Negative particle -> EWS hOU
alice-iver_larsen at wycliffe.org
Mon Dec 25 15:44:18 EST 2000
> Richard , Steve and Iver,
> Thanks for your contributions. There seem to be some minor or perhaps major
> disagreements on this "rule."
> H.A.W Meyer, (Matthew, pg. 54) says:
> . . . But from hEWS hOU of itself no inference can be drawn either in favor
> or against . . . it is not intended to convey it afterwards took place."
> In Roehampton terminology, the question of what
> takes place after the time or action limited by hEWS hOU is not
> Even if every instance of hEWS hOU or hEWS hOTOU (very few of them) can be
> shown to fit the pattern, that still leaves the question open if hEWS hOU
> actually contributes that information to the semantic structure of its
> context. I doubt that it does. Meyer, Alford and several others say that it
> does not. These guys were big greeks.
> We want to avoid the quagmire that the verb aspect discussion nearly always
> falls into of attributing semantic properties to a formal language feature
> which are really only coextensive with that language feature and have no
> causal relationship to the feature what so ever.
> Thanks for your thoughts on this,
Since my response to Clayton was off list, let me repeat it here and expand a
bit. I am pasting a few comments from an article I wrote in 1993, when I first
became aware of the problem from a translator's point of view.
The English word 'until' is the normal translation of the Hebrew 'AD as well as
the Greek hEWS and the less common MECRI and ACRI. However, the English word
often has an implication that is not included in the corresponding Hebrew and
Greek words. Failure to realize this difference in implications can easily cause
the translator to add something to the translated text which was not present or
implied in the original.
Both the Hebrew and Greek words can function as (improper) prepositions, mainly
with time and place constructions, e.g. 'I shall wait for her until ten o
clock,' 'The waters continued to recede until the tenth month' (Gen 8:5), 'And
Peter had followed him at a distance, right into (hEWS) the courtyard of the
high priest.' (Mark 14:54). The English 'until' works fine with time but not
with place. The basic meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words is up to a certain
point in time or space.
The same words can function as temporal conjunctions, which is probably the
basic use. The improper prepositions seem to have evolved out of the
conjunction. Some examples follow: 'I shall wait for her here until she
arrives.' 'I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will
bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have
promised you.' (Gen 28:15) 'There are some here who will not die until they have
seen the Son of Man come as King.'(Matt 16:28 - GNB).
As a conjunction, the word connects two propositions (events), let us call them
P and Q. The meaning of the Hebrew and Greek conjunctions is basically that 'P
is happening up to the point in time when Q happens. (If Q has a present tense,
P may overlap with or be simultaneous with Q.) However, the English sentence 'P
until Q' does not only mean P is happening up to the point in time when Q
happens. It has the added implication that when Q starts then P no longer is
happening. This implication in English is particularly strong when P is in the
form of a negative clause, e.g. in the GNB rendering of Matt 16:28 above, the
sentence 'Some will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King'
carries the implication that once 'The Son of Man has come as King' then 'they
will die.' RSV, NIV, JB and NEB use the word 'before' instead of 'until' but in
my understanding of English, even this word carries the same implication as
'until' does. RSV says: 'There are some standing here who will not taste death
before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.'
As far as I can see there is no conjunction in English which carries the same
meaning as the Hebrew and Greek words without also having the added implication
of 'when Q then no longer P.' To avoid this wrong implication, some kind of
restructuring of the sentence is necessary, such as the Living Bible has done in
Matt 16:28: 'And some of you standing right here now will certainly live to see
me coming in my Kingdom. In spite of (or rather because of) the restructuring
done, this is the only translation of those quoted here which is faithful to the
meaning of the original. All the others have inadvertently added an implication
which is not present in the Greek text.
While I am proposing that the Hebrew and Greek conjunctions/prepositions in
themselves do not carry the implication that the English 'until' and 'before'
carry, there will be many situations where the content of P and Q will add up to
an implication which is similar to the English one. In these cases, there is no
harm done in using the word 'until'. For instance, Matthew 5:26 says: 'You will
never get out until you have paid the last penny.' Our understanding of the
situation of being put in jail to pay off a debt includes the assumption that
once the debt has been paid off, the person is free to go.
The rule by A.H. McNeil that Clayton quoted is a misunderstanding based on
English. There is no such rule in Greek. I am glad to hear that H. W. Meyer and
several other "big Greeks" agree. The rule was only suggested in the first
place, because there is such an implication in the use of English 'until'. In
English it is not an iron-clad rule and the context can strengthen the
implication, or it can weaken and possibly even override it.
The implication of this for translation is that if hEWS is translated as "until"
in English, the reader may assume that "the action did, or will, take place
after the point of time indicated by the particle." The Greek construction
simply means that "the action did not take place up to the point of time
indicated by the particle." We cannot conclude anything about what might happen
after that point in time. The action may or may not take place. The construction
has no implication one way or the other.
alice-iver_larsen at wycliffe.org
More information about the B-Greek