Correct Translation of παρουσία

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Vladislav Kotenko
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Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by Vladislav Kotenko » September 27th, 2014, 9:47 am

Philippians 2:12: “Ωστε, ἀγαπητοί μου, καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον, ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου, μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε.”

The word παρουσία occurs 24 times in the Greek Scriptures. (Mt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1Co 15:23; 16:17; 2Co 7:6, 7; 10:10; Php 1:26; 2:12; 1Th 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2Th 2:1, 8, 9; Jas 5:7, 8; 2Pe 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1Jo 2:28.)

It is defined as “1. presence. 2. arrival; advent; coming,” so that KJV usually renders it as “coming.” However, in the above-quoted verse, παρουσία is translated “presence” in KJV.

Since “presence” and “coming” are not the same things, how can we determine, when παρουσία occurs in a Bible passage, whether it refers to a coming or to a presence?

Since a lot of Greek dictionaries give “presence” as the first definition, is it appropriate to always render παρουσία in this way?
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timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » September 27th, 2014, 10:32 pm

Vladislav Kotenko wrote:Since “presence” and “coming” are not the same things, how can we determine, when παρουσία occurs in a Bible passage, whether it refers to a coming or to a presence?
Ummm... context?
Vladislav Kotenko wrote:Since a lot of Greek dictionaries give “presence” as the first definition, is it appropriate to always render παρουσία in this way?
No.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by Barry Hofstetter » September 28th, 2014, 5:30 am

Vladislav Kotenko wrote:Philippians 2:12: “Ωστε, ἀγαπητοί μου, καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον, ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου, μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε.”

The word παρουσία occurs 24 times in the Greek Scriptures. (Mt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1Co 15:23; 16:17; 2Co 7:6, 7; 10:10; Php 1:26; 2:12; 1Th 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2Th 2:1, 8, 9; Jas 5:7, 8; 2Pe 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1Jo 2:28.)

It is defined as “1. presence. 2. arrival; advent; coming,” so that KJV usually renders it as “coming.” However, in the above-quoted verse, παρουσία is translated “presence” in KJV.

Since “presence” and “coming” are not the same things, how can we determine, when παρουσία occurs in a Bible passage, whether it refers to a coming or to a presence?

Since a lot of Greek dictionaries give “presence” as the first definition, is it appropriate to always render παρουσία in this way?
A Timothy has pointed out, context determines the appropriate usage. If the first meaning of "run" in the dictionary is something like "to move feet fast to get from point a to point b, would you always translate it that way?
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Vladislav Kotenko
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by Vladislav Kotenko » September 28th, 2014, 9:21 am

Yes, of course, context usually serves as a determining factor in translation from any language.

The reason why those questions were raised is that some persons argue that παρουσία should always be rendered as “presence” in the Greek Scriptures.

I know of at least three Bible translations which render παρουσία as “presence” instead of “coming” in all 24 occurrences of the word.

Rotherham, in the appendix of his Emphasized Bible, says: “In this edition the word parousia is uniformly rendered “presence” (“coming,” as a representative of this word, being set aside). The original term occurs twenty four times in the New Testament, viz.: Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6, 7; 10:10; Philippians 1:26; 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:3; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; and 1 John 2:28. The sense of “presence” is so plainly shown by the contrast with “absence” (implied in 2 Corinthians 10:10, and expressed in Philippians 2:12) that the question naturally arises, Why not always so render it? The more so, inasmuch as there is in 2 Peter 1:16 also, a peculiar fitness in our English word “presence.” This passage, it will be remembered, relates to our Lord’s transformation upon the Mount. The wonderful manifestation there made was a display and sample of “presence” rather than of “coming.” The Lord was already there; and, being there, he was transformed (compare Matthew 17:2, footnote) and the “majesty” of his glorified person was then disclosed. His bodily “presence” was one which implied and exerted “power;” so that “power and presence” go excellently well together -- the “power” befitting such a one and the same moment witnesses of both. The difficulty expressed in the notes to the second edition of this New Testament in the way of so yielding to this weight of evidence as to render parousia always by “presence,” lay in the seeming incongruity of regarding “presence” as an event which would happen at a particular time and which would fall into rank as one of a series of events, as 1 Corinthians 15:23 especially appeared to require. The translator still feels the force of this objection, but is withdrawn from taking his stand upon it any longer by the reflection that, after all, the difficulty may be imaginary. The parousia, in any case, is still in the future, and may therefore be enshrouded in a measure of obscurity which only fulfillment can clear away: it may, in fine, be both a period - - more or less extended during which certain things shall happen -- and an event, coming on and passing away as one of a series of divine interpositions. Christ is raised as a first fruit -- that is one event; He returns and vouchsafes his “presence,” during which he raises his own -- that is another event, however large and prolonged; and finally comes another cluster of events constituting “the end.” Hence, after all, “presence” may be the most widely and permanently satisfying translation of the looked for parousia of the Son of Man.

On what basis is παρουσία given the second definition of “coming” and is so rendered in most instances in KJV?

Does the original Greek root of the word has anything to do with movement or coming, an act of motion?
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by cwconrad » September 28th, 2014, 10:40 am

Vladislav Kotenko wrote: Does the original Greek root of the word has anything to do with movement or coming, an act of motion?
Yes; it is the noun based on the participial stem of παρεῖναι, which may and often does mean "be present", but which quite often bears a perfective sense equivalent to ἥκειν, "to have arrived." For that reason παρουσία when used in the sense of "arrival" is regularly conveyed in Latin versions by the noun, adventus.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by Barry Hofstetter » September 28th, 2014, 12:29 pm

Vladislav Kotenko wrote:Yes, of course, context usually serves as a determining factor in translation from any language.

The reason why those questions were raised is that some persons argue that παρουσία should always be rendered as “presence” in the Greek Scriptures.

I know of at least three Bible translations which render παρουσία as “presence” instead of “coming” in all 24 occurrences of the word.

Rotherham, in the appendix of his Emphasized Bible, says: “In this edition the word parousia is uniformly rendered “presence” (“coming,” as a representative of this word, being set aside). The original term occurs twenty four times in the New Testament, viz.: Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6, 7; 10:10; Philippians 1:26; 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:3; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; and 1 John 2:28. The sense of “presence” is so plainly shown by the contrast with “absence” (implied in 2 Corinthians 10:10, and expressed in Philippians 2:12) that the question naturally arises, Why not always so render it? The more so, inasmuch as there is in 2 Peter 1:16 also, a peculiar fitness in our English word “presence.” This passage, it will be remembered, relates to our Lord’s transformation upon the Mount. The wonderful manifestation there made was a display and sample of “presence” rather than of “coming.” The Lord was already there; and, being there, he was transformed (compare Matthew 17:2, footnote) and the “majesty” of his glorified person was then disclosed. His bodily “presence” was one which implied and exerted “power;” so that “power and presence” go excellently well together -- the “power” befitting such a one and the same moment witnesses of both. The difficulty expressed in the notes to the second edition of this New Testament in the way of so yielding to this weight of evidence as to render parousia always by “presence,” lay in the seeming incongruity of regarding “presence” as an event which would happen at a particular time and which would fall into rank as one of a series of events, as 1 Corinthians 15:23 especially appeared to require. The translator still feels the force of this objection, but is withdrawn from taking his stand upon it any longer by the reflection that, after all, the difficulty may be imaginary. The parousia, in any case, is still in the future, and may therefore be enshrouded in a measure of obscurity which only fulfillment can clear away: it may, in fine, be both a period - - more or less extended during which certain things shall happen -- and an event, coming on and passing away as one of a series of divine interpositions. Christ is raised as a first fruit -- that is one event; He returns and vouchsafes his “presence,” during which he raises his own -- that is another event, however large and prolonged; and finally comes another cluster of events constituting “the end.” Hence, after all, “presence” may be the most widely and permanently satisfying translation of the looked for parousia of the Son of Man.

On what basis is παρουσία given the second definition of “coming” and is so rendered in most instances in KJV?

Does the original Greek root of the word has anything to do with movement or coming, an act of motion?
This is simply a fancy justification of ignoring how the word is actually used. From BDAG:

① the state of being present at a place, presence (Aeschyl. et al.; Herm. Wr. 1, 22; OGI 640, 7, SIG 730, 14; Did.; cp. Hippol., Ref. 7, 32, 8 ‘existence’) 1 Cor 16:17; Phil 2:12 (opp. ἀπουσία). ἡ π. τοῦ σώματος ἀσθενής his bodily presence is weak i.e. when he is present in person, he appears to be weak 2 Cor 10:10.—Of God (Jos., Ant. 3, 80; 203; 9, 55) τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ δείγματα proofs of his presence Dg 7:9 (cp. Diod S 3, 66, 3 σημεῖα τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ θεοῦ; 4, 24, 1).
② arrival as the first stage in presence, coming, advent (Soph., El. 1104; Eur., Alc. 209; Thu. 1, 128, 5. Elsewh. mostly in later wr.: Polyb. 22, 10, 14; Demetr.: 722 Fgm. 11, 18 Jac.; Diod S 15, 32, 2; 19, 64, 6; Dionys. Hal. 1, 45, 4; ins, pap; Jdth 10:18; 2 Macc 8:12; 15:21; 3 Macc 3:17; TestAbr A 2 p. 78, 26 [Stone p. 4]; Jos., Bell. 4, 345, Vi. 90; Tat. 39, 3).


Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

I suggest looking up each of the instances and asking the question "which usage sounds better in this context?"
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 28th, 2014, 11:56 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:I suggest looking up each of the instances and asking the question "which usage sounds better in this context?"
Rather than heading into the subjective unknown with that, let me suggest a method for doing it...

Further to what I said 12 months ago about this noun (I would now add the words ἀποχωρεῖν / ἀποχώρησις to that discussion, and I would also raise the topic of whether ἄφιξις (cf. ἀφικνέομαι "to reach", "to arrive") in Acts 20:29 Ἐγὼ γὰρ οἶδα τοῦτο, ὅτι εἰσελεύσονται μετὰ τὴν ἄφιξίν μου λύκοι βαρεῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς, μὴ φειδόμενοι τοῦ ποιμνίου· means "departure" or "arrival", if I had known then what I know now). Here, I will be considering the meaning (place it functions in the language) of παρουσία from a different perspective than I did last year.

To preempt what I will say here, I think that it is a question of whether the action can be repeated or not.

Let me first introduce a (vaguely) analogous situation to this, which is the so-called third form of the verb "to go" in English. Most books list it as; go - went - have gone, but that is not the whole story, go to - went to - have been to is also possible. The difference is whether the person returned or not. In a tense that means where the action is repeated, such as "I go to school every day.", then the third form of the verb is "I been to school every day" (implying he returned), but in another case, such as "He will go home next week." the corresponding third form of the verb is "He has gone home." (without specifying his return).

The implications of the verb form for whether the action is complete or on-going are not made so clear in English as they are in Greek, but in this case we need to think about that issue when choosing the correct third form to use.

In Greek, παρουσία is a noun not a verbal tense, but it a noun derived from a verb. In each situation where it is used, try to decide whether it is derived from a form of the verb that is repeatable, such as the present or imperfect, in which case the corresponding noun would be short term, such as "arrival" (without specifying whether he stayed on), OR from a from of the verb which is non-repeatable such as the aorist in which case the corresponding noun would be long term, such as "presence" (implying he stayed on).

In other words, rephrase each instance verbally, and decide if it is an on-going or momentary action.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by Stephen Carlson » September 29th, 2014, 2:47 am

It seems that a "presence" and a "coming" entail each other. If a human is present, there must have been a coming of that person, and if a human has come (and not left), then there is a presence of that person. Thus, we're not really looking at differences in the propositional truth values but in what's being emphasized or focused upon. It's the goal of the translator to convey what he thinks the author is saying.
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Michael Theophilos
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by Michael Theophilos » September 29th, 2014, 6:45 am

The term παρουσία in its most basic sense refers to a person’s presence, that is, as opposed to their absence. In 1 Cor 16:17, Paul states “I rejoice at the coming (παρουσία) of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence.” The term was also frequently employed more specifically. One common usage in the Hellenistic world was the use of “ παρουσία” to refer to the visit of a ruler or a high official. Polybius Hist 18.48.4 notes of Antiochus "and after speaking with him on the other matters about which they had instructions, they advised him to send an embassy to Rome, to ask for an alliance, in order to obviate all suspicion of being on the watch for an opportunity in expectation of the arrival of Antiochus". Polybius Hist 16.25.1ff also uses the term of Attalus’ entry into Athens in 200 BC, The Maccabaean literature also provides an illustrative parallel (3 Macc 3:14-18). Of particular importance, in other extant literature, are the several instances of παρουσία” linked specifically with kingship. The term can either be directly associated with kingship, such as in Ostraka 1481.2 or more specifically related to a particular royal figure. In S. Llewelyn’s discussion of the terminology of transport requisition in antiquity, he makes a passing note of παρουσία as a common term referring to soldiers or officials. Within the Hellenistic world, “ παρουσία” also took on a sacral meaning in referring to the presence of the deity, such as in the mystic cults of Hermes, or of gods visiting the earth during times of sacrifice.
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Re: Correct Translation of παρουσία

Post by cwconrad » September 29th, 2014, 8:31 am

Michael Theophilos wrote:The term παρουσία in its most basic sense refers to a person’s presence, that is, as opposed to their absence. In 1 Cor 16:17, Paul states “I rejoice at the coming (παρουσία) of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence.” The term was also frequently employed more specifically. One common usage in the Hellenistic world was the use of “ παρουσία” to refer to the visit of a ruler or a high official. Polybius Hist 18.48.4 notes of Antiochus "and after speaking with him on the other matters about which they had instructions, they advised him to send an embassy to Rome, to ask for an alliance, in order to obviate all suspicion of being on the watch for an opportunity in expectation of the arrival of Antiochus". Polybius Hist 16.25.1ff also uses the term of Attalus’ entry into Athens in 200 BC, The Maccabaean literature also provides an illustrative parallel (3 Macc 3:14-18). Of particular importance, in other extant literature, are the several instances of παρουσία” linked specifically with kingship. The term can either be directly associated with kingship, such as in Ostraka 1481.2 or more specifically related to a particular royal figure. In S. Llewelyn’s discussion of the terminology of transport requisition in antiquity, he makes a passing note of παρουσία as a common term referring to soldiers or officials. Within the Hellenistic world, “ παρουσία” also took on a sacral meaning in referring to the presence of the deity, such as in the mystic cults of Hermes, or of gods visiting the earth during times of sacrifice.
Interesting points, these. But once again, I think, the point is that the "correct" translation of this word will depend upon the context in which it appears.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
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