[B-Greek] Question about John 10:18
nichael at sover.net
Fri Feb 1 08:52:15 EST 2008
Carl Conrad wrote:
>But you really ought, as soon as possible, to rid yourself of the
>notion that there's any single "right" way to convert the Greek to
>English. There are better ways and there are not as good ways; on the
>other hand there are lots of "wrong" or "bad" ways. And as soon as you
>can manage it, you ought to start thinking through the Greek as a mode
>of communication with its own patterns rather than as a code to be
>deciphered into English, as if English were what it ought to have been
>composed in originally, if that were possible.
And on this topic, there should be (if there is not already) a convenient
list of examples that demonstrated the basic --in principle-- impossibility
of literal, word-for-word "correct" translation.
The example given here is more a question of word-order, etc. But
my favorite example of the sort of thing that I'm talking about occurs
in Rv 6 where the living creatures call out ERXOU! to each of the
four horsemen. The relevant point here is that the precise _literal_
translation of the term can be either "Come!" _or_ "Go!".
One can argue that, however one wishes to translate the term, it may not
make a lot of difference. But the example does underscore the complete
hopelessness of the task of trying to give a simple "literal" translation of
the phrase. There simply is not a single English word that, even remotely,
can cover the semantic range of the Greek.
(The standard approach in such situations, of course, is to include footnotes.
And while I, for one, think this is the correct way to handle such cases, this
only underscores the nature of the difficulty of the problem.)
Similarly, the LOGOS from Jn 1. My Liddel-Scott gives almost two pages
of (very diverse) definitions for the term. To say that "Word" captures the
scope of the term in English is nonsense.
The examples above deal primarily with the problems of noun-definition.
But there many other, more subtle examples; e.g. the problem of mapping
the Aorist exactly into English. Or the well-known problems of the Greek
vs the English use of articles (cf the [deliberate?] ambiguity of "a
son of God"
and "the son of God" in the Centurion's proclamation in Mt 27.54).
Now, this being b-Greek, I hope that the discussion does not wander off
into interpretational issues of the various translations. But while it is true
that much devoted, thoughtful and brilliant work has gone into translating
passages like these (and other), the fact remains, that they are always,
at best _only_ translations. And that there are many, many examples
of passages where literal, exact, or to return to Carl's term
is simply not possible.
nichael at sover.net
More information about the B-Greek