Translating Imperatives

From: TAYLOR, MARK D [FND/1000] (
Date: Fri Aug 20 1999 - 10:41:15 EDT

I have been disappointed with the translation of the imperative in major
English translations (actually, I usually read the NASB or NIV, I might be
wrong on some others).

When the imperative is used as a command, it seems to be usually conveyed
via "let your ...", which I think implies to most English readers the idea
of permission, and not of command. I really think most people do not at all
see this as a command. And "let" is sometimes used with the subjunctive, as
well, which seems to make more sense. And, of course, there are times when
"let" is used specifically for permission (Matt 5:40 (NASB) "And if anyone
wants to sue you, and take your shirt, LET him have your coat also." - using
AFES). So the English reader is left with confusing information.

An example of imperative command:
(NASB) "Let your light shine before men ..."

An example of subjunctive with "let":
Hebr 4:16 "PROSERXWMEQA OUN ..."
(NASB) "Let us therefore draw near ..."

William Tyndale sometimes translated the imperative as, "See that you...",
which seems much better. Or maybe something like, "You must..."?

And in the Lord's Prayer, starting in Matthew 6:9, where the imperative is
used several times for entreaty, it seems that no attempt is made to convey
the force to the English reader. Would it be too much to translate it as, "I
plead with you to ..." or something like that?
        "hAGIASQHTW TO ONOMA SOU" as "Hallowed be Thy name"
        "ELQETW hH BASILEIA SOU" as "Thy kingdom come"
        "GENHQHTW TO QELHMA SOU" as "Thy will be done"

Any insights or suggestions would be appreciated,
Mark Taylor

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