Re: Effective prayer: Jam 5:16

From: Lee R. Martin (
Date: Tue Aug 26 1997 - 14:45:08 EDT

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> At 10:57 AM -0500 8/26/97, Lee R. Martin wrote:
> >> At 5:56 PM -0500 8/25/97, Lee R. Martin wrote:
> >> >A question about the participle in James 5:16b.
> >> >...polu ischuei dehsis dikaiou energoumenh
> >> >
> >> >The New American Bible translates: "The effective prayer of a righteous
> >> >man can accomplish much." Thus, "energoumenh" is understood as an
> >> >adjectival ptc. modifying "dehsis."
> >> >
> >> >But the New Revised Standard Version has: "The prayer of the righteous
> >> >is powerful and effective. In this case, "energoumenh" is translated as
> >> >a predicate adj.
> >
> >Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> >>> What I find disturbing about the way the question is posed may be something
> >> that Lee has not intended--an apparent assumption that these translations
> >> are meant to reflect precisely how the translators construe the Greek; I
> >> don't think either version is endeavoring to reproduce the structure so
> >> much as the sense of the Greek. So let's repose the question in terms of
> >> the Greek text rather than of the translations:
> >
> >Dear Carl,
> >Please do not make assumptions about my assumptions. I like to use
> >translations as illustrations of a question. I did not mean that the
> >NRS construed the Greek ptc. as a pred. adj., I only pointed to the fact
> >that they translate it that way. Am I not correct? It translates
> >"...prayer ... is...effective." I hope this helps explain my
> >statement. Of course you may be talking about something entirely
> >different. You did not specifically state where you think I erred.
> I said this "may be something that Lee has not intended--an APPARENT
> assumption ..." I'm not ACCUSING you of any ERROR; rather I'm noting that
> the way the question has been posed gives the reader an impression that may
> not have been intended. I thought I had made it clear that the impression
> was not necessarily intended.
> >Also, I never said that the versions were "endeavoring to reproduce the
> >structure" of Greek. Nevertheless, It seems to me that the two versions
> >must understand the Greek differently, because "effective of a righteous
> >man can accomplish much" does not carry the same message as "prayer of
> >the righteous is powerful and effective." The difference is based on
> >the translation of the participle, about which you and I agree.
> No, you never said it; this is still part of the "impression" I said was
> suggested by the formulation of the question
> >>
> >>
> >> I would certainly understand POLU here only with ISCUEI: "A righteous man's
> >> prayer avails a lot." I certainly would NOT take it as an intended primary
> >> object of the participle ENERGOUMENH;
> >
> >My question had nothing to do with POLU. Where did I say it was an
> >object of the ptc.?
> You didn't. I thought it was implied by your statement about the NAB: "I
> tend to disagree with the NAB's because of the distance between "dehsis"
> and "enerngoumenh." The NAB version was:
> >The New American Bible translates: "The effective prayer of a righteous
> >man can accomplish much." Thus, "energoumenh" is understood as an
> >adjectival ptc. modifying "dehsis."
> I evidently misunderstood you; I see that your point is actually succinctly
> stated: that ENERGOUMENH is circumstantial rather than attributive. But I
> did not say that you had viewed POLU as object of ENERGOUMENH. I was
> commenting on my own view of the deficiency of the NAB version in
> relationship to the word-order of the Greek text. I don't object to
> re-arranging the elements of a verse in translation, but I like to see,
> where it's possible, the rhetorical force of word-order somehow
> represented. I'm rather a nut about that and tend to express myself
> forcefully without implying any criticism.
> Especially in view of the fact that we are in agreement about the
> understanding of the verse and the function of the participle ENERGOUMENH,
> I regret all the more that the phrasing of my response appeared to have
> offensive overtones.

Dear Carl,
I am certain that you would not intentionally offend anyone. And you
have not offended me. I just get tired of responses that stray from the
question. In a short, concise forum such as this, it is not possible to
include every methodological explanation and every disclaimer. When I
ask about a participle, I expect a response to be about the participle,
not about my view of translations. I am quite certain that no one can
read the minds of Bible translators and determine how they construe the
Greek text. But we can observe their resultant translation and its
apparent meaning.

If we were talking in person, communication would be much easier. I
would observe that your questioning of my "apparent assumptions" is an
obvious clue to your skill as a teacher, and I can admit that the
communication problem may have been from the vagueness of my post.

Lee R. Martin
Adjunct Faculty in Old Testament and Hebrew
Church of God Theological Seminary / Cleveland, TN 37311
Pastor, Prospect Church of God
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