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Friday, June 08, 2007

2 Pet. 1:3 - translating the datives

Has God called us "to" his divine glory and goodness, or "by" his divine glory and goodness, or "for" his divine glory and goodness? Inquiring minds want to know!

2 Peter 1:3 ends with three datives:
ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ καὶ ἀρετῇ
his own glory and goodness

We know how to translate each word, but it is not clear what kind of dative these are. If they have the semantic role of instrument, is appropriate to introduce them with the English preposition "by". If these datives refer to destination or purpose, then it is appropriate to use the preposition "to." If they are datives of advantage, then we can use the preposition "for."

Exegetes and Bible translators are divided over the semantic role of the datives that end 2 Peter 1:3.

English versions which translate these datives as instruments include:
that hath called us by virtue and glory (Wycliffe)
that called us by his own glory and virtue (ERV, ASV, WEB)
who called us by his own glory and goodness (NASB, NIV, TNIV, NRSV, REB)
who called us by his own glory and excellence (NET)
who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence (NLT)
called us by his glory and goodness (NCV)
who called us by his own glory and integrity (GW)
Versions which translate the datives as destination or purpose include:
that hath called vs vnto glorie and vertue (Bishop's)
him that hath called us to glory and virtue (KJV)
who called us to his own glory and excellence (RSV, ESV, ISV)
who called us to share in his own glory and goodness (GNT/TEV)
he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness (CEV)
I have not found any English Bible versions which translate as datives of advantage, but the NET Bible footnote refers to this option:
The datives ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ καὶ ἀρετῇ (idia doxj kai aretj) could be taken either instrumentally (“by [means of] his own glory and excellence”) or advantage (“for [the benefit of] his own glory and excellence”). Both the connection with divine power and the textual variant found in several early and important witnesses (δία δόξης καὶ ἀρετῆς in p72 B 0209vid) argues for an instrumental meaning. The instrumental notion is also affirmed by the meaning of ἀρετῇ (“excellence”) in contexts that speak of God’s attributes (BDAG 130 s.v. ἀρετῇ 2 in fact defines it as “manifestation of divine power” in this verse).
Often, when the biblical text is ambiguous (or, more accurately, unclear to us, although it may have had clear authorial intention), many advocate that its translation also be ambiguous. In this case (no pun intended!), however, that is not possible. There is no English wording that can ambiguously cover both the "by" and "to" meanings. Instead, each English Bible version, including the most literal ones, are worded with one exegetical option or another. None are left ambiguous.

The ESV translators chose to retain "to", chosen by the RSV translators, the same choice made by the translators of the Bishop's Bible, KJV, TEV, and CEV. Other English versions have "by" reflecting the interpretation that the dative is instrumental. Choices often *must* be made in translation. But when the alternatives are each valid, and/or when there is a textual alternative, as there is for the end of 2 Peter 1:3, it is good to footnote the option(s) not used in the text. That is what the NASB, NRSV, TEV, and ESV translators did, to their credit.


At Fri Jun 08, 12:42:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I would like to point out that the KJV, RV, ASV, and RSV, (as well as its descendents' NASB and NRSV) included these footnotes. (See, for example, here.)

On the other hand, earlier English translations (e.g., the 1384 Wycliffe, the 1395 Wycliffe, the 1534 Tyndale, the 1535 Coverdale, the 1540 Great, the 1549 Matthew, the 1568 Bishops', the 1582 Rheims, and the 1587 Geneva) did not include a textual footnote on this matter. Thus, the first Bible aspiring to scholarly presentation on this matter, at least, was the Authorized Version of 1611.

At Fri Jun 08, 02:01:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, you have misquoted the NET footnote! The alternative Greek reading is δία δόξης καὶ ἀρετῆς, "through glory and excellence". Also you don't seem to have realised that this is the reading in the Textus Receptus (the textual basis of KJV, and perhaps the Bishops' Bible) and in the Majority Text (the textual basis of WEB). This makes the KJV reading with "to" rather strange; perhaps this reading was based on the Vulgate's "propria gloria, et virtute", which I think must imply a dative.

But I must say I judge that the reading with "to" is unlikely to be correct. We may be called to glory and excellence, but not to God's own glory and excellence which are his alone. I think my own preference would be to translate as a dative of advantage, with the difficult word arete understood in the same way as in 1 Peter 2:9: our Christian life should be glorifying God by demonstrating how excellent he is. I have some trouble making sense of the instrumental understanding "by", preferred by many modern English versions, although of course this must apply in the following verse which starts (literally) "through which", and "which" must refer back to God's glory and excellence.

At Fri Jun 08, 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Wayne, you have misquoted the NET footnote! The alternative Greek reading is δία δόξης καὶ ἀρετῆς, "through glory and excellence".

Thanks, Peter. I guess I'll blame my presbyoptic eyes again. :-)

It's difficult to copy Hebrew and Greek from NET Bible footnotes since those footnotes do not use a standard font that will display properly in a blog post. I had to try to copy the Greek from somewhere else and I missed the sigma on the end of each of the nouns.

For that matter it looks to me like the Unicode font isn't displaying properly in Internet Explorer. I usually don't check for that since I use Firefox almost exclusively.

At Fri Jun 08, 03:11:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I added the sigmas to have an accurate display of the Greek of the NET Bible footnote.


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