I have got to learn more Greek

I’m working on my study notes for 1 Corinthians 12, and I see a footnote that makes no sense.  In verse 1, under “spiritual gifts” the ESV puts “or spiritual persons.”  I did a double-take and decided to try and look that one up.  It turns out that the word “gifts” or “persons” isn’t there at all.  The word “spiritual” (ό πνευματικος, “ho pneumatikos” (!)) is a substantive.  That is, it’s an adjective without any noun to modify.  We don’t use those much at all in English, so they sound weird, and as a result, most translations add in a noun to make things read better.  The older, more honest translations would indicate the words they added, usually with italics.  Newer translations just blissfully add those words without any hint of what’s going on below the surface.  I won’t tell you how I feel about this.

So, skimming off the wonderfully helpful Mounce Reverse-interlinear translation and the Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, here’s my shorthand translation of 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

So: concerning the spiritual [things], brothers, I don’t want you to not know.  You know that when you were gentiles, to mute idols as led you were led astray. Therefore I make known to you that none in the Spirit of God says, “I say accursed [is] Jesus” and none is able to say, “Lord Jesus!” except in the Holy Spirit.

So different gifts there are, but the same Spirit; and there are different services, but the same Lord; and there are different activities, but the same God acting all in all. So each [one] is given the display of the Spirit toward symphony. For surely through the Spirit is given a word of wisdom, but to another a word of knowledge from the same Spirit; to a different [one], faith in the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing in the one Spirit; to another, activities of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, separation of spirits; to a different [one], [various] kinds of tongues; to a different [one], interpretation of tongues

So all these are done by one and the same Spirit, dividing his own to each as he is willing.

Anyway, it’s a hackneyed job.  But it feels more accurate to the text than whatever it was I was reading.


Pet Peeve of the Day

I’ve been on a Textus Receptus kick lately, so I’ve been doing my Bible reading in the New King James, since it’s the only modern translation based on the TR.  I can’t quite make myself dig straight into thees and thous.  But today in my reading, I come across 2 Timothy 2:17:

And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort.

Really?  Cancer?  I’m having a hard time believing Paul knew much about the spreading of cancer.  Totally pulls me out of the text.  So now, I’m looking it up… KJV says, “canker,” which at least sounds more legit, and is possibly where the cancer thing came from.  My KJV has glosses from the Revised Standard Version for some reason, and the RSV says “gangrene”.

Now I’m on a mission.  New Living Translation says “cancer.” Wuest says “cancer.”  What is with these people? NIV says “gangrene,” a surprising relief.  New English Trans. says “gangrene”;  So does Young’s and Mounce’s. The Message says, “accumulate like poison,” because why not?

The Greek word is γάγγραινα, which means… gangrene.  Literally.  That’s all it means.  You can even make that out by looking at the shape of the Greek word. I have no idea what cankers or cancer has to do with it.  Gangrene spreads rapidly, has no incubation period, and isn’t limited to unsightly spots on your upper lip.  It has to be cut out immediately or the patient will die.  This is clearly the image that Paul was aiming at.  

And this is why I get frustrated with Bible translations and translators.  They need to just. translate. the text.  As much as possible, leave the interpretation to the reader.  If the original is vague, make your translation vague.  Because if you help me out, and I catch you, all it will do is undermine my confidence.