Re: John 1

In message <Pine.3.05.9407131118.A26286-a100000@nethost> David Coomler writes:

>     Right, Gregory.  I am very interested in all points of view on this
> question, and particularly interested in parallel constructions elsewhere
> in NT period literature.  Discussions on the topic, both grammatical and
> exegetical, often provide much smoke but little illumination.
> Regarding the recent comment that one must "think in Greek," a friend
> commented, "Not just in Greek, but in Greek of the time, place, and
> theological environment in which this was written."  Further, to imply
> that a concept clear in Greek cannot be made equally clear in English
> seems highly questionable (not to mention theologically disastrous), but
> perhaps I misunderstood the statement.

I would agree with this whole-heartedly, but would wish to go much
further. Even if we can be quite sure of a translation, ("God is love!,
say, or "I am the way the truth and life") does this mean we have
*understood* the passage? Eckhart, for example, says that "God is a
short word with a long meaning." If we understood *fully* what is meant
by the word "God" and also by the word "Logos", firstly to the original
writer of the prologue of St. John's Gospel, and then also to later
Christians, pre- and post-nicene - and above all what the word *really*
means, ie. what reality it corresponds to - then we would be getting
somewhere with this verse. Otherwise it is all just logic splitting,
surely? and stumbling around in the dark.

Until we know for certain just what the word "God" really refers to, how
can we really decide whether "And the Word was God" is better or worse
than "And the Word was Divine". It is not just a matter of translating
words and grammar - it is a question of conveying a truth. How does one
do that if the words do not convey the same connotations? Equally, is
"Logos" here a Greek rendering of the Hebrew idea of "Debar", or is it
referring to the Stoic/Greek concept of the Logos as the ordering
principle of the universe - something far closer to our idea of
"causality" than to "Word". Again, the word "Logos" is masculine
grammatically, so is the writer saying "He was in the beginning with
God", or "It was in the beginning with God"? Again, is the "En arkhe"
"in the *beginning*" or is it "At the first principle", and is the "was"
genuinely past tense in English, or not. All of these things - and many
more - need to be understood before one can really even begin to
translate such a subtle passage. The Greek at least leaves them all open
for us to wrestle with, meditate on, and hopefully grow with.

In short, can we translate a passage before we have fully understood it?

John Richards

John Richards                                       Stackpole Elidor (UK)