Re: Translating and Inclusive Language

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Sat Sep 06 1997 - 12:35:29 EDT

Edward Hobbs wrote:

>My response (Edward now) is that this isn't literal at all, for the
>central issue in the Greek is that it is a 3rd person imperative, something
>we don't have in English. Tony has changed this to a standard English 2nd
>person imperative. The traditional way of translating Greek 3person-imp's
>is to use "Let him/them ... " I don't like this, for it suggests
>"Permit him to do thus", whereas the Greek is a command to someone other
>than the speaker or the addressee. Circumlocutions are necessary in
>English, since we lack this grammatical construction; but turning the
>sentence into a second person direct command may not be the best way to do
>I consider Jonathan's proposal quite clever; whether I would use it, I'm
>not sure, but my sole reason for not doing so would be my discomfort with
>the "Let..." construction, for which I have no alternative!


I agree with you that "Let him/them..." is *bad* English nowadays (-:

What I've started teaching my students is that in most cases third person
imperatives can be translated into English using "must" or "should" (in
fact, I think some of the translations have started to do this in
certain cases).

For the case at hand:

"Whoever has (the) ears to hear, *should* pay attention !", or

"Whoever has (the) ears to hear, *must* pay attention !"

I don't remember where they are off the top of my head, but it seems
to me that I've run into some 3rd Impvs which admit other subjunctive
forces (sort of like permissive 2nd impvs); almost "might want to..."


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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