A WORD ABOUT MY TRANSLATIONS
BY: JONATHAN MITCHELL
In this translation I have emphasized the force of the Greek verb tenses by adding English words which show the proper meaning. For example, I use the word “continuously,” “continually,” “repeatedly,” “constantly,” or “progressively,” to emphasize the “lineal” aspect of the action which is indicated by the writer when choosing to use the Greek present tense. Use of this tense means that the action is continuous, repeated, habitual or progressive. This has also been described as the “incomplete” verb tense, as contrasted to the “complete” tenses: the prefect tense, and the pluperfect.
In contrast to both of these categories is the Greek aorist tense. This tense has been categorized as either a simple “past tense,” which tells nothing about the kind of action taking place (whether completed or incomplete, and possible ongoing as in the imperfect tense), or, a “fact” tense, an “indefinite” form. As to kind of action, grammarians have termed it “punctiliar,” and would graph it as a point, while the incomplete present tense would be graphed using a line, to signify “lineal” action. The aorist is sometimes translated as a “simple present,” signifying action as simply occurring, giving no information as to the kind of action, whether completed or ongoing. In my translation, I have given the reader the option to consider both aspects. The aorist will be given as a simple past tense followed by a simple present tense in parentheses (or, vice versa). When you see this, pause, and read the sentence both ways – this was done to give you more information, and to enable you to not be so much at the mercy of the translator.
Another difference which you will observe will be my translation of nouns in the dative case which happen to stand alone, not being governed by any preposition. I indicate the dative by using the words “to,” “for,” “by,” or “in.” As the language developed, this vagueness in meaning eventually led to prepositions being substituted for the dative. But prepositions in first century Greek were not always used, so grammarians developed terms to express the different ways the dative is used:
a. the true dative – expressing primarily the thought of personal interest, which we may also categorize as the “indirect object” of the verb, and translate it “to,” or “for.”
b. the instrumental dative – which describes the means, or instrument, used, and translated with the word “by.”
c. the locative – expressing the idea of location, or place, and translated as “in,” or “at.”
W. D. Chamberlain (An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament) gives Rom. 8:24 as an example of this vagueness: “we are (were – the aorist) saved by (for; to; in ?) the expectation (hope).” He says, “If the case is [the true] dative, hope is, in a sense, personified and becomes the end of salvation rather than a means to that end. If the case is locative, hope is regarded as the sphere in which salvation occurs. If the case is instrumental, hope is considered as a means used in saving men.” The form (spelling) of the Greek is the same for each variation in meaning. Context often helps, but as in Rom. 8:24, not always. So I have put these options in my text, so that the Holy Spirit can speak to you what He meant.
Again, slowly, prayerfully consider each way that the verse can read. Different words can change the meaning. In some cases, perhaps each reading is true. Variants from different manuscripts (MSS) are sometimes included.
p46 is the designation of “papyrus # 46.” I have included variant readings of specific Greek manuscripts, e.g. p46, where they witness a significantly different Greek word than the Greek Texts of Nestle-Aland, Waistcoat & Hort, or the Concordant Greek Text, all of which are based mostly on Codex Alexandrinus (A), Codex Vaticanus (B), and Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph). These Texts footnote variant readings of other significant and ancient fragments and the more recently found “papyri.”
If there are a number of manuscripts that agree on a particular word or form of a word that differs from the Text, I signify this by saying, “others MSS: …”
In Eph. 2:4, p 46 has the verb “had mercy on,” while the Text based upon A, B & Aleph have the verb “loved (or: loves – the aorist indefinite).” Since p 46 is of the same period of, or perhaps older than, the oldest codices (listed above), I have included it’s reading for the reader’s consideration.
In vs. 5, the Text followed the manuscript witnesses that read, “being continuously dead ones by (or: in; or: to; or: for – the dative without a preposition) the stumblings aside (false steps; offences)…”
p46 reads: “… dead ones in (to; by) the bodies…”
other MSS read: “… dead ones by the failure(s) to hit the mark (sin – some read this word in the plural)…”
Vaticanus (B) reads: “… dead ones within the stumblings aside and the cravings (lusts)…”
In the latter part of vs. 5, the texts read “the Christ” in the dative case, with no preposition. I chose “the instrumental dative,” and so rendered it “by the Christ.” But p 46 has the preposition “en,” and thus reads “within the Christ.” The Text could also be translated as a “local dative,” and read “in Christ.”
I usually do not include variants that are later than the 4th century.
A WORD ABOUT MY BIBLE TRANSLATIONS [Jonathan Mitchell] 1