If we can know, with a fair degree of certainty, the communicative meaning of Jesus' answer to Pilate, I believe that we should translate that meaning in any Bible version which attempts to include pragmatic meaning as well as lexical and syntactic meaning. I have never understood the communicative meaning of Jesus' answer just from the literal translation, "You say (so)." That is, what was Jesus communicating to Pilate by his answer? Was he saying, "You're the one who has said that, not me." Or was he indirectly affirming that the answer to Pilate's question, "Are you the king of the Jews?" was "Yes." Or maybe he meant something else.
Much of the time we don't mean what we actually say, in English or any other language, and this is quite possibly one of those utterances recorded in Greek. So how should we translate something that doesn't mean what it says? This is a difficult problem for translators, one which gets at the heart of how humans communicate with each other.
Here are some wordings from Bible versions which attempt to translate what Jesus actually meant when he said συ λεγεις to Pilate:
- Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, I am,” Jesus answered him. (GW)
- He asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Those are your words,” Jesus answered. (CEV)
- Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.” (NASB)
- Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” (NLT)
- “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. (NIV; cf. TNIV, which is more literal than the NIV, as it is in several passages: “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.)
We may never know for sure what Jesus really meant by what he said to Pilate. I do believe, however, that it helps translation users to at least have access to footnotes which give the possible communicative meanings of συ λεγεις in this context.
UPDATE: Loren Rosson continues this discussion in his latest post.
Categories: Bible translation, Bible versions, literal translation, communicative meaning, rhetorical meaning