[B-Greek] translation strategies

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Thu Jun 25 12:49:15 EDT 2009

On Jun 25, 2009, at 10:23 AM, Eddie Mishoe wrote:

> Carl,
> First, thank you for this extensive post. I always tremble whenever  
> you write about something I've written. I think you have explained  
> what I have been ranting about accurately. Here is why I think you  
> are out in left field:

Pace FWSFOROU MARKOU -- I don't think there's either POLEMOS or MACH  
going on here, just a disagreement about principles.

Eddie, I cannot tell you how much a relief your saying this is to me.  
You now seem to be saying that I have really understood what you're  
talking about; we just simply disagree and disagree pretty profoundly  
about what it means to learn to read Greek. When you said I was out in  
left field, I thought what you meant iwas that I had no inkling of  
what your question was all about. Apparently I did, but what I was  
saying in response to it wasn't relevant or helpful to your concerns.  
You find Wallace's "grammatical" categories useful for your purposes,  
whereas I am of the opinion expressed just before me by Yancy Smith  
that GGBB is "scaffolding" to the process of coming to understand  
Biblical Greek and that one does indeed need, the sooner the better,  
to read Greek and think Greek rather than decode Greek and think  
"translation strategies."

> You are somehow combining the process of what one personally,  
> privately needs to go through to master Greek. To me, this is  
> something antecedent to my discussion and concern, and not at all  
> related to translation strategies, something those who do master  
> Greek will engage in if they so choose to become a translator. You  
> simply have describe how one becomes eligible to become a  
> translator; he needs to immerse himself in the Greek language, read  
> volumes of Greek, begin to think in Greek, and as he goes about this  
> task, my point is that he may attain a level of proficiency such  
> that one day he could become eligible to take on the task of  
> translating the Greek text to those who don't have knowledge of  
> Greek (such as work on the committee whose job is to translate the  
> Greek text into the NIV English Bible). He will have to be able to  
> explain the Greek text using nothing but English words.

That's somewhat curious. I really have given relatively little thought  
to "being a translator." I think that what you call "becoming a  
translator" is what I would call simply "reading Greek as Greek." I  
think that one must be able to "read Greek as Greek" in order to be a  
real translator, but I think that being a translator involves  
additional skills in the target language and the "ear" of a writer of  
verse or fine prose. I certainly would not claim to be a translator  
myself; I've composed a paraphrase or two that I am satisfied with as  
paraphrases but would never deign to call "translations" because I'm  
all too conscious of phrasings that are at odds with what I think the  
original text is likely to have meant. But "translation" in this sense  
is something different from the "translation" that beginning Greek  
students are generally taught to do from the outset: essentially a  
word-for-word restatement in the target language of the words of the  
original text with minimal concern for idiomatic usage and minimal  
cognizance of the semantic range of the words and syntax of the  
original text, which tends to be "deciphered" rather than "read." And  
when I term the subcategories of GGBB "translation strategies," I mean  
that they are meant to be aids in production of an English  
transcription of the Greek text: a "translation" in the sense of the  
beginning-intermediate Greek student's homework assignments.

I do think of two fundamentally distinct categories of students of  
Biblical Greek:
      (1) those whose objective is ability to read Greek (as Greek),  
to understand the text as it was originally written to be read or  
listened to by native Greek-speakers. I think that this was once the  
objective of Biblical Greek pedagogy generally;
      (2) those whose objective is the ability to apprehend the Greek  
text at second hand, through a process of decoding with the assistance  
of parsing guides, analytical GNT, interlinears, commentaries, etc.  
Such learning tends to focus on a "translation" in the second sense of  
"translation" in the above paragraph: the end-product of "decoding"  
the Greek text. One might perhaps call this an "exegetical knowledge"  
-- at least I think the pedagogy here aims at giving students an  
ability to do exegesis. The problem of this pedagagoy, in my judgment,  
is that the exegesis which the student is supposedly enabled to do is  
always dependent upon somebody else's opinion of what the Greek text  
actually means: a co;mmenator's, a a grammatical authority of some  
sort (GGBB, ATR, BDF,an interlinear or "reverse inerlinear, the  
compilers of one or more Biblical software packages, etc., etc. This  
has become in recent years the dominant pedaggical model employed, I  
believe, in American seminaries.

> Wallace's book is excellent. He is explaining the constructs to  
> those interested in learning Greek beyond the basics (the BB of  
> GGBB). I would definitely call this book an advanced grammar book;  
> he presumes that his reading audience has already had a few years of  
> Greek training. He is now presenting the deeper level, or as he  
> calls it, "unpacking" the surface level text to the deeper level  
> meaning/semantics of a construct. Since his reading audience knows  
> English ( and some Greek), he is using that English bridge to  
> communicate what's on the other side of the bridge, the Greek text.  
> Dr. Wallace could function as a translator (the NET Bible), but his  
> students are not at that level yet. So he functioned as a Grammarian  
> when he wrote GGBB.

I check what GGBB has to say on a problem when it arises and find that  
I agree with Wallace's account more often than I don't. I object to  
the multiplication of subcategories of usage because, although I do  
recognize that these subcategories are not meant to represent the  
Greek constructions in and of themselves but rather what the Greek  
constructions mean in the various contexts in which they appear, I  
think that the USER of GGBB may too often be under the illusion that  
these subcategories do indeed represent the inherent meaning of the  
Greek constructions to which they refer. I really have a much higher  
regard for the NET as a reference tool precisely because of the way  
its notes sort out the alternative ways of making sense of a  
problematic Greek text. To some extent this is done in GGBB too, but  
in any case, I would value GGBB as a textbook for intermediate Greek  
rather than as a reference grammar for advanced students of Biblical  

> I suggest we keep translators in one group and those aspiring to  
> become translators in another group, people who have to do the hard  
> work of reading basic Greek grammars, advanced Greek grammars,  
> reading, reading, and more reading, etc. in order to move from one  
> group to the other. And, those English readers who do not know Greek  
> at all, why they are in yet another group. I have been exclusively  
> referring to the Translator Group and the English Reader Group.

I would suppose this means thinking about the two groups as distinct  
from each other, certainly not as groups that ought to be subscribed  
to different Biblical Greek discussion lists. And, to repeat what I  
said earlier, I wouldn't talk about "translators" at all; rather I  
would distinguish between (1) those whose objective is to read Greek  
as Greek, and (2) those whose objective is to utilize Biblical Greek  
resources prepared by others.

> And, I have exclusively been referring to the translator's function  
> of explaining the Greek text to those who do not know Greek. They  
> employ translation strategies to convey the Greek text to an English  
> reading audience, and because of the language barrier of the reading  
> audience, he has only at his disposal English words/phrases/ 
> constructs to explain the Greek text as best he can.

This is a most helpful statement, in my opinion. But it uses the word  
"translator" in a sense that I would not use that word; I think  
"interpreter" might be a better word.

> Obviously this is not deep stuff, but I think all you have to do  
> Carl is accept what Dr. Wallace's role (a grammarian) and objective  
> was in writing GGBB, which was quite different than his roles  
> (translator and editor) when writing the NET Bible.

Well, I'm not so sure. I think that Dr. Wallace is an interpreter more  
than a grammarian; I think that what he does in GGBB goes not so much  
beyond the basics as beyond the grammar and into exegesis. I have a  
great regard for the scholarship of ATR and consider ATR a grammarian  
more than an exegete. As a GRAMMAR I find BDF much more useful than  
GGBB; the Greek GRAMMAR without parallel, in my judgment, is Smyth,  
despite the fact that Smyth's focus is upon Attic rather than upon  
Hellenistic Greek: BDF is the corrective and supplement to what Smyth  
doesn't adequately cover with regard to Hellenistic/Koine grammar.

> I have to be honest with you, Carl. I really don't see your  
> frustration with GGBB's explaining the multiple nuances and  
> functions of a Genitive, for example. I am actually mystified by  
> your comments about GGBB. To be clear, I am NOT saying that you have  
> a problem with Dr. Dan Wallace personally. I am sure you have quite  
> a respect for him, as he does you. I just think you have -- almost  
> completely -- misunderstand what Wallace's objective was in writing  
> the GGBB. I respect you, and God knows I would never attempt to  
> challenge any of your Greek knowledge, but your view on how the GGBB  
> explains the Genitive is just plan silly to me. In fact, I would use  
> the word "wrong," but I just can't bring myself to say that (gosh, I  
> hope I haven't said that in all my rantings) by virtue of your  
> scholarly attainment; you have few equals.

I think we do respect each other -- have no fears in that regard,  
surely. But our exchanges here have disclosed disagreements over Greek  
pedagogy that are, I think, rather profound. And quite frankly, I wish  
you wouldn't try to overrate my "attainment." My contention is that  
the objective of learning to read Greek as Greek is really within the  
reach of most people with a reasonable degree of intelligence. It  
would have to be so, for a sizable and significant literature to have  
been composed and preserved in the language. It seems to me that it is  
the current generation that is abandoning the real will to read Greek  
as Greek.

> Hopefully this has helped both you and Michael better understand  
> what I've been trying to rant about. Please take my comments about  
> you my earlier posts as intentionally exaggerated for rhetorical  
> effect. Those who read what I write out here know that. I like to  
> make learning enjoyable. I like joining lists like these to learn.  
> Forgive me if my style is offensive. Be sure to smile when reading  
> my posts :o )

It has been very helpful, but I think that Michael and I have  
understood from the beginning what you have meant; we just disagree  
with you. I regret this, to be sure, but I was pretty sure even in my  
first response to your message that the best we might hope for from  
this exchange was to clarify the nature of our disagreement.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

> --- On Thu, 6/25/09, Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com> wrote:
>> From: Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
>> Subject: Re: [B-Greek] translation  strategies
>> To: "Eddie Mishoe" <edmishoe at yahoo.com>
>> Cc: "B Greek" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
>> Date: Thursday, June 25, 2009, 7:47 AM
>> Let's start all over again with this,
>> please. I've re-read the original question as posted below
>> and I think now, as I did when I first read it, that it is a
>> reaction to (against) my fervent hope that we were not going
>> to add a new subcategory of "genitive of purpose" to the
>> numerous subcategories of Wallace's GGBB.
>> Unless I really am off my rocker (Eddie suggests "early
>> signs of dementia" and later comments that I am out in left
>> field (while Mike Aubrey is out in right field, neither of
>> us two  having grasped what Eddie is really trying to
>> say), let me try a strategy (that word will get me into
>> trouble again, I'm sure) I once learned that was supposed to
>> foster effective communication in meetings and make meetings
>> shorter and more efficient: make sure that you understand
>> what the other guy is saying; state in your own words what
>> you think the other guy's saying, then let him tell you if
>> that's what he really meant.
>> I and perhaps a few others have frequently complained
>> (verily, ad nauseam) about the "multiplication of
>> grammatical subcategories" in Wallace's GGBB, with special
>> frequency and vehemence directed toward the interpretive
>> subcategories of the adnominal genitive (including that most
>> curious beast, the "aporetic genitive" -- a term that seems
>> to point roughly to something like Abbot and Costello's
>> "Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on
>> third."). I have even suggested, and I think some others
>> have concurred with me, that Wallace's subcategories such as
>> these subcategories of the adnominal genitive, do not really
>> represent grammatical constructions that would have meant
>> anything to a native Greek speaker or writer; rather these
>> subcategories are explanatory terms designed to help the
>> intermediate Greek student understand how the meaning of the
>> Greek construction in each particular instance would find
>> expression in English. I think that I myself may have to
>> bear the responsibility and blame for calling these
>> subcategories "translation strategies" rather than
>> straightforward grammatical accounts of how the Greek
>> construction functions in the mind of the Greek
>> speaker/writer and what it means to the Greek
>> speaker/writer.
>> Now perhaps I am wholly mistaken here -- Eddie certainly
>> seems convinced that I am --, but I had the impression that
>> Eddie was using the term "translation strategies" to refer
>> to Wallace's subcategories of the adnominal genitive in
>> GGBB, objecting once again, as indeed he has done before, to
>> my disparagement of these "grammatical" subcategories as
>> explanations of the Greek construction in terms of how the
>> Greek construction is best conveyed in English. If that is
>> the case, then Eddie is insisting (more forcefully, in fact)
>> that Wallace's subcategories -- including a putative
>> "Genitive of Purpose" -- do indeed convey exactly -- no more
>> and no less -- what the original Greek expression is
>> actually saying/meaning.
>> IS that what you actually meant, Eddie? Or have I really
>> misunderstood you altogether, after all?
>> Now I continue to disapprove of all those subcategories and
>> I continue to think that the student of Greek really ought
>> to read oodles of Greek and spend less time working with
>> "Greek" grammars that focus on explaining how to turn Greek
>> constructions into idiomatic English.
>> BUT -- to be fair to Wallace's declared intent with regard
>> to GGBB, Wallace has acknowledged openly -- recently in a
>> comment on a blog (was it yours, Mike?) and even in the
>> Introduction to GGBB (but who ever reads Introductions?) --,
>> that these subcategories are NOT precise semantic content
>> inherent in the syntactic structure of the adnominal
>> genitive, but RATHER are interpretative/interpretive
>> SYNTHESES  of the inherent semantic content of the
>> adnominal genitive construction PLUS the contextual
>> indicators ("pragmatic" factors) pointing to how the phrase
>> formulated in this constrution in this particular context
>> means what Walace believes it means.
>> TO ME that means that GGBB's textbook explanation of Greek
>> grammatical constructions in the GNT is in itself NOT a
>> GRAMMAR of NT Greek but rather a METHODOLOGY FOR
>> INTERPRETING the NT Greek text. And I surmise that Eddie
>> NT Geek text, it is impossible to EXPLAIN what the Greek
>> text MEANS.
>> Now IF that's what Eddie was trying to say, I understand
>> it, even if I don't agree with it. I would rather approach
>> the Greek text of the NT as freshly as I can every time I
>> look at it, even if I'm looking at a passage I've looked at
>> before, and try to understand it as it flows in its own
>> sequence of words, phrases, and clauses, gathering my own
>> grasp of the meaning of the passage as a whole before I ever
>> begin to ANALYZE the construction in terms of WHY I think it
>> means what I think it means. I really don't want to have all
>> these algorithmic tools for calculating the pragmatic
>> features of the context and pigeonholing the resultant
>> construction into something called a "Genitive of Purpose."
>> I don't want to read 2 COR. 1:24 OUC hOTI KURIEUOMEN hUMWN
>> PISTEI hESTHKATE and feel the need to analyze what kind of
>> genitive is involved in the phrasing of  SUNERGOI ESMEN
>> THS CARAS hUMWN. I am perhaps silly enough to imagine that
>> it is reasonably clear that Paul is claiming to have played
>> some part in bringing about the joy felt by the Corinthian
>> congregation.
>> IN SUM, I don't really think it is all about "translating,
>> translating, translating." I think it's about "reading Greek
>> and understanding the Greek that one reads" without giving
>> thought to how the Greek phrasing would convert into the
>> right phrasing for one or another target language. I
>> continue to believe that one must understand the Greek text
>> BEFORE one can ever translate it. And I continue to think
>> that "explaining the Greek NT" is not ultimately a matter of
>> "translation strategies" as it is a matter of understanding
>> the text of the NT as a Greek text and being able to
>> communicate what one understands.
>> Now it may be that this is not at all what Eddie Mishoe was
>> talking about. If it isn't, I apologize for being still out
>> in left field, but I hope that I have made clear at least
>> what I think about what I thought he was talking about.
>> Carl W. Conrad
>> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
>> On Jun 24, 2009, at 4:36 PM, Eddie Mishoe wrote:
>>> I have spoken out in opposition to this, and feel
>> compelled to continue saying why I think translation
>> strategies are the key to explaining the GNT, no -- the only
>> way to explain the GNT.
>>> Translation strategies are when the translator brings
>> the original language concept into the target language. The
>> concept being explained is EXCLUSIVELY that found in the
>> original language.
>>> It is sheer nonsense to continue to gripe about
>> translation strategies as if they are somehow using the
>> target language to explain a target language concept. Idioms
>> create their own set of challenges, but for the rest of the
>> text, the most effective way (no -- the only way) to
>> translate the meaning and nuance from the original language
>> to the target language is by translation strategy.
>>> Translators are interpreters. Interpreters translate
>> in the target language the concept being discussed in the
>> original language. The many, many Genitive categories and
>> sub-categories we find in GGBB is only the tip of the
>> iceberg of the many ways a Genitive can function. If we
>> included the Hellenistic literature, we would need to add a
>> couple hundred more; this is what the concept of "nuance"
>> means. If one were to give the nuances of the English word
>> "in" to a Greek reader, that Greek reader would have to
>> learn more than 100 usages of this "simple" preposition.
>> Other words are even worse. The point is, each of the 100+
>> usages of "in" have a separate grammatical categories and
>> sub-categories.
>>> Using this "purpose adnominal genitive" is an attempt
>> to convey the GREEK concept behind the GREEK structure to
>> ENGLISH readers. We may need a much larger literary corpus
>> to analyze the legitimacy of this "purpose adnominal
>> genitive." However, until that is undertaken, we have to
>> continue following hunches.
>>> One could argue that the sole function of a translator
>> is to use translation strategies to convey the meaning and
>> nuances of the original language into the target language.
>>> Eddie Mishoe
>>> Pastor

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