Luke 2:16 How many were in the manger?
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.With this wording there is potential ambiguity: It can sound like there were three people lying in the manger. The translators try to get readers to avoid this understanding by placing a comma after Joseph, but not all readers notice the comma and not all who notice the comma pause long enough at the comma for it to signal that there was only the baby lying in the manger.
Other traditionally worded versions with this potential ambiguity are the KJV, RSV, and ESV.
Dynamic equivalent translations avoid the problem by restructuring the English a bit. The meaning remains exactly the same as Luke intended it with his Greek, but the problem of the ambiguity in English over how many were in the manger, is removed because the DE translations do not follow the form of the Greek. Notice, for instance, how the God's Word translation removes the ambiguity:
They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby, who was lying in a manger.The TEV makes explicit the verb "saw" which is semantically implicit in the Greek:
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger.There is, by the way, no ambiguity of number in the original Greek which has a particle te preceding the names of Mary and Joseph. That particle means 'both' which limits the first conjoined noun phrase to Mary and Joseph, and leaves 'the child' (or 'the baby') as the subject of the participle keimenon 'lying.'
Essentially literal translations can also avoid the ambiguity. The NASB avoids the problem of ambiguity with its translation of the Greek participle phrase:
So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.The NIV and TNIV--in this verse essentially literal translations--avoid introducing ambiguity by translating the participle clause as "who was lying ..." which requires a singular subject--and the only preceding singular noun is Greek brephos 'child, baby':
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.The HCSB, another essentially literal translation, does the same, and is, in my opinion, an even more precise translation, since it explicitly translates the Greek particle te as 'both':
They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feed trough.Better Bibles are translated in ways which do not introduce ambiguities which are not in the original biblical languages.
Categories: Bible translation, ambiguity