breadth, length, height and depth

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thomas.hagen
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Joined: August 14th, 2012, 4:22 pm
Location: Livorno, Italy

breadth, length, height and depth

Post by thomas.hagen » August 18th, 2014, 4:42 pm

Hello again - I thought I'd keep you busy during this part of the summer when perhaps you have a little less to do, like me! (Not really because this week I'm painting our living room!)

This time my question concerns Ephesians 3.18, 19:

"...ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος,
19 γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ χριστοῦ, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ."


I am used to the Italian translation most used by Italian Protestants in which πλάτος, μῆκος, ὕψος and βάθος are considered properties of the love of Christ:

"affinché siate resi capaci di abbracciare con tutti i santi quale sia la larghezza, la lunghezza, l'altezza e la profondità dell'amore di Cristo 19 e di conoscere questo amore che sorpassa ogni conoscenza, affinché siate ricolmi di tutta la pienezza di Dio."

("...that you may be enabled to embrace with all the saints what is the width, the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ and to know this love which surpasses all knowledge..."

Therefore, I was somewhat surprised recently when I saw that most English translations render the Greek rather literally and do not directly connect the dimensions with the love of Christ. I have two questions related to this.

1) Does the Italian translation represent a valid interpretation of the text or not?

2) If the dimensions are kept separate from the "love of Christ", how are they best understood? Do they represent the universe, all of existence - both known and unknown, etc.? Are they ever found in this formula in other Greek literature?

Let me see if I learned something from my last post "before you ask him". I want to thank you πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς ἀποκριθῆναι! (Although I'm not sure if ἀποκριθῆναι is the correct infinitive.)
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 18th, 2014, 11:15 pm

Verse numbers are more prominent / noticeable than punctuation marks, and the text is even printed verse by verse as separated paragraph. People do quote verses from the Bible rather than sentences. Sometimes "translation" involves catering for those idiosyncrasies.

Another common thing is making pronouns (including the internal subject of verbs) clear from their context, which is either outside the verse in question, or where the (inflected) Greek is clear (or at least understandable), but English is not.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by Barry Hofstetter » August 19th, 2014, 6:57 am

thomas.hagen wrote:Hello again - I thought I'd keep you busy during this part of the summer when perhaps you have a little less to do, like me! (Not really because this week I'm painting our living room!)

This time my question concerns Ephesians 3.18, 19:

"...ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος,
19 γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ χριστοῦ, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ."


I am used to the Italian translation most used by Italian Protestants in which πλάτος, μῆκος, ὕψος and βάθος are considered properties of the love of Christ:

"affinché siate resi capaci di abbracciare con tutti i santi quale sia la larghezza, la lunghezza, l'altezza e la profondità dell'amore di Cristo 19 e di conoscere questo amore che sorpassa ogni conoscenza, affinché siate ricolmi di tutta la pienezza di Dio."

("...that you may be enabled to embrace with all the saints what is the width, the length, the height and the depth of the love of Christ and to know this love which surpasses all knowledge..."

Therefore, I was somewhat surprised recently when I saw that most English translations render the Greek rather literally and do not directly connect the dimensions with the love of Christ. I have two questions related to this.

1) Does the Italian translation represent a valid interpretation of the text or not?

2) If the dimensions are kept separate from the "love of Christ", how are they best understood? Do they represent the universe, all of existence - both known and unknown, etc.? Are they ever found in this formula in other Greek literature?

Let me see if I learned something from my last post "before you ask him". I want to thank you πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς ἀποκριθῆναι! (Although I'm not sure if ἀποκριθῆναι is the correct infinitive.)
Admittedly, I rarely use Italian, but I am not sure I see the Italian making the distinction you suggest. Here is the NAS for comparision:

17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.


New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eph 3:17–19). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Could you explain how you see the Italian translation saying something that this or other English translations do not?
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 19th, 2014, 7:23 am

In the Italian translation, it is explicit that the breadth, length, height, and depth are attributes of Christ's love (i.e. the addition of "dell'amore di Cristo" = "of the love of Christ") at the end of v.18. The NASB is not explicit as to what these dimensions concern.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by Barry Hofstetter » August 19th, 2014, 10:05 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:In the Italian translation, it is explicit that the breadth, length, height, and depth are attributes of Christ's love (i.e. the addition of "dell'amore di Cristo" = "of the love of Christ") at the end of v.18. The NASB is not explicit as to what these dimensions concern.
Ah, now I see it, thanks. I haven't used Italian or read an Italian translation since the early 1980's. I'm a bit rusty... :shock:

However, I have to say that the standard English translations more faithfully represent the Greek:

18 ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος, 19 γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ.

While occasionally it is necessary to add a bit or subtract a bit to make good sense in English of the Greek, here my sense of it is that if Paul wanted to make the connection explicit, he would have done so, τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, and it is better to reflect what Paul actually wrote than to narrow the range of interpretation by specifying. I think it is as possible in English to see the connection from context as it is in the Greek.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 19th, 2014, 12:55 pm

Things that could be overlooked / mis-taken in translation here.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:However, I have to say that the standard English translations more faithfully represent the Greek:
17 κατοικῆσαι τὸν χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν·
18 ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι [is the versification different between the Greek and English] ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος, 19 γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ.
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.


New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Eph 3:17–19). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:While occasionally it is necessary to add a bit or subtract a bit to make good sense in English of the Greek, here my sense of it is that if Paul wanted to make the connection explicit, he would have done so, τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, and it is better to reflect what Paul actually wrote than to narrow the range of interpretation by specifying. I think it is as possible in English to see the connection from context as it is in the Greek.
I have as much trouble making the connection in English as I do in Greek. :lol:

For the other points where sense is not so straightforwardly made here, I don't know how the English could be better...

The expected verb with those words expressing a numerical measurement (πλάτος, μῆκος, ὕψος, βάθος) is μετρεῖν "measure", because the ἵνα suggests that we should use a verb appropriate for not yet knowing the values. It is hard to know whether that surprising collocation has the same effect in translation or not. The word play γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην, where in the Greek the sense of become acquainted with love by experience (γνῶναι ... ἀγάπην) is superior to Gnowlege (Gnosis - perhaps regular know-it-alls or an early reference to Gnosticism) is not so clear in the English as in the Greek, because we don't use γνῶσις "Knowledge"/"Gnosis" or πλήρωμα "Fullness"/"Fullness of undivided divinity" in that same technical (Valentinian / Gnostic) sense in English.
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cwconrad
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Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by cwconrad » August 20th, 2014, 7:14 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:While occasionally it is necessary to add a bit or subtract a bit to make good sense in English of the Greek, here my sense of it is that if Paul wanted to make the connection explicit, he would have done so, τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, and it is better to reflect what Paul actually wrote than to narrow the range of interpretation by specifying. I think it is as possible in English to see the connection from context as it is in the Greek.
I have as much trouble making the connection in English as I do in Greek. :lol:

For the other points where sense is not so straightforwardly made here, I don't know how the English could be better...

The expected verb with those words expressing a numerical measurement (πλάτος, μῆκος, ὕψος, βάθος) is μετρεῖν "measure", because the ἵνα suggests that we should use a verb appropriate for not yet knowing the values. It is hard to know whether that surprising collocation has the same effect in translation or not. The word play γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην, where in the Greek the sense of become acquainted with love by experience (γνῶναι ... ἀγάπην) is superior to Gnowlege (Gnosis - perhaps regular know-it-alls or an early reference to Gnosticism) is not so clear in the English as in the Greek, because we don't use γνῶσις "Knowledge"/"Gnosis" or πλήρωμα "Fullness"/"Fullness of undivided divinity" in that same technical (Valentinian / Gnostic) sense in English.
I'm going to add a note here that is perhaps not called for: I think there is less in this passage than meets the eye. I'm one who does not believe that Paul himself wrote this letter That is not up for discussion here, but it is relevant to the extent that there are several passages within this "epistle" or "treatise" (e.g. 1:3-13, 3:14-19, 6:10-20) that seem to add up to less than the sum of their parts. This author appears to be straining to make points clear and having great difficulty doing so.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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

thomas.hagen
Posts: 24
Joined: August 14th, 2012, 4:22 pm
Location: Livorno, Italy

Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by thomas.hagen » August 20th, 2014, 10:20 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Could you explain how you see the Italian translation saying something that this or other English translations do not?
Stephen Carlson wrote:In the Italian translation, it is explicit that the breadth, length, height, and depth are attributes of Christ's love (i.e. the addition of "dell'amore di Cristo" = "of the love of Christ") at the end of v.18. The NASB is not explicit as to what these dimensions concern.
I was about to answer Barry Hofstetter's question when I saw Stephen Carlson's answer which took the words out of my "keyboard". I seem to see a general consensus (correct me if I am wrong) that in translation "πλάτος, μῆκος, ὕψος καὶ βάθος" SHOULD NOT BE rendered as attributes of the "ἀγάπην τοῦ χριστοῦ". If that is the case, how should they be understood?
cwconrad wrote:The expected verb with those words expressing a numerical measurement (πλάτος, μῆκος, ὕψος, βάθος) is μετρεῖν "measure", because the ἵνα suggests that we should use a verb appropriate for not yet knowing the values.
As no values are assigned to these measures, it would seem that they are to be considered to the infinite degree, but the infinite degree of what - the divinity, truth, reality, existence, the universe, ecc.? Is there anything in the text (or the rest of the epistle) to help here. Are they used in this way in gnostic literature / thought?
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: breadth, length, height and depth

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 20th, 2014, 1:30 pm

thomas.hagen wrote:
cwconrad wrote:The expected verb with those words expressing a numerical measurement (πλάτος, μῆκος, ὕψος, βάθος) is μετρεῖν "measure", because the ἵνα suggests that we should use a verb appropriate for not yet knowing the values.
As no values are assigned to these measures, it would seem that they are to be considered to the infinite degree, but the infinite degree of what - the divinity, truth, reality, existence, the universe, ecc.? Is there anything in the text (or the rest of the epistle) to help here. Are they used in this way in gnostic literature / thought?
Please do not hold the venerable Dr. Conrad to account for my foolish ramblings. It is me who suggested that nouns of degree and scale suggest the need for measurement.

Let him be noted for his own viewpoints.
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(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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