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Monday, January 30, 2006

She became pregnant

I took the Vamva (1831) version of the Greek NT to work today and sat with Katie at lunch. She is Greek, still attends the Greek orthodox church and this is the Bible her church uses. I asked her to correct my pronunciation as I read. After reading a few verses in 2 Timothy I said that there was a verb that I couldn't understand and could she help. So I read to her from Matt. 1:18,

"Ευρεθη εν γαστρι εχουσα εκ Πνευματος Αγιου"

"What does that mean, evrethé?"

"She became pregnant."

"She found out ...?"

"No, just 'became', found? hmm, no..."

"You wouldn't say 'she found herself' or 'it was found that?'"

"No, no, it is an expression, an idiom, 'she became' that's all."

Okay, I came home and checked in the French Bible. Oh, right, duh, "elle se trouva enceinte" is indeed "she became pregnant". "'Se trouver" is an idiom, usually considered similar to "être".

The German uses "fand sich's ... schwanger", also reflexive, she 'found herself pregnant'.

Right, there I was thinking about whether it was a middle, passive or whatever. Okay, in French and German there is a reflexive verb, comparable to the middle voice. Katie wouldn't go that far. She would only say it was an idiom and shouldn't really be translated.

I have to ask this, aren't we making this a bit too difficult for ourselves? This is one reason I don't venture into exegesis. You can develop an extensive thought on a verb form or a single word, only to find out that it is a chimera.

Jim, who said in the comment section of this post "Look! the girl is pregnant!" would win, if I were the judge.


At Mon Jan 30, 07:52:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I have to ask this, aren't we making this a bit too difficult for ourselves? This is one reason I don't venture into exegesis. You can develop an extensive thought on a verb form or a single word, only to find out that it is a chimera.

Suzanne, I have often seen this done with the Bible, developing a fairly complex idea for some word or passage when it is more likely that something relatively straightforward was originally intended. This, of course, is not just limited to biblical interpretation. It happens in my other field of work, linguistics, and it probably happens in many other fields. We humans often make things more complicated than they actually are.

Oh, for Bible translations that pay greater attention to the original coherence of the biblical texts and then coherently translate that original meaning to English. That, of course, requires that an English translator be able to translate to, and write in, actual English, as she is spoke!

At Tue Jan 31, 04:48:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, if this is indeed an idiom in Koinē Greek, you have a good point. The reflexive version is certainly an idiom in many modern European languages, including Russian. The problem is that I would not trust an informant who is a speaker of a version of the language as used more than 2000 years after the event! For it is a common linguistic process for well-known expressions to become frozen into idioms over centuries. This has happened to many expressions in the English Bible, KJV etc, e.g. such as "I am escaped with the skin of my teeth" (Job 19:20 KJV) and the use of "member" in the modern sense rather than as a body part. No doubt similar processes have operated in Greek. So I would want to check whether εὑρέθη heurethē (or evrethi in modern Greek pronunciation) was really already in Koinē Greek an idiom for "became", and did not have the more definite meaning "was discovered" or "was found out".

Another argument against this meaning simply "she became pregnant" is the present participle ἔχουσα ekhousa "having". This seems to me to suggest that she was already pregnant before the εὑρέθη heurethē event.

At Tue Jan 31, 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Fair enough, Peter,

but I already knew that the BDAG said that it was an idiom. So I had that evidence. Martin Luther thought it was reflexive, middle voice, no? In French, se trouver is an idom rather than something one would translate literally. "Elle se trouva enceinte" does not leave room for two separate events, the pregnanacy and the finding out about it.

It is an accumulation of evidence. Katie didn't seem to have any trouble reading this. She didn't stop to think about the idiom, she just told me what it would mean in English in the simplest terms.

I realize that this is not definitve evidence, but it is certainly worth considering, no? The French and German translators did not consider 'the finding out about' as a separate event from the pregnancy.


At Tue Jan 31, 04:28:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, I don't quite know what the French means, but are you in fact certain that "se trouva" unambiguously means "became" and not "found that she was"? There are some very subtle semantic issues here to do with aspect and Aktionsart. I don't think you would use "se trouver" in French in the present or imperfect for a state that someone is unaware of. So this would imply that the entry into such a state signalled by the past historic "se trouva" would be entering the state of being aware of something, rather than becoming something unawares. And similarly in German. Well, maybe I don't know French or German well enough to be sure, but the Russian equivalent would work on those lines.

What exactly does BDAG call an idiom? We know that ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχω en gastri ekhō, literally "have in stomach", is an idiom for "be pregnant". But the question is, can we be sure that εὑρέθη heurethē, literally "was found", is an idiom for "became", even in a context where that becoming would not be found out by anyone for a few weeks?

At Tue Jan 31, 07:00:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


One of the first phrases you learn in French is "Ou se trouve les toilettes?" You cannot argue that the toilets are aware of their own location.

Actually, it can be ambiguous, either 'finding oneself to be' or quite simply a synonym for 'to be' or 'to be situated'. The dictionary says "Je me trouvais pres de l'entree (I was sitting/standing near the entrance).

Again "nous nous trouvons dans une situation delicate." is "we are in a delicate situation." The dictionary does not support the idea of 'awareness' as a separate part of the equation.

Another one, "Il se trouve dans l'impossibilite de venir." is simply "He is unable to come, or not in a position to come." If I ask myself, could that person be unconsicous in the hospital in this sentence? Well, if you were a secretary arranging that person's agenda, you could say this without implying that they were conscious or aware. It is a little bit more polite than saying, "He can't come." But awareness? no, not necessarily to me, but this is my opinion only.

About BGAD, I seem to have a conflict with other editions of BGAD on a detail here, so I need a little time to compare editions.

However, BGAD, 1979, says for Philippians 2:7 "he appeared in human form" not "he found himself in human form."

This is perhaps a more interesting question. In the Louis Segond French Bible, it is simply "he appeared as a mere man." Hmmm.

At Wed Feb 01, 02:29:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

No, I don't argue that the toilets are aware of their own location. So this is not a literal reflexive. The meaning is in fact more like "Where can I find the toilets?", which is a form of the question sometimes used in English. Or would this expression actually be used if there was no intention of anyone finding the toilets, if the question is just for information? I suppose pregancy is a quite unusual example of a situation in which one might be without anyone knowing it. So it would be a good test to ask mother tongue speakers of French whether "Elle se trouve enceinte" can be used of someone being pregnant when no one is yet aware of it.

At Wed Feb 01, 03:20:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Here are some other contributions from the Greek B list and BGAD.

The short list: :-)

she became
it proved to be that
it appeared that
she was shown to be
it became clear that
she turned out to be
it emerged that
she learned that
she found out that
she realized that

At Thu Feb 02, 04:59:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

All I can say is that there is a lot of uncertainty here, for there were probably several months between "she became" and "it became clear that", with "she found out that" sometime in between. Verse 19 clearly refers to Joseph knowing about this, which was at least several weeks after "she became", and possibly much longer if quite understandably Mary did not tell him straight away. So I really don't think it fits the context to understand this as "she became", "she found out that" makes much more sense if not "it became clear that".

At Thu Feb 02, 06:45:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

That could very well be. I don't feel strongly about this.


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