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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Did they disappear?

A recent English Bible version translates Galatians 3:28 as
There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It sounds to me from this wording that these people do not exist. If that is how it sounds to most readers of this version, I would consider this translation wording to be inaccurate. Paul was not saying that these people do not exist, but, rather, that as God considers things these distinctions among people do not exist.

I know what the translators of this version (HCSB) intend this wording to mean, but I'm just not sure that their wording accurately communicates that meaning.

It seems to me that the following translations more accurately convey the intended meaning:

So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. (TEV)

Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. (CEV)

In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus. (NCV)


There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus. (NLT)

There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus. (GW)

A person is no longer a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a male or a female, because all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (ISV)
What do you think?



At Sun Jun 19, 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

The HCSB sounds fine to me. I don't see how the objection you raise wouldn't also count against Paul's wording in the original Greek. Am I wrong in thinking that this isn't a standard way to deny differences between things but is rather hyperbolic? The HCSB translation is just trying to carry that same effect into English. If so, then removing it will actually dilute the meaning.

At Sun Jun 19, 04:33:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Jeremy, I'm glad the HCSB (you figured out the version!) sounds good to you. It may sound OK to others also. It doesn't sound right to my wife and me. I guess I should do another field test on this one.

As to whether it is reflecting the original Greek or not, it may be a case of the English not reflecting the semantic structure of the original Greek, where semantic structure includes all semantic and logical relationships among the parts of the utterance. In some cases of such "elliptical" Greek, it is necessary to make explicit some implied meaning, if that meaning is not clear to translation users. Of course, the final statement is key. And if most users are like you and get the intended meaning from the HCSB (and similar) wordings alone, then there is no need for explicating implied semantic structure. (The implied part would be something along the lines of "this is how we are viewed in God's eyes".) Of course, we don't want to create a commentary, only a true translation, and so we are on the cusp of an issue which is highly debated among translation theorists and those who follow Bible translation issues.

Good comment from you, as always. Thanks.

At Mon Jun 20, 03:37:00 PM, Blogger Paul W said...


Thanks for this post.

It prompted me to look at my combined NA26/RSV. In the context of this whole chapter, Paul seems to be making the same point in this verse as he does in Eph. 2:19: ...[Y]ou [Gentiles] are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God (NRSV)." Paul seems to be using all of his skills in ancient rhetoric to craft a really memorable sentence so that his readers won't forget this point.

Most translations of this verse are very literal. And you have made me realise how many English readers (like myself) have tended to read this verse as a stand-alone unit because of an excessively literal rendering, without seeing its connection to the rest of chapter 3. The GNB is a very good translation of Gal. 3:28 because it helps English readers to see this connection by transposing the connective gar ("for") to the beginning of this verse in its rendering.

But I would go even further and transpose (like the NCV) en Christou Iesou ("in Christ Jesus") to the start of this verse as well, so that it reads in English:

For in Christ Jesus there are no longer distinctions between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; you are all one in him.

Or if you wanted a more literal rendering:

For in Christ Jesus there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; you are all one in him.

At Mon Jun 20, 07:27:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Paul, your solution seems reasonable to me to stay "essentially literal" and yet have the translation wording prompt the understanding that was intended to come from the Greek and that English translators have intended to come from their translations of the Greek. Thanks for your contribution.


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