[b-greek] Re: Matt 26:50

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Sat Sep 01 2001 - 15:59:56 EDT

> Iver, I thank you very much for your painstaking efforts to show the
> plausibility of your understanding of this text. I think this has been a
> very worthwhile exchange. I still don't think I'm ready to accept the
> interpretation that goes with this, but I think you've shown at least that
> it is quite plausible to suppose EF' hO PAREI as a question representing
> something like EPI TOUTO hOTI PAREI (which would mean pretty much the same
> thing as my own suggested TOUT' ESTIN EF' hO PAREI)? But there remain some
> questions for me, not the least of which concerns how best to TRANSLATE
> this into a target language. While you understand this as referring to the
> kiss, I think it could just as easily refer to the evident success of the
> plot to arrest Jesus--which would also fit just as well the usage of
> hETAIRE to which you refer. That is to say: there is still considerable
> ambiguity or what we'd have to call a "cryptic" character to "For this
> you're here?"--as there is in the celebrated response of Jesus to the High
> Priest (Mt 27:1 and parallels): SU LEGEIS. Does one or should one
> translate
> this in such a way as to preserve the cryptic quality and then
> explain in a
> footnote what it MIGHT mean?

I would say that how to translate it depends on the type of translation you
are doing and what your target audience is.
For one type of audience I would prefer a cryptic statement like "Is this
why you have come?" or as you suggest "For this you're here?" This assumes
the language allows for the demonstrative "this" to be uses as an anaphoric
reference to the immediately preceding context (which English does - but in
Greek the demonstrative is almost always anaphoric, whereas in English it is
often kataphoric or more distant in its semantic reference.) Such a
translation fits well in a classroom of Greek students or a Christian
audience that prefers a modified literal translation.
For a less sophisticated target audience, I would prefer a less cryptic one
that would chose one option in the text and possibly the other in a
footnote. Then, of course, the translator has to make a choice. My main
reason for connecting TOUTO to the kiss is that the immediately preceding
context said "and he kissed him". It is true that this kiss is part of the
plot to arrest Jesus, but it seems more likely to me that Jesus would have
meant "Did you come to kiss me?" than "Did you come to arrest me?" To the
first Judas might have responded: "No, not really. How come you always read
me as an open book?" To the second Judas might have responded: "Yes, I did."
In any case, I think the translation should make it possible for the reader
to see the incongruity between betrayal and kissing.
> You refer to "rules for ellipsis" that appear to exclude the
> possibility of
> elision;

I apologize. I can see I used a wrong term. Maybe because I am foreigner
trying to speak English, maybe because I was tired. What I meant was
"elision" on the syntactical level, but I should have kept to "ellipsis."
The question is what kind of words we can reasonable supply in order to
understand the sentence. I gave the example of ESTIN - especially in final
position. Another one is imperatival hINA where we could supply a verb of
speaking or wishing. A third one is implied information between ALLA and
hINA where one often has to supply several words from the preceding sentence
in order to understand it. There are probably others, but ISTM that
supplying a form of a verb like POIEW goes beyond what is reasonable to do.
Are there other examples in Greek where one would need to supply a word like

Thanks for your nice words, Carl. I am learning as we go along.

PS on SU LEGEIS in Matt 27:11 and parallels. This was a response to Pilate's
question "Are you the king of the Jews?" It is a question that requires a
"yes and no" answer. In a spiritual sense yes, in a political sense "not as
you understand it". My hypothesis here is that the use of the present tense
implies a guarded: "Yes, but..." or "You could said that, but it is open for
discussion. It all depends on what you mean by 'king'" Pilate apparently did
not take it as a clear yes.
In his response to the High Priest in Mt. 26:64, Jesus said SU EIPAS. I
interpret the aorist as a categorical "yes" to a different question "Are you
the Messiah?" The High Priest took it as a clear yes.
A translation of these two responses should be different. Whether the tense
difference between "you have said so" and "you say so" is sufficient to make
the point in English, I don't know.

Iver Larsen

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