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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Advent translation #2: "house and lineage"

The NET Bible renders Luke 2:4 in a familiar way:
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David.
As I was reading another part of the Advent story, I realized that I did not understand the difference, if any, between "house" and "lineage." The best I can come up with is that they sound like synonyms to me, but I suspect that they are not. The underlying Greek words are oikos and patria, respectively.

Luke might intend this compound noun phrase to be a doublet, that is, a Hebraic unit which conjoins two words treated rhetorically as synonyms. But doublets typically occur in poetic passages, although they do sometimes occur in other genre.

Some Bible versions do treat the noun phrase as a doublet, with a single semantic meaning, as in:
because he was a descendant of David (TEV)

because he was from David's family (CEV)

because he was from the family of David (NCV)
Most, however, retain the compound noun phrase form, as the NET Bible does:
because he was of the house and lineage of David (KJV, RSV, NKJV, ESV)

because he was of the house and family of David (NASB)

because he was a descendant of the household and family of David (ISV)

because he was descended from the house and family of David (NRSV)

because he belonged to the house and line of David (NIV, TNIV)
I am unable to determine if Luke intended the compound phrase to be understood as two semantic units or a single one.

What do you think? And if you believe they are two, what would you consider the difference betweeen "house" and "lineage/family" to be in this context?


At Thu Dec 21, 09:53:00 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Wayne, if this were Hebrew I'd be half expecting that the second member was not merely a synonym, but in some way added to or made the first more precise. Maybe this is the case, though at first sight πατριά looks vaguer (even including "nation" or "people" as possible meanings) in Ex 6 the LXX uses πατριά to render both מִשְׁפָּחָה ("clan") and בֵּית אָב ("father's house") thus indicating at least the possibility that it intends a closer degree of relationship than the very general "house". ("House" for example includes servants and their families!)

How to translate this? Granted "a descendant of David" does it nicely in communicating the referential meaning (actually "from David's family" does in Western culture also though not perhaps everywhere) it misses though the slight sense of "but wait there's more" between "of the house" - possibly broad and vague (though often sharper) - "and lineage" - actually a blood descendant - "of David".

So in this case I'd keep the duality. Though NOT "scribes and pharisees" - which surely is captured by the English an adjectival phrase though both TEV and CEV seem often to insist that two different groups were involved! ;-)

At Fri Dec 22, 04:19:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

The Greek preposition "from" (εξ) governs both nouns, as does David. See also Luke 1:27 for the use of "house of David". It seems that "house" (οικος) would provide a link to the prophetic nature of this fulfillment, specifically in Isaiah 7:13: "Then he said: 'Listen, O house of David' ". Immediately comes the prophecy of the sign given to the "house of David" - the ALMAH will become pregnant and bear a son, which has direct connection to the present text.

I agree with tim's comment, that "lineage" (πατριας) focuses on the blood descendant, perhaps reflecting Paul's view in Romans 9:4-5.

Thus, each has a unique value, but they are coordinated for greater effect. Thus, I would tend to keep both parts... "house and lineage of David.



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