Re: Phil 2:13, etc.

On Thu, 3 Nov 1994, <mpalmes@email.unc.edu> wrote:
> I'm not sure whether the strong verbal force of the participles has an 
> influence on whether they should be taken a subject or predicate. I 
> would, however, like to raise again the issue of the relationship between 
> the translator's mother tongue (English in this case) and the 
> understanding of grammatical structure in the language of the text being 
> translated. Once again, I believe it is English which prompts us to see 
> the participles as predicate here rather than subject (though I'm _not_ 
> trying to argue that we are wrong if we conclude that our impression is 
> accurate).
> Regarding whether the articular participles are subjects or objects David 
> wrote:
> > I can't help
> > but understand them as the latter.  Practically all translations so   
> > understand them, if you take "It is God" as making "God" the subject.  
> > At any
> > rate, practically all make "God" the subject in relation to the relative
> > clauses represented by the participles.
> He is correct in assessing the way that the translation handle the 
> problem, but I would argue that they handle it his way because of 
> rhetorical assumptions which come from English rather than Greek. The 
> following English translation of Romans 8:33
> 	The one who justifies is God
> can be interpreted as equivalent in rhetorical force to 'whoever 
> justifies is God.' This interpretation is clearly out of step with 
> Paul's reasoning since it implies that there could be many gods (as many 
> as there are people who justify). This is clearly not what Paul meant. 
> For that reason, the translation is unacceptable, and we must make 'God' 
> the subject IN ENGLISH to avoid misrepresenting Paul's argument.
> This says nothing, however, about whether or not _O DIKAIWN_ is the 
> subject of the GREEK sentence, since the grammar of Greek did not relate 
> to Greek rhetorical structure in ways identical to the ways English 
> grammar relates to English rhetorical structure.
> So, I conclude that David is correct in seeing it as necessary to make 
> "the one who justifies" (or simply the relative clause "who justifies") 
> predicate rather than subject in the English translation. I just 
> disagree regarding the motivation for the decision. 
> The answer comes from our knowledge of two factors: 1) English discourse 
> strategies and 2) Paul's overall argument. An answer to the question of 
> which element is actually the subject IN GREEK will have to await the 
> time when we understand Greek discourse strategies much better than is 
> possible at this point.
I would like to say I think this is very reasonable--that ENGLISH 
linguistic sensibility is one of the primary factors (if not the only 
one) giving us the sense that "God" must be the subject here. I'd go 
further and say that "ho dikaiwn" should not be understood as "hos an 
dikaiwi" (if I may use classical Greek here instead of Koine) but rather 
as the indicative relative clause, "hos dikaioi": "the ONE who 
justifies"--or even the agent noun, "the justifier." I think we find far 
less problematic understanding "ho dikaiwn" as subject if we say it that 
way: "The one who justifies is God" or "The justifier is God."

More than ever before I have been struck, in teaching Greek and Latin 
this semester, how valid the old truism is that learning another language 
reveals surprising truths about one's own. I think more enters into the 
question we are considering than just normal word-order expectations in 
English and Greek, but it is certainly the case that Greek tends to 
expect the predicate word first while English definitely expects the 
subject first--and I really wonder to what extent our grammar texts and 
rules for the alien language reflect our own equivalent of the 
Aristotelian bias: of COURSE English (bzw. Greek) mirrors the deep 
structure of the mind. 

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu  OR cwc@oui.com