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Greek translation

My brother sent me five lines of Greek today and asked me to translate them for him. Apparently, two of his coworkers have been going around about the translation of these verses, and since I know Classical Greek, he thought he'd get my opinion. The text he sent is scanned below the cut.



It's been a long time since I've translated anything seriously, and I'm hardly a Biblical Greek/Koine expert, but I proposed the following preliminary and then "final" translations. Classical scholars, please feel free to comment on my choices.

Okay… here goes. Notes to follow.

1. In (the) beginning(1) was the Word(2) and the Word was to(3) the God, and God was the Word.
2. This was in the beginning to the God.
3. All came to pass(4) by him(5) and became one from this that had become
4. In him was life, and the life was (mortal) man of the humans
5. And the man in the darkness(6) he made appear(7) and the darkness could not hold(8) him.

Yes, this is from the Bible, not sure which, but John is believable. A general note about Greek grammar, is that sometimes they use definite articles (the) when we wouldn’t, like with proper names, and they don’t really have an indefinite article (a). Omitting it, and in the first phrase [in the beginning], there is no article, but we need it in English. In the [the God] referents, the word is capitalized, so I assume they just mean [God] the proper name. At the end of that first line, there is no article, but the word is capitalized. Capitalizing nouns is done in German, not Greek, so I presume they mean the proper noun. I’ve likewise tried to capitalize anything else that was in the original text. (I included some of these remarks because Cash said part of the debate was over the use of the articles in the translations.)

Translation notes:
(1) could also be [source] or [origin]
(2) could also be any of the following: [tale/story], [explanation], [purpose/reason], [law/principle], [debate], [speech/utterance/language], [hearsay/rumour], [oracle]. Each occurrence of logos need NOT all be translated the same. Some translators try to do this to maintain the symmetry in the passage, but in the original, the meaning may still have been slightly different with each use, possibly with some kind of logical progression of meanings.
(3) This phrase could also mean [to god] or [against god] or [concerns god] or [because of god]. I tend to discount the [against] interpretation because of the rest of the passage.
(4) [came to pass] could also be [came into being], [became], [was produced] or [took place]
(5) [by him] could also be [out of him], [through him].
(6) Also [gloom] or [shadow].
(7) Also [brings to light], [causes to be], or [made known].
(8) Could also be [seize], [comphrehend], [cover], [repress], [bind] or [compel].


I might render a more final translation as:

1. In the beginning was the Purpose, and the Purpose was from God, and God was the Purpose.
2. In the beginning, this was because of God.
3. All these things came to pass because of God: From this, there was one that had come into being
4. In him was life, and this life was mortal man.
5. And he made the man appear out of the darkness, and the darkness could not hold him.



Yes, I made some choices that were deliberately different than what others have done (at least as much as I know them... I don't think I've ever read John frankly; I don't think I made it that far). I just don't understand what "In the beginning was the Word"... what does that mean anyway? It could probably be tightened up a bit, but it seems serviceable to me.

EDIT:
There is no use of anything that suggests Jehovah/Yahweh in the text other than the Greek word for [god]. The only reference to god is via the word “theos”, which occurs three times in the first two lines (the same word that was used to refer to Zeus and everybody else). The –th- sound is the theta, which looks like a circle with a line through it. The 12th word, the 14th word in the first line and the last word in the second line. Twice accusative and once nominative.

I did a little digging and Classical Greek did not use case distinctions, so the capitalizing of the words “theos” and “logos” are both reflections of Medieval/Renaissance versions of the text. I would argue for discounting them. No names would have been written any differently from any other word in Greek, so it is impossible to tell from the text whether they implied “the God” or merely “God” as a name.

However, I’ve never seen a proper name in Greek used without the definite article… which makes me suspicious of the second use of “theos” in the first line, because it doesn’t have one. I don’t think the New Testament was written in verse the same way that the Old Testament was… I’ve gone through and casually counted syllabus, and it doesn’t appear to be based on any verse form I’m familiar with… so they weren’t leaving the article out because of the verse form. (Although, someone with more knowledge of verse might attempt to argue with me, and if they did, I could defer to their judgment.)

Absence of the article does often imply “a”.

The first use of “theos” in the text, is “pros ton theon”, or literally [to the god]. The same phrase is used at the end of the second line. I translated it as [from God] in the first line, and [because of God] in the second. See note number (2) for alternatives. Here, the text uses the definite article, so this could be [because of the god] or [because of God]. Since John is clearly a monotheist already, I would argue for the interpretation of God as a name.

The remaining use of “theos” has no article. It could be interpreted as [a god was the word] (again, ignoring the word “logos” for now). If you buy into the use of “the word” as being a single thing, you might interpret this as [divinity] or [godhood], as some abstract notion of god-ness rather than God the individual. One might interpret this as [some God] but again, but since John was a monotheist, the abstraction is more likely.

So we might translate the first two lines as:

In (the) beginning was the Cause(9), and the Cause was because of the god/God and divinity was the Cause.
In the beginning, this was because of the god/God.

(9) In the Aristolean sense, the reason for being, the purpose…

In other words, when everything started, there was god and cause, and they formed a vicious circle of god causing cause and the reason for being being godliness and god causing this all to be…

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