[B-Greek] referential complexity: frames & scenarios and Galatians 6:18

Dr. Don Wilkins drdwilkins at verizon.net
Mon Apr 26 17:14:49 EDT 2010

Thanks for allowing further discussion of this thread, Carl.

On Apr 26, 2010, at 12:10 PM, Carl Conrad wrote:

> ...
> So far as I can see, the prevalent pedagogical method in Biblical
> Greek employed in seminaries and denominationally-oriented
> undergraduate schools is instruction in traditional analytical
> terminologies and descriptions of morphology, syntax, and
> lexicology and envisions the "proof of the pudding" of successful
> instruction as capacity to produce a more-or-less woodenly-literal
> version in the student's native language. I personally think this
> methodology is bankrupt

It certainly falls short of what we would like, possibly even into  
the category of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. But I  
don't think there are any shortcuts to true competency, and we've  
been living in a world of fast instruction to go along with our fast  
>> Elizabeth has once again refused further comment, but I appreciate
>> her input and Yancy's. It appears that you all think that a
>> translation that is "wooden" for analysis purposes is a bad idea. I'm
>> not sure Steve Runge would agree, because he seems to see value in
>> linguistic analysis of an English translation.
> Well, Steve can and should speak for himself. I don't see much value
> in analysis of an English version other than as an analysis of how an
> English text expresses its meaning. I don't see how one can analyze
> a Greek text other than in terms of the elements constituting that
> Greek text.

I was raising the possibility of an English text that mirrored the  
Greek. Historically this has been attempted, always with shortcomings  
and never with significant success, if any, in the marketplace  
because of the awkward English. Consider an interlinear to be both  
the extreme and the worst-case scenario. On the other hand, consider  
what people who are attempting to do Bible study with only an English  
(or other modern language) translation are really doing. From your  
description, as I understand you, they are only analyzing how the  
translator chose to express the meaning of the original. In my view  
the translator's choices essentially are commentary, more or less  
close to the intended meaning of the original.
>> On that point,
>> Randall, if you have the time, I would appreciate clarification of
>> your question, "...should someone who reads Greek poorly at best be
>> doing Greek analysis from an English text?" I was not asking about
>> Greek analysis, only linguistic analysis of an English text that is
>> "wooden" to accurately reflect the Greek text. Perhaps you don't
>> believe it's possible to accurately represent the original. If you
>> are saying that one has to master ancient Greek to properly analyze
>> ancient Greek, and similarly to do linguistic analysis of the Greek
>> text, I agree. And if you're saying that the best of bad alternatives
>> is that the non-Greek reader is at the mercy of the translator, I'm
>> not sure this is best, but I think that it is reality for the average
>> Bible student. Yancy's argument for using multiple translations in
>> Bible study works better for someone who reads Greek than for those
>> who don't, because someone like us can view the different
>> translations as commentaries, while those who don't read Greek have
>> no criteria for deciding the most accurate translation (i.e. the one
>> best representing the Greek). They need the guidance of a proficient
>> reader of the Greek (or the Hebrew for the OT). But this is way off-
>> topic (Carl, I apologize in advance).
> Randall too can and should speak for himself. I personally would
> agree with Yancy's view that a serious student of the Bible who
> cannot read Greek would do best to read several different versions
> rather than any single one. Like it or not, those who DO read Greek
> with some competence are hardly of one mind about what any
> particular Biblical Greek text must mean. Nor are they of one
> mind about which is/are the better translation(s). One who does not  
> have
> any competence in Biblical Greek will have to discern for herself
> which supposedly-competent "expert" she chooses to trust. I would
> want to do my own picking and choosing, but I don't think I would
> lay the burden trustworthiness all on any single so-called "expert."
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
But the non-Greek reader is in an "as good as it gets" situation, as  
Randall says. What you say about those of us who do read Greek is  
true; we have the ability to be critical of experts and to pick and  
choose intelligently. It's probably also true that the average person  
will simply read and prefer what he likes, as Yancy pointed out. I  
suspect that a serious student is going to want to come as close as  
she can to the original text. Then just consider the issue of lexical  
study. Are all translations equally accurate? Does it make sense to  
use an unabridged English dictionary to get an "in-depth" meaning for  
a special term in one or more English versions? Or do we think it  
would be better to look up the word of interest in BDAG or KB etc.?  
Here again, we can be critical of what we find in the standard  
lexicons, but wouldn't the reader who does not read the original  
languages be better off if she were pointed to one (or more) of the  
lexicon definitions? At least she would be pointed in the right  
direction for further investigation, unless perhaps we are going to  
say that the lexicons are not sufficiently reliable. I think we would  
agree that access to the lexicons is better than having to rely  
solely on what we find in different Bible versions.

Don Wilkins

>> On Apr 25, 2010, at 2:11 AM, Randall Buth wrote:
>>>> The end
>>>> product would not be a "Study Bible," but (to use an old term) a
>>>> thought-for-thought translation whose accuracy depends entirely on
>>>> the understanding of the translator.
>>> Having spent twenty years in Bible translation, I would say that
>>> all good
>>> translation is done this way and is always similarly limited. Yet
>>> it is
>>> as good as it gets.
>>> The alternative--to list glosses that mimic the structure of the
>>> source
>>> language (Greek, in this case), is to guarantee less accuracy. The
>>> reader/audience has no alternative but to interpret the 'glosses'
>>> according
>>> to the target language, and will correspondingly be more distant  
>>> from
>>> a fullly accurate interpretation. Any 'Greek' [SIC] training will  
>>> just
>>> compound the issue, because they won't have the necessary breadth to
>>> qualify the training that they get and will again woodenly apply
>>> 'rules'
>>> to a language whose cadence they do not hear.
>>> However, the above quote was not made for translation purposes but
>>> for analysis purposes. That brings one back to the question--
>>> should someone who reads Greek poorly at best be doing Greek
>>> analysis from an English text? I just can't see it, and have  
>>> heard far
>>> too many 'radio-preachers' to believe that the good will outweigh  
>>> the
>>> bad. I think that the bad outweighs the good. Students will be  
>>> better
>>> off, more on-target and in-the-ball-park, working from multiple
>>> English
>>> translations done by qualified, skilled translators. And with a  
>>> little
>>> training in order to appreciate the various translations vis-a-vis
>>> 'wooden glosses'.
>>> Personally, I don't see any other route than to learn Greek well if
>>> someone wants to be a skilled, lifelong, interpreter of ancient
>>> Greek literature and the NT in particular.
>>> If you love Cervantes, learn Spanish fluently. If you love Schiller,
>>> learn German fluently. If you love the Bard, learn English fluently.
>>> If you love Jesus, learn Greek fluently (Hebrew fluently too).
>>> And learn analytical tools in parallel to the language skills.

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