Re: definite and indefinite articles/ and John1:1

From: T & J Peterson (
Date: Sat Mar 22 1997 - 19:17:04 EST wrote:

> What if we used no indefinite
> article at all, and used the difinite article only where used in the Greek
> text, what would the English read like? Well, in doing this, along with
> several other things, I find a striking improvement in the translation.


> With that said, has anyone else had experience with removing all English
> indefinite articles, and using literally only the definite article in English
> where it is used in the Greek text? And, what would be a viable objection to
> such translation?


While this technique may be appropriate in the course of personal
translation, it would not really accomplish a valid rendering. To do so
assumes a one-to-one correspondence between the usage of Greek articles
and that of English. The very fact that Greek possesses no indefinite
article argues against this correspondence. Because it is possible for
a Greek substantive to be definite without the article, and because we
must distinguish between indefiniteness and quality, there are really
three possible ways to take a substantive without the article:
definite, indefinite, or qualitative. As Greek scholars, you and I
understand these possibilities, but the work of translation requires
that we convey the Greek meaning in English.

> Also, I have a question about John 1:1
> en arche hn o logos kai o logos hn pros ton theon kai theos hn o logos.
> Considering the concept given by some scholars that the Hebrew/Aramaic should
> have a greater influence on the Greek NT re: translation and idioms, what
> about this as a possible translation.
> "In beginning was the word and the word was towards YHWH (o theos) and Elohim
> (theos) was the word." This certainly seems to fit with the usage of the
> divine idea from the Hebrew Scriptures.


Although it is possible at times to discern the underlying Hebrew
thought behind NT wording, the above translation seems like little more
than a guess. First, ADONAY was the most common substitution for YHWH,
and both terms were translated most often by KURIOS. Second, there is
no conclusive evidence that this distinction (between THEOS with the
article and THEOS without the article) indicated any difference in
underlying Hebrew names.


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