosed with RA but now have no symptoms:) On another point, could I please ask a completely random question of you? It’s one that you may find enthralling, Intriguing and interesting all at the same time:) Are you aware of the translation of a Greek document commonly known as the ‘letter of aristeas’? by H. Sr. J. THACKERAY, you can find letter-of-aristeas.pdf (earlychurch.org.uk) If you have read it, could you comment on it at all in regards to authenticity and your general thoughts on its contents? I was intrigued by the document as a whole and thought it was beautifully written. In particular, I was intrigued by the appendix on pgs 91-23 which highlight a number of verses that it claims were deliberately changed during the translation? In summary, I believe the document is claiming that the translators of Hebrew Torah deliver changed a number of verses when they undertook the translation? Although, the argument/description in the aforementioned appendix is not that clear. I have included the key passages below and would love to know your thoughts if you have time to consider them? PSB for an extract from Appendix to the Letter of Aristea, pg 91 ‘Again, it happened to King Tolmai that he assembled seventy elders and placed them in seventy cells and did not make known to them wherefore he had assembled them; but he came in to each of them in turn and said to them, "Write me out the Law of Moses your master." God put counsel into the heart of every one of them, that they were all of one mind, and they wrote out for him the Law by itself. But they altered thirteen passages in it, and they are these: (1) "God created in the beginning"; Footnote - Gen. 1. I ; instead of the order " In the beginning created God," etc. The divine name occupies the first place. LXX keeps the usual order and, except as indicated, the normal text in the passages· which follow. (2) "And God said, I will make man in image and in likeness" Footnote 'Gen. 1. 26 ; instead of " Let us make . . . in our image, after our Likeness." The polytheistic plural is avoided. (3) "And he finished on the sixth day and rested on the seventh" Footnote '8 Gen. ii. 2; so LXX, instead of "And on the seventh day God finished his work," etc. Text due to Sabbatarian scruples. (4) "Male and female created he him" Footnote 'Gen. i. 27, v. 2; instead of "created he them," which words are omitted by one Egyptian version of LXX (the Bohairic). Tradittion said that the first man, before the creation of Eve, was of double sex and had two faces'. (5) "Go to, let me go down and there confound their language " Footnote 'Gen. xi. 7; instead of "Let us go down." Polytheistic plural again avoided'. Thank you so much for your time and may YHVH bless you and your family. Josh

Dear Bill, Thank you for another interesting observation and series of comments. Without wishing to be pedantic, did you know that there are extraordinary healing properties in herbs, including black pepper? In fact, black pepper mixed with tumeric or honey significantly enhances the properties of many substances. Having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis just over a year ago I have turned to the plants and herbs that G-d almighty has created for us in order to help treat my condition. What I have learnt about flowers, leaves, herbs, roots and berries have blown my mind and enriched my faith, my mind and my body. I encourage you to look at these much maligned and overlooked source of G-ds blessing for mankind. I can now testify that through prayer, fasting and a radical change of diet that I now sit in an absolute minority of people who have been diagnosed with RA but now have no symptoms:) On another point, could I please ask a completely random question of you? It’s one that you may find enthralling, Intriguing and interesting all at the same time:) Are you aware of the translation of a Greek document commonly known as the ‘letter of aristeas’? by H. Sr. J. THACKERAY, you can find letter-of-aristeas.pdf (earlychurch.org.uk) If you have read it, could you comment on it at all in regards to authenticity and your general thoughts on its contents? I was intrigued by the document as a whole and thought it was beautifully written. In particular, I was intrigued by the appendix on pgs 91-23 which highlight a number of verses that it claims were deliberately changed during the translation? In summary, I believe the document is claiming that the translators of Hebrew Torah deliver changed a number of verses when they undertook the translation? Although, the argument/description in the aforementioned appendix is not that clear. I have included the key passages below and would love to know your thoughts if you have time to consider them? PSB for an extract from Appendix to the Letter of Aristea, pg 91 ‘Again, it happened to King Tolmai that he assembled seventy elders and placed them in seventy cells and did not make known to them wherefore he had assembled them; but he came in to each of them in turn and said to them, "Write me out the Law of Moses your master." God put counsel into the heart of every one of them, that they were all of one mind, and they wrote out for him the Law by itself. But they altered thirteen passages in it, and they are these: (1) "God created in the beginning"; Footnote - Gen. 1. I ; instead of the order " In the beginning created God," etc. The divine name occupies the first place. LXX keeps the usual order and, except as indicated, the normal text in the passages· which follow. (2) "And God said, I will make man in image and in likeness" Footnote 'Gen. 1. 26 ; instead of " Let us make . . . in our image, after our Likeness." The polytheistic plural is avoided. (3) "And he finished on the sixth day and rested on the seventh" Footnote '8 Gen. ii. 2; so LXX, instead of "And on the seventh day God finished his work," etc. Text due to Sabbatarian scruples. (4) "Male and female created he him" Footnote 'Gen. i. 27, v. 2; instead of "created he them," which words are omitted by one Egyptian version of LXX (the Bohairic). Tradittion said that the first man, before the creation of Eve, was of double sex and had two faces'. (5) "Go to, let me go down and there confound their language " Footnote 'Gen. xi. 7; instead of "Let us go down." Polytheistic plural again avoided'. Thank you so much for your time and may YHVH bless you and your family. Josh

Dear Bill, Thank you for another interesting observation and series of comments. Without wishing to be pedantic, did you know that there are extraordinary healing properties in herbs, including black pepper? In fact, black pepper mixed with tumeric or honey significantly enhances the properties of many substances. Having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis just over a year ago I have turned to the plants and herbs that G-d almighty has created for us in order to help treat my condition. What I have learnt about flowers, leaves, herbs, roots and berries have blown my mind and enriched my faith, my mind and my body. I encourage you to look at these much maligned and overlooked source of G-ds blessing for mankind. I can now testify that through prayer, fasting and a radical change of diet that I now sit in an absolute minority of people who have been diagnosed with RA but now have no symptoms:) On another point, could I please ask a completely random question of you? It’s one that you may find enthralling, Intriguing and interesting all at the same time:) Are you aware of the translation of a Greek document commonly known as the ‘letter of aristeas’? by H. Sr. J. THACKERAY, you can find letter-of-aristeas.pdf (earlychurch.org.uk) If you have read it, could you comment on it at all in regards to authenticity and your general thoughts on its contents? I was intrigued by the document as a whole and thought it was beautifully written. In particular, I was intrigued by the appendix on pgs 91-23 which highlight a number of verses that it claims were deliberately changed during the translation? In summary, I believe the document is claiming that the translators of Hebrew Torah deliver changed a number of verses when they undertook the translation? Although, the argument/description in the aforementioned appendix is not that clear. I have included the key passages below and would love to know your thoughts if you have time to consider them? PSB for an extract from Appendix to the Letter of Aristea, pg 91 ‘Again, it happened to King Tolmai that he assembled seventy elders and placed them in seventy cells and did not make known to them wherefore he had assembled them; but he came in to each of them in turn and said to them, "Write me out the Law of Moses your master." God put counsel into the heart of every one of them, that they were all of one mind, and they wrote out for him the Law by itself. But they altered thirteen passages in it, and they are these: (1) "God created in the beginning"; Footnote - Gen. 1. I ; instead of the order " In the beginning created God," etc. The divine name occupies the first place. LXX keeps the usual order and, except as indicated, the normal text in the passages· which follow. (2) "And God said, I will make man in image and in likeness" Footnote 'Gen. 1. 26 ; instead of " Let us make . . . in our image, after our Likeness." The polytheistic plural is avoided. (3) "And he finished on the sixth day and rested on the seventh" Footnote '8 Gen. ii. 2; so LXX, instead of "And on the seventh day God finished his work," etc. Text due to Sabbatarian scruples. (4) "Male and female created he him" Footnote 'Gen. i. 27, v. 2; instead of "created he them," which words are omitted by one Egyptian version of LXX (the Bohairic). Tradittion said that the first man, before the creation of Eve, was of double sex and had two faces'. (5) "Go to, let me go down and there confound their language " Footnote 'Gen. xi. 7; instead of "Let us go down." Polytheistic plural again avoided'. Thank you so much for your time and may YHVH bless you and your family. Josh