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Featured More Words Hard to Translate

Discussion in 'Bible Versions & Translations' started by John of Japan, Mar 28, 2021.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Well, that thread was enjoyable, so here's another like it.

    The Greek article is difficult to translate. First of all, Greek only has a definite article, so that is different from English, which as an indefinite article also. Secondly, the Greek article has some very different uses from the English article or that of other Indo-European languages. For example, Greek uses an article before proper names, such as "The Jesus"--doesn't work in English. Thirdly, many languages (Japanese and Chinese for example) do not even have any articles, making it very hard to get the nuance of the article into a translation.
     
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  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Next, just think about translating "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" into a tribal language. I mean, really! (Shudder!) I've read various biographies of missionary translators, and things are tough enough for those good people without trying to get the concept of circumcision into the language of a culture that can't even register the need for such a procedure.
     
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  3. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    Yes, the use of "the" in English does not fit with the use in Koine Greek. That is why the article in Greek is sometimes left untranslated in English, and why the English translation sometimes supplies the article when none exists in the Greek When reviewing the translation choices based on study with a reverse interlinear, it is important to understand sometimes it is appropriate not to translate something in the Greek, and likewise to insert something in the English to fill in for something unstated in the Greek.

    The fly in the buttermilk is that sometimes when filling in something missing in the Greek, to make the English read normally, the addition can alter the message. For example, in James 2:5, the Greek says "poor to the world, rich in faith, and...." Many translations add "to be rich in faith" altering the message, but "yet rich in faith" is no where to be found among many English translations. This highlights the fact that translators make choices consistent with their presuppositions.
     
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  4. RighteousnessTemperance&

    RighteousnessTemperance& Well-Known Member

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    On the other hand, I somehow doubt it was an easy thing for the 99-year-old Abraham either, so perhaps they could better appreciate the situation.
     
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  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    I'm so glad I was a baby when it happened.... Confused
     
  6. RighteousnessTemperance&

    RighteousnessTemperance& Well-Known Member

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    I’m glad God doesn’t require it now. Somehow, being dunked under water seems so easy compared to conversion under the Old Covenant. But the women had it easy back then. :Wink (Yes, I had to add that little dig.)
     
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  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    C. S. Lewis wrote a handy little book, The Four Loves. It has been many years since I read it, and I'm sure I would disagree in some areas nowadays, but it was thought provoking. The gist of it was that there are four words in koine and classical Greek for the English concept of love. Here they are:
    1. ἒρος (eros)--This is the word for romantic love, and does not appear in the New Testament, so we need not worry about it.
    2. φίλος, philos (verb φίλεω, phileo)--This is usually described as the love of friendship.
    3. ἀγάπη, agape (verb ἀγαπάω, agapao)--As you must know, this word occurs quite often in the NT. This is a love by choice, as can be seen by Rom. 5:8, where it tells us that God loves even though we are sinners. Remarkably, some form of this word occurs 50 times in the little book of 1 John!
    4. στοργή (storge)--This word occurs only in compound form in the NT, and is usually easy to translate: (a) φιλόοστοργος, philostorgos, meaning natural love, especially family love. It only occurs in Rom. 12:10. (b) ἂστοργος, astorgos--"without love" (only in

    There is also a compound of two of these four words, φιλαδελφία, philadelphia, "brotherly love," from which we get the city by that name, of course. It occurs in 1 Thess. 4:9 and Heb. 13:1, and is easy to translate.

    For our purposes, the question debated among Greek scholars and teachers, including between my son and me, is how close phileo and agapao are in meaning. The classic passage is John 21:15-20, where Jesus and Peter spar about how he loves Jesus, phileo or agapao. Is philo a lesser way of love or just different or a complete homonym? Can the nuance be translated? You figure it out!

    P. S. You can find a PDF of the book by Lewis here: https://www.allsaintswandsworth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/the-four-loves.pdf
     
    #7 John of Japan, Mar 29, 2021
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2021
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  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    I took this paragraph out of the previous post because it is not talking about "love" but about "glory," and how difficult it was to find the Folopa word for that. It turns out to be an awesome story about a Folopa translator and how he helped the missionary, and how he gave his life to translate the Word of God for his people. The subject of "love" in that language is no doubt discussed in a different video by Missionary Neil Anderson. Look for it--well worth watching.

    Here is the paragraph I moved:
    The difficulty in translating love is that in societies far removed from truth, love is much less common. My wife and I are reading a book in our devotions about missionaries reaching the Folopa people of New Guinea. the missionaries searched for a word for love for years! Here is an interesting video about that:
     
  9. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    How about the ole JW thinking that since Jesus was not called 'The God" must mean that he is a small god then?
     
  10. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    That is misunderstanding how the Greek article works. Simply because there was no article before "God" did not mean that He was "a god," since Greek has no indefinite article. It meant that the essence of Jesus was deity.
     
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  11. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    True, as there are sentences where the definite article missing from theos when talking about the Father, would he not be God to them there?
     
  12. Bassoonery

    Bassoonery Member

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    Thanks for starting up Part 2!

    I have a lot of catching up to do from the old thread, so I will address those old words first before working on the new suggestions. I appreciate the chance to deepen my understanding of both Mizo and Greek so I treat this as a personal exercise.

    Temple – as you hypothesise, the Mizo vocabulary was impoverished here and only “Pathian biak in” is used, which simply means “The Supreme God’s house of worship” and is basically synonymous with a modern church. It doesn’t specify Temple except in the chapter headings where the English “Temple” is borrowed. There is no distinction between ἱερόν and ναός.

    Only-begotten –You might sometimes hear of “fapa mal” or “fapa neih chhun”, both meaning “only son”, but I think it is rare to see them together as in John 3:16: “fapa mal neih chhun”. I think the effect is emphatic, like the “one and only” of some English versions. A Google comparison found many more examples of just “neih chhun” without mal than “mal neih chhun”, so the biblical usage is suitably rarer.

    Adoptionfa nihna. Literally, ‘being a child’. In Romans 8:15 I notice the contrast between 'spirit of being a child' and ‘spirit of being a slave’. I expect slavery might be another hard word, but the Mizo here is extremely interesting and thoroughly rooted in Mizo customs. Slaves were not bought or sold but were more like wards adopted on compassionate grounds but without sonship status. The contrast between ‘being a slave’ and ‘being a son’ is therefore very subtle. Ephesians is a bit different, it gives ama tan faa siam tura… which I can best explain as ‘in order to make us into children for himself’. It emphasises God’s agency rather than our condition.

    Repentancesimna. This remains the widely used word for repentance today in gospel campaigns. It also has a mundane usage for any time one resolves to give up a bad habit. One can sim from smoking, keeping bad company, using the phone too much… anything! So you could argue it is not serious enough, but on the other hand it is easy to apply and understand.

    I’ll save Justify for later, it needs a bit more work.
     
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  13. Bassoonery

    Bassoonery Member

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    No articles in Mizo either but there are other ways of indicating specificity or generality. Are there any particular verses I could look at to understand better?

    Now you have made me wonder whether there is a Mizo interlinear out there. I suspect there might be and I’ll have to look out for one.
     
  14. Bassoonery

    Bassoonery Member

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    The Mizo appears to have a specific word serhtan which the missionaries boldly define as circumcision in their dictionary. It could well be an invented word, but I can see clues that it might not have been – the word has roots in sacredness, taboo and genitalia. Perhaps circumcision was ritually performed on animals? I confess am speculating…!

    Very good point! All of us had to discover the meaning at one point. I remember my mother's embarrassment!
     
  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    Let me clarify about interlinears here. Van mentions a "reverse interlinear." This is an interlinear where the English is primary, and the Greek words come under the English ones. So, a reverse interlinear may or may not show the article if it is there in Greek but not in English. I have one of these at home, but almost never use it--I'll have to write a note to myself to check it out.

    A regular interlinear, as you know, has the Greek as primary with the English underneath, so this would show the Greek article when it is there.

    It would be great for you if the Mizo language has an interlinear, but very few languages do.
     
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  16. Bassoonery

    Bassoonery Member

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    Thanks for this clarification, I had not registered the difference between the two.

    Sent from my SM-C900F using Tapatalk
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan Well-Known Member
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    I don't know where to start--there are so many articles in the Greek. Here's one where it is important, though: "the faith," which occurs over 40 times in the NT. When "faith" has the article ("the faith"), it is referring to the body of facts that make up our belief system, not usually any particular person's faith.

    Here are some usages that do not occur in English:

    1. The substantival participle--when there is an "-ing" word in English, making a verb into a noun, there was probably an article in the Greek.
    2. The substantival adjective--Same thing as the substantival participle.
    3. Before proper nouns--"The Jesus...."
    4. Before abstract nouns--This does occur in English, but is more common in Greek.

    Here is a link to something that might help: Koine Greek: Definite Article - WikiChristian
     
  18. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    John 1:1 is a case in point. Here is the reverse interlinear rendering:

    In = en
    beginning = apxn (note here the supplied article is not shown )
    was = eimi
    the = ho (note here the article is both in the Greek and English)
    Word = logos
    and = kai
    the = ho (found both in the Greek and English)
    Word = logos
    was = En (imperfect form of eimi)
    toward (with) = pros
    not translated = ho (found in the Greek but left out of the English)
    God = theon
    and = kai
    God = theos
    was = En (imperfect form of eimi)
    the = ho (found both in the Greek and English)
    Word = logos.

    Thus the word order is according to an English arrangement of the Greek words.
     
    #18 Van, Mar 30, 2021
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2021
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  19. Bassoonery

    Bassoonery Member

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    I think these four loves have permeated a lot of thinking nowadays. It crops up all over the place (marriage counselling books!) but I didn’t realise it was CS Lewis who popularised it.

    Firstly, hmangaih is used throughout for love, much as in English. The distinction of storge is achieved with ‘unaute hmangaih’ – the love of siblings/cousins. ‘Ngaina’ is another option which denotes more of a friendship love than hmangaihna. It should correspond closely to phileo, but interestingly ‘hmangaihna’ is often preferred. The main exceptions are in John 21, where the Greek demands a distinction which is achieved much better in Mizo (hmangaih vs ngaina) than in English, and the other exception is whenever phileo is used in abstract senses. For example, the love of money, love of attention, love of lies… In all such cases ‘hmangaihna’ is unsuitable and ‘ngaina’ is used instead.

    I think it is striking that phileo is the word found in the abstract contexts (non-human love). I am guessing agape, eros and storge would never be used to talk about love for abstract or inanimate non-human things. Could the greater versatility of phileo shed any light on the John 21 problem? I’m not sure it does but that’s all I can offer!
     
  20. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    I take it the John 21 problem refers to translating two different Greek words into the same English word, obliterating the inspired distinction. Ditto for Hades and Gehenna into "hell."

    To clarify the inspired distinction in John 21, the English translations should highlight the difference, such as "sacrificial love" for agape and "love of brother" (or friend) for phileo. Then it would be clear Jesus is accepting Peter just as he was, rather than expecting him to be mature from the beginning.
     
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