[b-greek] Re: 'cannot'

From: jerker karlsson (jerker_k@hotmail.com)
Date: Wed Nov 21 2001 - 12:26:31 EST


>I have very little Greek, but can read it with the help of a parallel
>text. I am trying to decipher 'dinatai' for 'cannot'. (This is where
>Jesus says to his listeners that unless a man be born again, he 'cannot'
>enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What does the 'cannot' mean. As far as I
>can tell from parallel texts and dictionaries, 'dinatai' means cannot in
>the sense of 'have not the power', 'not strong enough'. Is this right? I
>need some clarification for a PhD thesis I am writing which involves
>analysis of Luther's translation.
>Tim Francis

I assume that the paragraph you are referring to are John 3: 3 there Jesus
says that a man OU DYNATAI IDEIN KTL. The word DYNAMAI is negated by the
simple but plain negation OU witch just signifies "Not", neither more nor
less. So there you have the “not” in “can-not”.

The very word DYNAMIA is one of many faces and it can occur in a range of
settings, ranging from me meaning of “equals” to in terms of worth and “is
equivalent to” in terms of meaning. But it can also, as in the case in John
3: 3, have the meaning of “be able to”, “capable off” etc. It is my humble
opinion that we aught not to restrict the correct translations of such a
dynamic word as DYNAMAI. The most basic meaning is of cause that something
is sufficient to a certain objective witch the writer has in his mind. But
depending on the situation in witch it is used we have to chose how to
render it best in our one vernacular. If it is said in a context there the
power that is required to perform a certain task is physical strength we may
use a expression that in our one language denote the sufficiency of physical
strength as “strong enough” but if it refers to some more abstract
capability we might as well use more abstract expressions as "can",
"capable", “able”, “competent” and so forth.

I hope that you are aware of that Luther used Erasmus first edition of the
greek text which differ to some extent from the present standard editions,
in this peculiar instance it didn’t but one numerous occasions it does.
Luther’s one translation (1545 edition) which goes ... kann er ... nicht
sehen, is in my opinion a neutral translation and it has chosen to render
the more abstract meaning of DYNAMAI, which in this case also is the one

Dynamai is then by grammatical necessity (i.e. if the author choose to make
the object explicit) followed by the present infinitive for "Se".


Jerker Karlsson
Lund, Sweden

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