Re: Incorrect Greek???

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Tue Sep 22 1998 - 19:27:58 EDT

At 07:28 98/09/22 -0500, Carl W. Conrad wrote:


>I think Richmond Lattimore, an outstanding translator of Homer and
>Aeschylus who also published a version of Revelation, may have said
>something positive about the style of the author of the book, although I
>doubt that he would have said there are very definite rules in Rev. I'd say
>that the author of Rev is usually pretty easy to understand, even where he
>doesn't follow standard syntax, as in the memorable phrase right near the

I was delighted to see Carl draw attention to the translation by Richmond
Lattimore. But let me mention that this Greek scholar has translated not
just Revelation but the whole New Testament. It is published in two
volumes, The Four Gospels and The Revelation, and Acts and Letters of the
Apostles. The former was first published in 1980; my copy is the British
edition of 1987 published by Hutchinson, ISBN 0-09-140791-5. The latter was
first published in 1982 by Farrer, Strauss and Giroux; my copy is the US
edition of 1986 published by Dorset Press, ISBN 0-374-10082-9.

Carl describes Lattimore as an "outstanding translator". This is certainly
true. In the jacket description for Acts and Letters of the Apostles he is
described as "one of the most distinguished living translators of Greek".
The New York Times Book Review calls his NT translation "an achievement
that places us more deeply in Lattimore's debt than any other in a long and
diligent career".

What makes Lattimore's translation well worth the noting - and well worth
having on one's shelves - is that he does not play "follow-the-leader" in
the same way as most other translations most of the time. He stands outside
what one might call the traditional way of approaching the text and
translating familiar passages. But he does not belong to the "dynamic
equivalence" school of translation either.

Oftenttimes he will surprise one with his different rendering of a verse. I
am not persuaded by all of these, but he does make you take a fresh look at
a lot of passages, and then go back and take another look at the Greek.

The first NT book he translated was Revelation, which he published as a
separate volume in 1962. His own comment on this is, "While I was teaching
various Greek texts to beginning students I was struck by the natural ease
with which Revelation turned itself into English." He states his
translation principles as : "I have held throughout to the principle of
keeping as close to the Greek as possible, not only for sense and for
individual words, but in the belief that fidelity to the original word
order and syntax may yield an English prose that to some extent reflects
the style of the original." He distinguishes this approach from that of
other translators: "The aim of at least some other contemporary translators
has been, avowedly, just the opposite: to be faithful to the sense but to
render it into contemporary idiom." He acknowledges, "This is, of course, a
perfectly legitimate aim", but two pages later, when comparing his
treatment of a passage from Mark with that of others he says, "Now, other
modern translators have modernized this passage much more successfully than
I have. My heart is not in this kind of rearrangement of the syntax. Still,
all the essential meaning is there. But to me it reads much less like Mark
than the version which stands in my translation. It will follow, or should,
that since each of the Gospels, and Revelation, is the work of a different
author with a different style, they should read differently in English."

And so on. As I say, Lattimore's translation is frequently refreshingly
different, invariably thought-provoking, and well worth consulting regularly.

By the way, he translates Revelation 1:4 as, "grace be with you, and peace,
from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven
spirits which are in the presence of his throne ..."



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:

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