Re: "In the beginning was the word" (Jn 1:1a)

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Tue Feb 22 2000 - 17:48:27 EST

<x-flowed>To: Gfsomsel and Jason Hare,

G: << To prescriptively limit the use of "word" to a written form is to
disable the language much as those who wish to impose a politically correct
understanding of the word "man" and substitute "person." >>

Of course, no one has limited all uses of the English term "word" to "a
written form." In fact, in the first message of this thread, I presented a
definition of the the term "word" as referring to "the concept of discrete,
meaningful verbal units that are combined to form utterances." But I doubt
that this concept appears anywhere in the NT. And yet, it appears that this
is the basic meaning most people have for the English term "word" (i.e. "a
speech sound or series of sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning
without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use").

For many people the term "man" is no longer used in an inclusive sense, and
thus for such people a non-"politically correct" translation would violate
their sense of English idiom. Eugene A. Nida and Charles R. Taber, in their
"The Theory and Practice of Translation" (1982), wrote:

<< Even the old question: Is this a correct translation? must be answered
in terms of another question, namely: For whom? Correctness must be
determined by the extent to which the average reader for which a
translation is intended will be likely to understand it correctly >> (1).

According to Nida-Taber, different translations are needed for different

JH: << By saying "it does not refer to a 'word' (in its narrow sense)" you
admit that "word" has a wider sense in which to be understood. Therefore it
is not such a "limited" means of expression and is acceptable as is. >>

For me, the issue is not whether or not the translation "word" can in some
sense be seen as "acceptable," but rather which translation better reflects
the original text's meaning. Perhaps you don't feel that the translations
which I've offered better reflect the original text. That is fair enough,
it seems to me that there is plenty of room for differences of opinion
here. Unfortunately, I'm unclear as to why you feel that the term "word" is
a better translation than what I've offered. Perhaps you would like clarify

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)
FWIW: I'm neither a clergy-person, nor an academic (and I have no post-grad

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