What are things lost in translation that make the Bible make sense?


#1

^^^


#2

:confused:


#3

For instance, I read earlier that what is translated from Hebrew as “shepherd” in “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” also means something akin to “hero.”


#4

"Give us this day our daily bread"; the word for "daily" is actually "epiousios" (επιούσιος) meaning "supersubstantial". This word is a hapax legomenon, appearing only once in the entire New Testament.


#5

Forgive my abject ignorance, but what on earth is a hapax legomenon? In simple terms please, that someone with a masters degree who doesn’t have access to an unabridged dictionary can understand.


#6

[quote="George_Stegmeir, post:5, topic:317844"]
Forgive my abject ignorance, but what on earth is a hapax legomenon? In simple terms please, that someone with a masters degree who doesn't have access to an unabridged dictionary can understand.

[/quote]

Hapax legomenon basically means a word that only appears once within a certain context (in a single text, in the works of an author, or in the entire written record of a given language). Epiousios is a word that is found nowhere else in ancient Greek literature but only appears in Matthew and in Luke (to be specific, it can also be considered a dis legomenon - a word that appears twice in a certain context).


#7

[quote="CeaselessMedik, post:3, topic:317844"]
For instance, I read earlier that what is translated from Hebrew as "shepherd" in "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" also means something akin to "hero."

[/quote]

[quote="Elizium23, post:4, topic:317844"]
"Give us this day our daily bread"; the word for "daily" is actually "epiousios" (επιούσιος) meaning "supersubstantial". This word is a hapax legomenon, appearing only once in the entire New Testament.

[/quote]

Two excellent examples which show the point of the question!

I don't read Greek or Hebrew, so I can only contribute examples that have been explained to me in English.

Possibly the most famous and controversal instance is "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church", with the Greek Petros / *Petra * distinction.

Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth, Vol I had a discussion of one instance, which I can't recall right now. It might have been similar to Shepherd/Hero (ie. Christological) previously mentioned. I'll try to find it and post it.

Another I've heard is from the epistles: "sorcerers" shall not enter the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19). The root is Greek for "pharmacists" who mixed chemicals, and thus may be a reference to artificial contraception in ancient times.


#8

I have quite a few.

  • The name of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, is actually spelled differently in different instances. The name is spelled as Nazara (Ναζαρὰ) in Matthew 4:13 and its parallel in Luke 4:16, as Nazaret (Ναζαρέτ) in Mark 1:9, Matthew 2:23 and John 1:45-46, as Nazareth (Ναζαρὲθ) in Matthew 21:1, Luke 1:26; 2:4, 39, 51; Acts 10:38. As for ‘Nazarene’, the form Nazarēnos (Ναζαρηνός) can be found in Mark 1:24; 10:47; 14:67; 16:06, and Luke 4:34; 24:19. The other form, Nazōraios (Ναζωραῖος), are at Matthew 2:23; 26:71; Luke 18:37; John 18:5, 7; 19:19; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 22:8; 24:5; 26:9.

  • Incidentally, Jerusalem also has two variant forms: Hierousalēm (Ἱερουσαλήμ) and Hierosolyma (Ἱεροσόλυμα):

Hierosolyma: Matthew 2:1, 3; 3:5; 4:25; 5:35; 15:1; 16:21; 20:17-18; 21:1, 10; Mark 1:5; 3:8, 22; 7:1; 10:32-33; 11:1, 11, 15, 27; 15:41; Luke 2:22; 13:22; 19:28; 23:7; John 1:19; 2:13,23; 4:20-21,45; 5:1-2; 7:25; 10:22; 11:18,55; 12:12; Acts 1:4; 8:1, 14, 25; 11:27; 13:13; 16:4; 19:21; 20:16; 21:4, 15, 17; 25:1, 7, 9, 15, 20, 24; 26:4, 10, 20; 28:17; Galatians 1:17-18; 2:1

Hierousalēm: Matthew 23:37; Luke 2:25, 38, 41, 43, 45; 4:9; 5:17; 6:17; 9:31, 51, 53; 10:30; 13:04, 33-34; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11; 21:20, 24; 23:28; 24:13, 18, 33; 24:47,52; Acts 1:8, 12, 19; 2:5, 14; 4:5, 16; 5:16, 28; 6:7; 8:26-27; 9:2, 13, 21, 26, 28; 10:39; 11:2, 22; 12:25; 13:27, 31; 15:2, 4; 20:22; 21:11-13, 31; 22:5, 17-18; 23:11; 24:11; 25:3; Romans 15:19, 25-26, 31; 1 Corinthians 16:3; Galatians 4:25-26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12; 21:2, 10

  • The gospel of Mark constantly uses the historic present - over 150 times - when other writers would have used the simple past tense (“Jesus says” instead of “Jesus said”). (Compared with Mark, Matthew only uses the historic present twenty times, and Luke only once.) This is unfortunately something obscured by many translations, which consistently smoothen it all out into the simple past tense.

  • Mark also overuses the words “and” (1,078 times!) and “immediately” (forty-three times in his gospel, compared with eight in Matthew, four in John, and three in Luke). Again, something that not all translations, especially those which translate things more as sense-for-sense than word-for-word, will reflect.

  • The word paradidomi (‘to hand over,’ ‘to deliver up’) is used in the synoptics both for John the Baptist’s arrest and Jesus’ being “handed over” by Judas into the Jewish authorities, by the Jewish leaders to Pilate, and by Pilate to his soldiers to be crucified. The fact that the word is used of John actually sets up a foreshadowing of what will happen to Jesus later in the story. This isn’t always evident, since most translations render the word when used in the case of Judas as “to betray” and in John’s case as being “arrested” or “put into prison.”

  • In Daniel 13 (the story of Susanna), Daniel’s remarks to the two lecherous elders is actually a pun in the Greek. The two men who (falsely) claim to have caught Susanna in the act of adultery are cross-examined of what they saw but disagree about the tree under which Susanna supposedly met her lover.

After they were separated from each other, he called one of them and said: “How you have grown evil with age! Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says, ‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’ Now, then, if you were a witness, tell me under what tree you saw them together.” “Under a mastic (schinon) tree,” he answered. “Your fine lie has cost you your head,” said Daniel; “for the angel of God has already received the sentence from God and shall split (schisei) you in two.”

Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought. “Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah,” Daniel said to him, “beauty has seduced you, lust has perverted your heart. This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel, and in their fear they yielded to you; but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your lawlessness. Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together.” “Under an oak (prinon),” he said. “Your fine lie has cost you also your head,” said Daniel; “for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut (prisai) you in two so as to destroy you both.”


#9

Two things come to mind for me, both from John's Gospel.

  1. John 1:1. In the Greek, the phrase "and the Word was God" in Greek actually throws the word theos ("God") to the beginning of the clause. Since in Greek, word order is not crucial for the determination of the subject, putting theos in the beginning of the sentence ("kai theos ein ho logos, και θεος ην ο λογος) emphasizes the fact that the Word was indeed God. Further, by omitting the definite article "ho" from theos, John is affirming that the Word is not the same Person as the Father, therefore opposing the modalist or Sabellian heresy. It reads "God was the Word", in much the same way one would read "Green was the grass." "Green was the grass" says the exact same thing as "The grass was green" but the former emphasizes the greenness of the grass.

  2. John 6:54ff. In the English, the word "eat" is used throughout the Bread of Life discourse, but in the Greek, the verb changes from "phago" from the beginning of the discourse to "trogo" in v54. "Phago" refers to eating/dining in a more human sense while trogo" in Koine Greek literally means to gnaw/chew with an animalistic meaning to it. The Greek therefore drives home, in a rather crude and graphic manner, the literal requirement to eat Christ's flesh and explains why the Jews did turn away from Christ at the end of the discourse.


#10

[quote="patrick457, post:8, topic:317844"]
Daniel's remarks to the two lecherous elders is actually a pun in the Greek.

[/quote]

Is Greek the original language? If not, how could Daniel make a pun in a language he didn't know?


#11

[quote="CeaselessMedik, post:10, topic:317844"]
Is Greek the original language? If not, how could Daniel make a pun in a language he didn't know?

[/quote]

In the story of Susanna, which is a deuterocanonical part of the book of Daniel, the original langauge is Greek. The pun isn't made by the Daniel character; it is the author's, even though it is spoken by the Daniel character.


#12

But the puns were made in dialogue. I doubt the guards and David happened to play a joke that would only be understood in a later language. 0.o


#13

No scholar here, but I read Yaroslav Pelikan's Whose Bible is it? and he covers the general issue of difficulties in translation and the general problem this causes between modern groups of people.

He wipes away any illusion of tradition not being important,when he explains that Hebrew had no vowels in the written language, and that what everybody has today is their version of what words the Hebrew point to.

It was so difficult to maintain an understand of what the Bible (OT) meant, that the Masorites developed their cheat-sheet version with all kinds of supplementary markings to guide the reader. That development, as it were, stabilized the text somewhat.

The Biblical writings have seem major technological innovations over their lifetime. The first was that the verbal traditions were actually written down, with the introduction of the written word. Then, much later, along comes the printing press in which the texts can be mass-produced. We shouldn't dismiss the importance of simply having the ancient verbal traditions written down.

So, the deeper and unsolvable problem in this thread is what was lost altogether in the selection of things that were written down, to begin with.

There was a thread a year or two ago questioning the meaning of all the various words that are used in the OT for command, rule, law, decree, etc. You can reverse engineer this issue by an hour or two studying Strong Exhaustive Concordance, starting with the English of these legal terms and mapping them back to various Hebrew words. Along the way, you may notice how the same Hebrew word is often translated differently into English. At the time I first looked at this, I remarked how complicated it was -- especially to understand what the original writer was driving at.

Not only is there the issue of what strategy the translator(s) used to come up with an English version. But, there's also the deeper issue of what the various biblical authors meant by using the same or related words -- were THEY all on the same page as to the proper way of using the language. After all, as far as we know, there was never a Hebrew dictionary compiled in ancient times Strong's concordance is the only book that I know of that has attempted to compile such a dictionary. And when you look at the definitions of the Hebrew words, you see how complicated an effort THAT was.

In the Jewish commentaries that I have read, the effort at translating the Biblical texts is not considered to have ended. In the latest version of the Hebrew scripture, the Tanakh, is the 1985 version of the Jewish Publication Society. On its pages you will frequently find the notation that this and that phrase is obscure, corrupted, or debated. And, they say,
this confusion is recorded on the much older pages of the Talmud ("study" of scripture) .

Catholic translations of scripture hardly distract the reader with issues of translation, except those that may be studying English translations, themselves. Comparing some English translations, you (I) will find that sometimes, there is a completely different sense of meaning between the translations.


#14

Fun fact: when someone is described as being angry in the Bible, it is usually said that his “nose burned.” (So for example, God’s nose burns, Moses’ nose burns, etc. :D) The easiest way you can find these instances in a Bible is to find passages where it is said that so-and-so’s “anger waxed hot” or his “anger flared.” English translations usually obscure the quite amusing Hebrew expression that way.


#15

[quote="CeaselessMedik, post:1, topic:317844"]
^^^

[/quote]

Heaps of things, though it doesn't always have to do with translation.

One that always struck me when I was a kid was the reading of John's Passion narrative on Good Friday. I remember we would come to the part when the mob and guards come to arrest Jesus. Then Jesus says, "I am he" and they fall to the ground.

I always wondered - but didn't really think about it as much as I should have - why on earth are these Jewish people falling down because Jesus says, "I am here".

Well, duh!, in the Greek Jesus answers, "ἐγώ εἰμι", "I am", the sacred name of God. No wonder they fall down!

Hmmm I guess that's lost in translation after all.


#16

[quote="porthos11, post:9, topic:317844"]

  1. John 6:54ff. In the English, the word "eat" is used throughout the Bread of Life discourse, but in the Greek, the verb changes from "phago" from the beginning of the discourse to "trogo" in v54. "Phago" refers to eating/dining in a more human sense while trogo" in Koine Greek literally means to gnaw/chew with an animalistic meaning to it. The Greek therefore drives home, in a rather crude and graphic manner, the literal requirement to eat Christ's flesh and explains why the Jews did turn away from Christ at the end of the discourse.

[/quote]

That's very good!

It's reminded me of now of the observation from Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth.

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Matthew says "When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." (Matt 7:28-29, NASB).

Benedict points out that the Greek is stronger than "amazed", it is "alarmed", and that the crowd are not amazed by the content of his teaching, but rather they were alarmed that in teaching with authority on the law Jesus was putting himself on the level of the original law-giver, ie. God.


#17

[quote="patrick457, post:14, topic:317844"]
Fun fact: when someone is described as being angry in the Bible, it is usually said that his "nose burned." (So for example, God's nose burns, Moses' nose burns, etc. :D) The easiest way you can find these instances in a Bible is to find passages where it is said that so-and-so's "anger waxed hot" or his "anger flared." English translations usually obscure the quite amusing Hebrew expression that way.

[/quote]

Thanks! A fun fact indeed! :D.. "His nose burned.."


#18

John likes puns (in Greek)--in Chapter 3, when Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, he refers to being born anothen, a Greek adverb that means either "again" or "from above." Nicodemus hears of being born again, while Jesus is speaking of the need to be born from above.

The Protestants who speak of being "born again" always remind me of this, and I chuckle.


#19

Whoa, guys, replies are coming in faster than I'm researching. Thanks for the thought, but I'm gonna sail solo now, and maybe refer back here later.


#20

Does he ever! He does the same thing with Spirit and wind in the talk with Nicodemus (Greek πνεῦμα), with “living water” and “flowing water” (Greek ὕδωρ ζωῆς), and a few other places.


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