Re: Matthew 21:29-31

From: Jim West (jwest@Highland.Net)
Date: Sun Sep 05 1999 - 08:22:32 EDT

At 11:31 PM 9/4/99 -0700, you wrote:
>I've been lurking on the B-Greek list for a few days now, and had a question
>with respect to translating a certain passage. How would one translate
>Matthew 21:29-31 for Arab readers? For the Arab reader (at least those I
>know of who seem to have a very fatalistic view of events controlled in all
>aspects by Allah), the son who told his father that he would do as
>instructed but later did not is seen as being the "good" son rather than the
>one who said he would not but afterward did his father's will. It would be
>unthinkable to these persons for a son to shame his father by telling him
>"no," even if he actually did later go out and do as his father asked.

That is PRECISELY the point- for such behavior would have stricken Jesus'
audience as equally unbelievable. So- translate what you have.

> But
>the son who told his father "yes" but did not complete the task because it
>was not Allah's will that he accomplish the task is seen in a better light.

Again, the behavior of the second son is equally distrubing. Render it as
it stands and allow the harshness ring in the readers ears-- its supposed to!

>Would one rather try placing an explanatory footnote explaining the mileau
>of Israelite culture in the first century or try to tackle the translation
>issue in some way? Thank you in advance for any help you can give on this.

No need-- Arab culture is essentially the same. They will get the point
better than most westerners- so again, just render it straightforwardly.



Jim West, ThD
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