[B-Greek] elthatō

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Wed May 27 06:53:49 EDT 2009

On May 27, 2009, at 6:15 AM, Br Nathan-James wrote:

> Hi.
> I’m trying to determine the best way to translate elthatō, Verb 3d  
> Person Singular 2nd Aorist Active Imperative erchomai to ensure that  
> I capture the sense of the aorist active imperative.
> I (am) looking at this in the context of Matt 6:9-10 where we have  
> three aorist imperatives; (2 passive) ἁγιασθήτω  
> (hagiastheto), γενηθήτω (genetheto) and one active  
> ἐλθέτω (eltheto). What I am after is how to distinguish in  
> english the difference between the two passives and the one active.
> If anyone has any thoughts I’d be happy to know ... reading  
> grammars does not seem to get me where I would like to go.

The standard English mode of expressing the third-person imperatives,  
as you're probably aware, is "Let x (the subject of the Greek  
imperative) y (the verb of the Greek imperative). So,   
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·  ἐλθέτω ἡ  
βασιλεία σου· γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά  
TO QELHMA SOU ... ] = "Let your name be kept holy; let your kingdom  
come; let your will come to be ... "

Many people think this is very awkward English. Some would prefer a  
periphrasis with "may" instead of with "let": "May your name be kept  
holy; may your kingdom come, may your will come to be/be done ... "  
That's the older English auxiliary for a present subjunctive, but in  
today's English it sounds more like a wish (this is what NET uses).  
Perhaps that's appropriate, however: a prayer cannot very well COMMAND  
God to bring something about but only fervently request that these  
petitions may be fulfilled.

A radically different alternative is adopted by Eugene Peterson in  
"The Message":

	"Reveal who you are.  Set the world right; Do what’s best— as  
above, so below. "

This may seem like a radical departure from the original Greek text,  
but if one bears in mind that the fulfilment of the three petitions  
can only be brought about by God, then maybe it is sensible to  
rephrase the petitions as direct commands to God to bring about the  
things to be accomplished.

I don't think that solution will appeal to all, but it reflects one  
way of understanding what the Greek text means and one way of  
expressing in today's English what the translator is convinced the  
text actually means.

This is not the proper forum for discussion of the philosophy of  
translating the Biblical text (that would be the B-Translation list:
	subscribe: see options at bottom of the web page noted in the URL above

At any rate, you've hit upon a difficulty that is confronted sooner or  
later by all who confront the Biblical Greek text and find themselves  
more or less powerless to give proper expression to what the Greek  
text says in their native language.

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