[b-greek] Re: question about james 5:14

From: Steven R. Lo Vullo (doulos@chorus.net)
Date: Sun Nov 26 2000 - 18:37:56 EST

On 11/26/00 11:11 AM, Iver Larsen wrote:

> New Century Version translates James 5:13-14a as follows: "Anyone who is
> having troubles should pray. Anyone who is happy should sing praises. Anyone
> who is sick should call the church's elders."

The indicative in this case doesn't lend itself easily to the translation
"anyone who," which is more naturally expressed by a participial
construction or with hOSTIS.

> In the UBS Greek text it is a statement, not a question.

But this is exactly what is at issue. Forgive me the word play, but the fact
that UBS puts it as a statement begs the question!

> It is important to notice the present tense, which is better described here as
> imperfective aspect. Imperfective aspect can be expressed as "when I have said
> this, I have said something, but more is to come", or: "what I am talking
> about is not completed."

This seems to just unnecessarily complicate the issue. Whether interrogative
or not, it is much simpler to understand the present tense here as merely
indicating the state of being sick (or weak, or however one chooses to
translate ASQENEI). After all, what other tense could James have used to
indicate that someone might be presently sick (or weak, etc.)?

> It is also helpful to notice that James 5:13 has two examples of exactly the
> same construction:

This doesn't really help us with v. 14; it only poses the same question for
v. 13. Notice that whichever solution the translators of a version choose
for one, they also employ in the other.

> "(Suppose) someone among you is suffering - let him/her pray.
> (Suppose) someone feels encouraged - let him/her sing praises. (Suppose)
> someone among you is weak/sick, let him/her call the elders of the church..."

The word "suppose" expresses the semantic equivalent to a first class
condition, which would be introduced by the conditional conjunction EI. Note
that when James wishes to express this type of idea he in fact uses EI with
the present indicative followed by the imperative: EI DE TIS hUMWN LEIPETAI
SOFIAS, AITEITW, K.T.L. (1.5) We find the same in 3.14. TIS as an indefinite
pronoun with the indicative in 1.5 is very naturally preceded by EI to
express a supposition for the sake of argument (which, contrary to popular
belief, is really what the first class condition is all about), while in
5.13-14 we have no such marker.

> The way the punctuation has been put in the UBS GNT shows that the editors
> interpreted it as a statement, not a question. However, in another language it
> is quite possible to translate the presupposition as either a rhetorical
> question that states a presupposition (Is anyone among you sick?) or as a
> condition (If anyone among you is sick) or with a relative clause (Anyone
> among you who is sick.)

It may be true that in another language it is possible to *translate* as a
rhetorical question, or a condition, or a relative clause, but that is not
the issue here, which is: "Is this a question in Greek?"
> It is possible to take it as a rhetorical question in the Greek, since NT
> Greek does use rhetorical questions to introduce a topic and even to introduce
> a condition.

But when a rhetorical question is asked in Greek, it is just that--a


Steve Lo Vullo

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