Monday, April 22, 2013

One Suggestion For Keeping Your Greek

"Taking a year or two of Greek (or more) and not using it is like buying a pair of New Balance 993s and then running the rest of your life in your bare feet." --Thomas W. Hudgins

Yeah, I just quoted myself. Anyways, after I dropped off my dissertation, I spent some time with one of Dr. Black's Greek students. Last semester, I really enjoyed the times I substituted for him in his Greek classes. You can see two of the classes here and here. We talked about how to not lose what you've been working so hard to acquire over the past year. While we covered a number of things that someone can do after a Greek course is over, one thing I recommended is carrying your Greek New Testament (GNT) everywhere you carry your English Bible. You don't carry it around to showboat. In fact, most people don't even recognize I have mine with me. When someone sees it and says, "Hey, you know Greek," or something like that, you can just respond--"I'm learning it," "I'm trying to learn it," or "I'm studying it." Let me free you from what I believe is an unspoken law floating around; knowing all the vocab used in the GNT is not a prerequisite for carrying your copy around and using it every chance you get. I've found that having it with you as much as possible is as much a positive discipline for maintaining (and growing in) your Greek as, say, keeping up with vocab via Metzger or some other resource. On Sundays, I always enjoy when our pastor says "Let's stand for the reading of God's Word." Even if I'm not very familiar with the passage in Greek, I have my GNT open and follow along as he reads it in Spanish.

This past Sunday I noticed something really interesting about the translation of ὁ νεκρός in Lk. 7:15. Almost all the English translations have something like "the dead man" or "the dead boy." In Spanish, however, no translation that I've seen has "el muerto." Why? I said to myself, "It must be because a dead man can't sit up. Before he sits up, he has to be made alive. And so if he sits up, he is not 'the dead man' but rather the 'man who was dead' (or, 'El que había muerto')." The NASB has this: "The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother" (Lk. 7:15). The English translations actually show the transition from death to life by the way that they translate this verse. I was thinking that the Spanish translations seemed to be avoiding any misunderstanding in how the verse is understood. In other words, if they translated the verse, "El muerto se incorporó y comenzó a hablar, y Jesús se lo entregó a su madre," maybe someone might think he was still dead and just sitting up and talking. Well whenever I've got some Spanish questions, I'm pretty blessed because my best co-laborer in the gospel (my beautiful wife Lesly) is a native Spanish speaker. So I asked her what the difference between the two is in Spanish, and I shared with her what I was thinking. She said, "Lo siento, amorcito. Pero esa no es la razón." She said it was because the translation "El que había muerto" is more emphatic--"The man who was just laying there dead...yeah that guy...who was being carried away, just sat up..."). I followed up with this question, "Would it bother you or would you think it was weird if someone translated it 'El muerto se incorporó...?" She said no but added it wouldn't be as "rich" of a translation. I think what Lesly is saying is that the typical Spanish translation captures more of the "wonder" in Jesus' power to raise up this young man from the dead. Something in the back of my head is wondering whether or not "El muerto" never appeared in a Spanish translation for the same reason certain English translations (unless looking at a paraphrase) seem to be near-verbatim in places. Sometimes in translation we just can't get away from "the way it's always be translated" mentality. This was one of the critical parts of my dissertation defense with Dr. Black. *I'm planning on writing on the Gr. word μαθητής in the future and what we talked about during my dissertation defense, so please keep checking back. Another example found in Matt. 28:19 is "baptizing them in the name..." or, perhaps better translated, "immersing them [in water] in the name..." (βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα). I haven't heard, but maybe the SBC is thinking of renaming itself the SIC...the Southern Immersers Convention. Naaaahhhhhh.

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