RE: thinking Greek

From: Hultberg, Alan (
Date: Fri May 19 2000 - 14:02:57 EDT

>Clayton Stirling Bartholomew wrote:

>A year or two ago when I picked up the second edition of Gordon Fee's blue
>book on NT Exegesis, I winced when he suggested that one of the first things
>you should do is make an English translation. Once you have made an English
>translation you have essentially cut yourself off from the text.

Wieland Willker replied
>I fnd this an interesting thought! But what does this mean in practice? Say
>you have to work on a certain pericope. Do you think it might be a good idea
>to learn it by heart in Greek and then walking up and down SUMBALLWN TA

To which Carl Conrad replied:

>if the egexete works in the manner of
the least-common-denominator sort of schoolchild who consults a dictionary
to find the first target-language equivalent of an unrecognized Greek word
and thinks that his exegesis is complete when he has reproduced the Greek
text in the target language in phrasing that reflects the
least-common-denominator aspects of the Greek text, then he/she's not
really an exegete at all but rather a converter of currency with a rather
crude sense of the CURRENT 'cash value' of the CURRENCY. But the exegete
assumes that the sense of the text is something more than the sum of its
parts, that it conveys its sense not word for word or even phrase for
phrase but hOLWS, with breadth and depth and inner (spirit-guided, I dare
say) vision. . . .
> There is a
place for translation in exegesis, but it comes at the end, not at the
beginning of the process, and this 'translation' is not a matter simply of
reformulating the phrasing in a target language but pulling off that
magical trick which pious Greeks, who used the verb KAQERMHNEUW for
translation, attributed to the grace of the god Hermes <etc.>

Thus spoke yours truly:

I have my exegesis students make a preliminary (read "wooden") translation of
the passage as a first step in exegesis (actually, after establishing the
text), but they also have to make a concluding paraphrastic translation that
incorporates the results of their exegetical study, disambiguating ambiguous
lexical, grammatical, syntactical, and higher order semantic features of the
greek text with more fully formulated phrases (or extra explanatory
clauses/sentences). For example, Phil'p 2:1 might read:

"Therefore, in light of the fact that I have asked you to live lives worthy of
the gospel, I have a request. If it is true that Christians are united by a
common experience of God's love in Christ, and by a common participation in
his Spirit; and if it is true that this should require of us mutual concern
and affection; then make the joy that I have in you, especially at your
partnership with me in getting out the gospel, . . ."

My students need the preliminary translation to begin the process of
questioning required of exegesis; they need the final translation to summarize
the results of the process (though they do so in some other ways as well).


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