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Question for native speakers of Greek
Thread poster: casey

casey
United States
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Aug 21, 2008

Hi all,

I was wondering if the Greek text of the Bible is still understandable to modern-day speakers of Greek (I don't read or speak any Greek at all). If so, may I ask what the proper rendition of the following passage would be?

προσδεχόμενοι τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

Should this be
"looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" (American Standard translation)

or
"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," (New American Standard translation)

In other words, do both God and Saviour refer to Jesus or just Saviour? Or, is it vague?


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xxxd_vachliot
Local time: 02:39
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Probably the former, but it could be interpreted both ways Aug 21, 2008

casey wrote:

In other words, do both God and Saviour refer to Jesus or just Saviour? Or, is it vague?



I would say that it can be interpreted both ways, even though I would tend towards the first option.

King James Version reads: " 13. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;"

The New International Version: " 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,"

The Contemporary English Version actually has a footnote about this: 13We are filled with hope, as we wait for the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. [a]
Footnotes:
1. Titus 2:13 the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ: Or "the glorious return of our great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" or "the return of Jesus Christ, who is the glory of our great God and Savior."

So, there is not a definitive answer.


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casey
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Thanks, Dimitris. Aug 21, 2008

Much appreciated. I was interested in hearing what a native speaker thought. Can you read the ancient Greek texts, or would you need a modern Greek translation?

--Edited for clarity.

[Edited at 2008-08-21 14:56]


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Nick Lingris  Identity Verified
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The case of the missing article Aug 21, 2008

Greeks today would find it difficult to understand the detail of biblical text. We easily get the gist of things, but cannot accurately interpret some words whose meaning has changed over time. In the specific passage, for instance, ‘προσδεχόμενοι’ is not used in modern Greek and one would think it means ‘accept’, not ‘look forward to’. Even more to the point is the use of ‘επιφάνεια’, which has lost its meaning of ‘epiphany’ and is only used to mean ‘surface’!

However, to the modern Greek as to the Greek of that day, the missing ‘του’ before ‘σωτήρος’ can only mean that the reference is to one person. This gives rise to extensive discussion concerning the deity of Jesus, but I suppose how Titus viewed Jesus or how we view Jesus today should not hang on the use of an article.

All the same, further discussion on this issue can be found here:
http://vintage.aomin.org/GRANVILL.html


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xxxd_vachliot
Local time: 02:39
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Not true Aug 21, 2008

Nick Lingris wrote:

However, to the modern Greek as to the Greek of that day, the missing ‘του’ before ‘σωτήρος’ can only mean that the reference is to one person.



No, not always and not necessarily, even though that usually is the case.

I never cease to be amazed by people's confidence in such interpretations, when theological and linguistic controversy over such issues (and this one in particular) has been running rampant for centuries.

Here, you will find an excellent analysis of the issue, a reexamination of the Granville Sharp rule (which is not really a rule, but a general principle), its abuses, misinterpretation and exceptions. http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1496

"Winer’s opinion notwithstanding, solid linguistic reasons and plenty of phenomenological data were found to support the requirements that Sharp laid down. When substantives meet the requirements of Sharp’s canon, apposition is the result, and inviolably so in the NT. The canon even works outside the twenty-seven books and, hence, ought to be resurrected as a sound principle which has overwhelming validity in all of Greek literature. Consequently, in Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1 we are compelled to recognize that, on a grammatical level, a heavy burden of proof rests with the one who wishes to deny that “God and Savior” refers to one person, Jesus Christ."

[Edited at 2008-08-21 19:28]


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Nick Lingris  Identity Verified
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"True" is what the Conclusion says Aug 21, 2008

Dear Dimitris,

I thought that Casey’s question was not addressed to scholars or interpreters of the Bible, and that he was simply wondering how the average modern-day speaker of Greek would understand the specific problematic passage.

Your answer was: ‘I would say that it can be interpreted both ways, even though I would tend towards the first option’. Now the first option in Casey’s message was: ‘…of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’. Not ‘of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus’.

Although the controversy is known, and I added a relevant link, it arises from the theological issues raised by the non-use of the article. Were it not for those issues, we would not be discussing the exceptions to Sharp’s rule. After all, neither of us had to refer to Sharp’s rule to read the sentence, and, even if I read all of the 35,000 words in the bible.org text, I will still be reaching the same conclusion as in that bit that you posted.

So I will be repeating what I said: to the modern Greek as to the Greek of that day, the missing ‘του’ before ‘σωτήρος’ can only mean that the reference is to one person.

I’m not referring to scholars splitting hairs and exceptions. I agree with the conclusion you posted in your second message and I disagreed with the impression I got from your first post, and that is all.


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xxxd_vachliot
Local time: 02:39
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My point exactly Aug 21, 2008

The article quoted does conclude that more evidence is really needed to support the claim that the Granville Sharp rule does not hold true in this case, despite the fact that there are some good points and arguments from the opposite side (references quoted in article).

However, my point remains the same: it can be interpreted both ways and there has been an enormous theological and linguistic debate over this particular verse of the Bible.

I really don't consider myself capable or worthy of translating Biblical passages or of making such interpretations or of providing definitive answers to questions that have been puzzling theologians and linguists for centuries.

You said: "However, to the modern Greek as to the Greek of that day, the missing ‘του’ before ‘σωτήρος’ can ****only mean**** that the reference is to one person."

My objection was with "it can ONLY MEAN that".


[Edited at 2008-08-21 20:38]


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Nick Lingris  Identity Verified
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To put it simply Aug 21, 2008

In English you can say “his mother and wife” and mean “his mother and his wife” – two persons. If you say the same thing in Greek, “η μάνα και σύζυγός του”, it may seem unlikely that you are talking about one person, but the one-person interpretation is what makes grammatical sense. It also makes historical sense when you are told that the statement refers to Jocasta. To the average Greek who does not want to split hairs it can only mean one person. I do not want to turn this into a theological argument, but if Titus, writing to simple men, did not want to refer to one person, he was being grammatically wrong. It is very important to the foreigner asking a simple question to get a straight answer. And my point is this: some theologians may want to see two different interpretations, but the average Greek guy sees only one. After all, they wrote 35,000 words in that article to reach the same conclusion; can’t we do it here in not as many?

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casey
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Yes, I'm trying to get past the "scholarly" and theological debates. Aug 22, 2008

I was wondering what native speakers thought about it. Granville's Rule is a rule for translating. It may be correct, but how can a native speaker be wrong? It seems to me that English translators will make assumptions based on whether or not they believe in the deity of Christ, so I was wanting to see whether native speakers had an opinion on the grammar used apart from the theological debate.

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xxxd_vachliot
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There is no straight answer Aug 22, 2008

Nick Lingris wrote:
It is very important to the foreigner asking a simple question to get a straight answer. And my point is this: some theologians may want to see two different interpretations, but the average Greek guy sees only one. After all, they wrote 35,000 words in that article to reach the same conclusion; can’t we do it here in not as many?


Yes, but how can you provide a straight answer when there isn't one. It's not a theological argument, but a linguistic one. There are exceptions to the Granville Sharp rule.

@Casey: modern Greeks would not be able to provide an answer, because ancient and modern Greek are two different languages and most Greeks of today would need to rely on a translation to read the Bible. Also, the fact that someone is a native speaker of a language doesn't mean that they can read and understand any passage (whether in modern or ancient Greek, for that matter.)

It's as simple as that.

[Edited at 2008-08-22 06:49]


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Nick Lingris  Identity Verified
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So where are the other native speakers of Greek? Aug 22, 2008

If you mean to say that Greeks of today cannot understand a phrase such as “ο Θεός και σωτήρ ημών”, or that they would need to know Granville Sharp’s rule to understand it in the one way it can be understood, or that they might understand it in two different ways, it is my opinion that you are painting a wrong picture of our understanding of the phrase. And because it has been just the two of us writing here, we would need to have other Greeks saying what they think, or it is just my word against yours. So let us see what others may have to say about it.

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xxxd_vachliot
Local time: 02:39
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All I'm saying is that there cannot be a definitive answer. Aug 22, 2008

Most translators and translation theorists know that the translation of religious and philosophical texts is the most demanding, difficult and by nature exclusive translation field.

At any rate, I would never presume to correct King James (his translation team, to be exact), let alone to interpret God's word for everyone else without much fuss.

Whether I am a native speaker or not, or whether I speak Ancient Greek or not, makes no difference whatsoever, especially in the translation of biblical texts, where it is so easy to misconstrue things (even if the text is deceptively simple, as is the case here).

P.S. I'm not denying the divinity of Jesus, even though that's not really the issue here.


[Edited at 2008-08-23 00:01]


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
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answer Aug 22, 2008

Hi, Casey:

I haven't read any scholarly articles on the matter or different interpretations, and I admit I know nothing about Sharp; I'll just tell you what I understand, being a native speaker of Greek.

casey wrote:
προσδεχόμενοι τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

Should this be
"looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" (American Standard translation)

or
"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus," (New American Standard translation)

In other words, do both God and Saviour refer to Jesus or just Saviour? Or, is it vague?


To me it is not vague at all. The second rendition applies, i.e. "[...] our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus"; the words "Θεοῦ" and "σωτῆρος" refer to one person only: Jesus Christ.

Generally speaking, I've read the Bible in Greek several times and I strongly disagree with the statement made above that a speaker of modern Greek would need to rely on a translation to understand it.

Nick wrote "Greeks today would find it difficult to understand the detail of biblical text. We easily get the gist of things, but cannot accurately interpret some words whose meaning has changed over time." Absolutely; we get the gist (more than the gist, I would say; keep in mind that Greeks take Ancient Greek courses in high school) but there are some words that we might have to think about a little bit harder or even look up.

Maria



[Edited at 2008-08-22 14:42]


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casey
United States
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Aside from the theological issues involved Aug 23, 2008

Hi Dimitris,

I understand that certain prejudices are going to go into the translation. I wanted to avoid all that and just focus on the grammar and how it would be interpreted by a native speaker. Nick's example below would have been better for me to use and would have avoided the theological issues, but I don't know any Greek, so I couldn't give any alternative examples.

The discussion has been quite enlightening for me. Almost makes me want to learn Greek as my third language...

Nick Lingris wrote:

In English you can say “his mother and wife” and mean “his mother and his wife” – two persons. If you say the same thing in Greek, “η μάνα και σύζυγός του”, it may seem unlikely that you are talking about one person, but the one-person interpretation is what makes grammatical sense. It also makes historical sense when you are told that the statement refers to Jocasta.


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xxxAlexandra_K
Local time: 02:39
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Dear Casey, Aug 23, 2008

I do not have any philological or theological credentials, so I only speak from the point of view of a modern-day speaker of Greek, which I understand is your question about, plain grammar.

I totally agree with Nick and Maria that in the phrase you gave, the missing article means to the native Greek speaker that the reference is to one person.

And although the example about a mother, who at the some time is someone's wife, would at first seem incongruous, it then gets totally explained when we learn that the statement refers to Jocasta.


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