Defining the words
She quoted Bill, who asked,
How come no major translations are willing to call Titus & Epaphroditus "Apostles"?
I think this underscores an important need Bible users have regarding their interaction with a translation:
They need clear, accurate definitions of the original words.We have no tool for this today. Yes, I know we have lexicons; however, they provide glosses. Even the new BDAG, though it attempts to provide something like a definition, does not supply what is needed. (Anyway, BDAG is more an original language, research tool than a Bible study, exegetic tool, but, I digress).
Here's where I'm coming from. The word ἀπόστολος (APOSTOLOS) means:
"A person commissioned by an authority to carry out a given task, who is delegated not only the commissioner's responsibility, but also his or her authority, to complete that task."That, IMO, is the definition. Which can be verified through the use of tools such as BDAG.
So, in the case of the twelve Apostles, we have men who were commissioned by Christ, delegated with his requisite authority, to birth the church. There are typological reasons for 'twelve' that I won't get into that complicate a direct answer to the original question. But, the important piece of information regarding the word ἀπόστολος has to do with the elements of the definition:
- one who commissions,
- the commissioning with the given task,
- and the delegation of authority.
Titus & Epaphroditus are a little different than these twelve. They weren't commissioned by Christ (at least not directly). They were commissioned by the Church. Note what 2 Cor. says: ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν (APOSTOLOI EKKLHSIWN, "apostles of churches"). In other words, it was "churches" that commissioned these men. These churches would have delegated their authority and responsibility to further the growth of the Church. This understanding flows quite naturally from the definition of the word. And, FWIW, we call these people "missionaries" today.
The definition helps us wrap our minds around what the translation is doing. And, more importantly, gives us insight into the why behind the translation decisions.
In other words, if we had clear, natural, and accurate definitions, ones that expressed the various elements inherent to the word, then Bible students could interact more knowledgeably with a given translation.
Some of the benefits would be:
- Bible students would interact with more depth into the meaning, and they would be less inclined to sit on the surface of the form.
- They would see how the translation attempts to reflect the original meaning. The translation may not achieve as high quality as the student expects; however, the student would at least be helped by the definitions to see what the translation is attempting to do.
- They would see more clearly how words interact within a given text: sharpening and molding each other's meanings as they form coherency within a text.
- The students would less inclined to walk down the pathway of "matching up glosses." That is, they wouldn't "hunt for the right gloss in the lexicon."
- And they would more easily realize that concordance doesn't provide exegetic insight; it simply conflates--and confuses--the English lexis with the Greek one (or Hebrew).
- However, the negatives of a literal translation would be mitigated by having word definitions easily at hand. So, literal translations may actually increase in value as they provide better transparency into the original. One benefit here is that cross-textual coherency (eg allusions) would not be lost as they are with less literal translations.
- Overall, people would start to get a much better feel for what it means to translate a text.
If the student would start with the definition of the words, then they would more easily walk the pathway of meaning transference--which is what translation is all about. They would be less tempted to venture down the cul-de-sac of matching up forms. I think that would be a win for everyone.