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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

John 1:14 -- fleshing it out

I am awed by John's literary skill evident in the prologue to his gospel, as he introduces us to a new way of thinking about the Logos, the Greek abstract philosophical force holding the universe together, then moves us along to understand that the Logos he wants us to know was a real person. The first clause of John 1:14, kai ho logos sarx egeneto, in Greek, may be John's condensed version of the nativity story which we have been celebrating at Christmas time.

In the traditional, beautiful translation wordings of John 1:14, those unfamiliar with Bible English can stumble on the words "flesh," "dwelt," "beheld," "glory," and "grace." That's a lot to deal with if you are not familiar with theological language. I have tried to translate John 1:14 to the kind of English which I blog about so often, English which communicates the original message accurately and only uses words and syntax that are familiar to all fluent English speakers:
The Word became a human being and lived with us humans. He was the godliest person we've ever seen, like father like son. He was so generous and always told the truth.
What do you think? How might this translation be improved?

Categories: , , ,

36 Comments:

At Tue Dec 27, 09:18:00 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

It seems to me that the TNIV/NIV rendering here arguably reads more into the Greek than what is there, with reference to its words "who came". I really like your rendering: "like father like son".

I really think the way you render this verse gets true meaning across, but I wonder if we lose something when we depart from terms like "glory" and "grace". Essentially what you translate is true to the Greek, but is it the truest way to translate it? I know that's what you're asking from us your readers. Maybe there is more than one valid way to translate that can resonate and still be true to the meaning.

I'm wondering if other ways in which doxa is used as well as charis, in the NT and literature could be helpful here.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 09:58:00 AM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

Is the original text really so unpoetic? John's language always seems to flow beautifully and to be more poetry than prose.

If you don't like "became flesh", how about "took bodily form"? If you don't like "dwelt among us", how about "lived among us"?

To me, "grace" is a word so full of meaning that to use another word does injustice to the author's intentions. One dictionary definition offers three meanings. I think all apply and should be explicitly expressed if "grace" is not used.

1. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
2. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God
3. An excellence or power granted by God

I understand your desire to avoid so-called "church English", but I really think "grace" is an indespensible owrd.

"Godliest person"? That sounds kind of heretical to me. Jesus was not merely a godly person, but God Himself.

"Beheld" seems like another word meaning not easily captured by other words. It means not only to see, but to also comprehend with one's mental faculties.

I would offer the following amateur translation.

"The Word took bodily form and lived among us, and He was full of grace and truth. We have beheld his glory, the glory of God the Father shown through His only Son."

 
At Tue Dec 27, 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Tim said...

I'm no linguist, but isn't the Greek word behind 'lived' a 'temporary' word - don't we need to translate it as something like 'lived for a while among us'?

 
At Tue Dec 27, 12:06:00 PM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

I forgot to ask what's wrong with "glory"? It seems to me that translating into contemporary English goes too far when words are dropped not because they're archaic, but because poor education and laziness has shrunken vocabularies.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 12:07:00 PM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

Ack! That should say "have shrunken".

 
At Tue Dec 27, 01:42:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Eric asked:

I forgot to ask what's wrong with "glory"?

Eric, there is nothing wrong with the word "glory" if the intended target audience of a particular translation knows what it means. I have been thoroughly exposed to the English Bible since I was a baby. I have studied New Testament Greek in college. I have helped translate the Bible to a tribal language. Yet, as a fluent speaker of English, I still find it difficult to express what "glory" is. I know that it is more than just a bright light shining about someone. Translation theory says that we should be able to translate any concept, including that of Greek doxa and its Hebrew equivalent into any language, including English.

It is entirely possible that the English word "glory" was an adequate translation at some point in the history of the English language. I suggest that for the target audience that I'm intending for my translation of John 1:14, namely, fluent speakers of English who are not familiar with church English we need to find some way of expressing the concept other than with the word "glory." I could be wrong. It may be that field testing will indicate that my target audience does adequately understand the word "glory" even though I do not.

It seems to me that translating into contemporary English goes too far when words are dropped not because they're archaic, but because poor education and laziness has shrunken vocabularies.

Well, my training leads me never to suggest that the language which anyone speaks is inadequate to communicate the message of the Bible. I don't think education has anything to do with the issue here. The original biblical authors did not, overall, target their writing to more educated people. And they did not use classical terms which were obsolete or archaic.

The Greek writers of the New Testament used the ordinary Greek word doxa. Our job, as English Bible translators, is to find a word which current English speakers use which conveys the meaning of doxa.

That's what Bible translation is about. That's why St. Jerome translated into the Latin Vulgate instead of insisting that parishioners learn Greek. That's why every Bible translator through the ages has translated to any other language. They have not translated for the purpose of teaching people words which they do not use. Instead, they translate into the words that people already know.

And that's what Jesus did. He never asked people to attend rabbinical school to understand his teachings. He spoke using ordinary language.

There is a proper place and audience for translations using words which are no longer well understood. Those who can use such translations are students of a language, those who have studied the history of a language well enough to know what the classical words mean.

Every language changes. Hebrew did. Greek did. The Greek spoken during Jesus' time was not the same Greek which was used by Socrates and Plato. Bible translations need to be updated about once every generation so that people will get accurate understanding of the original biblical texts. The meaning of those texts never changes. But languages change, so translations needs to change, so that people will get the proper meaning from the words used in translations.

My translation of John 1:14 is for a specific audience. The question before us is:

How can be most accurately and naturally translate John 1:14 for that audience?

We can choose another English audience and ask the same question as we attempt a translation of John 1:14 for them.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 01:46:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

Wayne, this is a difficult text. I have heard all the arguments about avoiding "church English", but I sense that this text almost begs to use it.

Questions:

1. "godliest person": This phrase elicits a comparison between other humans, which suggests a only difference of degree in "godliness"; that, however, is not the point of the text. Rather, that distinguishing characteristic of "glory" which is attributed to God the Father is attributed to the one-made-flesh, and no one else. It isn't a difference of "degree" but of "quality" (the essence of the glory of God is entirely beyond anything to do with human glory). You catch that part in "like father, like son", which even echoes 1:1 "whatever God is the Son is" (ala NEB). The other part that seems unclear with this translation is that such phrasing in today's world focuses on ethical behavior (how "good" was the person?), rather than essence.

2. "always told the truth" suggests that truth is a standard outside of (and above) the Word to which the Word (and ultimately God the Father) must be held accountable. Rather, Scripturally whatever God says and does is truth. In this text, the Word-made-flesh embodies that same essence of truth, so that whatever he says or does is truth.

3. "lived among us": I have struggled with this translation primarily because of the strong LXX influence and the association of God's tabernacling presence with the Israelites (Exodus motif). But how to convey that in a translation? Hmmmm. I like "dwelt" as a one word summary; "lived for a while among us as someone who pitches a tent"... too wordy.

Well, as I noted, the traditional rendering still works for me, although GW moves in the right direction:

"The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory. It was the glory that the Father shares with his only Son, a glory full of kindness* and truth." (*footnote: "grace")

 
At Tue Dec 27, 01:46:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Regarding whether or not to use the English word "full" in John 1:14, go back to my recent blog post about "What are you filled with?"

http://englishbibles.blogspot.com/2005/12/what-are-you-filled-with.html

In current English it is inappropriate to say that anyone is filled with either grace or truth. That is not true translation of the Greek, since English does not use those word combinations. We need to find some English way of expressing the meaning of the Greek of the end of John 1:14. We need to be keen students of both the biblical languages as well as the language into which we are translating. We must honor both languages, not distorting either one.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 02:50:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The word became a human being and lived with us. We saw his awesome nature, which God shares with him because he is God's son. This awesome nature is the ultimate in generosity and truth.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 03:24:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

The word became a human being and lived with us. We saw his awesome nature, which God shares with him because he is God's son. This awesome nature is the ultimate in generosity and truth.

That's good, Suzanne. It stays within the parameters for the specified target audience. "Awesome nature" might be better than "godliest", although we can't "see" someone's nature, so there's the collocational clash. You managed the final sentence without "full". Well done!

Maybe you should do more of this and JIP could consider you as another reviser for the latest version he has worked on. They need more people with sensitivities to good quality English as she is spoken today.

:-)

 
At Tue Dec 27, 03:28:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rich, how does this verse "beg" to use church English. What is there inherent to the Greek of John 1:14 that is any different from other Koine Greek in the rest of John's Gospel and the rest of the N.T., for that matter? If there is essentially no different in the Greek of John 1:14 from the Greek of other verses in John, then shouldn't we use the English parallel to Koine Greek if we are translating for a Koine audience?

Yes, I know, I'm becoming Semitic, answering questions by asking more questions?!

And, yes, I confess that my questions are partly rhetorical, but they "beg" for answers. Touche!

:-)

 
At Tue Dec 27, 05:48:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Wayne,

Considering there was no such thing as 'church Greek' when the NT was written I am finding myself drawn into the challenges you present.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 06:16:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Wayne and Suzanne, I watch a lot of contemporary movies, and I'm fairly sure that the word 'glory' is still in common usage in 2005.

Tim (Chesterton)

 
At Tue Dec 27, 07:35:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Wayne and Suzanne, I watch a lot of contemporary movies, and I'm fairly sure that the word 'glory' is still in common usage in 2005.

Yes, Tim, people still use the word "glory." My question about it has to do with whether or not people know the biblical meaning of Greek doxa for which traditional English translations use the word "glory."

People today use phrases like "guts and glory" and "it's a glorious day." But we want to try to translate the biblical concept as accurately as possible for today's speakers. So we need to find out if the word "glory" is accurate enough today for the biblical concept or if there is a more accurate word. I, personally, like the word "glory." I grew up on it. But it's part of church English and many people today do not understand church English.

So what do we do for them? Greek speakers in New Testament times did not have to be taught the meaning of doxa. It was a commonly known word. What English word (or words) is commonly known and accurately translates doxa. If we have to teach people a different meaning for "glory" from the meaning they already have for it, then we have not really translated the Bible into their language. We have translated into a different language and are trying to teach them that different language.

It may be that adequate field testing will show that most English speakers do have the biblical meaning of doxa for the English word "glory." If so, then that part of the translation process for John 1:14 would be done and we can move on to the other issues in the verse.

Happy New Year, Tim. Thanks for your comment.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 08:34:00 PM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

"In current English it is inappropriate to say that anyone is filled with either grace or truth.

I confess that I have not read the post you pointed to, so feel free to disregard this comment if it is either irrelevant or already addressed.

Do we not say a person is "full of crap" or "full of himself"? Might not someone's words be full of deceit? To be "full of truth" doesn't seem so awfully confusing to me. I think sometimes people try too hard to make works more comprehensible without first finding out if current translations are confusing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 09:03:00 PM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

"The Word took bodily form and lived among us, and He was full of grace and truth. He is the only Son on the Father, and we have seen His greatness."

Better? (BTW, I only just realized that I left most of the RSV quote intact and had forgotten to tweak it fully. D'oh!)

I know "bodily form" might be too sophisticated for some folks, but "became human" doesn't evoke the same images as an infinite and bodiless spirit taking becoming flesh and blood . As I understand it, the Greeks readers of John's gospel would have been horrified at the notion of the Logos taking fleshly form.

I think "us" unambiguously refers to humans.

I left "grace" in because, not being a scholar of Greek, I do not know if John meant "graciousness" (i.e., generousity), "gracefulness", divine favor, any two of those, or all three. It wouldn't be unlike John to deliberately use a word with multiple meanings. (His play on words with "spirit" comes to mind.)

I'm with Rich regarding "full of truth".

I hope "greatness" accurately translates "doxa". A Greek scholar can let me know.

P.S. I'm enjoying these kinds of exchanges on this blog more and more. Even if my mind isn't always changed, I certainly learn a lot. :)

 
At Tue Dec 27, 09:29:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I confess that I have not read the post you pointed to, so feel free to disregard this comment if it is either irrelevant or already addressed.

Do we not say a person is "full of crap" or "full of himself"?


Yes, we do say that and that was part of my post that I referred you to, Eric.

Might not someone's words be full of deceit?

I think it is possible to say this, yes, although it is more likely that speakers today would say that someone is deceitful. Remember, we are not trying to find out if something has been said in the past, but what is current said today. This is for the target audience specified in my blog post. As mentioned in other comments, we can choose other target audiences, and the words used with them would be different since different groups of people speak different dialects or languages.

To be "full of truth" doesn't seem so awfully confusing to me.

Nor to me. But that is not the point. The point is not whether someone could say something but whether they would. People will get the most accurate understanding from hearing or reading a text which is written in current natural English. For English to be natural it needs to have wordings which are how people actually do or would speak or write. English has rules of syntax and lexicon which determine what words combine properly with other words, for any given time period of the language and set of speakers of the language.

I think sometimes people try too hard to make works more comprehensible without first finding out if current translations are confusing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Your last point is very well taken, Eric. And that brings us to the critical need to field test all translations. I would be the first to welcome traditional wordings of English Bible versions if extensive, scientific field testing demonstrates that speakers of a wide range of ages, educational status, social status, and biblical literary get accurate understanding from the wordings in the tested translations. And not only should people be able to get the right meaning, but they should also sense that "God knows how to talk our language." Many, many passages in many English Bible versions sound like they were written by non-native speakers of English. Perhaps you have read English like that in electronics manuals.

Happy New Year, Eric. You're asking good questions. They can only help in the quest for better Bibles.

 
At Tue Dec 27, 09:39:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

P.S. I'm enjoying these kinds of exchanges on this blog more and more. Even if my mind isn't always changed, I certainly learn a lot. :)

That's great, Eric. It's a wonderful thing to learn together without accusations of being unbiblical flying around. Thanks for your part is helping us all learning. Well, it's kind of like "iron sharpening iron," to coin a phrase, eh?!

 
At Tue Dec 27, 11:51:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

I love this passage as well! In fact I was just writing about it here. One of the things I love about it is that the language is positively beautiful, in the original Greek and in every translation I've seen, yet it has all the grammatical complexity and vocabulary density of "Dick and Jane at the Beach." I would venture to say that as many as half of the words in the first fourteen verses of this chapter were words I learned in my first two months of studying Greek. It's truly fantastic that John says so much so beautifully, and yet so simply.

How about translating "we beheld His glory, glory as of the the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" as something like "we looked on in awe as he showed Himself to be the unique son of the Father, gracious and truthful in all things."

I think this translation shows how doxa is an amazing and outward nature, and it captures the strength of theaomai as "gaze" or "behold", as opposed to horao which I understand to be the normal way of saying "look" in Greek (at least in Attic and Homeric). I'm not completely sure that "gracious and truthful in all things" captures "full of grace and truth" just right, but I think it's a step in the right direction. Does "gracious" really mean "full of grace" to the average English speaker? I'm really not sure about that part. Note that I intend "looked on in awe" to translate "beheld his glory." That is, I take the idea of "awe" to be partly contained in theaomai and partly in doxa here.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 02:33:00 AM, Blogger Dickie Mint said...

Hi Wayne,

Just wondering how you approach translating a Greek term (for instance, 'glory') that would have multiple evocations for its original audience? Or make the example 'dwelt' from the same verse. If the original intentionally had multiple layers, such that the original readers would come back to the text time and again and find through further reflection those deeper layers of meaning, how should we go about translating such a term? If there is no single term in english (or whatever language one in translating into) that conveys all those layers of meaning, do you go for a large-scale expansion that covers all the bases or do you stay with a word like 'glory'? At least the believing community has some kind of history with that term and ought to be able to hlp the new reader with it.

btw, just discovered this blog - very interesting!

Dick.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 05:46:00 AM, Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

Kenny said: Note that I intend "looked on in awe" to translate "beheld his glory." That is, I take the idea of "awe" to be partly contained in theaomai and partly in doxa here.

Wow! You have an excellent intuitive grasp of the coherence of a text. The words of a text aren't individual, purely distinct words; they blend into each other's spaces. The one shapes the others and is shaped by those around it.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 06:05:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Funky wrote in one of the first comments here:

To me, "grace" is a word so full of meaning that to use another word does injustice to the author's intentions. One dictionary definition offers three meanings. I think all apply and should be explicitly expressed if "grace" is not used.

1. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
2. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God
3. An excellence or power granted by God

I understand your desire to avoid so-called "church English", but I really think "grace" is an indespensible owrd.


What dictionary definition is this? My own dictionary definition of "grace" is more like:

1. Beautiful flowing motion.
2. A period before a bill must be paid.
3. A prayer said before or after a meal.
4. God's favour (archaic).

OK, that's not a real dictionary definition (is yours?), but one which I made up on my understanding of how the word is used in non-church contexts. But my point is, if the target audience of a Bible translation understands "grace" according to my definition, would you still think that "grace" is an indespensible word?

 
At Wed Dec 28, 06:43:00 AM, Blogger Talmida said...

I notice that the French bibles use the word for "contemplate" in this verse instead of "see" or "behold". Would that be useful?

I also like the last line in Suzanne's translation because I'm not so sure that "full of truth" means the same thing as always telling the truth.

Also, my dictionaries suggest splendour for glory -- I rather like awesome, but it's been misused lately IMO and may have changed meaning somewhat.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 08:13:00 AM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

"Many, many passages in many English Bible versions sound like they were written by non-native speakers of English."

I agree. Others, though grammatically correct, have no soul, so to speak. There's no poetry to them. The NAB is a perfect example of such banality.

"The point is not whether someone could say something but whether they would."

IMHO, it sometimes would be more fruitful to help people have a taste for an appropriate text rather than watering down the original until it is palatable. I've heard often that the language of the bible is very "low". I'm curious to know just how low it is. I understand that simple source language has repeatedly been rendered in complex recipient languages, but I worry about the opposite danger. I wonder if perhaps some translations are simpler than the originals, which IMHO is a step too far.

"But my point is, if the target audience of a Bible translation understands 'grace' according to my definition, would you still think that 'grace' is an indespensible word?"

Peter, the definition I used came from freedictionary.com. Regarding your version, doesn't context count for anything? Take the word "bank" for instance. Depending on context, it can have very different meanings. That word hasn't been abandoned, though. Context specifies which meaning to use. Also, I agree with Dickie that some words have layers of meaning. So, yes, I do still think grace is an indispensible word.

"I notice that the French bibles use the word for 'contemplate' in this verse instead of 'see' or 'behold'. Would that be useful?"

I don't think "contemplate" fits the requirement for simple and common language.

"Also, my dictionaries suggest splendour for glory -- I rather like awesome, but it's been misused lately IMO and may have changed meaning somewhat."

I like hte sound of splendor, too, but I think it's another "off-limits" word, due to its infrequency of use and "highness".


Someone mentioned using "awesomeness" for "doxa". That wouldn't fly in my part of the English speaking world. In the US, "awesome" is closer in menaing to "cool", "bitchin'", or "groovy" than its original meaning. To use it in biblical texts would seem anachronistic to most readers.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

BTW, folks might be interested in this Catholic Encyclopedia article about glory.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Dick asked:

Just wondering how you approach translating a Greek term (for instance, 'glory') that would have multiple evocations for its original audience? Or make the example 'dwelt' from the same verse. If the original intentionally had multiple layers, such that the original readers would come back to the text time and again and find through further reflection those deeper layers of meaning, how should we go about translating such a term? If there is no single term in english (or whatever language one in translating into) that conveys all those layers of meaning, do you go for a large-scale expansion that covers all the bases or do you stay with a word like 'glory'? At least the believing community has some kind of history with that term and ought to be able to hlp the new reader with it.

Perceptive questions, Dick. I'd have several answers:

1. Following up on your last sentence, the issue often is one of translation audience. If a Bible version is intended for a biblically literate believing community of faith who understands the biblical meaning of doxa from the English word "glory," then "glory" may be the best word to use. For other audiences, we have to do further research to discover how they would express the biblical meaning of doxa.

2. About multi-layered meanings: often what are claimed as such for the Bible are more a result of our analytical skills than what was actually intended by the biblical authors. We sometimes find more in the biblical text than the biblial authors intended. OTOH, there were authors, such as the author of John's Gospel, who were fond of plays on words and double meanings. When a biblical author actually intended multiple meanings, then I believe a translator should, if possible, try to retain those in a translation. Unfortunately, due to differences between languages, this is not always possible, and one must be content to go with the most salient intended original meaning.

3. Re: what you call a large-scale expansion (a nice way of referring to it), yes, that is one good solution in some cases where the biblical author intended multiple layers of meaning. Going to a more generic term in translation can then sometimes subsume the other meanings.

Thanks for your comments and questions, Dick. I found them stimulating and I hope others do, as well.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 10:47:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Kenny suggested:

How about translating "we beheld His glory, glory as of the the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" as something like "we looked on in awe as he showed Himself to be the unique son of the Father, gracious and truthful in all things."

Oh, that is quite good, IMO, Kenny. You addressed a number of the translation issues and did so with words and syntax which are generally known to speakers today.

I suspect that the English word "gracious" has a different meaning from the Greek of John 1:14. But I don't know a better wording. I'm still wrestling with this. It's a difficult problem, how to accurately translate pleres xaritos to meaningful contemporary English.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 11:20:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Funky, you asked "doesn't context count for anything?" Of course it does. So let's look at what the context tells us in your proposed translation:

"The Word took bodily form and lived among us, and He was full of grace and truth. He is the only Son on the Father, and we have seen His greatness."

So, the context tells us that "grace" is something which this person was full of, and that there is a parallel with "truth". Let's look at both your three senses of "grace" (although I don't believe that that was a complete definition in any general purpose dictionary) and my four senses. Which of them fits the context? Well, the only one which could collocate with "full of" is your "An excellence or power granted by God". Yes, I suppose your translation does make sense if "full of grace" means "full of power granted by God". The problem is, is that exegetically correct? I doubt it. It is certainly a different exegesis from the one behind Wayne's "he was so generous", or GW's "kindness".

Well, I think this illustrates the point which I make regularly, that we cannot translate a Bible passage unless we first decide what it means. We simply cannot circumvent the process of exegesis by using a traditional rendering like "grace" without first considering whether it gives the right meaning in the context.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 12:07:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

"we looked on in awe as he showed Himself to be the unique son of the Father, gracious and truthful in all things."

Thanks Kenny, I think this is an improvement - to transpose 'awe' to the verb.

Unfortunately it is hard to find a word for glory that is untainted by either teen slang or use in modern geopolitics. Splendour or majesty maybe, but they seem to be rather archaic - it almost comes full circle to power, innate power. I don't like the idea of glory as something gained because of winning a contest.

Flesh - I thought about that for a while before leaving it as 'human' I think the contrast between the spirit world and the human world was understood as the contrast between body and spirit or flesh and spirit, so I think 'human' could remain for 'flesh' without loss of meaning. However, it is an interpretation of sorts.

Certainly 'look' for 'theaomai' is a fallback position.

I would defend 'grace' as either generosity or kindness, until further study proves otherwise.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

I can see how "full of" might not have clear meaning for modern speakers of English. Before I'd amend my version, though, I'd like to know which sense of "doxa" makes most sense in this context. BTW, I chose a narrow definition for "grace" from the choices available based on the context as I perceived it. If I am wrong, and either generousity or gracefulness were intended, let me know. Also, I'd be interested to learn how one derives the proper contextual meaning of "doxa" in this verse.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 12:27:00 PM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

On a side note, how does the "full of grace" of this verse compare to the one in the Annunciation verses (i.e., "Hail, Mary, full of grace")?

 
At Wed Dec 28, 12:44:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Eric asked:

On a side note, how does the "full of grace" of this verse compare to the one in the Annunciation verses (i.e., "Hail, Mary, full of grace")?

Important question, Eric. I just checked the Greek. There is no verb for "full of" in the Anunciation of Luke 1:28, whereas there is in John 1:14. There is only a participle for "graced," that is, "one who has been favored (graced)."

 
At Wed Dec 28, 01:12:00 PM, Blogger Funky Dung said...

Interesting. Might that difference give us a clue as to how we should treat "full of grace and truth"? Mary was graced/favored by God, which makes sense for a mortal creature. Jesus is God, though, so the grace He has is internally generated.

I'm still wondering, though, what sense of "grace" we ought to use. To say that in Jesus' earthy ministry He was generous does not make clear what He was generous with. Was it time? Effort? Money? Divine favor? Love? What sort of generousity did John intend? I suspect it was love, specifically His divine nature as expressed in "God is love". Thus, He was generous in giving Divine Love.

Am I on the right track?

 
At Wed Dec 28, 04:20:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, Funky, you are now asking the right kind of questions. But "grace", in fact the Greek charis, is a complex concept, probably with an underlying verbal idea, something like X gives Y to Z. In this case, is the meaning that God has given something to Jesus, or that Jesus is giving something to others? Or possibly a bit of both, that God has given something to Jesus which he is now expected to give to others? And what is the something to be given? It could of course be something rather general like "favour". I must say I don't know the answer, without looking at reference books. But it is the kind of question which needs to be answered before this passage can be translated.

 
At Wed Dec 28, 06:01:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Is it really possible to answer this question with complete precision, Peter? After all, in normal prose complete precision is helpful, in scientific documents, even more so. But when the prose is verging on the poetic, and in poetry proper, isn't complete precision of meaning often less important (and certainly harder to figure out)? In fact, don't poets often choose words that include several layers of meaning (I'm a bit of a poet myself, so do speak with a little personal experience here)?

Cheers!

Tim Chesterton

 
At Thu Dec 29, 05:25:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Tim asked, "Is it really possible to answer this question with complete precision, Peter?" Good question, Tim, and the answer is no. But it is still the question we need to think about. It seems to me that Wayne and the GW translators answered it one way, whereas the CEV translators answered it another way with "From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us". But did they actually think about this question? I assume that they did, for they are all professional translators. But how about the many who stuck to the traditional "full of grace and truth"? Did they consider how this question might be answered, and whether their English rendering might point to the same answer? I hope so, but if so that suggests to me that their answer was very different to that of Wayne, GW and CEV, i.e. that grace refers here to something which God had given to Jesus, so that he was full of it, rather than something he gives to others.

 

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