A Translation Conundrum

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Acts 26 provides an interesting challenge for translators.

    In the familiar v. 28 we have Agrippa saying, "Almost you persuade me...." The Greek there for "almost" is en oligo, literally "in (or by) a little (or few)".... Paul answers in v. 29 with kai en oligo kai en pollo, meaning literally "both in (or by) a little (or few) and by much (or many)."

    This is a perfect example of how the original can be ambiguous. So how would you translate this passage? Grab a cuppa and think it over, hopefully without first looking to see how your favorite version rendered it. Coffee

    (Apologies: my OP originally had "Festus" but it was actually Agrippa speaking.)
     
    #1 John of Japan, Dec 4, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
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  2. InTheLight

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    Since I know what my favorite translation says, I shouldn't be participating. Still, I'll throw out an alternative take on it. The context is Paul giving his testimony to Agrippa.

    "With such few words you expect me to become a Christian?"

    (I'm probably way off...)
     
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  3. robustheologian

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    A supplied word would be necessary. The texts literally says "in a little you persuade me to become a Christian".
    I would translate it: "In such a little [time] do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian?" or "Do you think I can become a Christian with so little persuasion?".
     
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  4. Revmitchell

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    It cannot be correctly translated based only on the information in the op. We need to determine context and occasion. Another difficulty in translation is determining things like sarcasm or mood. This I believe creates issues over in 1 Cor 14. Over there Paul uses exaggeration in order to make a point.

    We need to try to determine was Agrippa being absolutely sincere in the use of his words or is there some mood (for lack of a better word) of intent that is not clearly expressed. My understanding of this passage is the mood of Agrippa's words were a jovial kind of sarcasm. I think he finds Paul's arguments credible but not compelling. This is in contrast to the attitude Festus had towards Paul.
     
  5. John of Japan

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    So, why would you choose "words" rather than, say, time or effort?
     
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  6. John of Japan

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    So, you would prefer to eliminate the ambiguity, correct? What about the possibility of leaving it ambiguous and letting the English reader decide? Is there a way to do that?
     
  7. John of Japan

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    Naturally. ;) This thread is designed primarily for those who have their own Greek NTs and can consult them. (Though of course others are not discouraged from posting.)

    I find that the difficulty is not in determining sarcasm, etc., but rendering it. In this case, is there a way to make the king sound sarcastic in an English rendering?
     
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  8. Revmitchell

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    That is my point. The use of specific words are never enough to determine the mood( is that correct?).

    So my answer is no, not by itself.
     
  9. InTheLight

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    In Acts 26 Paul gives a defense to King Agrippa and Festus. FIrst a short history of his interaction with the new Christians, then tells of his conversion on the road to Damascus, then he goes into his mission work and why he was arrested. Finally, he ends with "do you believe the prophets? I know you do?"

    I imagine the whole speech took about 10-15 minutes. The finale, "do you believe the prophets", seems to be the equivalent of an invitation to believe. All Paul had were words. They were his effort.
     
  10. John of Japan

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    I just looked the passage up in my trusty Alford's Greek NT, which is quite old (1854), but the man was a genius and should still stand as a resource. He renders v. 28, "Lightly (with small trouble) art thou persuading thyself that thou canst make me a Christian." He points out that the phrase en oligo comes before the verb and is therefore in an emphatic position. However, I'm not sure most modern grammarians would agree.

    Alford renders the next verse, "I could wish to God that whether with ease or with difficulty (on my part), not only thou, but all who hear me today, might become such as I am, except only these bonds."
     
  11. John of Japan

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    So the passage remains ambiguous if rendered literally. Was Agrippa being sarcastic? We don't know, unless there is an idiom, en oligo, which I haven't been able to track down yet. Does anyone have a book of Greek idioms?
     
  12. John of Japan

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    Thanks. You are arguing from the context, but not necessarily the grammar, which is ambiguous. Is there a way to keep the ambiguity and let the reader decide for himself, or are you in favor of that?
     
  13. Revmitchell

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    Why, we have context?
     
  14. John of Japan

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    There are textual differences between the Alexandrian and Byzantine that might make a difference. In v. 28 the UBS has ποιῆσαι, "to make," instead of the Byz. Textform, which has γενέσθαι, "to become."

    Then in v. 29, the UBS4 Has μεγάλῳ (large, great) instead instead of πολλῷ. The UBS variant really doesn't make sense to me, though. The antonym of "few" is not "great" but "many." Of course if there is an idiom here that would not matter.
     
  15. Revmitchell

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    So are you saying that it cannot be correctly translated without and idiom or only that it would be a big help?
     
  16. InTheLight

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    Maybe a little bit but it was mostly anger. I think he was mad. In verse 24, right after Paul mentioned Jesus' rising from the dead, Agrippa abruptly interrupted him and yelled at him, basically, "ARE YOU INSANE?"

    So when Agrippa huffs, "Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian with so little (effort, words, time) I think there is an element of indignation and anger.
     
  17. John of Japan

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    The context doesn't explain everything. Agrippa may have been under conviction, in which case his sentence would not have been sarcasm.
     
  18. John of Japan

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    No, I am saying that if the original is an idiom, that would help us understand better how to translate it. One may then translate with or without an idiom in the target language, either way.
     
  19. InTheLight

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    I think it would be safest to leave the ambiguity. We don't know if Agrippa meant "few words", just that he meant Paul's attempt to convince fell short. It could mean effort, time, or the content of his argument fell short. How to express that without a footnote, I don't know.
     
  20. John of Japan

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    The loud voice could have come from nervousness rather than anger, nervousness at being put under conviction by the Gospel.

    At any rate, a translator must use what is in the text. Speculation is foreign to good translation.
     
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