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

From: Iver Larsen (alice-iver_larsen@wycliffe.org)
Date: Thu Nov 30 2000 - 06:18:17 EST

> On 11/26/00 8:13 PM, Rob Somers wrote:
> >> 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.
> All I'm
> saying is that I think the interrogative view is more compelling
> syntactically, and that the more accurate translation (as found in most
> versions) reflects this.
> Steve

Can I make a comment in relation to your last statement? (Rhetorical question). Are
you suggesting that a translation which copies the syntactical categories of the
original is more accurate than a translation which does not? (Real question). To be
specific, are you saying that a translation which for various reasons translates a
rhetorical question by a statement is not accurate? Accurate in the sense of
representing the Greek syntax to an English audience, or accurate in the sense of
carrying across the intended meaning of the text? (Truncated real question.)

What about Luke 11:5-7, where RSV says: "Which of you who has a friend will go to him
at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has
arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from
within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed;
I cannot get up and give you anything.’?"

Although I cannot find a question mark at the end of verse 7 in any of the Greek
editions I have at hand - and I don't know why there are no question marks in these
editions - I would agree with the RSV translators that this is a long, complicated
rhetorical question in the Greek text. It is used to introduce a hypothetical
scenario (Greek uses future tenses here) and then involve the audience by asking them
to think about the situation before giving the answer/comment/teaching from the

But is it an accurate translation into English? The translators of the NIV, NRSV and
most other versions didn't think so. Therefore, they translated this question as a
statement and started it off with "Suppose..."

I it is helpful to separate the syntax of the Greek text from the syntax of a
translation of the text into another language. For related languages like Greek and
English, we may be able to copy many syntactical categories, but for unrelated
languages this is less possible.


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