future indicatives as imperatives
michaelhaggett at lineone.net
Tue Jan 16 15:05:00 EST 2001
Bart Ehrman wrote,
Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:09 A
The Didache gives a lot of orders, a lot of them are negative, and a
lot of them use the future indicative. Some are quotations of the LXX.
Thus: OU FONEUSEIS, OU MOIXEUSEIS, OU PAIDOFQORHSEIS, OU PORNEUSEIS,
My inclination is to translate these all as imperatives:
But one of my grad students who's reading over all my drafts for me,
and whose judgment i trust, is pushing me to go for the more conventional,
"You shall not..." and "You shall..." Her point is that this helps
preserve the allusive character of the injunctions (i.e., it sounds more
like BIble language); my point is that I never talk that way (I always
say, "Shut the blasted door," never "You shall shut the blasted door"; or
"Don't stay up too late," never "You shall not stay up too late") ((and
also that the repetitions of the shalls and shall notes gets rather
Isn't the point of any translation to reflect what the original recipients
would have heard/read?
In this instance wouldn't they also have thought that this was an
"unnatural" way of expressing an imperative/prohibition? They, like us,
would normally say, "shut the door" instead of "you shall
shut the door." But that isn't the point.
Although they would have had no difficulty in understanding what was meant,
they would (rather like us, I guess) have thought of this as "pompous",
"religious" or "obviously-badly-translated" language. I think that a good
translation of the Didache should reflect the same today. So I would
recommend translating such futures as "You shall not ..." because it is
simply a reflection of what the text actually says.
This is NOT the same as saying that it should sound like "Bible language"
... for indeed, if I were translating the original that is being quoted, I
would use normal imperatives. But this isn't the original. The writer of
this document has chosen to use two different ways of expressing commands
(for whatever reason - that isn't the point at issue) so a translation of
this text should reflect that choice.
More information about the B-Greek