Monday, March 09, 2015

A.T. Robertson Discusses Luke 2:27 and Translation Issues

"The English translation of a Greek aorist may have to be in the past perfect or the present perfect to suit the English usage, but that proves nothing as to how a Greek regarded the aorist tense. We must assume in a language that a good writer knew how to use his own tongue and said what he meant to say. Good Greek may be very poor English, as when Luke uses ἐν τῷ εἰσαγαγεῖν τοὺς γονεῖς τὸ παιδίον Ἰησοῦν (Lu. 2:27). A literal translation of this neat Greek idiom makes barbarous English. The Greeks simply did not look at this clause as we do" (GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH, page 129).


Duncan said...


"Said what he meant to say." but since we can only access this through what he actually wrote we are still only guessing unless the idiom if found elsewhere in the literature (enough give a rounded view the word picture).

Duncan said...

As he goes on to state:-

"One of the commonest and
gravest errors in studying the grammar of foreign languages is
to make a half-conjectural translation, and then reason back
from our own language to the meaning of the original; or to explain
some idiom of the original by the formally different idiom
which is our substantial equivalent."

Edgar Foster said...

Duncan, as for the last statement you quoted, I agree with Robertson. My primary concern is overtranslating such that the (potential) original intent is destroyed or the reader becomes confused by a myriad of details in the main text.