RE: thinking Greek

From: Hultberg, Alan (
Date: Sat May 20 2000 - 14:08:31 EDT

I wrote

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

And Carl responded

>I'm not sure that this is really inconsistent with what I said above,
>because it seems to me to grant that the initial translation is NOT the
>end-result of exegesis. After all, I wrote:
>>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.
>You're not doing that or asking your students to do that. I rather suspect
>that a diagram of the passage might be as useful as such a "wooden
>translation" as a framework from which to develop an exegesis. What you
>really need at the outset is a syntactic analysis indicating how elements
>relate to each other within the sentence and in the larger context--and of
>course, syntax, isn't everything. As I said there has to be an assumption
>that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts; perhaps that's what's
>indicated by that version of Phil 2:1-2 which is more a paraphrase than a
>Actually I've followed a somewhat similar process in the 'explications de
>texte' that I have asked of advanced courses in Greek and Latin: a
>'woodenly-literal' version the purpose of which is to demonstrate that the
>structure of the original is understood (and I urge them to attempt to
>retain word-order as far as possible); then an analysis of the text in
>question in as many ways as the text permits analysis, and finally a target
>version that attempts to convey all the elements discerned in the process
>in the best English the student can muster. But there's a pretty clear
>understanding that the final target version will be only partially
>successful--and that is all the more the case if the original is a real
>piece of literary craftsmanship. I really do believe the old Italian
>proverb, 'traduttori traditori,' which can itself only be conveyed in a
>roundabout way: "translation is a betrayal (of the original)."

To which i respond

Please forgive me, Carl, if I implied that you were off-base in your original
comments. The point of my response was that I think there *is* a useful place
for an initial translation of the original text in the *exegetical* process
(re: Clay's original statements). In what follows, I also don't want to imply
that your response to my post was off-base. We are in substantial agreement
as regards the exegetical process. Rather, I would like to clarify for those
members (like Eric and Mark?) who are new to NT Greek studies and perhaps
intimidated at the prospect of exegeting the original text exactly how I
understand initial and final "translations" functioning in the exegetical
process. That said . . .

I, like you, want the initial translation to be a formal equivalence
translation for the purpose of forcing my students to notice the lexical,
grammatical, and syntactical features of the text before moving on to other
steps in the process. These other steps include a syntactical and semantic
diagram, a discourse analysis, etc. I stress to my students that they are not
producing works of art by engaging in these analytical tasks, but working
documents that serve to help them observe the text from several angles,
ultimately leading to the goal of understanding the intent of the original
author. Along the way I have them keep a list of questions generated by the
various analytical tasks, questions that they deem must be answered if they
are fully to understand the Greek text. The results of this analytical
process are then incorporated in their summary paraphrase of the passage (as
well as in a single-sentence, technically rendered description of the main
point of the passage, etc.). Even this final "translation" is not intended to
serve as an English rendering of the passage for the benefit of English
readers who know no Greek (though I suppose it could with some editing), but
as a formal means of assuring my students that they have fully (as possible at
the time) understand the intent of the original author.

I'm sure I've merely repeated what you said, albeit with cumbersome
expansions, but I hope that may help Mark and others.

By the way, Clay, how would you respond?


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