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Monday, February 27, 2006

"in Christ" in the latest issue of JBS

The latest issue of the JBS (the Journal of Biblical Studies) is now online. One of the articles is on "in Christ," one of the most difficult biblical terms to translate to any language, including English. English lacks a parallel syntactic form with the same meaning as that of the Greek dative en xristw, which is usually literally translated as "in Christ" in English Bible versions. If you are uncertain what the translation issue here is, ask yourself: What does "in Christ" mean? Also ask: Do we have parallel forms in English that have a meaning parallel to that of en xristw?

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HT: Michael Pahl


At Mon Feb 27, 03:47:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

Fantastic article. I find little to disagree with the basic thrust of what he is saying (i.e. the points about diversity vs ecclessiastical or theological authority and unity; social change, concern, progress, and liberation as identification with Christ, etc..) I also share his sentiments about certain Western preoccupations with "belonging", orthodoxy, and ecclessiology. I've never read Paul with those things in mind (and it puts me at odds with many of my fellow Christians unfortunately).

All that being said, I'm not sure what this has to do with translation. As we can see, the statement "in Christ" is a very deep and multidimensional one, and it may be asking a bit much to try to explain it's subtleties within a translation itself -- such information is probably best left to commentaries (or meditation). There isn't much a translator could say to do it justice. I think it's one of the things that would be best left translated and stated as it is.

At Mon Feb 27, 04:15:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

To readdress my last point (that such a thing is best left to be meditated or commented on, rather than expanded upon within a translation): I don't think that it that should necessarily be a rule to leave it as "in Christ", it's just that I, personally, don't have the imagination to think of a better substitute. Perhaps there is one though. Does anyone care to list any?

I just think that the complications lie in the very nature and backdrop of the statement, and not in it's linguistic formation. Such is the case with many spiritual texts and wordings -- sometimes certain things (in rare cases) simply need need to be explored on a personal basis, and can not be represented fully through translation. Usually when someone attempts to do so, things just become more convoluted and unclear.

At Mon Feb 27, 05:02:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Straylight wondered:

All that being said, I'm not sure what this has to do with translation.

Probably very little! It was just a fresh link that arrived on my RSS Feeder and I needed something to blog on. :-)

It is true that en xristw is difficult to translate to other languages including English, but that is not the thrust of the JBS article as you well noted.

As for just syntactically transliterating it as "in Christ," that is the traditional solution, as you know. As someone who wants to translate the original meaning, however, I long for a better solution. I assume that en xristw meant something to Paul's readers, even if could have been something of a neologism--I don't know if the Greek syntactic form of en plus the name of a person was extant in Greek literature before it was used in the NT. In any case, I believe that Paul intended some meaning for that Greek prepositional phrase. If we could express that meaning clearly enough we should be able to say it with natural English syntax. Such is my belief, as a translator, anyway.

At Tue Feb 28, 01:18:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

Interesting thread. en xristw strikes me as a bit like a piece of music. You change it ... you actually have different music! The only way to appreciate it, then, is to learn to understand its idiom, to bring my experience into the realm of experience, connection, and expectation that it inhabits.

That's why I don't think this yearning (which I share, at least in part!) is realistic:

If we could express that meaning clearly enough we should be able to say it with natural English syntax. [Wayne]

It isn't, in the end, about syntax! Or even semantics! It's about the world of meaning that lies behind the form of words used. Rendering the syntax and semantics of the source into the target is only one step on the way to understanding.

I'm guessing you know that! :)

(p.s. are we sure that en xristw is best represented as "en plus the name of a person"?)


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