AGANAKTEW in Mk 10:14

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sun Aug 27 09:16:16 EDT 2000

At 10:12 PM -0700 8/26/00, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>Better not rely on an English translation when the topic is Jesus getting
>angry. C. Spicq (vol 1 page 7) has this comment on AGANAKTEW: "In the
>Gospels, AGANAKTEW never means indignation or displeasure but anger." Spicq
>qualifies this in a foot note where he states that Matt 26:8 is an
>Most of the widely used English versions  rendering it "indignant."
>Furthermore when I performed a NT search on AGANAKTEW and looked at how it
>was rendered in the RSV, NIV, NASB I found that it was translated as
>indignant nearly every time and never as "anger." The *NRSV broke the
>pattern by rendering it as anger repeatedly.
>What we see here in the rendering of AGANAKTEW in Mk 10:14 is the tendency
>of the English speaking world to try and make Jesus conform to the
>parameters of a "Nice Person." Translations produced by committees of very
>polite decent upper middle class solid citizens with two kids in private
>colleges and a BMW or two in the garage are always going to get it wrong
>when they deal with things that are outside of their personal experience.
>Most of what Jesus did and said is outside their personal experience.
>All the more reason to read the NT in Greek.

EXCEPT, Clay, that the NRSV was produced, unless I am sorely mistaken, by
exactly the same sort of committee made up of that sort of citizens. I
think the criticism here is not altogether amiss, but it's a bit too
sweeping. I rather suspect that a committee of competent translators of
working class people is just as likely to make Jesus conform to ITs sense
of what a "Nice Person" is. The generalization, it seems to me, has some
validity, but ought not to be pressed so absolutely. And what sort of
social background does C. Spicq come from? Is that ultimately the relevant
factor? I'm as willing as any to grant that bias and questionable inner
motives of which one may not even be conscious do play a role in all our
behavior (that's the deep residue of Calvinism in my thinking), but I
wouldn't want to go along with that sort of strict Marxist determinism or
any other sort of strict determinism that implies that we cannot, with
God's grace, overcome our own weaknesses--at least part of the time.

And I think it is worth adding that reading the NT in Greek is no guarantee
of reading it without all the same kinds of bias that enter into "bad"
translation. I would even venture to suggest that just about all
translators HAVE read the NT in Greek (although I suppose some team members
may have more expertise in the target language than in the original


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at

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