[B-Greek] "Translating" the biblical text" (was "Help Translating John 1:18")
cwconrad2 at mac.com
Thu Jul 10 07:40:53 EDT 2008
On Jul 9, 2008, at 10:59 PM, Mark Lightman wrote:
> George's translation of John 1:18 is accurate and adds less words than
> your correction of the rendering from this "edition" you are speaking
> about. I would only add a translator might want to try to render the
> asyndeton between the two sentences. Actually, George's semicolon
> is a nice touch, but I think John may have had something stronger in
> like, "No one has ever seen God. This is the situation: the one and
> being divine, being in the bosom of the father, exegeted (God.)" I
> not suggest including this in the translation, but I think that is
> what the
> Greek says. I think Carl's point is rather than just translate the
> one needs to be prepared to talk about it
I don't know that my opinion on this matter really matters to anyone,
but since what I've said is being interpreted, I'd like to be as clear
as possible about what I really DO mean: I object to a pedagogy that
envisions "translation" as the primary objective of learning Biblical
Greek. I think that the primary objective of learning Biblical Greek
should be UNDERSTANDING Biblical Greek.
I have two problems with the standard pedagogical approach to
TRANSLATION as a "demonstration" that one supposedly UNDERSTANDS the
Greek text that one has translated:
(1) The first and major problem is that the standard pedagogical
approach seems to envision TRANSLATION as production of a
fundamentally literal "word-for-word" equivalent of the Greek text,
departures from the "word-for-word" approach being only those required
by the standard grammatical usage of the target language. While that
might be adequate for a sentence like OFIN EIDEN hO PAIS Englished as
"The boy saw a snake", where the referents are concrete everyday
terms, I honestly don't think it works in John 1:18 and it certainly
doesn't work in John 1:1c QEOS HN hO LOGOS, about which we have had
countless threads in this forum, threads which have produced more heat
Authentic "translation," in my opinion, is representation of the
intelligible SUBSTANCE as well as as much as possible of the
stylistic nuance of the original in a target language. In this sense
translation is a high art, NOT something that beginning students or
even most advanced students are particularly good at. I do think that
it is an important art, but I also think that the better published
translations are the work either of committees or of very gifted
individuals. I think that there are some rather good translations, but
I don't think any translation is perfect. At any rate, I really
question the value of production of a fundamentally literal "word-for-
word" equivalent of the Greek text of a verse or chapter or more of
the Bible as a "demonstration" that the student has understood the
Greek text of the original.
(2) Nor do I think that such a fundamental literal "word-for-word"
equivalent is desirable provided that one can also "talk about it." My
own conception of a good commentary is not a combination of Greek
text, literal "word-for-word" representation of the Greek text in the
target language accompanied by a discussion of all that the
commentator thinks relevant about the Greek text in question.
I think that the primary objective of learning Biblical Greek should
indeed be UNDERSTANDING Biblical Greek. That means, in my view,
understanding the Greek text AS a Greek text, on its own terms, in its
own word-order -- grasping it in its own flow from phrase to phrase,
sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, etc., etc.
How does one demonstrate that one has achieved that objective?
Perhaps by answering questions about the text posed by someone who
does understand the Greek text in the fashion I've described. Ideally
such questions should be posed in Biblical Greek (à la Randall Buth --
or "au Randall Buth"). But I have in mind the same sorts of
comprehension questions as are used for testing comprehension of
paragraphs or stories or articles in a well-formulated test or reading
exercise book. At any rate, I want the student being tested for
understanding of the Greek text to tell me not what the WORDS of the
text mean in terms of English (or other target-language) words, but
what the text supposedly understood MEANS -- expressed in "other
words" or "re-stated in one's own words."
All of this has to do with my objection to the growing use of
"interlinears" or "reverse interlinears" as primary tools of what
continues to be called "learning Biblical Greek. Even when you add on
pre-digested analyses of phrase-structure, clause-structure and
discourse patterns to the interlinear or reverse-interlinear digitized
study resource, you're only getting, at best (and that might even be
pretty good), someone else's best judgment about what and how the
Biblical text "means." Perhaps such resources can really help an
advanced student move forward to reading and understanding HITHERTO-
UNSEEN Greek texts (rather than just understanding how another or
others have analyzed the Greek texts with which one has been familiar
all one's life -- more or less.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
> , to note, for example, that
> MONOGENHS renders a Hebrew word which probably means something
> like "special" or "beloved" or "the only one for me." "Only begotten"
> while on one level literal, is very misleading because the focus is
> on the
> only part, and certainly does not imply that John thought God begat
> Jesus. I like One of A Kind, but again I think what Carl is saying
> is that
> what ultimately matters is not what is put on paper by any one
> translator, but what goes on in your head as you read the Greek.
> George's translation is "good" or "accurate" to me because it shows
> me that he understands the Greek. Based on the one example you
> give so far of this "edition," I sure can not say the same of the
> people who
> are putting it together. I like your question though, as it gets us
> all thinking,
> which is the value of this list.
> Mark L.
> --- On Wed, 7/9/08, tempest at sunsetgrfx.com <tempest at sunsetgrfx.com>
> From: tempest at sunsetgrfx.com <tempest at sunsetgrfx.com>
> Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Help Translating John 1:18
> To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> Date: Wednesday, July 9, 2008, 5:49 AM
> On Wed 07/09/08 4:48 AM , tempest at sunsetgrfx.com wrote:
> Thank you for responding to my question.
> What do you mean it is "non-English"? If it is because of the last
> line, maybe if i put it this way:
> "(He) is in the Bosom of the Father (which) He declared"
> (We don't want to add any extra words. In my opinion, it reads just
> fine--I'm just worried that it's not accurate.)
> Does that clear it up for you?
> Also, you said: "While I consider it desirable to stay as close to
> the original as possible, it still must be English and understandable
> by those speaking English". Do you, then, consider it accurate? ...or
> Also, what do you mean by "a creedal formulation of procession
> though that was respecting the Holy Spirit"?
> May GodJesus bless you.
> -Nichole Boseck
> On Tue 07/08/08 2:59 AM , George F Somsel wrote:
> 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε·
> μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον
> τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο. 18
> QEON OUDEIS hEWRAKEN PWPOTE; MONOGENHS QEOS hO WN EIS TON KOLPON TOU
> PATROS EKEINOS ECHGHSATO. No, I wouldn't consider it accurate since
> it is distinctly non-English. While I consider it desirable to stay
> as close to the original as possible, it still must be English and
> understandable by those speaking English. Additionally, where does he
> get the idea "coming from God"? This seems to be based on a creedal
> formulation of procession though that was respecting the Holy Spirit.
> No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten God, who is intimately
> connected with the Father [Lit: "in the bosom of the Father"], he has
> revealed [him].
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