[B-Greek] The Elephant on the List
eric-inman at comcast.net
Thu Feb 18 09:42:24 EST 2010
Learning Greek gives you an appreciation for the intricacies of translation,
thus vastly improving your ability to intrepret a text and evaluate the
interpretations of others. People who don't know Greek don't see the lay of
the land as well, the range of options, meanings etc. that must be
considered when pondering a text. This is especially true for people who
don't know any 2nd language, let alone Greek.
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of
yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net
Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2010 7:31 AM
To: greek B-Greek
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] The Elephant on the List
Good post. I knew there was an elephant, but its been hard to palpate its
shape. Perhaps Mark believes its like a rope, while I feel its more like a
wall. I am a translation consultant and have been on several projects ...
when I am done with a translation I am always amazed people can read,
understand, appreciate and use it. But I'm not so sure all the needed
information is in the text or that even the information that is in the Greek
or Hebrew or Aramaic text can be so clearly translated. The elephant, as far
as I can see it--or feel it--is that any given text in a different context
will tend to have different meanings than it did in its original
context--and that context is largely extra-textual, in the audience's heads,
os to speak. I also wonder how different habits of structuring information
and presenting arguments from one culture to another skews how readers of
translations read/understand a translated text. A NT Greek author doesn't
have to be formally trained in rhetoric to be influenced by the rhetorical
habits of his or her generation of rhetorical knowledge. And rhetorical
expression deals with the world of things that appear to be so.
There is a lot of discussion of this sort of thing among scholars of
rhetoric about every author from Homer to Menander Rhetor and beyond.
Yancy Smith, PhD
yancywsmith at sbcglobal.net
Y.W.Smith at tcu.edu
yancy at wbtc.com
5636 Wedgworth Road
Fort Worth, TX 76133
On Feb 18, 2010, at 5:50 AM, Mark Lightman wrote:
> There is an elephant on the B-Greek List that no one wants to talk
> about. Jeffrey Requadt first raised the specter of the elephant back
> in November when he asked:
> <what is the value of learning Greek.for the different purposes of
> studying and preaching?>
> And then Andrew Suttles got a little closer to the elephant when he
> <Greek.in the pulpit usually serves one of two purposes: 1) To create
> a perception of authority on behalf of the speaker2) To make a text
> say other than it says>
> I want to come out and identify the elephant. Learning Greek will not
> help you to understand any better the underlying meaning of the New
> Testament. That's an extreme statement. I don't exactly mean it.
> I'm overstating the case to make a point. Bill Mounce (p. 4.) says:
> "The only people I have heard say that Greek is not important are
> those who do not themselves know Greek." True. But what if they have
> a point? You know the old joke: "The woman I love does not even know
> that I exist. And I'm beginning to think she has a point." I am
> trying very hard in this post not to sound negative or critical. In
> general, I hate critics. But I'm beginning to think that the critics
> of learning Greek have a point. I'm beginning to see this elephant.
> People who know Greek like to quote the Italians: "Traduttore, traditore"
> To translate is to betray." This is always true.
> Except when it is not. It's true for Homer but not for the Greek NT.
> It's funny, almost as much artistic talent has gone into translating
> Homer as has gone into the Greek NT.
> Yet all the translations of Homer are unreadable because they fail to
> get at his art. They get at his meaning just fine. There is no
> INFORMATION in the Greek of Homer that three or four translations,
> compared side by side, do not get at. But there is value in learning
> Homeric Greek because he is the greatest artist in human history.
> But this is not an issue in the Greek NT. A few times Paul turns a
> nice Greek phrase, but the Greek of the New Testament is not great
> literature. It does not aspire to be. It holds its treasure in
> 27 clay jars. The Gospel of John, for example, contains absolutely no
> art. It makes no attempt to use the beauty of the Greek language for
> any literary effect. It's all about conveying INFORMATION and it does
> this in a straight-forward, wonderfully simple way. The fact is, it
> is very easy to translate the Greek New Testament into an English text
> which conveys 99% of the meaning of the Greek NT. This is why it has
> been done so many times so well. I've said this before on list; again
> I say to you: The English Translations, taken as a whole, are always
> MORE clear than the Greek; they always convey MORE information about
> the underlying Greek text than the Greek text itself does. To
> translate, in this case, (maybe only in this case?) is not to betray
> at all but is to rescue, to rescue from the maddening ambiguity of the
> Greek. Jeff Requadt did not win a B-Greek Year End Award because most
> of his best stuff was said off-list.
> Yet he had the best post last year with his bit about Greek Urban Legends.
> The biggest Urban legend of all is when the preacher gets up and says:
> "All the translations get this wrong. What the Greek really says is."
> The truth is exactly opposite; all the translations get it right.
> What the Greek really
> says is always impossible to determine or agree upon.
> And the Versions get at the matter with better art.
> The dirty little secret of Seminary Greek is that not only the KJV,
> but even something like the NIV or the Message is a far greater piece
> of literature than anything in the Greek NT. The elephant on the list
> is this: Because the English translations are more clear than the
> Greek, and because the English translations are better literature than
> the the Greek, there really is no reason to learn New Testament Greek.
> (unless you are yourself a translator.)
> Let me tell you about this elephant. I've read every post ever made
> on B-Greek. I've learned tons of stuff about the Greek language and I
> have loved every minute of it. But I don't think that I have ever
> learned anything about the fundamental meaning underlying the Greek NT
> that I did not already know about in the English. This sounds
> extreme. I don't mean to be negative or critical. God is love, and I hate
critics. But go back and read some posts.
> With most of our discussions, it's pretty clear BASICALLY what the text
> We usually bring in the Greek to try to get at marginal meaning, to
> pin down EXACTLY what the Greek says. We are never able to do this.
> And when it is unclear what the text really means, is it ever the
> Greek that decides for each of us what the text says? Can it? Should
> it? Does it? I've come to believe that any meaningful discussion
> about the NT should be phrased in terms of the English, or the French,
> or the Dutch, or the Modern Greek. When we try to discuss what Paul
> means in 2 Cor 3:15 by bringing the Ancient Greek into it, all we do
> is open up a bottomless pit of grammatical and linguistic
> gobbledegook. And I say "gobbledegook" with all due respect. Instead
> of coming out and
> saying: "The Holy Spirit and years of living with other Christians has
> taught me that what Paul really means here is this." we use terms
> like quasi partitive genitive and semantically fronted topicality. We
> quote Smyth, and we never agree on anything. We've learned much
> about the Greek but nothing about the text the Greek is supposed to
> help us understand. The elephant on the list is that the better a
> Christian knows Greek, the less use, he, as a Christian, has for it.
> The elephant on the list is that if a scholar really wants to help me
better understand the New Testament, let her stick to the English.
> Does this mean that what we do on B-Greek is a waste of time? No, I
> never said anything like that. Did anyone hear me say anything like
> that? And besides, you say "waste of time" like it was a bad thing. For
me, Greek has always been more fun than useful.
> Life is always more about the journey than the destination, more
> about the process than the goal. I never really learn anything about
> the Bible on B-Greek, but, for some odd reason that I cannot really
> explain, I'd rather learn about nothing here than about something anywhere
else. There it is.
> "I really like thee, Dr. Fell.
> The reason why I cannot tell."
> The reason why I like B-Greek I can tell. Carl Conrad recently asked
> what B-Greek is about. I suggested it was about nothing. Not quite true.
> Do you remember the last line in that
> Charlton Heston movie about cannibalism?
> "It's people! Soylent Green is people!"
> B-Greek is about neither the Bible nor Greek. It is about people.
> Fantastic people who give you, not
> information about the Gospel, but give you, with every post, a bit of
> themselves Their glorious, flawed, created-in-His-image selves.
> Again, I've tried very hard in this post not to sound negative or
> critical. I hate critics. I think the reason no one talks about the
> elephant is that to do so somehow violates the rule of love.
> So, I suggest that we go back to ignoring the elephant and trying to
> figure out what kind of genitive that is.
> Remember, "denial" is a POTAMOS in Egypt.
> Mark L
> FWSFOROS MARKOS
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