|Your Eyes. The appeal to use ones physical eyes in the reading and analyzing of the Bible under the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit has as its ultimate spiritual perception. The difference between mere seeing and deeper perceiving is remarkably illustrated in the empty tomb narrative of John 20: 1-10, where three different words for see are used in the Greek text. Upon receiving Mary Magdalenes report that Jesus body has been taken out of the sepulcher, Peter and John run together to the sepulcher. John, who arrives first, does not enter, but stoops down and, looking in, sees (blepei) the linen clothes lying (v.5). This was the mere viewing of the facts from without, apparently without any significant reaction other than the affirmation that what Mary has reported was true. Peters observing was more intimate, for he went into the sepulcher, and beholdeth (theorei) clearly something astounding: the napkin, or head roll, was still intact like a cocoon, all rolled up (vv.6-7). Peters beholding was more intense than Johns viewing, for Peter was face to face with the impossible: the separation of a body from its grave wrappings, without the disturbance of the latter. By this time, John also entered the sepulcher, and he perceived (eiden), and believed (v.8). Johns reaction was that of perception that here was the impossible, and, further, that God had done the impossible. And he believed (p.18. [Authors italics]).|
Herewith we reproduce the translation of John 20:3-10 from the Concordant Literal New Testament, also called the Concordant Version (CV).
Peter, then, and the other disciple came out, and they came to the tomb. Now the two raced alike, and the other disciple runs more swiftly before Peter and came first to the tomb. And, peering in, he is observing the swathings lying. Howbeit, he did not enter.
Simon Peter also, then, is coming, following him, and he entered into the tomb and he is beholding the swathings lying, and the handkerchief which was on his head, not lying with the swathings, but folded up in one place apart. The other disciple also, then, who came first to the tomb, then entered, and he perceived and believes, for not as yet were they aware of the scripture that He must rise from among the dead. The disciples, then, came away again to their own.
There are other delicious and delightfully subtle indications which make the CV richer than other versions which do not go to the limits of fidelity in reproducing the accuracies of the incomparable Original. Lightface type is used for words (or parts of words) which have been added to clarify the meaning of the Greek, avoid ambiguous renderings, and make the English read more smoothly (Instructions for Use, p.3). The verb functions, the signs and abbreviations, and other pertinent matters are discussed in the aforementioned Instructions for Use (pp.3-8). The Explanatory Introduction also should be read and reread until the force of the argument for the production of a literal version is felt, and the subtleties and strength of the original language become apparent. This sample seeks to show some of these.
As we turn to the passage quoted above, we call the attention of the reader to the three different words for see. Blepei, theorei, and eiden are respectively rendered as observing (v.5), beholding (v.6), and perceived (v.8). The ending ei in both blepei and theorei is variously called continuous, incomplete, imperfect, durative, linear, the tense of proceedings and similar. We represent it uniformly in the sublinear of THE CONCORDANT GREEK TEXT by ING. First, John is observing, then Peter is beholding, and finally, John perceived. It is good to have our attention called to this phenomenon in the Greek of John, yet how much better to have it in the literal of our Version.
A most helpful book on this resurrection section of the Scriptures is that by the Rev. C. C. Dobson, M.A., THE EMPTY TOMB AND THE RISEN LORD. Its discussion of the tomb, its form and construction, and the illustrations, make very vivid the accurate account given us by the writers of the four accounts. The eager reader can compare the discussion of renderings in the book with their treatment in the literal CV.
An attempt to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular of ephemeral jargon is seen in GOD IS FOR REAL, MAN by Carl F. Burke. The reviewer, Gordon D. Negen, writes that the author saw that the traditional forms, imagery, and language which at best work well enough with middle-class suburban youth have little meaning for the inner-city juvenile delinquent. He listened to the kids talk and used their terminology and thought patterns to record the scriptural ideas set forth in this interesting, readable book.
The reviewer goes on to state that Burke is to be commended for his attempt to be relevant. He is certainly far ahead of many of us who use such concepts as sheep, vineyards, and publicans, as well as terms such as thee, thou, pottage, and licentiousness, and do not even realize that we are failing to communicate.
But Burke is facing an almost impossible task. Whenever hep talk is taken out of its natural context, it has a tendency to be phony; when it is put into print, it is even phonier; and when done by an outsider regardless of how hard he tries to be inside, it borders on the ludicrous. All of this is complicated by the fact that the street language changes almost daily. Therefore, by the time a book is written, edited, published, and placed on the market, almost all of the language used in it is old-fashioned, making it an object of scorn to the young person who manages to keep up day by day (ETERNITY, January 1967, page 41).
To be literal or not to bethat IS the question. The dialogue runs something like this: If you are too literal you are not idiomatic enough; if you are too idiomatic you are not literal enough; if you make a synthesis of both you have a hybrid hard to read. Unable to devise a transfer mechanism for the communication-event from the communicator to the communicatee, one faces a vast gulf between decoder and encoder.
There are those who insist on literal when possible. Others are equally insistent on idiomatic regardless. Yet still others demand a combination of the two, a sort of controlled idiomatic-literal, in the same version. This may be done with an interlinear that is more literal than idiom allows. Thus when idiom demands departures, the departure from the literal can be compared and controlled. But the literal sublinear is not a translation or a version. It is a tool which is not master, but is mastered by the translator.
Those who highly value knowing exactly and precisely what Scripture says are beginning to be vocal and are slowly becoming a sizable minority. For example, Stephen W. Paine has a book BEGINNING GREEK, A Functional Approach. He levels with his students by telling them that the translation for use with the daily reading passages follows very closely the word order and primary meaning of the Greek text in order that the student may most easily see its connection therewith. Thus the translation is said to be quite literal, and might at first thought be judged awkward by comparison with a smooth English style.
But this is how the ancients actually thought and spoke, and the reading of a foreign language is at its best when the mind of the reader follows most closely the thought patterns of the writer, so that he no longer keeps trying to fit the language into his own mold but follows with appreciation the mold of the languages. He then ceases to translate and becomes a reader, actually thinking the thoughts of the writer in the medium of the writers own language (New York: Oxford University Press, 1961, page 232).
With such teachers turning out such students the future will be brighter than the past for the reader who ardently desires to know in his own tongue exactly what God says in His inspired Original. To this end the tools are being made available by the Concordant Publishing Concern and its staff as soon as is possible and practicable. Toward this goal we solicit your love and prayers and patience and support.
A book which should be better known for its valuable insights into Ephesians and its version in parallelism structure is George S. Hitchcocks THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS. In it he says it is fairer to English readers to present the Greek in an English form as similar [to Greek] as possible.
Here is his thought in context: There is another matter, which I approach with less confidence of approval, as I undertook it with less readiness of will. In rendering St. Pauls sentences, I held it fairer to English readers to present the Greek in an English form as similar as possible. Consequently, it often appears broken, sometimes uncouth, and occasionally obscure. It would, of course, have been possible to polish the translation, as Alexandrian grammarians polished the Greek text. But the result would have had as little connection with St. Paul, as Popes Iliad with Homer (London: Burns and Oates, Ltd., 1913, page 46).
He is a writer of some style and unusual insight into Pauls heart and thought. Many of his sentences are the result of much thought and great love for Paul, who is called in his Preface to his commentary on Ephesians, the one who wrote a letter which can be described as written without controversy by the prince of controversialists (ibid. page 5).
Hitchcock, Doctor of Sacred Scriptures, Rome, calls it this inexhaustible letter. St. Chrysostom stood in awe before its overflow of lofty thoughts. Erasmus recognized its Pauline fervour, depth, spirit and feeling. And Coleridge, in his TABLE TALK, confessed it one of the divinest compositions of man. Yet, even were it true of Platos works, that they were written for ten men in each generation, no such statement could be made for this encyclical, for we, lesser men, fretted or despondent, learn endurance and courage from this brief letter, at once the product of an hour and the fruit of a life.... (ibid. page 12). What a felicitous phrase, the last thirteen words! What a multum in parvo!
And what a change in attitude is the translation of Pauls letter in Hitchcocks book from the opinion voiced by Pope Leo XII in his 1824 Encyclical. Two encyclicals, Pauls and Leos, and the words of the latter are as follows: You are aware, venerable brothers, that a certain Bible Society is impudently spreading throughout the world, which is endeavouring to translate, or rather to pervert, the Scriptures in the vernacular of all nations. It is to be feared that by false interpretation, the Gospel of Christ will become the gospel of men, or still worse, the gospel of the devil.
Again let us listen to F. W. Farrar who, in his TEXTS EXPLAINED, or Helps to Understand the New Testament, opts for the exact rendering (page v), for accurate rendering of the original (page vi), for he says that making differences arbitrarily so as to avoid monotony of the same English word for the same Greek word is unfortunate, since monotony is force (page 208, quoting Lightfoot). He inveighs against the neglect of distinctions many different words to render the same Greek words they [the 1611 version translators] sometimes (unfortunately) used the same word for different Greek words ( ibid. page xiii ). He maintains that exact meaning accurate rendering of the original alone is sufficient to guarantee the transfer of the truth to the one seeking the One Who is the Truth by means of His Word, which is truth (John 17:17).
The compiler of the CV and his staff subscribe to these statements. They are bending every effort to give to the serious and sedulous student Gods Scriptures as literally as idiom permits. Taste the CV and see if its exactitude is not more beautiful than mans inexactitude. For this latter attitude we need a word like logocide, the wanton and senseless murder of His words by careless and apostate scholars. There are no trifles where truth is concerned, and our Version is designed to make sure that the powers of darkness do not deceive us. Hence we cleave to the literal of the Greek as far as English idiom allows.
Please sit down with the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT and, if you can read Greek, with Frederick Fields NOTES ON THE TRANSLATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1899 ). Compare what he says should be done with what we have already done. See how, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the CV agrees with the suggested changes in either reading or in rendering.
Try the same with Francis Trench and his BRIEF NOTES ON THE GREEK OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (London and Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1864). Here no competence in Greek is necessary. Compare with the CV to your pleasure and profit as you see how accurate and reliable your Version was translated for just such students as yourself.
Get hold of A TRANSLATORS HANDBOOK ON THE GOSPEL OF MARK by Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene A. Nida (Published for the United Bibles Societies, by E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1961 ). Compare its suggestions and improvements with your CV and be amazed at how much is supplied to you in your Version which these scholars say you should possess. Dr. Bratcher is the translator of the immensely popular GOOD NEWS FOR MODERN MAN, The New Testament in Todays English Version (New York: American Bible Society, 1966). If these prove to be too technical for you, try Alex. Robertss COMPANION TO THE REVISED VERSION OF THE ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT, 3rd ed. (London, Paris & New York: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., n.d.).
Or you might find helpful Frank Ballards REALITY IN BIBLE READING,The Gain to Christian Faith from Critical Accuracy in the Ordinary Public or Private Reading of the English Bible with more than Four Hundred Examples (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1924).
Let Thomas Hobbes close out this portion of our study. Seeing that truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise truth had need to remember what every name he useth stands for, and to place it accordingly, or else he will find himself entangled in words as a bird in lime twigsthe more he struggles the more belimed (LEVIATHAN, 1651).
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