Re: Acts 3:16, NIV translation

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon May 04 1998 - 06:51:43 EDT

At 10:34 PM -0500 5/3/98, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>I am at a loss as to understanding the justification for the NIV
>translation of Acts 3:16a. It reads:
> By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see
> and know was made strong.
>The Greek has:
>First of all, it apparently takes the masculine accusative TOUTON as the
>subject of the sentence. Secondly, it renders the active ESTEREWSEN as a
>passive, "was made strong."
>Most translations take TO ONOMA AUTOU as the subject and render the
>active voice actively. Just wondering where the NIV translators get
>their translation. Does "dynamic equivalency" have this much latitude?

Paul, as I read it, the translator is not taking TOUTON as the subject of
ESTEREWSEN at all, but simply transforming the structure of the original so
that the active construction with the order O-V-S becomes in the English a
passive construction with the order S-V-Agent. The meaning has not been
altered, nor would I really consider this a "dynamic equivalence" version.
(Actually, this is a translation strategy that I suggest to my own students
for preserving the word-order of the original; when the accusative object
comes first in its clause and the subject last: translate the object as
subject, make the verb passive, and convert the subject into an agent. One
might argue (and I think that is the point of Mike Beazley's response to
your message) that this alters the meaning, but I don't really think so;
sometimes the word-order is as powerful and communicative as the phrasing
itself, and I believe that is the case here; one thing to remember is that
inthe Greek the beginning is one place of powerful emphasis and the end is
another. This sentence, however, also makes a powerful emphasis upon the
object by making it a demonstrative and qualifying it with a strong
relative clause; note also that the concluding phrase, TO ONOMA AUTOU,
reiterates the opening formula, EPI THi PISTEI TOU ONOMATOS AUTOU. In order
to convey the full rhetorical force of the original, I'd make the
translation even stronger:

        "And it is on the basis of faith in him that this very man whom you
        and know has been made strong: it was His name that did it."

But of course, even if that's the real sense of the original Greek, it
probably wouldn't be acceptable to any translation committee that thinks it
more important to reproduce the FORM of the original than the CONTENT.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:39 EDT