Epistles of Thomas

September 10, 2008

That that in The Message

Filed under: Translation — Thomas @ 15:57
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I just noticed today that Eugene Peterson really likes to use “that that.” I was reading Matthew 27:63: “They said, ‘Sir, we just remembered that that liar announced while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will be raised.’'” It looks grammatically correct but it sure sounds awkward. Wikipedia lists some examples reaching five, six and seven consecutive thats but I think a Bible translation should probably avoid repetitive thats. The Message has five other “that that:” 2 Ki 19:35; Ezra 4:15; Jer 49:13; Lk 6:22; Jn 4:53 along with a couple of that’s that. I checked with several other translations and see that Peterson is not alone although he does seem to be most prolific.

June 15, 2008

NLT Study Bible for Logos

Filed under: Translation — Thomas @ 23:47
Tags: ,

I just found out that Tyndale will be releasing their study Bible for Libronix. 1414326211, 978-1414326214.

It comes with some bonus commentaries as well: Matthew/Mark and Romans/Galatians from the Cornerstone
Biblical Commentary which is great. It is fairly reasonably priced for the computer so check it out if you like the NLT.

February 24, 2008

Verbosity in English Bible Translations

Filed under: Greek,Hebrew,Stats,Translation — Thomas @ 23:55

Karen H. Jobes presented a paper at the Fall 2007 Evangelical Theological Society Annual Meeting entitled “Bible Translation as Bilingual Quotation.” It is now being promoted by Zondervan on their blog. They have not just posted it but are actively seeking out bloggers to comment on it by emailing them. I originally read about it on Ancient Hebrew Poetry and Michael Bird was also contacted and posted a link. I was not requested to respond but they are looking for everyone’s input according to Paul J. Caminiti, Vice President and Publisher at Zondervan.

My first impressions were not that favourable. I was immediately uneasy that Zondervan is using this discussion to promote the T/NIV. Jobes was a translator of the TNIV and has been a member of the Committee on Bible Translation since 1995. This certainly isn’t a problem in itself as I have personally studied under Gordon Fee and Bruce Waltke and know them to be top scholars. However, in this paper Jobes is obviously promoting the T/NIV and she singles out the ESV for comment “I do find it more than a little ironic that what is advertised as an ‘essentially literal’ translation is the most verbose of several popular English translations–and that the ESV has about 30,000 more words than the TNIV!” (16). She also singled out the ESV on page 14 even though it had exactly the same verbosity as the NASB. These comments do not inspire confidence that she is unbiased, especially in that Zondervan proudly displays her chart with the NIV and TNIV at the top.

I am also curious as to how this data allows her to make the following conclusion “As the very verbose ESV demonstrates, all good translations must be a mix of both formal and functional equivalence.” I do not see that she has demonstrated that verbosity is related to whether a translation is formal or functionally equivalent. I decided to compare Zondervan’s “Translation Continuum” to the verbosity results. In order to do so Jobes’ list must be expanded. I counted words using Logos Bible Software’s Speed Search feature except with those translations which include the Apocrypha in which case I used the regular search feature in order to limit the count to the 66 canonical books. I am unsure why the results are slightly different from what Jobes came up with using Accordance but the point still stands. I included the following translations: ASV, CEV, ESV2007, GNT, God’s Word, HCSB, KJV, The Message, NAB, NASB, NCV, NiRV, NIV, NJB, NKJV, NLT2ed, NRSV, RSV, TNIV. For the interests of comparing oranges to oranges I am using Jobes’ counts for the MT (474,316) and NA27 (138,167) texts although they differ insignificantly from Logos’ results (475,525 / 138,103). Our base text therefore contains 612,483 words. All English translation counts are taken from Logos.

Before looking at the results I want to make a couple of preliminary points. Jobes is looking at bilingual quotation and, as she mentions in her paper, some languages are more verbose than others. With regard to the Bible the Hebrew text is significantly shorter by word count than the Greek text. The MT contains 474,316 words by Jobes’ count. The LXX of the 39 Hebrew books contains 502,795 words, an increase of 6%. When we look at a completely Hebrew Bible (MT+Hebrew NT) it contains 585,264 words as compared to 640,962 words for a completely Greek Bible (LXX+NA27) a difference of 9.52%. Obviously Greek is a more verbose language than Hebrew. On the other hand Latin seems to be a less verbose language as the Vulgate contains only 532,834 (even with the Apocrypha the Clementine Vulgate contains only 611,994) words and is thus 13% smaller than our base Hebrew/Greek text. This comparison therefore may say more about the English language than about which translation is best.

In the attached picture I have combined the results from the various translations with Zondervan’s continuum. Hopefully they don’t sue me for using their picture, as I am responding to their post at their request. As the picture shows there does not seem to be a direct correlation between Bible translation methodology and verbosity. The CEV is the closest in verbosity to the base text and is also far over toward the “thought for thought” end of the spectrum but the next two, NAB and HCSB, are both middle to left. At the other end of the spectrum is the NIrV with a whopping increase of 240,362 words (39.24%) over our base text but also very far over towards “thought for thought.”

I think the next task is to also complete this exercise in other languages with a multitude of Bible translations, e.g. German, French. The SESB module for Logos should provide enough data to extend the project to the European languages. I think we will discover that verbosity, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with whether or not the meaning has been conveyed adequately. Formal and functional equivalence debates will continue as long as more and more English translations are being produced.

February 22, 2008

It must be spring time, new Bible translations are blooming everywhere.

Filed under: Translation — Thomas @ 22:11

I was reading on MetaCatholic today that the folks behind the New Jerusalem translation are producing another updated translation. It will originally be done in French and then translated into Spanish and English. I have never understood the point of this quite frankly. If you want a new English Bible translation at least do it in English, not French 🙂 For those of you who do read French here is Ecole Biblique’s press release. It will, of course, include the Apocrypha but what will make it unique is that it will apparently be laid out to resemble a Jewish Talmudic Bible commentary with notes around the sides of the biblical text. Sounds interesting but not a reason to produce another translation. Sorry folks but I am still working on reading all of those that have been produced already!

February 20, 2008

Do we really need another Bible translation?

Filed under: Translation — Thomas @ 21:40

From the “not again” files comes another new major English Bible translation project. They haven’t come up with a name yet but it appears to be an effort to replace the NRSV with an “easier to read” version. Over at Our New Bible you can check out the list of editors and coming soon, the translators. Editors include David L. Petersen and Joel B. Green. In line with the NRSV stream of translations it will be an ecumenical effort involving “Anglican, Episcopal, Baptist; Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Reformed, Adventist, Roman Catholic, Jewish, United Methodist; Nazarene, Mennonite, Brethren, Disciples of Christ, and United Churches of Christ.”

I wish them well but as I have said before – it would be nice if they could just pick one of the existing 932 translations!

January 23, 2008

Poor Judas

Filed under: Church Fathers,Translation — Thomas @ 21:46

It was recently been rediscovered what truly happened to Judas after he hung himself and was subsequently cut down. Apollinaris of Laodicaea from the fourth century provides us with detailed information passed along by Papias a disciple of John:

“Judas was a terrible, walking example of ungodliness in this world, his flesh so bloated that he was not able to pass through a place where a wagon passes easily, not even his bloated head by itself. For his eyelids, they say, were so swollen that he could not see the light at all, and his eyes could not be seen, even by a doctor using an optical instrument, so far had they sunk below the outer surface. His genitals appeared more loathsome and larger than anyone else’s, and when he relieved himself there passed through it pus and worms from every part of his body, much to his shame. After much agony and punishment, they say, he finally died in his own place, and because of the stench the area is deserted and uninhabitable even now; in fact, to this day no one can pass that place unless they hold their nose, so great was the discharge from his body and so far did it spread over the ground.”

Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers : Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 584-5. Hat tip to Clifford Kvidahl.

While not as much fun as the Gospel of Judas it would certainly make for a gory movie and no doubt attract the teenage audience.

January 21, 2008

The trouble with new editions and electronic books

Filed under: Commentaries,Review,Translation — Thomas @ 23:27

I’m a big fan of electronic books and use the Logos software program on a regular basis. I appreciate the ease of use and am glad I chose to concentrate of Logos because no one beats them for shear quantity of volumes printed. One of the downsides to e-books that I have noticed is that they are slow to update books with new editions and when they do update to new editions often the old ones are no longer available. For example Logos sells NASB95 but not NASB (1977). They sell the latest, third edition of Bauer’s lexicon (BDAG) but you can longer buy the second edition because Chicago University Press decided that having them both for sale would confuse the marketplace. In both cases they are entitled to do whatever they want but in the world of physical books I can always order a used copy online from countless places, not so in the world of e-books.

Another problem stems from economic reality and licensing concerns. If I want to buy John Bright’s classic, A History of Israel, Logos offers the third edition (1981). However, in 2000 a fourth edition was released, something which may never be seen for Logos. Another example is D. A. Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey for which Logos offers the fifth edition as part of a collection. Less than a year later, in 2007, a sixth edition was published but there is no indication that Logos will be offering that.

A third problem relates to translations of classic works. For example, Logos offers John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. The Logos edition is the translation done by Henry Beveridge which is fine for casual reading but scholars need the edition translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill. Unfortunately, this is published by Westminster John Knox Press which has decided to play in its own sandbox. I’m glad to see that Logos is producing the new translations of Josephus even if they are expensive beyond belief. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that one of my professors of long ago, Paul Spilsbury, is a translator for Judean Antiquities Books 8-10. Sorry Dr. Spilsbury, I still couldn’t convince myself to spend $380 on five volumes.

December 2, 2007

Gospel of Judas does not make him a hero

Filed under: Translation — Thomas @ 19:53

In yesterday’s New Times op-ed, Gospel Truth, April DeConick demonstrates that the National Geographic Society (NGS) team seriously flubbed their translation of this document. Far from being a hero Judas was portrayed as a demon. The Gnostics sought to undermine the orthodox notion of Christ as God dying for humanity’s sins by portraying Judas as a demon betraying Jesus as a sacrifice to demons.

DeConick questions how they would have made such a mistake. Aside from rushing it to press it is impossible to do more than conjecture that perhaps the NGS wanted a sensational story in order to sell as many copies of their translation as possible before other scholars could get involved. It is clear that commercialism trumped scholarship and we can only hope that in future the NGS takes seriously the need to properly portray ancient texts regardless of their commerciality.

November 6, 2007

A New English Translation of the Septuagint published

Filed under: Old Testament,Septuagint,Translation — Thomas @ 14:15

A New English Translation of the Septuagint has been published and is now available for order on Amazon (0195289757 / 978-0195289756) although they are saying it will be 1-2 months for delivery. I am sure it will be available at SBL later this month so that will probably be the first chance for most people to pick it up. Happy reading!

September 9, 2007

Romans 8:28 TC Internal Evidence

Filed under: Greek,New Testament,Textual Criticism,Translation — Thomas @ 21:49

I apologise for the length of time between my examination of the external evidence and the internal evidence of Romans 8:28. Feel free to go back and refresh your memory as to the previous post. I changed all the Greek to Times New Roman so it should show up fine but there are no accents. The original manuscripts had none and as we are doing TC I see no reason why we need them 🙂 Let’s get to work!

The first thing we can do is to include P46 with the others as a witness to τον θεον παντα συνεργει ο θεος εις αγαθον. Although the change from παν to παντα or vice versa may explain the variant it is likely an accidental scribal error. If ο θεος is original it would cause συνεργει to be transitive and παντα would be the accusative direct object.[1] If we do not have ο θεος, παντα possibly becomes an accusative of reference according to Wallace (203-4). He says that this is rare in Koine Greek and such identification should only be employed as a last resort. This type would be used to qualify a statement that would otherwise typically not be true. He notes that Cranfield dismisses the likelihood of παντα as an accusative of reference assuming the longer reading and agrees with him (204 n.93). He does use it as an example of a substantival use of the accusative (180). Wallace dismisses the longer reading and leaves us with two probable options: either ‘he works all things together for good’ or ‘all things work together for good.’ In the first instance the subject is embedded in the verb and ‘God’ is clearly implied (as in v29). In the second instance, παντα becomes the subject of an intransitive verb” (181). This discussion is needed because in order to get inside the head of the scribe we need to understand how he could have variously construed the original and changed it.

While it is obvious that ο θεος makes συνεργει transitive, it is unclear whether we should take God as the implied subject in those manuscripts where is missing. If the shorter text is original it is probable that a scribe added ο θεος in order to make this obvious. On the other hand because God immediately precedes παντα it may have seemed repetitious and a scribe dropped the second noun, leaving the subject to be supplied.[2] However, it is not immediately obvious that the subject is God and therefore a scribe could have added it. We have come full circle only to find that we cannot be conclusive. F. F. Bruce states that the addition “makes the construction excessively heavy.”[3] Therefore this would seem to be the more difficult reading.[4]

Bruce also prefers the NEB translation which saw the subject of ‘works’ as that of the preceding clause, ‘the Spirit.’ However, as William Hendrickson points out this would make Jesus the Son of Holy Spirit.[5] This would be a good time to note the eight possibilities that exist for this verse as noted by Cranfield:

1) To accept the longer reading and explain παντα as an accusative of respect (‘in all things’, ‘in all respects’).

2) To accept the longer reading and explain συνεργει as used transitively and παντα as its object (so for instance, Sanday and Headlam translate: ‘cause all things to work’; while the RV margin gives: ‘worketh all things with them’).

3) To accept the shorter reading and supply ο θεος, explaining παντα as in (1).

4) To accept the shorter reading and supply ο θεος, explaining συνεργει and παντα as in (2).

5) To accept the shorter reading and take παντα as the subject of συνεργει.

6) To accept the shorter reading and understand the subject of the verb to be the same as the subject of the last verb of verse 27, namely το πνευμα, explaining πνευμα as in (1).

7) As in (6), but explaining συνεργει and παντα as in (2).

8 ) To accept the shorter reading with the emendation of παντα to πνευμα or το πνευμα.


If we decide on the shorter reading we must first decide whether the referent of the verb is found within the sentence or whether it is to be supplied from context. If it is to be found within we accept the traditional translation: “all things” work together for good. Gordon Fee lists several reasons for rejecting this based on internal grounds. First, Paul never uses παντα as the subject of an active verb.[6] Secondly, παντα almost always precedes the verb when it appears as the object of a personal verb.[7] Thirdly, συνεργει appears twice more in Paul and in both instances the verb has a personal subject. I would then agree with Fee in rejecting the notion that “all things” is the subject of “works.” We thus reject option (5). We can readily reject option (8) as being implausible as it would be hard for a scribe to eliminate the Spirit from a passage either accidentally or deliberately. If one does emend the text the resulting reading almost demands its emendation back to παντα.[8] We are then left with two longer and four shorter readings. In tackling the shorter readings we must deal with the identity of the supplied subject. Readings (3) and (4) take it to be God and (6) and (7) to be the Spirit. Fee argues for taking το πνευμα as the subject on the strength of the context. The Spirit has been the subject of the argument since 8:1 and he is clearly the grammatical subject of 8:27. The strength of this argument fails because the unexpressed subject of the following οτι clause has to be God, not the Spirit. The condition expressed in Romans 8:28 is such “in order that those he foreknew he foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (8:29). We must therefore question whether this transition did not occur previously beginning with the statement “according to God’s will.”

Fee also mentions the increase of συν- compounds in the argument beginning at 8:16. “The Spirit bears witness together with (συνμμαρτυρει) our spirits” and “the Spirit assists (συναντιλαμβανεται) us in our weaknesses” (8:26). He thus sees συνεργει as another instance in which Paul is referring to the joint working of the Spirit with us. BDAG here gives the meaning of συνεργει as “assist (or work with) someone to attain something or bring something about.” Theologically, God always works in us and with us through his Spirit and thus Holy Spirit has to be the subject of the verb. This argument only works if we restrain “all things” to the inner reality of the persons who love God. In other words, God makes their reality such that ‘all things’ external glorify him in their lives regardless of the ordinary understanding of good. It could not be used to argue that God uses events in themselves for that good.

I must reject the Spirit as being the subject based on context. The Spirit’s work is done in accordance with the will of God (8:27b) and as a consequence this is a beneficial thing because God works in all things to bring good to those who love him. It is the will of God that determines the Spirit’s actions and it is the will of God that causes all things to work. We thus reject options (6) and (7) and are left with deciding whether ο θεος was added in order to clarify the subject or whether it was removed from an already crowded sentence. If the longer reading was original it is hard to conceive of a scribe deliberately removing God from the sentence unless he thought the meaning was clear. It would be more logical for him to substitute autoß than to remove ο θεος. However, it is possible that a scribe removed ο θεος believing that συνεργει would supply the subject. Rodgers mentions one small precedent for this at Romans 1:28 where ο θεος is omitted by א* A 0172*.[9] I agree with Rodgers that this may not be an accidental omission but reflect a scribal tendency. However, the evidence does not appear strong enough to say that this was the case here especially given the fact that A includes ο θεος at 8:28. Furthermore, in 1:28, the removal of God did not create the same kind of ambiguity that is apparent here.

It seems most likely that the shorter reading was original and a scribe added ο θεος in order to make the subject clear. We are thus decided on the shorter reading and are left with options (3) and (4). The decision between these two will be left for the conclusion, as the decision is broader than internal textual evidence.

[1] Daniel B. Wallace. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. 180. This is echoed by BDF §148(1). A transitive verb takes a direct object (o qeoß) whereas intransitive verbs do not. Cf. James Hope Moulton. A Grammar of New Testament Greek Vol. 1 Prolegomena. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988. 65.

[2] Peter Rodgers points out that another way to improve the style without creating this ambiguity would be to change θεον to αυτος. He reports that this reading is found in Origen de Oratione 39.19: ο θεος τοις αγαπωσιν αυτον παντα συνεργων εις αγαθον but I have been unable to confirm the quality of this quotation. If this is the case it is still inconclusive because we do not know if a scribe actually altered ο θεος or supplied the subject. In light of this, if the shorter text was original it does seem more likely that a scribe would add αυτος rather than θεος which, as noted by Bruce below, tends to overweight the construction. Peter R. Rodgers. “The Text of Romans 8:28.” Journal of Theological Studies. 46:2 (1995): 548.

[3] The Letter of Paul to the Romans. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. 166.

[4] This is supported by James P. Wilson who states that “The phrase ο θεος in A B is awkwardly introduced. It reads very much like a marginal note wrongly incorporated in the text, having been originally placed in the margin to help the reader in construing the sentence.” Although I dispute his conclusions this is a definite possibility. “Romans viii. 28: Text and Interpretation.” Expository Times. 60 (1948-49): 111.

[5] Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980. 279-80. Quoted in D. Edmond Hiebert. “Romans 8:28-29 and the Assurance of the Believer.” Bibliotheca Sacra. 148:590 (1991): 175. Cf. Wilson (111) who argues for Holy Spirit but believes that we must emend παντα to το πνευμα which seems completely unwarranted.

[6] The exception that proves the rule is 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23 where he quotes from his adversaries in rejecting their position, “all things are permitted…but not all things edify.” God’s Empowering Presence. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994. 588n.341.

[7] Fee lists: 1 Thes. 5:21; 1 Cor. 2:10; 9:12, 23, 25; 10:31; 11:2; 13:7 (4x); 14:16; 15:27; 16:14; 2 Cor. 6:10; 7:14; Eph 1:22; 6:21. Ibid., 588n.342.

[8] Far from being evidence of a difficult reading this only shows how unlikely the possibility is.

[9] This variant is listed in NA27 but not in UBS4. There is no question of the subject in this context and the NIV follows this pattern by omitting God and substituting he.

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