Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Question Regarding John 17:3 (NWT)

Text: αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ αἰώνιος ζωὴ ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν. (NA28)

γινώσκωσιν is Present Subjunctive Active 3rd person plural. KJV renders the verb (with ἵνα and σὲ) as "that they might know thee . . . "

The word "they" comes from the fact that the verb is third-person plural, whereas "might know" is because the verb is subjunctive. However, the 1984 NWT translated this construction, "their taking in knowledge of you" and 2013 has "their coming to know you . . . "

I sometimes wonder why the NWT does not explicitly render the subjunctive like KJV, Byington (I think) and others. On the other hand, some just translate "that they know you" without making the mood explicit (see Mounce and NET Bible).

I've also had the question about why we translate a third-person plural verb with a possessive pronoun "their" instead of employing "they." But I could be missing something linguistically or syntactically with the construction.


Duncan said...

Something to do with psalms 9:10?

Edgar Foster said...

Not that I have time to interact with more comments today, but I just wondered if you could explain the connection between Ps 9:10 and how we render John 17:3.



Duncan said...

Kjv - And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

I do not see it as a significant issue of grammar but rather, style.

John 17:3 (17:12) looks like an expansion of psalms 9:10.

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks, Duncan.

I don't want to make more out of this subject than I should, but to me, it is a grammatical issue. Admittedly, I have not read Ps 9:10 in the LXX to see how it compares with John's language in 17:3, 12. But the fact that the mood is subjunctive could be important; also, the verb for "knowing" is third-person plural. I still have yet to find an English translation that uses the possessive "their" like NWT does, but I still have plenty to consult. Either way, the rendering does not shake my faith. I'm just curious about what factors go into translational decisions.

Duncan said...

ABP - Psa 9:10 και ελπισατωσαν επι σοι οι γινωσκοντες το ονομα σου οτι ουκ εγκατελιπες τους εκζητουντας σε κυριε