Re: Just wondering..

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Mar 24 1997 - 07:14:09 EST

At 12:53 AM -0600 3/24/97, BigT wrote:
>With the crumbs I have of B-Greek, I'm just trying to figure out what
>John 1:1 says---exactly.
>When he uses ARCHE (I hope I spelled it right) does he mean literaly "in
>the beginning [of Aeons]", or does he mean, (which seems logical) "in
>the beginning [of Order]"? (Ex. In highest rank is the Word...[and
> 1:2] he was next to God in the beginning...[a way to clarify
>two points]).
>I don't know, I don't know the Greek language, but I'd like help.

I've decided to respond to these questions, but I think it should be noted
that the mailing (some call it the FAQ) about B-Greek sent out to every new
subscriber does clearly indicate that subscribers should have at least a
rudimentary knowledge of Biblical Greek, which doesn't seem to be the case
in this instance.

There may be some other alternative implications in EN ARCHi in John 1:1
but one thing seems certain: it deliberately emulates the opening words of
Genesis (B'RESHITH in Hebrew, EN ARCHi in the LXX Greek OT).

>How about "pros"? Could it mean, "...and the Word was to God what God
>was to the Word"?

No. Quite simply, no. PROS is here used in a context without a verb of
motion with which it might be understood to mean "toward" or "to," but with
the stative verb HN it can only mean "near" or "in the presence of" or "in
close relationship with." Most of the versions use "with" to translate it,
and there's nothing really objectionable to that.

>Hence (not supposed to be literal),
>In highest rank is the Word; and this Word is to God, what God is to the
>He was next to God in the beginning...
>I only ask this because I'm moving to a conclusion that I'd should try
>to learn Greek...I hardly enjoy most English translations, so I go to
>French :-)!!

I'm not sure that "enjoyment" is what I would look for primarily in a
translation of the NT, but you're not going to "appreciate" (in the sense
of being able to make a relative assessment of the merits) any translation
of the NT without getting a pretty solid mastery of NT Greek FIRST.
Although you may very well find one more satisfying aesthetically than
another, you will have, without knowing a sufficient amount of Greek, no
way of knowing whether a "beautiful" version is also a "good" version.

>And just to ask one last question: Can anyone fulfill the purpose of not
>peddling the Word of God by translating a GNT in the light of the GNT?
>The only reason I go to French is because most English bibles are
>utterly colorless---it's like looking at a clone, no vibrance
>whatsoever. The GNT's not so, is it? Do the words and construction of
>the GNT portray some kind of character and flavor to it---not like
>direct translation does? And can anyone fulfill the task of translating
>in the light of the NT language and thought instead of lifeless words by

What color translation would you prefer (most tend to be black, but I've
seen red, blue, green,maybe some others). As for flavor, I've never thought
of the NT in those terms. I suppose, however, that you really do mean
"flavor" and "color" in a metaphorical sense. Personally I'd say that there
is a distinctive "character" to each of the NT texts; some of the
narratives being more vivid and others more straightforward and
informational, some even formulaic in the use of recurrrent explanatory
devices. Paul's epistolary style can be precise and discursive, but it can
also display fiercely intense emotion, and it can reach heights of
eloquence in the opening chapters of 1 Cor or in 1 Cor 13 (and elsewhere
too); Revelation is a work that one should find "colorful" in any sense of
the word, and even talks about the bitter "taste" of books that are
eaten--but I don't suppose that's quite the flavor you're meaning.

Quite frankly, it seems to me that when you say

>Can anyone fulfill the purpose of not
>peddling the Word of God by translating a GNT in the light of the GNT?
>The only reason I go to French is because most English bibles are
>utterly colorless

you are characterizing French and English diction as they appear to you and
expressing a quite subjective opinion. A good and accurate French
translation should give as adequate an expression to the GNT as does a good
and accurate English translation. Naturally each language has its own
idiomatic features, but what you say really makes it appear that you think
that NT Greek should sound like French. You may not mean that but that's
how it sounds. And what do you mean by "peddling the Word of God"? It seems
to me that this phrase could have an honorable or a questionable sense.
Does one want the NT to read like advertising copy with lurid highlighting
of what Paul has to say about sex and violence? Or does one want (as I
would rather assume) the NT to express what it has to say in the English or
French most appropriate to make clear to a reader what it meant to one who
read it in the original Greek?

Certainly it would be worth while to learn the Greek language used in the
New Testament, but don't romanticize its character: it runs the same range
>from crude and rough to altogether sublime expression as any sophisticated
language can and does, and it takes at least as much time and effort to
learn as does any other sophisticated language.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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