[B-Greek] Jn 2.4 and translation practices

frjsilver at optonline.net frjsilver at optonline.net
Mon Nov 27 21:12:29 EST 2006

Dear Friends --

I could be wrong (I was once, you know....), but it seems to me that Jesus's addressing His mother as 'woman' is one of those imported Semiticisms which all translations ought to preserve.  We must remain always aware of what is Greek, and what is Hebrew/Aramaic in Greek garments.

What I mean is that -- if the Greek translators of the Aramaic Gospel's _Urtext/Urspracht_ felt that it was important to render a word literally or calque it rather than translate it -- we should be able to recognize what is Greek and what is imported, and leave it in some form redolent of its original flavor no matter what our modern sensibilities might suggest.  Isn't that why God made footnotes?!  

Of course, if we read the NT and wrongly assume that every word of it is Greek, we'll be greatly confused in our attempts to understand what we read.  And this pertains not only to vocabulary, but -- in some instances -- even to grammar.  It's not enough for us to be able to read ALFA to O MEGA (W), or to use a Greek-English dictionary.  God help the preachers who give 'word study' sermons based on so little and so mislead their people!

There is *nothing* disrespectful about this form in Aramaic.  We see this even in Modern English, when people (even women among themselves -- I've heard it there, as well as 'Guys!') prefix an emphatic statement with 'Man!'

This isn't quite an identity, I admit, but it's close.

Yet, try to render one of our 'Man!' statements in Greek.  Would we use ANQRWPOS or ANHR?  Why?  Or why not?

I think that our _Angst_ over this situation is greatly overwrought, and I suggest that we merely render the text as we find it, and add footnotes as we must.

Peace and blessings to all.

Father James Silver

Monk James
Orthodox Church in America

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