Friday, April 10, 2009

Literal Bibles: Junia

I am going to switch topics for a bit and reproduce here some comments from This Lamp, the blog of a friend, Rick. First read the post, HT BBB, and then the comments. Rather than comment there, I have decided to copy a few comments here and then respond. Rick writes,

Well, as they say, "Traduttore, Traditore!"

The reality is all translation is interpretive because translators have to make interpretive decisions in going from one language to another.

I'm not 100% certain that the decisions made in dynamic translations outweigh the fact that more literal translations are often less understandable. As I've said many times, literal does not mean more accurate, especially when the literal is unintelligible.

There are CERTAINLY interpretive decisions in the ESV such as the efforts to go out of the way to make sure Junia isn't considered an apostle in Rom 16:7 (personally, the idea that Junia, someone of whom we know almost nothing about, might be an apostle doesn't threaten this complementarian).

In fact, let's compare three versions on this verse.

Here is the traditional translation of Rom 16:7 among those that recognize the individual was Junia, not Junias.

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow countrymen and fellow prisoners. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were also in Christ before me (HCSB).

Now the ESV:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. (ESV)

And finally, the NLT:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did (NLT).

Let's be honest enough to say that the meaning of the Greek is very vague here, although there is historical tradition in the Orthodox Church regarding some kind of Apostolic role by Junia (although they don't know a whole lot about her either).

The HCSB reads as if Junia probably was an apostle (incidentally, the wording has been changed to closer match that of the ESV in the 2009 HCSB).

The ESV phrases the sentence so that Junia was merely well known to the apostles, but there's no hint she might have been an apostle.

Only the NLT keeps the vague aspect of the Greek in this sentence so that a person holding either position (that Junia was or was not an apostle) could support their perspective with this translation. The ESV is clearly being interpretive, backed of course by the fact that there are a handful of recently written articles to back up their position.

The NLT does not go the interpretive route in this passage at all. The reality is that as the NLT has now gone through two and a half editions, much of the overly interpretive aspects have been weeded out. An exception to this may be found in a passage like Gen 6:3, but I only have sour grapes because I take a different interpretation.

    3 Macc 6:1 “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country”
Clearly he was one of the priests and stood out among them.

There is no example in all of Greek literature for episemos being used to indicate that someone was only well-known to a group and not outstanding in comparison to members of the group. This misunderstanding comes about because most analysis of this issue is done with people reading the English translations for these examples. IMO.

From the Lidell Scott Jones lexicon,
    ἐπί-σημος, Dor.ἐπί-σᾱμος, ον, (σῆμἀ serving to distinguish, τοῖς δ' ὄνομ' ἄνθρωποι κατέθεντ' ἐ. ἑκάστῳ Parm.19.3.

    II. having a mark, inscription or device on it, esp. of money, stamped, coined, χρυσὸς ἐ., opp. ἄσημος, Hdt.9.41; ἀργύριον Th.2.13; χρυσίον X.Cyr.4.5.40, cf.IG12.301, al.; so ἀναθήματα οὐκ ἐ. offerings with no inscription on them, Hdt.1.51; ἀσπίδες ., opp. λεῖαι, IG12.280, cf. Men.526.

    2. of epileptic patients, bearing the marks of the disease, Hp.Morb.Sacr.8; of cattle, spotted or striped, LXX Ge.30.42.

    3. notable, remarkable, μνῆμ' ἐ. a speaking remembrance, S.Ant.1258(anap.); ξυμφοραί E.Or.543; εὐνή, λέχος, Id.HF68, Or.21; τύχη Id.Med.544; χαρακτήρ Id.Hec.379; τάφος ἐπισημότατος Th.2.43; τιμωρία Lycurg.129; τόποι IG12(3).326.42 (Thera, Sup.); of garments, fine, SIG695.39 (Magn. Mae., ii B.C.); and of persons, ἐ. σοφίην notable for wisdom, Hdt.2.20; ἐ. ἐν βροτοῖς E.Hipp.103; ἐ. ξένοι Ar.Fr.543: in bad sense, conspicuous, notorious, ἐς τὸν ψόγον E.Or.249; δέσμιος ἐ. Ev.Matt.27.16; διὰ δημοκοπίαν Plu.Fab.14; ἐπὶ τῇ μοχθηρίᾳ Luc.Rh.Pr.25.

    4. significant, οὐκ ἐ. Artem.1.59, 3.32.

It literally means "bearing a mark" so it is unlikely that is can be translated as "bearing a mark" to the apostles, but rather "bearing a mark" among the apostles. While some argue that the preposition en indicates "to," it can be easily demonstrated otherwise. This is not the case. En is often translated as "among" in the Greek NT. Here is an example,

    ὁ δὲ μείζων ὑμῶν Matt. 23:11 (genitive)
    the greatest among you

    ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν Luke 22:26 (en plus dative)
    the greatest among you

I will leave it at that. But if you see a Bible which has Junia as only well-known to the apostles, you know it is not a literal Bible, in spite of its introduction.

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