Translation and Explanation?: EN PASHi KTISEI

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jun 05 2000 - 09:09:41 EDT

At 11:08 PM -0700 6/4/00, Byron & Linetta Knutson wrote:
>Having now conceded the translation as "all of creation," does the EN plus
>Dative prep. phrase help in resolving the seemingly difficult, if not
>historically inaccurate, inference that the gospel was preached in ALL
>CREATION? It is now some 1,940 years later and still missionaries tell us of
>PLACES where the gospel has not reached.
>My instincts tell me this is an hyperbole or the like. But I still feel it
>is an appropriate question in B-Greek, for after all, if I am going to
>translate Greek, I should be able to EXPLAIN it as well.

Certainly our objective is to UNDERSTAND the Greek text: that may--and for
most of us does--issue in a translation demonstrating HOW we understand the
Greek text. But EXPLANATION or EXPLICATION could be a virtually endless
endeavor. Some would think that explication of a text in the GNT must
involve a full-scale exegesis involving all the historical-contextual and
theological implications of the text and implying a hermeneutical theory of
some sort.

I think that we ought ordinarily to limit "EXPLANATION" on B-Greek to
clarification of the the factors in the Greek text AS A GREEK TEXT that
bear upon understanding that text. I say this because the difficulties
arising in this text do NOT seem to depend at all upon the Greek text AS A
GREEK TEXT but arise only after it has been determined that EN PASHi KTISEI
must mean "in all creation." That is to say, the difficulty felt to exist
in the text arises after the text has already been understood AS A GREEK
TEXT--it would be present in any translation the reader of which discerned
a historical difficulty or (apparent) contradiction. It is not our business
on B-Greek to hash out whatever potential or apparent contradictions may be
found in the Biblical text.

For the sake of clarification, let me point to a couple examples:


I personally think that Mark is deliberately inclusive here of ALL JUDEA
and ALL CITIZENS OF JERUSALEM, however unlikely that may be in terms of
historical probabilities. WHY Mark should do this is a question for the
interpretation of Mark's gospel and will have something to do with the
larger understanding of Marcan theology. But that is NOT a question for
B-Greek. The question for B-Greek is simply whether PASA hH IOUDAIA CWRA
KAI hOI hIEROSOLUMITAI PANTES can possibly be understood, phrased as it is,
"almost all of Judea and most of the people of Jerusalem"--or something
other than what the Greek seems surely to be saying literally. The
EXPLANATION in this instance has to do with questions about Mark's gospel
that are NOT essentially questions about the Greek text--and so they are
not B-Greek questions. Such questions ought rather to be taken to a list
such as Synoptic-L.

Luke's chronological note on the dating of the census that brought Mary and
Joseph to Bethlehem for registration is problematic primarily because of
the historical problems it raises rather than because of any problems in
understanding the grammar or meaning of the Greek text. To be sure there
ARE some questions regarding how the syntax of the Greek is understood
here, although it seems to me personally that those questions have been
raised primarily because the superficially obvious meaning of the Greek
text raises difficulties for historical understanding: what year is being
referred to as the year in which Quirinius was governing Syria? The B-Greek
questions: is it best to understand hHGEMONEUONTOS THS SURIAS KURHNAIOU as
a genitive absolute adverbially qualifying PRWTH EGENETO? Or is it possible
that the genitive phrase could be understood as genitive of comparison
depending upon an adverbial sense of PRWTH, something like "very much
earlier than Quirinius was governing Syria."
That is an attempt, I think, to resolve the chronological discrepancy
between indications in Luke 1 and Luke 2 regarding the probable date of the
birth of Jesus. This question has been discussed more than once on B-Greek
and persons interested can consult the archives. The simple point I am
trying to make here, however, is that the question regarding this verse for
B-Greek is: What are the legitimate possible ways of understanding the
syntax of the Greek sentence? The questions of chronology and possibilities
of harmonizing apparent discrepancies in indications of the year of Jesus'
birth is NOT a B-Greek question but ought to be taken to another forum--and
here too, it seems to me that Synoptic-L is the most likely place to go
with such a question.

Carl W. Conrad
Co-Chair, B-Greek List
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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