[B-Greek] Theologically motivated translation, at times

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Sun Jun 28 08:55:46 EDT 2009

On Jun 28, 2009, at 6:49 AM, Mitch Larramore wrote:

> I read the following short blurb by Dr. Wallace on Mark 11.22 and  
> the reason for translating ECETE PISTIN QEOU. My question is below  
> the blurb, and this topic is coincidental to the resent set of  
> exchanges about GGBB's discussion of the Genitive.
> Why doesn't the translation of the genitive in Mark 11:22 use the  
> word of? How is theology used to translate this verse?
> By: Daniel B. Wallace
> The Greek genitive case can be used in dozens of ways, and to leave  
> it as simply an 'of' idea is often very misleading. For example, the  
> genitive case is used with the comparative adjective for the idea of  
> comparison. We would translate this something like, "His car is  
> better THAN her car." The 'than' is the genitive word 'of.' But to  
> translate it as 'his car is better OF her car' doesn't make any sense.

But the "genitive of comparison" is not an adnominal genitive; it is  
essentially an ablatival genitive. I agree that the preferable English  
is "better THAN ... " but the more "literal" English would be "better  
OF ... " but rather "better FROM ... "

> In Mark 11:22, although there are a couple of valid ways to  
> translate the text, when one is dealing with God as the object, it's  
> difficult to think of more than one. So, yes, theology does play a  
> part in translation, but necessarily so. There are some groups that  
> want to translate this passage as 'Have the faith that God has' but  
> such an idea is unparalleled anywhere else in the Bible and doesn't  
> fit the context. 'Have faith in God' is the preferred translation  
> and meaning.
> [End of paragraph]
> Is that really true that the translation "of God" is perhaps  
> expected, but for theological reasons, "in God" is substituted? It  
> seems strange to me to suggest that deviations from the translation  
> "of xyz" for the Genitive may result from theological motives,  
> especially in a "theological" book!

It might be best to have the text before our eyes: Mark 11:22 καὶ  
ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς·  
ἔχετε πίστιν θεοῦ. [KAI APOKRIQEIS hO IHSOUS LEGEI  

For my part I really don't think that theology plays any role in the  
preference of "faith IN God"; we interpreted the Greek phrase PISTIN  
QEOU as what is traditionally termed an "objective" genitive", that is  
to say, from the context we can surmise that ECETE PISTIN QEOU is  
equivalent to PISTEUETE TWi QEWi: "Be faithful to God" or "Trust God."  
BUT we would use "in" even if we were speaking/writing in English  
about a human being: "Have faith IN the governor" or "Have faith IN  
Mr. Jones" = "Trust Mr. Jones." In other words, the verbal phrase in  
English, "have faith" -- when that faith is directed towards a person  
-- is ordinarily completed with a prepositional phrase, "in X." So  
this isn't rally a "theologically" motivated translation at all, so  
far as I can see.

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

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