The ProBible Project
[bible passage=”Ephesians 3:13″]
Hi! Can I assume from the lack of responses that people agree with my view that hHTIS ESTIN does not refer to TAIS QLIYESIN? I realise that the grammar in the New Testament is not always perfect, for example I’m translating the book of James and I came across James 3:4 (IDOU), KAI TA PLOIA … METAGETAI hUPO ELACISTOU PHDALIOU … where singular METAGETAI refers to plural PLOIA. But do people reckon that most translations have got it wrong at Ephesians 3:13? I notice the AV has ‘which is’ and the RV has ‘which are’, is there perhaps a difference in the texts they used?
Keith (Manchester, UK) Email: email@example.com
Keith Thompson said:
I’ve deleted your previous message, so I’ll just simply reply to this with what I think you are getting at.
You know, I sometimes think we’re too picky.
James 3:4 IDOU KAI TA PLOIA, THLIKAUTA ONTA KAI hUPO ANEMWN SKLHRWN ELAUNOMENA, METAGETAI hUPO ELACISTOU PHDALIOU hOPOU hH hORMH TOU EUQUNONTOS BOULETAI
James refers to a pile of ships being blown around the sea, but his topic is the tongue (singular). So it is quite natural, and in fact gives the reader a linguistic clue, when he uses METAGETAI (singular). I think the original reader would have noticed the singularity, too, and would have quite naturally accepted James singling out a single ship for discussion. It all makes sense as soon as James gets to PHDALIOU. Now, we English speakers stumble over that. We want James to make explicit his referents. But it’s linguistically wrong to read English grammar back onto the Greek text–something extremely easy to do.
I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re the type of person who believes in a closed system of grammatical rules and good authors stay within the lines, then, sure, this is awkward. However, if you believe authors communicate in the language of people, a language which is rather fluid and partially open ended, then the above flows quite happily. The ironic thing is this: the fuzziness of the apparent lack of number agreement helps to more precisely focus the reader (just like some split infinitives do ) on the topic.
Eph 3:13 DIO AITOUMAI MH EGKAKEIN EN TAIS QLIYESIN MOU hUPER hUMWN, hHTIS ESTIN DOCA hUMWN
I take this in much the same way: “This glory is your glory.” And the `glory’ refers back to the topic of the previous clause. In fact, my opinion is it refers back to the topic of 3:2-12. Paul’s suffering, on the face of things, appears as something not quite right. Paul says, “No, you got it wrong. This is glory. My whole vocation, the administration of God’s grace (THN OIKONOMIAN THS CARITOS TOU QEOU) was given me for you (DOQEISHS MOI EIS hUMAS) (3:2). This whole administration (OIKONOMIA) is a glorious thing. And it’s your glory, too.” Paul’s whole focus is on their benefit. They need to see that sucking in the suffering for other’s benefit, especially for the Messiah, creates unity and THAT type of unity is a good thing (cf 4:1ff).
So, the singularity appears somewhat jolting, but that is because our English ears want the connections all nice and neat and tidy. When you realize the whole paragraph (from 3:2 to 3:13) is Paul talking about his vocation, then to finish the paragraph with “This glory is your glory,” well, it’s a beautiful and terse capstone. Terse statements are meant to jolt us; Greek just handles them a little differently than we do.
This also fits quite nicely with the parenthetical way in which the section (3:2-21) was introduced. “I’m a prisoner…, now wait a minute, perhaps you think that is a bad thing, well, let me tell ya something. In order for you to understand how unity works, you’ve got to get that idea outta your head.”
That’s about as far as I am going to push this. I think sometimes when we focus on the Greek we become micro-optic. A fluent speaker/hearer doesn’t do that. It’s important for students (and scholars) of the GNT to step back sometimes and get the flow. These questions regarding number and gender (typically neuter) agreement are the type of questions that should force us to ask, and seek to answer, these much larger textual questions.
Thank you for the thoughtful response. I do see that this is a good example of focusing too closely on a small piece of text. Taking it in terms of the larger text does open up and clarify the possibilities for interpretation. Is that what discourse analysis is about?
In a word, yes. For an introduction to discourse analysis by two seasoned Bible translation consultants, download their textbook at Internet address:
At 09:29 AM 3/27/01 -0600, you wrote: />Hi B-Greekers, / />Someone has asked a question and I wonder what your answer would be. The / />question is: How do we know that the New Testament wasn’t translated from a / />common language of the day (Aramaic and Hebrew) to the Greek which was in / />turn translated into Latin and then German, English, etc.? /
if it had been translated from hebrew or aramaic, it would “bear the marks on its hands and feet” of such translation. when a text (now or then) is translated you can pretty much tell it quite easily. for instance, the next time you buy a vcr, read the instructions! you can easily see that the text is rough and inelegant and seems to be hard to read. in short, someone translated it from japanese and they had a pretty hard time of it. further, if someone has some semblance of knowledge regarding greek or hebrew, it is esay to see places in the bible where the english versions just pretty much muck it up.
on the whole issue of translation- see the excellent discussion in Moulton’s Grammar of New Testament Greek, vol 1.
Jim West, ThD
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