Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby Alan Patterson » June 6th, 2013, 10:31 am

I have always thought it odd that we somewhat do not like the use of translations. By "translations" I am referring to our personal understanding of a Greek Text. When discussing Greek words, phrases, and/or sentences, it is imperative, if you ask me, to provide an English translation. Read BDAG. It primarily defines terms in English, and then gives examples in Greek. When defining more precisely a term, one's understanding needs to be explained in English so we can get the more finer meanings of the term. In fact, even the English translation may need further explanation. If I were defining the term "Implicature" to someone who only knows French, I would further define it by an expanded definition... in French. Languages are much too complex to work from the basis that no personal translations are needed.

I have not run across many posts on B-Greek that does not adhere to the above-stated principle. When I give a post and ask for a comment on a particular term, and give my own understanding of it in English by way of personal translation, I am simply defining how I understand the Greek. I feel fairly certain that I have misunderstood why we are to stay away from translations, or what I call explanations (how I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong... in English). So where do I misunderstand the "rule" of no translations?
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby cwconrad » June 6th, 2013, 3:21 pm

Well, if need be, let's note a distinction between (1) the published translations that are often adduced in discussion of a text, sometimes questioning why the version conveys a construction as it does or to support an interpretation, and (2) an English formulation of a word or phrase offered as an interpretation of the Greek text in question. We've made a point of discouraging speculation on the published versions or discussion of the process of Biblical translation itself -- that's done well elsewhere (notably the Bible-Translation List). As for the English version that is commonly added to discussion of a Biblical Greek text in this forum, I have to say I would want to discourage the notion that the goal of reading Biblical texts in the Greek is production of an English version of that text. I'll add notes to my discussions of texts indicating "how I would English the Greek" in this instance, but I would consider that not a translation so much as an interpretative rendering to clarify my understanding of the Greek text. I would want o discourage the notion that my own Englishing of a passage is intended as a representation of what the Greek text says. I think that understanding of the Greek text as a Greek text is an end in itself and not a process that only reaches its proper conclusion with the production of an English version. What I would want to avoid is any suggestion that the Greek text in question can be decoded element-by-element and reconstructed precisely in English or another target language. It may be that there's a paradox in this, but what I would want to discourage is a notion that we should look toward reformulation of the Greek text into a target language rather than understanding the Greek text as a Greek text.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ἄτοπον, ἔφη, λέγεις εἰκόνα καὶ δεσμώτας ἀτόπους.
ὁμοίους ἡμῖν, ἦν δʼ ἐγώ. Plato, Rep. 7 (515a)
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby Alan Patterson » June 6th, 2013, 5:25 pm

Dr. Conrad,

I obviously had the wrong idea of "Translations" in this forum. Yes, I was referring to:

2) an English formulation of a word or phrase offered as an interpretation of the Greek text in question.


I have offered in this forum a personal "formulation" of a phrase or clause. A couple of times I got the idea that that was inappropriate.

Sorry for my misunderstanding. Thank you for the clarification.
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby cwconrad » June 7th, 2013, 10:03 am

Alan Patterson wrote:I have always thought it odd that we somewhat do not like the use of translations. By "translations" I am referring to our personal understanding of a Greek Text. When discussing Greek words, phrases, and/or sentences, it is imperative, if you ask me, to provide an English translation. Read BDAG. It primarily defines terms in English, and then gives examples in Greek. When defining more precisely a term, one's understanding needs to be explained in English so we can get the more finer meanings of the term. In fact, even the English translation may need further explanation. If I were defining the term "Implicature" to someone who only knows French, I would further define it by an expanded definition... in French. Languages are much too complex to work from the basis that no personal translations are needed.


Perhaps I'm repeating myself; I hope not. My initial response was couched primarily in negative terms. What I particularly like about your formulation above is the acknowledgement that
even the English translation may need further explanation
. You noted also that BDAG
primarily defines terms in English, and then gives examples in Greek.
I think that what you've said here implies (a) that conversion of the Greek text into an alternative language is soley for the sake of understanding the Greek text as a Greek text; the "translation" is not an end in itself, and (b) that what we say about the Greek text is always aimed at clarifying our understanding of the Greek text. What I would add here is something I think Randall might add: ideally the clarification of the Greek text should itself be composed in Biblical Greek rather than in an alternative language, and there should be no supposition that the clarifying formulation in Greek could actually be a replacement of the original Greek text. As for BDAG, it's not the gloss offered by BDAG that is ultimately the most important "clarification" but rather the Greek examples cited for usage that are the most significant item of clarification that BDAG has to offer.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ἄτοπον, ἔφη, λέγεις εἰκόνα καὶ δεσμώτας ἀτόπους.
ὁμοίους ἡμῖν, ἦν δʼ ἐγώ. Plato, Rep. 7 (515a)
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby Mark Lightman » June 7th, 2013, 4:59 pm

Conrad: ...ideally the clarification of the Greek text should itself be composed in Biblical Greek rather than in an alternative language...


σύμφημι δή, ὦ φίλε γέρον! μόνον δὲ Ἑλληνιστὶ περὶ ταύτης τῆς γλώσσης γράφειν θέλω ἔγωγε.
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby RandallButh » June 8th, 2013, 1:49 am

ναί, Μᾶρκε, φίλω τί ποιεῖς ἀλλὰ ὦδε δεῖ ἡμᾶς δηλοῦν τι βρεταννικήν.

What I would add here is something I think Randall might add: ideally the clarification of the Greek text should itself be composed in Biblical Greek rather than in an alternative language, and there should be no supposition that the clarifying formulation in Greek could actually be a replacement of the original Greek text.


One of the purposes of rephrasing in Greek is that a clearer comparison can be made between what was, in fact, chosen and what was not chosen. Seeing the other options often clarifies the intent of the original. This comparison of options, llmitations and contrasts is usually obscured when the discussion takes place in another language. There is a saying "choice is meaning." The corollary becomes "obscuring the choice obscures the meaning."
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 12th, 2013, 3:47 am

I think that translations can be appropriate when the goal is to communicate what we think a Greek sentence means. However, such an understanding of the Greek is not always evident in a word-for-word translation.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby Alan Patterson » June 12th, 2013, 7:47 am

Could anyone explain and discuss the words below in biblical Greek?

Exercise 1: Just looking at the first few verses of GJohn, could anyone adequately explain the meanings of λογος in biblical Greek, and what words were not chosen? How about αρχη or εν? These are all common words in the GNT.

I really think the answer to this will clarify what my questions are about in this topic.
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby Mark Lightman » June 13th, 2013, 3:57 pm

Alan Patterson wrote:Could anyone explain and discuss the words below in biblical Greek?

Exercise 1: Just looking at the first few verses of GJohn, could anyone adequately explain the meanings of λογος in biblical Greek, and what words were not chosen? How about αρχη or εν? These are all common words in the GNT.

I really think the answer to this will clarify what my questions are about in this topic.


χαῖρε δή, φίλε Αλαν!

Ἰωάννης 1:1 ἔγραψε
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.


νομίζω ὅτι οὕτως ἔγραφεν ὁ Ἰωάννης διότι ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τῆς Γενέσεως 1:1 ἀναγινώσκομεν τὸ "ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ Θεὸς." οὐκ ἔγραψεν τὸ "Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν τὸ ρῆμα" διότι ὁ Θεὸς ἐποίησε πάντα ἐν τῲ λέγειν. ὁ δὲ ¨"λόγος" ἐστὶν λέξις τῶν φιλοσόφων. φημι δή τοὺς Στώακας.

διὰ τί τό "ἦν?" (ὁ παρατατικός) διότι γε τὸ "εἶναι" οὐκ ἔχω τὴν ἀορίστην μορφήν.

λέγω οὖν τοῦτο. εἰ ἂν ἔγραφε ὁ Ἰωάννης τοῦτο

ἐγένετο ἐν πρώτοις τὸ ρῆμα. τὸ δὲ ρῆμα σὺν τῷ Θεῷ ἐγένετο....


ὁ ἀναγινώσκων οὐκ ἂν ἐμνημόνευε τὸ Γεν 1:1.

πολλὰ ἴθι χαίρων, ἄριστε!
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Re: Using Translations in B-Greek Discussions

Postby Alan Patterson » June 14th, 2013, 12:44 am

Mark,

Remember that you will need to use Hellenistic Greek as you begin to explain all the meanings/nuances found in biblical Greek. As your answer shows, you can not even begin to get into the nuts and bolts of these words. There are another 30+ meanings of λογος. Each needs to be considered as well. The same is true for αρχη and εν. Actually, εν would probably have more nuances than λογος. But the point is, and check any lexicon, to define biblical words requires using tons of Hellenistic Greek words to convey the meaning of biblical Greek words. This is why I said that one needs to be fluent in Hellenistic Greek ALSO. Few, if any, are fluent in Hellenistic Greek.
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