In which is all in all

I almost made a pretty big mistake the other day, because of a poor translation choice. Imagine you read the following somewhere, perhaps on a billboard, or a coffee mug:

Brahman is all in all

What would you think? Would there be much question as to what it meant?

The problem I faced was that I read in the Bible that God is all in all. I almost made the mistake of thinking the Bible taught pantheism. But no, I knew that could not be the case, and this phrase must have been used to mean something else.

This phrase occurs a couple of times in the NT. I read it in 1 Corinthians 15:28 in the ESV, though most English translations use the phrase. It’s pretty clear why they do, for it’s a simple literal translation of the Greek (παντα εν πασιν).

Is this good enough? I don’t think so. When a Bible translation like this could be mistaken for teaching pantheism it is a poor translation. It seems especially poor considering the context, where everything is put in subjection to God.

I’m not sure what the best translation would be. I’m not sure if this was a Greek idiom, or just a phrase Paul made up. But there are people who do know those things, and they have probably been involved in the creation of these translations. Lets just hope any future translations will find these flaws before they are published.

Here’s the NLT:

[God] will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.

Now that is a much better translation. It doesn’t suggest heresy and it actually fits with the preceeding verses. I won’t say the NLT is necessarily correct, but at least they tried. The NCV isn’t too bad either.


For those interested in meaningless stats, Jesus does beat Brahman in the battle of Google search results, but not by much. Surprisingly Allah smashes them both, but I think that means something different again.

82 Comments

  1. Posted April 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I’d rather have a mechanically literal translation of this verse than a translation “corrected” to fit someone’s preconceived notions of what the Bible can and cannot teach.

    If a verse appears to teach pantheism, then let the readers wrestle with that fact!

  2. Posted April 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    The problem, Marshall, is that a mechanically literal translation may well not tell you what Paul intended. As Dannii suggests, this may well be a Greek idiom in which the meaning of the phrase is somewhat different to the meanings of the individual words.

    My mother used to complain that I played loud music ‘all of the time’. Of course, I didn’t play loud music ‘all of the time’ in any literal sense; I sometimes slept, went to school… ‘All of the time’ is a British idiom which means ‘a lot of the time’. A good translation would reflect this meaning. This is not ‘correcting’ the translation, as you suggest. It is good, accurate translation that conveys the meaning that was intended.

  3. JL
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    The CEV says, “Then God will mean everything to everyone,” which is quite a different interpretation than the NCV’s “Then God will be the complete ruler over everything.” If I heard someone say, “Then God will be all in all,” my fist thoughts would be along the lines of what the CEV has.

  4. Posted April 5, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I think this is less a common Greek idiom than it is one of Paul’s neologistic phrases. It might go on his coffee mug or his billboard. But who knows what he always intends?

    Paul writes:

    to people in Colossae (3:11) about the Messiah – πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός

    to people in Ephesus (1:23) about Jesus’s body – σῶμα αὐτοῦ, τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν πληρουμένου

    to people in Philippi (1:23) about himself – ἐν παντὶ καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν μεμύημαι καὶ χορτάζεσθαι

    to people in Corinth (1 C 12:6) a first time about God in everybody else – ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν

    to people in Corinth (1 C 15:28) this second time about God ranked over his son – ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς [τὰ] πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν

    I’m not sure this is what Marshall is saying, but I do think that a translation doesn’t do anyone any favors by dis-ambiguating what in the original (Greek) is ambiguous. Part of the work or the fun for Greek readers is trying to get what is meant.

    If I were watching a movie of Eddie’s life in, say, French, then I would not want his mother winking at me in the audience through the screen (or even through subtitle captioning) saying “beaucoup de temps” after she says to him “tout le temps.” Why do translators “always” feel the need to be “more precise” and “more accurate” than the ones they’re translating?

  5. codepoke
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Others are saying it better than me, but I’ll weigh in against this theological filtering.

    There are SOOO many unintended consequences of this kind of helpful recursive translating. There’s an old engineering object lesson about protecting a column while it’s lying on the ground. The junior engineer adds a 3rd support to the column, but that 3rd support breaks it. With only 2 supports, the weight had to be distributed evenly. With 3, the center support was just a little too tall, and ended up taking too much weight from the out pair of supports, and the column could not take it.

    This extra support for Paul’s two-centuries-old words actually can put his case at risk. I can hear my Christian pantheist friends now, “Look how the cabal of exlusivists hid Paul’s real meaning. It says right here, ‘all in all,’ but they’ve buried the truth under their preconceived notions.”

    And whom are we actually helping? Is there something within which God will not “be” after His Son’s final victory? Don’t Paul’s words actually challenge the post’s assumptions? The post starts at the theological conclusion, God is not His creation, then back-translates a verse that says something very different. It says God is not all in all now, but that He will be. Does this not provoke healthy questions?

    I’m occasionally for unwrapping idioms and making thoughts transparent, but theological back-translation is supposed to be the enemy, isn’t it?

  6. Posted April 5, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Theological back-translation is certainly no friend, but on the other hand, we have to understand that the original context of the first century is that readers talk together as a group and work out the meaning of things — at least I imagine that was the case when Paul’s letters were first read to their audiences.

    Today, individuals do their thinking on their own, and take whatever meaning seems right in their own eyes. This leaves readers today with a more limited ability to contemplate because readers today tend to draw only on their own understanding and do not brainstorm together enough. In other words, readers today are less capable of interpretation, even though the literacy rate is many times higher. If our audience is less capable of working through interpretation, then clarity becomes a prominent issue.

  7. Posted April 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    >>>[God] will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.

    Paul’s point is clearly that God will operate independently, completely autonomously, rather than through a mediator (such as the man, Jesus). Jesus will step down and return to being man among many men, one son among many sons. God alone will rule, and God will rule alone. Jesus will no longer be of any importance beyond the importance that all redeemed men share. God alone will be the “sun” with no “moon”… just subject “stars.”

    So if you wanted to render the verse interpretively, one might say “God [alone] will be everything to everyone.”

    >>>…‘All of the time’ is a British idiom which means ‘a lot of the time’…

    I would want to say that it is hyperbole, which is both a feature of Koine and of English, and anywhere that has learned to enjoy sarcasm! (An “idiom” is a unique feature of a particular language).

  8. Dannii Willis
    Posted April 5, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Why do translators “always” feel the need to be “more precise” and “more accurate” than the ones they’re translating?

    The translation should not be more precise or accurate than the source. But it should be accurate. I do not believe that “all in all” and “παντα εν πασιν” are equivalent phrases. Each has connotations that the other does not share. Now I may have been the only one to get the pantheist vibe from this verse, and if so, that’s fine. But if that’s a common problem, the translation should acknowledge that and attempt to rule out that particular meaning, while still preserving some ambiguity if it can.

    This verse cannot be teaching pantheism, as it would make what came before meaningless. It is not completely ambiguous. I also don’t see how the CEV’s fits in.

    If we believe that Paul was writing a coherent, logic and meaningful letter, then our translations should be the same.

  9. Posted April 6, 2010 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    “All in all” cannot be an accurate translation because it misses the significant fact that in Greek both “all”‘s are plural, and the first is neuter, whereas the second could be any gender. So it is not saying that God is pas “all”, an adjective agreeing with its subject, but that he is panta “all things”. The second “all” could be “all things” or “all people”, or perhaps “all places” hence NLT’s “everywhere”; en could be “among” as well as “in”. But I don’t think the theologians would like the translation “all things to all people”!

  10. Posted April 6, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Dannii,

    Thanks for this, but my inner poet rebels against the notion that it is possible to translate a phrase like “all in all” into propositional truth language. Yes, propositional truth is communicated, but I’m not ready to throw out the diction of the original because it could be taken, without adequate attention to context, in the wrong way.

    I think the entire premise is flawed, that anyone in Paul’s day, or our day, could be expected to pick up and read Paul and understand him without context deep and wide.

    A panentheistic misunderstanding was impossible because then and now, believers are taught in a thousand different ways that the Creator – creature distinction is a fundamental fact.

    The beautiful song many of us know, even if it is Christocentric rather than theocentric as Paul is in 1 Cor 15, Paul who was after all a monotheist as opposed to a monolator of Christ, captures the sense well:

    You are my strength when I am weak
    You are the treasure that I seek
    You are my all in all
    I’m seeking You like a precious jewel
    Lord, to give up I’d be a fool
    You are my all in all

    Jesus, Lamb of God
    Holy is Your name
    Jesus, Lamb of God
    Holy is Your name

    I’m fine, really, with NLT. Don’t get me wrong. Note that ESVSB, gives more or less the text of NLT in a footnote, but ESV preserves the diction of the original in translation. As does NIV and TNIV and you can be sure that, if the new NIV pulls an NLT in 1 Cor 15, it will be severely criticized.

    When I preach, I like to read the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. I love the ancient languages, the specific worlds they create. But then I will pay attention to the translations. Not just one, but many. Since my congregation has NIV as its pulpit and pew Bible, that’s a great starting point. But NLT and CEV have a lot to offer. They get me thinking big time. And I love the translations in the King James tradition. They put me in touch with millennia of Christian interpretation.

  11. Dannii
    Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    John, honestly, the “all in all” in that song means nothing to me. It’s just a nice sounding Christian catchphrase. I think catchphrases have no place in our Bibles.

  12. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    To those who think it best to fall back to “literal” when one does not precisely know the meaning of a phrase (or word):

    There are dangers–many of them–if one doesn’t rein this in.

    For example, I’ve known people who were deeply offended when I tapped one of their wife’s shoulders to get her attention. You see, I had “touched a woman.” These people take the Bible very seriously and are far more committed to Christ than many I’ve known. Their unreserved faith stands as a model for me. Unfortunately, they misunderstood the Greek idiom of 1 Cor. 7. I couldn’t fault them; the English meant what they believed.

    This is the problem with too easily “falling back” to a literal rendering. It doesn’t remove the responsibility from the translator and somehow place it on the reader. The translator can’t somehow wash his or her hands of the reader response. The reader is going to assume, as did the people just mentioned, the meaning conveyed by the translation is the meaning of the original. They are not going to analyse the English forms within the framework of an original Greek (or Hebrew or Aramaic) idiom (ie. take into consideration the idiom of the Greek). The language experience we all rely on in order to understand what we hear and read simply doesn’t work that way.

    I have never been able to understand the argument that says it is always better to “stay close to the ambiguity of the original.” The ambiguity of the original wasn’t any where remotely close to the ambiguity of our literal translations. And the original was not as ambiguous as we make it out to be when we force the English idiom (and our mental model of our language) onto the original text. If it were, then the Church would have flown apart into a million denominations before the turn of the first century. Everyone would have had their own pet interpretation of what Paul “really said”.

    If I hand you a rifle and say, “shoot the target (and be accurate),” you’ll want to know where the target is. If I respond with some sentence that sounds like it should mean something but doesn’t, would you then simply point the gun at a random point and fire? Would you then claim better accuracy than someone who has a clue where the target is? Translating literally with no consideration of context is precisely that. Forcing readers into that position is no less a failure.

    Now, let’s say I respond differently to your question regarding the location of the target. I say, “Well, it’s against the backdrop of a small wooded area. There are blue flowers on the field immediately in front of it and there is a tall oak a little to its left.” That’s still somewhat ambiguous. But, wouldn’t your pointing the rifle toward a spot described by that visual context produce a much more accurate shot? Hasn’t the context given you a clue? You still don’t know the location of the bullseye; but, your shot would be far more accurate than a random shot.

    I think this illustration captures well that there is a continuum of ambiguity from totally unacceptable to reasonably acceptable. But, it also highlights that accurate translation must by necessity resist introducing ambiguity from the target language. I think if a translator is going to chose ambiguity, then he or she had better inform the reader that the renderings are intentionally ambiguous. That way the reader can make an informed decision regarding the value of the translation.

  13. iver larsen
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    As Peter Kirk has already said the English rendering “all in all” is inaccurate, because it loses too much of what is clear from the Greek text. The first “all” is πάντα and it means “all things” or “everything”. The second “all” is πᾶσιν, and although it is grammatically ambiguous, this word in the plural as a substantive (it does not modify a noun) normally refers to people. The context of 1 Cor 15:28 also suggests “people”. The ἐν can mean in, among or to.
    I suspect that the NIV and NET chose “all in all” because of theological pressure from very conservative Christians who believe that if the KJV was good enough for Paul it is good enough for us. The RSV has “that God may be everything to every one.” This is a much more accurate translation of the Greek text, for some reason abandoned by the NRSV. Maybe it was seen to have the same problems as the CEV: “Then God will mean everything to everyone.”
    I don’t RSV is very clear, but at least the reader has a better chance of getting the meaning from context than from the misleading NIV.
    If we consider the context, I would go for something like the GNB: “But when all things have been placed under Christ’s rule, then he himself, the Son, will place himself under God, who placed all things under him; and God will rule completely over all.”
    I would not accept the CEV, but NLT, NCV and God’s Word would be OK to me. GW says: “Then God will be in control of everything.” JBPhillips is also acceptable to me in the context: “Thus, in the end, shall God be wholly and absolutely God.” (It has the slight problem in oral form to be ambiguous between wholly and holy.)

  14. Posted April 7, 2010 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    I am very delighted in the fact that I helped one of my sons “get” writing… He was hung up on the “tone” issue… I told him to focus on *what he wanted to say*…. when he had that clear, the verbiage would fall into place…

    What is Paul saying?

    >>>“Then God will be in control of everything.” JBPhillips

    Okay, but better said, that “God will be IT.”

  15. Posted April 7, 2010 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    The idea is… “It will just be God…”

  16. Posted April 7, 2010 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    What an interesting conversation!

    Well, count me, Iver, as a very conservative Christian. I’m beginning to like the sound of that phrase.

    Here’s the thing: if Kurk is right (and I have no reason to doubt that he is), the expression in question is a neologism of Paul.

    If that is the case, it’s good practice to preserve neologisms in translation. They often bear a lot of weight and are used repeatedly: see Kurk Gayle’s list. In fact Paul does use the phrase repeatedly.

    It also makes sense to translate a neologism in the same way across all of its occurrences. In the case at hand, this the NLT does not do. Nor does the NIV/TNIV, though it achieves far more concordance than NLT. If you want a translation that translates the neologism in a consistent way, then ESV among recent translations is the way to go. It’s as simple as that.

    It’s not inaccurate to call it a catchphrase. No wonder sermon after sermon, from the Puritans to Moody and beyond, ring the changes on “Christ is all in all.” Catchphrases are good. I speak as a preacher. I need a pithy catchphrase with which to begin, not a lame paraphrase. The lame paraphrases: that’s my job.

    You could say the same thing about expressions of John the Baptist and Jesus. “The kingdom of God is at hand!” “Repent!”
    “Believe the Gospel!” All catchphrases. But first John, then Jesus, and then his disciples make use of such catchphrases. NLT keeps the catchphrases, though it expands “repent!” to “repent of your sins!” And Gospel become Good News. But “Good News” is just another neologism, another catch phrase.

  17. Posted April 7, 2010 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    John, This is fascinating also because you and I are so much in agreement here. One thing I really like that you are doing is keeping this conversation personal. Not just your self-labels (i.e., “my inner poet rebels” and “as very conservative Christian”) but also your (I suppose rebellious and conservative) appeal to ways Paul might be using language consistently in novel ways and how Christians through the centuries have likewise used it in persistently innovative ways (i.e., through frozen phrases, that might be reducible to coffee-mug and billboarded catchphrases). I appreciate your keeping it so personal and relevant to then and now. (Not that we all would consistently share your labels but I do think we’re all helped by what is coming across as your methods, your exegesis and your hermeneutics).

    It’s a tough conversation. We’re all going round about three different things here in different ways. 1. the Greek; 2. the English; and 3. what translation means and does.

    On the Greek, I think we all best have a good bit of humility and agnosticism. On English, all in all, I think we each and every one might rightly have a say here – and this is a very good conversation together because no one’s going to pull a fast one on anyone else; Iver, your use and knowledge of English seems better than mine to me.

    On translation, now here’s where we all might get a little more personal (like you do John). For me, it’s dangerous and presumptuous for any one of us to view translation as something altogether different from language in general or a language in particular. Maybe a little catchphrase of the brilliant conservative Christian bible translating linguist Kenneth Pike can help. He used to ask some of us in his seminar on taking Tagmemics to the next level whether we thought IPA was emic or etic. It was a rhetorical question but he really did intend for us to puzzle over that. The neologistic catchphrase: IPA’s emic. What’s intended by that is this — the translation (tool) IS the translator’s insider language. Well, this is a lot less technical than I’m making it sound. It’s quite personal.

    Mike, if you view translation as a gun, and the translator as a sniper, then that whole metaphor affects your approach. What if you viewed translation, instead, as Lydia He Liu does? What if instead of source and target and weapon and precision and accuracy you could use “translation” language and metaphors such as “host language” and “guest language” and “respect” and “politeness” – Chinese translator notions of “render”-ing language as considerate transactions and transformations. This non-Western view is bound not so much by some exactness as the individual translator, or single team of translator experts, determine it. But the Asian perspective acknowledges (as Pike does in his monolingual demonstrations) not only the translator’s expertise (which humbly is another language, a third one in the mix) but also the personal histories of the various users of L1 and L2 (or might we call them Lhost and Lguest?).

    I’m not saying Liu’s (or Pike’s) is the final perspective on translation. But she makes a good point saying, “one does not translate between equivalents; rather, one creates tropes of equivalence in the middle zone of translation between the host and guest languages. This middle zone of hypothetical equivalence, which is occupied by neologistic imagination, becomes the very ground for change.”

    I’m sensing in this conversation a lot of fear of mis-understanding caused by “all in all.” What if someone takes license – becomes a pantheist or refrains from touching a woman – because the translation team was not precisely propositional enough or failed to impose implications enough? Would Phyllis Bird ease any of that apprehension when she suggests translation best serves “to overhear an ancient conversation, rather than to hear [one]self addressed directly”; and, she goes on to say in first person: “I am not certain, that the translator is even obliged to make the modern reader understand what is overheard.” Is our bible-translator obligation precisely and accurately to police how readers must get Paul’s language?

  18. Posted April 7, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    p.s. Some of what you said, John and Dannii, inspired me to post on this at one of my blogs. I really do wonder whether παντα εν πασιν isn’t something fairly novel (if consistent) for Paul and his various Greek readers of his letters. It seems we have to go way back to Plato’s Statesman (@ 278b-c) for anything like it; and there’s a (good) bit of wordplay there.

    http://speakeristic.blogspot.com/2010/04/all-in-all-language.html

  19. Posted April 7, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    What a very, very interesting conversation. It seems to obviate the value of using different translations across the spectrum from “literal” to “free”. It also seems to obviate the need for the comparative study of good commentaries. Thanks for all of the interesting comments from everyone.

  20. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to interact with some of the points made, but that will have to wait till this evening when I have more “think-time”. I’d like to quickly respond to Richie’s comment about obviating the need for comparing translations and comparing commentaries.

    I think I understand what you’re saying. If I may rephrase it–we wouldn’t need more than one translation nor would we need commentaries if we had a translation that was simply clear, accurate, and natural.

    I think that’s almost true, but not quite. I’m all for a Better Bible (thus I contribute here on this blog). However, the thing that’s missing from a single translation, even a perfect one, and it is an extremely important part, is holding the translators accountable. So, we need multiple people interacting with the original text, exposing their thinking in clear and unambiguous ways.

    As has been said by many people (in various ways), a Bible exegete doesn’t really know what the original text says until he or she has stated it in plain language. Forcing one’s self to translate it in a way that communicates well and accurately is one way of asking and answering the question, “Do I understand the text?” And commentaries should provide the substance supporting the translation choices. In my opinion, commentaries should not have to explain the English (or any target language). Just like preaching, they might also teach the content, but they shouldn’t have to explain the English.

    So, I don’t think a Better Bible obviates the need for translations (plural), nor the need for good commentaries. I just think multiple translations and commentaries fill the very important niche of providing for accountability.

  21. Posted April 7, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    If we believe that Paul was writing a coherent, logic and meaningful letter, then our translations should be the same.

    Aye, but that’s the point isn’t it? Paul’s writing is full of personality, full of references to both philosophical and rabbinic styles of argument, but in the end, it is not a crystal clear easy-to-understand theology. We may wish that Paul wrote like Aquinas or Calvin, but Paul was not a systematic theologian.

    Paul writes in a rough-hewn but somewhat poetic, hyperbolic, and emotional style, and I rather like Barnstone’s rendering of this verse — which I think is closest to the Greek and highlights the literary features through scansion:

    And the last enemy abolished is death.
    He has brought all things beneath his feet.
    Clearly when he has told us all these things,
    It does not include one who subjected all
    To him. But when all is subject to him,
    The son too will be made a subject to
    The one who put everything under him,
    And only then God will be all in all.

    I don’t begrudge translations that put an interpretive spin on the text or simplify the text (and they indeed serve an important market niche of less sophisticated readers), but for me, I prefer a translation that comes as close as possible to the experience as preserving literary properties of the text.

    As a comparison point, we’ve come to expect nothing less of translations of Homer and Dante — and as a result we are much the richer with the current flood of brilliant translations.

  22. Patrick
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    In some of the comments above it is written that we should leave ambiguous Greek ambiguous in translation. My question is: is the Greek text really ambiguous? In daily speech, I don’t think there is much intended ambiguity. Only when you make a joke, lie or make a poem, you could intend ambiguity (I don’t know other uses yet where you intend more than one meaning. Did Paul make a joke, did he lie, did he write a poem? When there seems to be ambiguity in the Greek text, is that because of Paul or because something else?

    Another thing in this discussion is the English (or any other target language). It looks to me that people think that literal translation is possible. Maybe I am missing something, but I thought that there is no one to one correspondence between words in different languages. There is overlap, but not completely. I think that the differences between these words/phrases (in other words, where the meaning in the target language is not part of the meaning in the source language) causes more confusion/ problems/ ambiguity than the Greek text. What do you think?

    I also read that the translation should rule out a particular (wrong) meaning. Just wondering how that could be part of a meaning based translation since that should aim at getting the meaning across, not correcting misunderstandings. Because correcting a misunderstanding was not part of the original, intended meaning. I don’t think that in the example of ‘all in all’ Paul was correcting pantheism. I think a translatOR, should avoid misunderstandings (if possible), but not the translation itself.

    I think there is only one reason to translate ambiguously and that is when there is no general consensus between scholars/commentaries about the intended meaning AND when it is possible for the intended audience of the translation to be able to understand that these interpretations are possible.

    Patrick

  23. Posted April 7, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Theophrastus,

    Good to have you around again. As you know, we agree on these matters.

    Patrick,

    Ambiguity is an ambiguous word. There are many kinds of ambiguity.

    In this context, we are asking about the wisdom of translations that close off false interpretative options, versus those which are more trusting of readers, but require a lot of attention to context.

    There is no way someone is going to draw the conclusion that Paul was not a monotheist with a very strong sense of the Creator – creature distinction, but rather, a Hindu monist or modern day pan(en)theist, upon reading that God will be or is all in all, unless the effort is made to ignore everything else Paul wrote, including immediate context.

    But people, and Jews and Christians are certainly not immune to the temptation, are extraordinarily good at reading isolated verses out of context, leading to the kind of nonsense that Michael Sangrey speaks of.

    Is there a way to protect the Bible from literalistic readers who ignore context? Yes! Paraphrase in such a way that everything is as free from the possibility of misunderstanding as possible. NLT serves that market very well.

  24. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to get a few concepts on the table regarding where I’m coming from (ie. provide some context within which to interpret what I say).

    1. I believe a translation which adheres to stating original meaning in propositional truth terms to be bland at best. I believe a translation should be entertaining. Though, of course, it should be accurate. Paul and John both make me laugh out loud. And some of the pericopes in the Gospels are hilarious and quite witty.

    I chuckled this morning while reading Mat. 21:23-46. Jesus is so incredibly clever by causing the Chief Priests and Elders to embarrass themselves. And they still don’t see it. Though I was also overwhelmed by the seriousness of Jesus’ confrontation. (This is the type of thing I’m referring to when I use the term entertainment. Dry, propositional truth doesn’t do this.

    2. However, accuracy does not obviate number 1. I believe entertainment and accuracy are simultaneously possible. Hard, but possible.

    3. As the example from Matthew shows, I believe the original authors wrote entertaining prose (and poetry). There are many cases of this. There are ways of capturing prosodic beauty in a text and we should not be the least surprised the original authors made use of these features.

    4. Trying to capture the same word-level ambiguity with the destination language as is provided by the original language is linguistically and communicatively invalid. Patrick is right in this regard and has stated it well. That type of ambiguity did not occur to the original reader (unless they were early linguists–professional or amateur–then they see these things all the time). There is no benefit in trying to somehow capture this type of ambiguity in translation.

    5. An audience misunderstanding a text is statistical. That is, a text should be field tested. If an unacceptably high percentage misunderstands the text, then it needs to be rendered more accurately. I believe the unacceptably high percentage needs to be relatively low. My theological position of the incarnation requires this. That is, God becoming a human being forms a model of communication translators should imitate. However, God did not become a shape-shifter; so, the goal of translating so that the rendering can not under any circumstances be misunderstood by anyone is the wrong goal. As I said, it’s statistical, not absolute.

    6. I believe the original text was masterfully well written for its intended audiences (note the plural).

    I’m sure this is not all in all; but, my evening meal calls.

  25. Posted April 7, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    In Spanish, you say “Careful!” as, literally, “There is that to have cared.” That sounds weird to English speakers. But does the literal “Careful!” make any sense? If someone is entering a dangerous situation, and I am charged with translating from one language the other, will I not be making “an uncertain sound” if I translate the words, but not the meaning?

    “What did he say?”

    “He said, ‘There is that to have cared.’”

    “Oh, okay, thanks.”

    Having said that, my personal quest is to be as “primary source” as possible. I want to know the original – even to the document level (since that had to be “translated” from vowel-less, jammed up, dirty, ancient manuscripts into Koine for popular consumption); Maybe they got it wrong way back there?

    Then I want to know the variants, and the punctuation issues… I want to… well, you know, examine it all along the pipe. So a “paraphrase” is something useful when I think I might be missing the meaning by looking at trees versus forest, I can’t relate to those who are content to be dependent upon “scholars” to “protect them” from reading what was written!

    So I want to know what the text says, however idiomatic, and then understand the idiom, and then to also have a nice loquacious paraphrase to cast some light on what might be going on, after the text is unpacked.

    As a case in point, I recently “got” Romans 6:23, after years of not getting it at all… I figured that “wages” was just an unusual way of saying “penalty…” but then the larger context of Romans kicked in… It turns out that the KJV has everything you need to understand what Paul wrote, and even what Paul meant – if you take the time to absorb the whole letter (which I’ve been giving time to do)… So, while the KJV gets the translation, I could have understood the passage sooner if someone had offered the following paraphrase, and “filled out” the context…

    “Mr. Sin is a boss who extracts painful labor from his servants, and in return, doles out death to them; but God is a boss who gives the gift of unending life, freely, as an unearned gift!”

    The shortcut serves a purpose, while the tight formal equivalence of other translations serves another. Both are useful for different reasons, and neither excludes the value of the other.

  26. Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Mike,

    All in all, I’m in agreement with many of your points. Especially number 1. Taken seriously, that would mean mapping metaphors in the source language into equivalent metaphors in the target languages. As is well-known, most DE/FE translations tend to do the opposite, including NLT. This is a huge strike against them. Note that I am using metaphor to cover also conceptual metaphors in the sense of Lakoff and Johnson in their classic Metaphors We Live By (Chicago, 1980).

    It’s often helpful to take a non-metaphor in the source (or metaphor in the broader sense of Lakoff and Johnson) and render it with a metaphor in the target language. For example, “The kingdom of God is at hand” is a relatively clear rendering of the Greek which, if translated more literally, “The kingdom of God has approached” is relatively opaque. BTW of course, metaphors are very language specific, so if you have ESL speakers in mind, metaphors are best avoided. In Italian, “il regno di Dio e’ alla mano” = the kingdom of God is at hand means “the kingdom of God is easy, accessible,” which is not what the Greek is saying.

    Okay, but here’s a question. Surely Paul believed in the incarnation and the word and all that just as you do. Indeed, didn’t he say something about being all things to all people for the sake of Christ? (1 Cor 9:22: those “all”‘s again!).

    So here’s a thought experiment. How much of his letter to the Romans or his letter to the Galatians would have been understood by the average schmuck of his day without Jewish or Christian background? It’s obvious I think. Not very much at all. Way too many catch phrases and neologisms and tech terms. Paul takes a ton of things for granted. Of course, These are writings in media res. They are links in a long chain of communication.

    If you are trying to provide an introduction to the faith via a translation of the Bible for those with little or no solid background in Jewish or Christian teaching, without a flesh-and-blood community that however imperfectly embodies that teaching as context, then what? In that case, you might want a translation that smooths things out and concentrates on essentials. You might. I still have my doubts. I think I would want people who were serious about their faith to read their “living” Bibles alongside of an old-fashioned translation in the KJV tradition.

  27. Posted April 8, 2010 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Theophrastus, I agree that preserving the literary features of the source texts is very important! (Though not more important that basic comprehensibility…) If this is indeed an important neologism of Paul’s, then it is important to preserve it. But my question is, why is morpho-syntactic equivalence the best way to translate neologisms?

    Though most of you probably know what I believe: there is never any excuse for putting morpho-syntactic equivalence over semantic equivalence.

    John Hobbins, don’t call the NLT a paraphrase! It is a translation! Many of the versions in the KJV tradition are more like paraphrases than the NLT.

  28. Posted April 8, 2010 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    John, also I agree that no one reading 1 Corinthians will get the idea that Paul wasn’t a monotheist. But Christians have the nasty habit of taking phrases out of context and putting in songs or on billboards. That’s a reality that must be considered when translating – assume that someone will take it out of context.

  29. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    John asked the thought provoking question: “How much of [Paul's] letter to the Romans or his letter to the Galatians would have been understood by the average schmuck of his day without Jewish or Christian background?”

    And then answered his own question with “It’s obvious I think. Not very much at all.”

    I somewhat agree; though I would nuance the answer more carefully. I would make a sharp distinction between the requirement to understand the conceptual context and the requirement to understand how the language works within the text.

    Your point about Lakof’s conceptual metaphor is apropos here. I think a dialog about how to determine accuracy when conceptual metaphors don’t work would be highly instructive, though it would be quite difficult.

    To add credence to the need for someone to explain background material, I suggest that one of the main reasons for “to the Jew first, then to the Gentile” was because Christ needed to have people in place who were relatively expert in the Jewish context. He needed the “explanators”. This same problem is becoming more and more real to us today in America. I think it’s been real for England for some time now. But, that’s not about language; it’s about the conceptual framework within which one interprets the language.

    In that regard, I also believe that an amanuensis was a highly, linguistically skilled person who knew not only the Greek language, but knew the various audiences well. There’s a recent book (I can’t recall the title right off the top of my head) which describes the role of an amanuensis. That has led me to believe, for example, that Romans was written over the span of several drafts with Timothy and others interacting with Paul around how best to pen his theological pièce de résistance. (Also, as an aside to stave off misunderstanding: this has nothing at all to do with inspiration. The Holy Spirit is bigger than the objections). So, the audience was very much in mind. And forming the text well, was very much in mind. It’s like the μυστήριον was meant to be revealed.

    My point is this: There’s a big difference between needing someone in the Church to explain (say) the Abrahamic background of the gospel on the one hand and on the other hand how best to render the expression ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν into English.

    If the response from the translation reader is “Ok. Gosh, context is everything,” then that’s one thing. If, however, the response is Well, why didn’t he just say that in the first place, then that’s something quite different. The former implies that the reader can now read the paragraph or section and follow along–the context (which is now in his/her head) allows for the text to flow. The later implies that rewording the paragraph in English (or whatever language) was all that was needed. This later is frequently called paraphrase by its opponents. While the following appears to be ironic, it really isn’t: For the audience, this so called paraphrase is often the more accurate of the two renderings.

  30. Posted April 8, 2010 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    I would refine your point a bit and point out that the backdrop of the NT is not the Hebrew scriptures, but rather the Greek scriptures, which include “the apocrypha” and other contemporarily regarded texts. Paul didn’t know anything of a Catholic or Protestant “canon” – and nothing of a Hebrew canon either.

  31. Posted April 8, 2010 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    Dannii,

    Love live the NLT! Don’t mind me; I’m just an old coot whose teeth are falling out. You might enjoy this spoof:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2008/09/southern-baptist-convention-bans-the-use-of-nlt-in-church-and-home.html

    But you have to read this beforehand:

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1018327.html

  32. Posted April 8, 2010 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    You don’t have to love the NLT, I just hate it when people misuse “paraphrase.” This is especially the case with The Message. It’s not a paraphrase, it’s an overly idiomatic translation. But the NKJV is a definite paraphrase.

    Ha, that was an interesting read. I might take a class with Ghil’ad Zuckermann next semester, who argues that Israeli is an Semitic-European hybrid language. If that is the case no wonder the kids can’t read their Bibles.

  33. Posted April 8, 2010 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    I like ‘all in all’ – I was really surprised to see what a mundane adverb it is. I always thought this was an ultimate statement of love. Here’s a bit of what I wrote on my blog after hearing of this kerfuffle. ‘He/she is my all in all’ is a phrase that lovers use of each other. This is how I understand the all in all in this passage. It is the act of ultimate love that comes when the distracting and rebellious principalities that have some sway in this (my) life are brought to heel.

  34. Posted April 8, 2010 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    If we think that a neologism should be translated “in the same way across all of its occurrences,” then the NLT does fall sadly short.

    It seems obvious that the phrase (τὰ) πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.
    should be translated in the same way in 1 Cor.12:6 and 1 Cor.15:28.

    KJV

    And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

    And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. KJV

    NLT

    God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

    Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.

    ESV

    and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

    When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

    Only the KJV offers the insight that 1 Cor. 15:28 might be related to 1 Cor. 12:6 and therefore not about the ‘supremacy/authority’ of God, or about his being ‘over’ people but rather about his being ‘in’ people, that is dwelling in humans through his spirit. I find the NLT highly problematic in that it often offers a one-sided interpretation of authority and power, frequently adding words that are not in the original. It appears that there is no translation yet which can replace the KJV in offering equivalent insight into underlying languages.

  35. Posted April 8, 2010 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Dannii,

    Glad you liked it. Zuckermann is very fine. I hope you take a course from him.

  36. Posted April 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t often that I have the privilege of helping to touch off a fascinating conversation. I recognize that the conversation might have unfolded this way anyway, after Dannii’s initial posting, but I am grateful to have helped it along. As most of you surely already realize, I am not myself a professional Bible translator, and I learned a good deal from the comments that followed my own.

    But to clarify my own point a little: I wasn’t trying to suggest, in my initial comment, that “all in all” is an exactly literal translation. Rather, what I was trying to do was to set up a dialectical opposition between the effort to be as literal as a terse translation will allow (which, it seems to me, is what the translators of the Tyndale/Geneva/KJV text were aiming at), and the effort to “correct” such a literal translation to avoid theological offenses (which I still believe is manifest in the NLT, the CEV, the NCV, and Dannii’s own posting).

    And I do believe I succeeded, since a wonderful dialogue ensued, for which I am truly grateful to you all.

    Rendering ἐν as “to”, as some translations do, strikes me as suspect. If Paul had meant “to”, why did he not write “τοῖς πᾶσιν πάντα” as in I Cor. 9:22? He had the option, and if he did not employ it, it seems to me that it must have been because he actually intended something different.

    Quite a few of you folks, including our worthy host, have stressed that the context makes it clear that Paul did not have a pantheist meaning here. It is also clear that the context already tells us that when all things are subject to the Father, Christ being also subject, then the Father will reign supreme. That being so, why force this phrase to say either of those two things? Let the context do that work, since it is doing so already, and let this phrase add only the meaning that Paul appears to have intended it to add.

    I would humbly suggest, as a mere dabbler in this matter, that Paul must have intended “πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν” in I Cor. 15:28 to mean something much closer to “all things in all people” than to the renderings in the NLT, CEV and NCV, even though Paul did not intend pantheism.

    And thank you for your tolerance of a dabbler such as myself!

  37. Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I agree that preserving the literary features of the source texts is very important! (Though not more important that basic comprehensibility…) If this is indeed an important neologism of Paul’s, then it is important to preserve it. But my question is, why is morpho-syntactic equivalence the best way to translate neologisms?

    Well, of course in Greek, this phrase use repetition (in different forms of πᾶς, alliteration, etc.)

    But I have another point too: “all in all” in English has a very distinct meaning. Thus, the phrase “all in all” for this phrase dates back at least to Thomas Cranmer in 1539, and has always meant “all things in all respect”. It has since taken on this meaning not only in religious contexts, but in general usage. Thus, in the poetry of Tennyson (Vivien 1859, line 248) we see one of the most famous passages of love poetry in English (note the repetitive use of “all” culminating in the idiom “all in all”):

    …In Love, if Love be Love, if Love be ours,
    Faith and unfaith can ne’er be equal powers:
    Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.

    …It is the little rift within the lute,
    That by and by will make the music mute,
    And ever widening slowly silence all.

    …The little rift within the lover’s lute,
    Or little pitted speck in garner’d fruit,
    That rotting inward slowly moulders all.

    …It is not worth the keeping: let it go;
    But shall it? answer, darling, answer, no.
    And trust me not at all or all in all.

    Similarly Tennyson has Howard saying in his 1875 play Queen Mary (at the opening of Act 3, Scene 6):

    Their Flemish go-between
    And all-in-all. I came to thank her Majesty
    For freeing my friend Bagenhall from the Tower;
    A grace to me! Mercy, that herb-of-grace,
    Flowers now but seldom.

    Now, I realize that there are some people who may be unfamiliar with English idioms (such as ESL students). There are, unfortunately, some who unfamiliar with English poetry — even its love poems.

    But the sort of readers I care about — those who are sensitive to language and literary effect — will certainly appreciate the care that Cranmer (and Wycliffe and Tyndale) took in attempting to capture Paul’s phrasing. They will further immediately recognize “all in all” as a set phrase in English. These careful readers, I argue, are the vast majority of those persons who read Scripture with greatest attentiveness. These careful readers are particularly influential in setting intellectual opinion.

    It is great there are translations such as the NLT for those (such as ESL students) who are unfamiliar with English idioms or who have not had the benefit of a course in English literature. But I think it is absurd to call the literary translation a “poor translation” or a “flaw”.

  38. Posted April 8, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Theophrastus, it is precisely because we do “immediately recognize “all in all” as a set phrase in English” which “has a very distinct meaning” that we consider it a bad translation in this place. Does Paul’s Greek expression in fact mean what the English phrase means, “all things in all respect”? Possibly, but probably not. And if the English phrase does not mean what the Greek meant, it is a mistranslation. It is not enough for a rendering to be a beautiful literary English idiom if it is inaccurate. It is for this inaccuracy that some of us “call the literary translation a “poor translation” or a “flaw”.”

  39. Posted April 8, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    In 1603, John Davies (who co translated the Welsh Bible) wrote praise of the Psalms translation of Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. He also wrote a poem praising her. One of his lines reads:

    “Who (like a Goddesse) seeth all in All”

    Whatever the date and whichever the language, seems these all in all words are quite special. (PS – Davies was neither a pantheist nor did he refrain from touching women, metaphorically speaking of course).

  40. Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    >>>…but rather about his being ‘in’ people, that is dwelling in humans through his spirit…

    Um, I must differ…

    Note that the contrast is between a mediated rule and an unmediated rule, and an uncontested rule and a divided rule. It works like this:

    * God’s rule, before Jesus, was thwarted by rebels:

    Psa 8:2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

    Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

    * Upon his ascension, God gave Jesus all authority in the sky and in the land:

    Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

    Dan 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
    Dan 7:14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

    * he is in the process of “cleaning house” for God, subjecting his enemies to him, in preparation for the rule of God:

    1Pe 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

    * the saints participate in this process:

    Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    * this process will be completed upon the return of Jesus, and death is destroyed:

    1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
    1Co 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
    1Co 15:25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
    1Co 15:26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

    * after that, Jesus reigns in the middle east for 1000 years, with the subject nations bringing tribute:

    Rev 21:24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

    * after the 1000 years, the last enemies (and I mean it this time) will be destroyed, and God will punish his enemies:

    Rev 20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
    Rev 20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
    Rev 20:9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
    Rev 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
    Rev 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
    Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
    Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
    Rev 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
    Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

    * the new Jerusalem will descend from the sky to the middle east, Jesus will step down from the throne and rejoin his brothers as a civilian, and God will rule forever alone from his throne (formerly occupied by Jesus, when he was promoted as KURIOS):

    Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
    Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
    Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
    Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
    Rev 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
    Rev 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
    Rev 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
    Rev 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

    This process of the subjugation of the nations is the meaning of the whole apocalypse. It describes in graphic detail of the commissioning of the man Jesus and his various weapons of mass destruction used to so humiliate the nations and the rebels in the sky, that they are completely prostrated and God rules unobstructed forever. Paul provides, in a few verses, the key to the arc of the apocalypse. He also identifies the antichrist as the worshiped version of Jesus (with the Trinitarian number on his forehead) as the “man of sin” who is “a man who is worshiped as if he were God – wondered at in all the world.”

    So when God is “all in all” – he is the sole, uncontested ruler. Every rival will be vanished or obviated.

    And if you note, Paul says that the indwelling breath of God (commonly mistranslated as “spirit”) is nothing to compare to the revelation of God when his dwelling place is among men:

    Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

    1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    1Jn 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

    For me, translation works like this:

    * Picture the words as written in the source language merged with your best literal translation of the source text;
    * Then, when you get the text, say it in the destination language;

    Translation done before you can picture the whole thing is rarely going to be your final translation, which will have new nuances, once you get what is being said.

    Often when I read a translation I see that the translator(s) either didn’t understand the text at all, so just dumped formal equivalence, or they completely missed the point of the passage, and massaged it in the wrong direction.

  41. Posted April 8, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Theophrastus is right to suggest that the idiom “all in all” began meaning “all things in every respect.”

    It began as an assimilation or correction (as text critics would call it) to the diction of the Greek (partial, not complete) over against Tyndale’s less ambiguous and less literal “all in all things.” I remain convinced that “all in all things” is how a reader will understand “all in all” in 1 Cor 15:26 if the idiom is read contextually. I think that Theophrastus was inattentive to suggest otherwise. That’s what he gets for droning on about “sophisticated” readers.

    From the OED:

    1539 and 1611 BIBLE I Cor. xv. 28 That God maye be all in all [WYCLIF, alle thingis in alle thingis, TINDALE, all in all thinges].

    Things like 1824 BYRON Don J. . . . They were All in all to each other come later, a natural outgrowth I would think of the Biblish of 1539 and 1611.

    Kurk’s Davies’ quote seems closer to the sense in context of the original coinage.

    Here is how a top-notch NT exegete translates the relevant passage:

    The last enemy doomed to be brought to nothing is death. For “he has placed all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says “all things are in subjection,” it is clear that “all things” excludes the One who has brought all things into submission to him. (28) But when all things have been subjected to him, then will the Son himself also be made subject to the One who placed all things in subjection to him, so that God may be all in all.

    Thiselton, Anthony C.: The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, 2000, S. 1222

    ESV is very similar except that it makes more allowances to English style.

    “The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things under his feet. But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is subjected who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subject under him, that God may be all in all.”

    ESV is identical to RSV except that it – wisely in my view – returns to the 1539 16ll diction. So did NRSV! RSV’s “everything to every one” was abandoned. When ESV and NRSV make the same move, that ought to turn a head or two.

    NIV/TNIV botches things with “who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” That’s unnecessarily ambiguous, because it destroys the contextual cue of the parallelism “all things / all in all.”

  42. Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    >>>…I would humbly suggest, as a mere dabbler in this matter, that Paul must have intended “πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν” in I Cor. 15:28 to mean something much closer to “all things in all people”…

    The Koine preposition “EN” has the misfortune of greatly resembling the English preposition “in” and sharing a good many of its usages. But unlike “in”, “EN”, when used with a plural object might well mean “among,” and further, context might further vary its usage, as here, where there seems to clearly be a sort of play on words, or other figurative language. Context will dictate the meaning, and not the “meaning” of the individual words.

  43. Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Background discussion from Thiselton:

    “The purpose clause ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν requires further comment. That God may be all in all (NRSV, NIV, NJB, AV/KJV, Barrett; cf. will be all, REB) is the usual translation, understanding ἐν πᾶσιν as probably neuter plural, not least in the light of the parallel in Rom 11:36. Moffatt and Collins, however, translate so that God may be everything to everyone (taking ἐν πᾶσιν as masculine to mean “with nothing to impair the communion between the Father and all who belong to Christ his Son.”All, however, should be interpreted not only in the light of the later parallel in Rom 11:36 (ὅτι ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πντα) but also the specific content of 15:54b–58: death, sin, the law, and the emptiness of fruitless activity. Hence M. C. de Boer and Wolff regard πᾶσιν is neither exclusively neuter (although all things are involved) nor exclusively masculine (although all concerns the domain of human as well as cosmic life) but “the totality of the world experienced by human beings … ‘all things’ vis à vis the human world … the universe in which all human beings live (cf. 8:6; Rom 11:36; Col 1:16)” (de Boer’s italics).

    Although the expression τὰ πάντα was used in Stoic thought to denote the universe and “the All,” the dynamic, eschatological movement of Pauline thought precludes any affinity with Stoic pantheism. Far from identifying God with “the All,” Paul sees God as the source and goal of a world in need of reconciliation and salvation through (διʼ αὐτοῦ, Rom 11:36) God in Christ.151 Schweitzer comments that whereas “in the Stoic view the world is thought of as static.… The world is Nature.… Paul lives in the conception of the dramatic world-view characteristic of the late Jewish eschatology.… He concludes … ‘For from Him and through Him and unto Him are all things’ (Rom xi:36); but he cannot … add that all things are in God” (his italics). Into this frame of reference Schweitzer places 1 Cor 15:26–28, with its conscious emphasis on succession and purposive process.”

    Thiselton, Anthony C.: The First Epistle to the Corinthians : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, 2000, S. 1239

  44. Posted April 9, 2010 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    >>>…“with nothing to impair the communion between the Father and all who belong to Christ his Son.”…

    Um, at the risk of being abrasive, I would suggest that you are mucking up the waters by suggesting a three party relationship, which is precisely what Paul is saying will not be the case. Jesus steps down, God steps up, and that is it. No one belongs to anyone but God himself. God himself is all in all. That is the point!

    In fact, she that *was* the bride of the anointed one {“Christ”} in life are freed from the bonds of matrimony by death, and become the people of God:

    Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
    Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and **God himself** shall be with them, and be their God.

    Rev 21:9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
    Rev 21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

    Mat 22:28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
    Mat 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
    Mat 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
    Mat 22:31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
    Mat 22:32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
    Mat 22:33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
    Mat 22:34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
    Mat 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
    Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
    Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.

    Rom 7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
    Rom 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

    Joh 14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
    Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
    Joh 14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
    Joh 14:5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
    Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    As the world no longer has need of the sun, so it no longer has need of the moon (which merely reflects the light of the sun, having no light of its own). “The lord God is a sun…” while Jesus is the lesser light, the reflector of God’s light, but he is obviated by the appearance of the one true God himself.

    This is why Paul, who adores the anointed one, is quick to say that he must reign **until** the last enemy is subjugated, and to disclaim that all things will be subjected to him *except, of course, the One who *placed* all things under his feet* – the one true God:

    1Co 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

    God will not share his people with Jesus. Jesus is a man, and God is God. He does not share his glory with another:

    Isa 42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

    If you get Isaiah 42:8, you’ll get “all in all.”

    Look at this fascinating juxtaposition:

    Rev 19:9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
    Rev 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

    What this reveals is that [the faithful and true] Jesus is not attracting worship to himself [though the antichrist is], but rather, the true breath [heartbeat, message] of the true Jesus is prophetic, pointing to God. He (the true Jesus) confesses that he is a “fellowservant.”

    The false Jesus, the “antichrist”, is the endpoint of his own message, while the true Jesus is the breath of prophecy, pointing to the one true God.

    Which breath are you?

    Consider this:

    Joh 7:18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

    Rev 22:9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

  45. Posted April 9, 2010 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    In fact,”all things in all respects” is a dictionary definition — the same Oxford English Dictionary definition that John quotes from extensively. Of course, he is free to disagree with the definition, but there is a bit of a irony here. (I welcome John’s opinions, but I’m sorry he couldn’t make them without personal insults — “inattentive” and “droning”. I’ll leave it at that lest this thread become yet another race to the bottom.)

    Peter’s point is a valid one — familiarity with certain English Biblical phrases (and their subsequent independent life as English phrases) has perhaps poisoned them for us — at the very least, we may wonder why the Bible speaks in so many cliches! This certainly part of the appeal of truly fresh translations, such as Barnstone’s and NEB. Neither of these translations can be called slaves to tradition, and both chose to retain the phrase “all in all”.

    The reason is clear enough to see: “all in all” in the English phrasing refers directly back to the previous two uses of “all”. Thus in the NEB (emphasis added):

    Scripture says, ‘He has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But in saying ‘all things’, it clearly means to exclude God who subordinates them; 28 and when all things are thus subject to him, then the Son himself will also be made subordinate to God who made all things subject to him, and thus God will be all in all.

    In Barnstone:

    He has brought all things beneath his feet.
    Clearly when he has told us all these things,
    It does not include one who subjected all
    To him. But when all is subject to him,
    The son too will be made a subject to
    The one who put everything under him,
    And only then God will be all in all.

    And in the Greek:

    πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε [καὶ] αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς [τὰ] πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

    When read in this context, it is clearer what is going on — Paul is explaining exactly what he means because the use of all directly references back to its previous use in these verses.

    Now, in contrast, let’s look at the NLT’s treatment of these verses:

    For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) 28 Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.

    Here there is no reference back to the previous ideas — the phrase “supreme” does not appear earlier. (In fact, this doesn’t seem like a good translation or good English to me — how is “utterly supreme” supposed to be different from “supreme”? Where does “utterly” come from?) Similarly neither “everything” nor “everywhere” appear earlier. (And also similarly, how is “everything everywhere” different from “everything”? Where does the “everywhere” come from?)

  46. Posted April 9, 2010 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    I haven’t digested Theophrastus’s last post completely, but I think that it was a good post. I like the process s/he has employed.

  47. Posted April 9, 2010 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    The NLT version becomes even more curious when you consider that the Living New Testament had,

    “When Christ has finally won the battle against all His enemies, then He, the Son of God, will put Himself also under his Father’s orders, so that God who has given Him the victory over everything else will be utterly supreme.”

    It seems that “over everything everywhere” is a second translation of the phrase in question, added, for some reason, into the NLT. I am not sure what that says about the translation but it gives the impression of carelessness.

  48. Posted April 9, 2010 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    >>>…When Christ

    I loathe the word “Christ.” It is a transliteration of the word “anointed” and should be translated, not transliterated… Unless, of course, Paul was, and this is a distinct possibility, under the delusion that “Christ” was Jesus’ last name…

    >>>has finally won the battle against all His enemies,

    My concern with this translation is that many who have been contaminated by Constantine’s dogma will imagine that this refers to “Christ’s” own enemies, when the point is clearly that Jesus is subduing *God’s* enemies… If the “His” here is correctly understood to refer to “God’s” then we’re in business, but if not, then cast this translation into the dumpster….

    >>>then He,

    The capitalization is artificial, non-original, and objectionable… lose it!

    >>>the Son of God,

    Ditto…

    >>>will put Himself

    Um… this suggests that he is acting graciously… he submits, and he has no choice but to do so… and again, the capitalization is not original and is prejudicial toward Constantinian dogma…

    >>>also under his Father’s orders,

    He “obeys.” He “submits.” There isn’t any power struggle, politicking, or question about any of this. He is the subordinate. He obeys. To suggest any equality is horrific.

    >>>so that God who has given Him the victory over everything else will be utterly supreme.

    The obedience that Jesus gives is not, on any page of scripture, considered a patronizing, or gratuitous action. It is proper obedience to God. It is a fool’s game to do anything else. Jesus is praised in scripture for his obedience, not for any generosity towards God, who gives him breath.

  49. Posted April 9, 2010 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    In daily speech, I don’t think there is much intended ambiguity.

    Let me give you a few from the last few days that I can think of:

    1) “So I support moving towards death panals.”

    — The use of the term “death panals” is a reference to Palin, i.e. a well known reference to a famous fallacious claim which is meant to be an over the top exaggeration. By using this term its unclear exactly what is being supported: moving towards something like European quality of life years, the statistical generation of medical effectiveness, budgetary shifts… or just a generalized dislike for Republican politics.

    2) “So I want to stick with what as much as we can for the next 6 months” (spoken in reference to a network overhaul):

    – Deliberate ambiguity about what is being instructed. The idea was not to be specific about the instruction and asking the recipient to use judgement regarding the specifics.

    3) Lets eat at the place near the thing where we went that time.

    – (from me). A joking reference to the movie broadcast news where this was intended as specific. The recipient had no idea of the specific restaurant, the goal was to be ambigiuous about where I wanted to eat in response to “where do you want go”…. effectively I was trying to pass my turn and let the other party suggest first. What was specifically intended was ambiguous.

  50. Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    The “literary effect” – which Theophrastus shows in various English contexts with “all in all” – is clearly important to Barnstone in the letter to men in Corinth. And for Barnstone the back-referencing, that NLT forgoes in 28b, is critical for working through the wordplay within the text. (And do look at all those various “πάν”s and variants, as “all”s with so many different meanings linking the flow of ideas inter-textually, within a very short context. Paul makes the lexicographers and dictionary writers list several definitions of the single word).

    But Barnstone is even more observant. His stated intention in translating is to make the “literal literary” — to make it “both literal and literary” with the very intentional purpose of “Let[ting Paul] say everything he wanted to say.

    This, of course, begs the question of what Paul wanted to say. I think Barnstone gives a huge hint by marking how Paul is quoting Psalms. (He uses textual formatting, a footnote, and a translator’s interpolation of the explicit allusion “as it is sung in Psalms.) This is huge because the back-reference is beyond Paul’s text. And it’s huge for us because the quoted scripture (i.e., Psalms, LXX, the Greek translation) plays on and plays with the Greek phrases ἐν πάσῃ /en pase/ and πάντα /panta/.

    For all of Paul’s would-be intentions, I am sure that many of the Greek readers in Corinth missed much of what he’s doing. Even if there were readings of the Greek Psalms in their synagogues and assemblies, they’d not necessarily catch the reference. There is much ambiguity in Paul’s many uses of πάν* (“in all” of them, I’ll just add). Paul himself is playing fast and furious with the text. He’s very very personal (and careful) to include himself in πάντων ἀνθρώπων /panton anthropon/ (“all humans”) and τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν /tois apostolois pasin/ (“all the apostles”) as ἔσχατον πάντων /eschaton panton/ (“last of all“) in this part of his letter here. When he brings in “the son” as the “last” Adam, the parallels are clear – at least in his mind they are.

    Paul’s literary interactions with Psalm 8 are just fantastic and are unmistakable, if clearly difficult in many ways. Paul is playing with the LXX here, saying contrastive things like ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες (“in Adam all“) and ἐν τῷ χριστῷ πάντες (“in Mashiah all“), when the literary contrasts in the original texts are mainly in the rank of the “human” and “the son of a human” compared to the name of G-d Adonai in all created. (WoundedEgo, Paul gets away with transliterating Ἀδὰμ sometimes while translating ἀνθρώπ* other times. Your point, I think, is that translators shouldn’t ignore any of that; and if the translator is to transliterate where Paul does not, what then?)

    There is much wordplay here. It requires the listener and the reader to interpret much, with much latitude not only to draw conclusions that Paul would not want but also to discover meanings that Paul initially might not have necessarily intended but would definitely later allow. Paul is clearly not trying to be the unambiguous scientist that Aristotle wanted to be. As Theophrastus points out at the onset of our conversation:

    “Paul’s writing is full of personality, full of references to both philosophical and rabbinic styles of argument, but in the end, it is not a crystal clear easy-to-understand theology. We may wish that Paul wrote like Aquinas or Calvin, but Paul was not a systematic theologian.”

    This is literary stuff. And for a Bible translator to make Paul sound like Aristotle or Aquinas or Calvin is to rob Paul’s readers and listeners.

  51. Posted April 9, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Theophrastus,

    I was reacting to this paragraph of yours:

    “But the sort of readers I care about — those who are sensitive to language and literary effect — will certainly appreciate the care that Cranmer (and Wycliffe and Tyndale) took in attempting to capture Paul’s phrasing. They will further immediately recognize “all in all” as a set phrase in English. These careful readers, I argue, are the vast majority of those persons who read Scripture with greatest attentiveness. These careful readers are particularly influential in setting intellectual opinion.”

    That struck me as a bit snobby on your part, as if you don’t really care about readers – that would be almost everyone – who can’t read a line of Milton and Shakespeare with understanding. So I returned the favor by showing you up a bit – please don’t take me any more seriously than you take yourself – even though I treasure my Milton and Shakespeare as much as you do.

    For the rest, without wanting to drone on myself, my goal at this point would be to build bridges from one camp on this thread, the one I find myself in (including Kurk, codepoke, yourself, Sue, etc.), to the other (Dannii, Eddie, Iver, Peter, etc.)

    In that sense, your citation of NEB – REB qualifies as well – is spot on. NEB/REB is a translation which, though it is not in the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV tradition, is appreciated by all sides if for different reasons.

    In fact, I very much hope the new NIV revises towards NEB/REB in this passage, or towards ESV/NRSV: essentially the same thing. Perhaps Mounce on the committee will facilitate that.

  52. Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    One other contextual element that throws light on “all in all” is the contrast with Jesus. God had subjected “all things under Jesus’ feet” – with one important exception: God himself was, of course, not subject to Jesus; He is “excepted.”

    But when the job is completed, when the last enemy is subjected and Jesus obediently steps off the throne, God will resume his governing with absolutely *no exceptions* to his rule. There will be no co-regents, no rivals and no one exempt. Unlike a modern insurance policy, his rule will be truly “comprehensive.”

    In order for God’s rulership to be all in all, Jesus’ part has to be insignificant. So, Jesus will no long have any more say than anyone else. He will have as much authority as an ex-president, an ex-congressman or an ex-senator… in other words, none. Zip. So says Paul.

  53. Posted April 9, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    That struck me as a bit snobby on your part, as if you don’t really care about readers – that would be almost everyone – who can’t read a line of Milton and Shakespeare with understanding.

    Except for your side-comment about the readability of Milton and Shakespeare, you have given a fair representation of my concerns. For Greek literature, including Christian writings, my interests lie in their literary, cultural, and historical aspects, as well as their subsequent reception history. If this is snobbery, then I accept the charge, but then almost all literary criticism is also snobbery.

    Of course, there are readers who lack academic background, and we can rejoice that there are a large number of translations that aim to address their needs. I have to wonder how well those translations are working in practice — even conservative Protestant and Catholic leaders complain about “Biblical illiteracy”. (Thus my suggestion that these readers may be less influential.) The pedagogical questions here are important and fascinating, but I’ve focused my energies elsewhere.

    Side note: on the accessibility of Shakespeare and Milton

    We do not agree about the accessibility of Milton and Shakespeare. My high school (a typical American public school), continues to have Milton and Shakespeare on the curriculum for the academically-oriented literature classes. As of a year ago, they are still on the curriculum.

    In the UK, the National Qualification and Curriculum Development Agency has Shakespeare in multiple years on the secondary years; for example, 2010′s year 9 “optional” (e.g., academically-oriented) test requires writing essays on both Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest.

    The BBC is preparing yet another series of the complete plays of Shakespeare for national broadcast; in the US, Shakespeare is frequently presented in film or on television (many readers of this blog watched the recent nationally broadcast King Lear (with Ian McKellen.) Most metropolitan areas (and many rural areas) in the US have summer Shakespeare festivals. Many have free “Shakespeare in the park” performances. As anyone who has attended one of these free performances can attest, high school students typically form a significant fraction of the audience. Certainly, someone is watching all those films, television shows, and plays (and of course, live and recorded performances necessarily lack all but the briefest explanatory annotation).

    Hardly a week passes when I do not hear a Shakespearean sonnet quoted.

    And least a dozen major editions of Milton and more than a hundred less important editions have appeared in the last five years (admittedly, this is a misleading number, given the massive hype and celebrations of Milton’s four hundredth anniversary — but the mere existence of that hype also acts as an indicator of the ongoing popularity of Milton).

    My own experience is that the most US students entering stronger American universities have read at least one Shakespeare play. The standard first year English literature textbook, the Norton Anthology of English Literature, includes Twelfth Night, King Lear, about 40 Shakespearean sonnets, and a selection of Miltonian essays and poems, including Paradise Lost (with some light annotation).

    It certainly seems plausible that in the US, Anglophone Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, 10-25% percent of adults can and do read Shakespeare or Milton — this is not a majority, but neither is it particularly scarce.

  54. Posted April 9, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Crud. My kids at their public high school get a taste of Shakespeare by a teacher who has no love for Shakespeare, who thinks Maya Angelou is better, which is still better than nothing, but NO Milton. NO Milton. I am confounded by this.

    Theo, I wish you would blog about this stuff. In memory of one of my teachers, Northrup Frye (I know . . .), who taught us to read the Bible by reading its history of reception, here’s a Fryesque statement you might agree with:

    [Northrup Frye as I remember him]:

    I don’t think you can understand the Bible unless you’ve read Ovid, Milton, and Blake first.

    True, Ovid’s Metamorphoses is not part of the Bible’s history of reception, but maybe it is, sort of, in Sandys’ edition which Frye had us read.

    Well, that’s one triad. What triad, besides the Talmud, would you offer?

  55. Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    John, maybe you can post the “triad” question on your blog and we can discuss it there to avoid disrupting this thread.

  56. Sue
    Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    Are you aware that John’s blog is not open to all the participants in this thread? If you take the conversation there, I will not be able to participate.

  57. Posted April 9, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Theo,

    Sounds good to me.

    Sue,

    I’m happy to unblock you for the occasion. I would only ask that you keep to the subject.

  58. Posted April 10, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Theophrastus, I disagree with you about Shakespeare. That kids are forced to do it in school does not mean it is easily accessible to them.

    When I was in school we read three of his plays. The editions we used had helpful footnotes to explain the archaic language. Without those I am sure not even the most literary-hungry students would have understood him properly. We also always watched a film/recorded production of his plays too, and without those I think the average student wouldn’t have understood even the basic plot. Sure some of that was antagonism to the idea of reading Shakespeare (or any book… if you want kids to hate a book put it in the school curriculum) but a lot of it was the language.

    I’ve also been to several live productions of it. With good actors it is accessible, but only because their expression and intonation carries the language itself. But people need to be able to read their Bibles without semi-professional actors doing dramatic readings of it for them.

    I am among the most highly educated people in my society, tertiary and now post-grad. I would doubt that even 10% of the people at uni I mix with read Shakespeare or Milton, let alone the majority of non-tertiary educated people. If a tradie struggles to understand the language of a Bible it has failed.

    I don’t like Biblish because despite the fact that I should be educated enough to understand it, despite the fact that I’ve been attending church for over two decades, despite the fact that I’ve been brought up by two Christian parents, both tertiary educated and also both with Biblish Bibles, so very often I still can’t make sense of it. I can understand whole passages, but when I look at the individual phrases so many of them don’t make sense. Even some of the ones that do make sense are deeply odd. If I can’t understand Biblish, what hope is there for the entirely Biblically illiterate?

  59. Posted April 10, 2010 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Εἴ τις οὖν παράκλησις ἐν Χριστῷ, εἴ τι παραμύθιον ἀγάπης, εἴ τις κοινωνία πνεύματος, εἴ τις σπλάγχνα καὶ οἰκτιρμοί…

  60. Posted April 10, 2010 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    In the bright hope that Gary’s chosen passage can animate all of our discussions, I have posted per Theo’s suggestion here:

    http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2010/04/you-cannot-understand-the-bible-unless-youve-read-ovid-milton-and-blake-first.html

  61. Posted April 10, 2010 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Dannii — When I was last visited Sydney, I must have been in a different Australia than the one you live in — I had a discussion about Middle English prosody with a bookstore clerk; in casual conversation, a man recited Alexander Pope from memory; I chatted about the Analects with a restaurant server; I saw challenging Elizabethan drama on the your national SBS television network; and I listened to rather intellectual radio programs in Yiddish, Japanese, French, and Russian.

  62. Posted April 10, 2010 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I would suggest that Aeschylus, Racine and Brecht are also relevant to Frye’s thesis.

  63. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I think now that I’ve read through these many comments my mind has grown down to its normal size. Summing the comments, it appears to me the discussion has arrived at the following.

    A good understanding of Shakespearian and Miltonian English prepares one to accept the ambiguity inherent in such literary phrases as “all in all.” Even though this English phrase doesn’t mean what the original Greek phrase meant, it has the decisive benefit of enabling the trained reader to deduce multiple intended and unintended meanings. Also, since ambiguity is the measure of accuracy, the untrained person’s inability to understand the phrase should not be viewed as a negative–after all, not understanding provides ambiguity like nothing else. So, “all in all” is the most accurate to all audiences–trained and untrained alike.

    Over against this we have one highly trained person who says, quite simply, [S]o very often I still can’t make sense of [the English translation].

    All in all, I’m quite baffled by the former. And for the later, what a beautifully clear and, no doubt, profoundly accurate statement (I’m with you, brother!). I suggest you relish your position. The real benefit I see is that this means you have a very clear grasp of the audience of your own translation work. I think few will understand me when I say that this clear grasp of the audience is the pathway upon which one obtains a more accurate understanding of the original text. One, I’m sure, you’ve already obtained.

  64. jkgayle
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I just bought a coffee mug that has this on it:

    Brahman is utterly supreme over everything everywhere

    Not a hint of biblish, so it makes good sense to me, but I’m not claiming I’m a highly trained person.

  65. Joe X
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Nope Mike, you got the summaries wrong. Here is where the discussion is:

    On the one hand, even though there is no evidence that any major Christian figure has ever thought the classical phrasing supports pantheism, and even though a reading of the full verse completely clarifies the meaning, because one person claims he might have been “almost” briefly confused, we have support for a “translation” (carelessly revised from a paraphrase) that does not match the Greek and is not even grammatical English.

    On the other hand, we can use a translation that closely matches the Greek, has poetic resonance, has been used since 1539 without evidence of any major misunderstandings, and gives insights into Paul’s literary techniques.

  66. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Joe, you’re quite inaccurate if you are referring to the NLT as “carelessly revised from a paraphrase.” Whether a person agrees or disagrees with the result, a 7 year process with 90 Evangelical scholars relying heavily on modern translation scholarship is anything but careless. Also, it was not a revision of a paraphrase in the sense that they used the same methodology as what produced the Living Bible. The NLT was a fresh translation from the original languages. Obviously, the goal was the same: easy to read and understand.

  67. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I have no textual criticism skills. But, one of the things I think we’ve missed in this discussion is considering that the first πᾶς (of [τὰ] πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν) may be articular. I’ve wondered if that would help clarify the original meaning. Two of the four cases of πᾶς in 15:28 are, in fact, articular; and the third, the one which might be articular in the original, refers to the same thing as those two. Paul might not need an article with the third in order to be perfectly clear.

    Here’s the basis of my thinking. Frequently, when a substantive is articular, it causes a referent to something within the literary context. The article signals a pointing function to the reader. So, I took that fact as a jumping off point and looked at each articular πᾶς in 1 Cor. In every case, translating ὁ πᾶς as “these things” clarifies the intent. In every case, there is clearly a list of “things” in the literary context which are being referred back to.

    Here’s the list (I’ll use the ASV for its literalness) for your consideration:

    2:15 – But he that is spiritual judgeth all these things, and he himself is judged of no man. [these things refers to things of the Spirit of God.]
    8:6 – yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all these things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all these things, and we through him. [these things refers to things sacrificed to idols.]
    9:22 – To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all these things to all men, that I may by all means save some. [these things refers to not only weakness, but also under law and not under law]
    12:6 – And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all these things in all. [diversities]
    12:19 – And if they were all one member, where were the body? [a list of body parts. "And if all these things are one member, where were the body?"]

    And now we get to the text in question.

    15:27 – For, He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who did subject all these things unto him.
    15:28 – And when all these things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all these things unto him, that God may be all these things in all.

    Perhaps: …all these things among all people. All these things refers back to the list in 15, specifically, all rule and all authority and power. Though, frankly, I take this more along the lines of all kinds of rule and all kinds of authority effected by the exercise of power. In other words, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν becomes, so that God will be the supreme ruler among everyone.

  68. Joe X
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    Mike — Nope, the wording for this verse came from the Living New Testament — it was not fresh.

    You need to re-read Sue’s comment posted April 9, 2010 at 2:07 AM.

  69. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Joe, I’m not going to argue with you. Similarity of wording between two versions indicates nothing with respect to the translation method that was followed. You’ll have to provide documentation from the NLT translators in support of your statement that the wording came from the Living New Testament. Otherwise, we have to rely on the obvious statements to the contrary describing their translation method.

    For the other participants, I’m interested in any feedback regarding the articular PAS.

  70. Posted April 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I, too, would love to hear someone articulate the articular pas — one step at a time.

  71. Posted April 12, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Mike, what is your source for your statement to Joe that NLT is not a revision of the Living Bible and that it was a “fresh translation”.

    Even the International Bible Society describes the NLT as a “thorough revision” of the LB.

  72. Posted April 12, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    >>…In other words, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν becomes, so that God will be the supreme ruler among everyone.

    So Mike, are you proposing that if we accept the variant, and the implications that you propose, then “God will be the supreme ruler among everyone” as opposed to… what?

    Will Jesus then be eternally co-equal in majesty, etc, or, will God *alone* be, *without exception* the “all in all”?

    Would you suggest that what you are proposing is in any way substantially different from any of these?

    http://net.bible.org/verse.php?book=1Co&chapter=15&verse=28

  73. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    By fresh translation I’m referring to the fact that it is a translation. It did not use a paraphrase methodology. In other words, it did not start with the Living Bible and revise it. It started with the original texts and translated them.

    You are right that the NLT itself claims it is a “revision.” It does so in the “A Note to Readers” in my NLT. I take that to be a marketing statement. It makes no sense to take it as a translation methodology statement given the several pages of translation methodology explanation in the Introduction to the New Living Translation section which immediately follows.

    My source is the prefatory material published in the the NLT itself.

  74. Posted April 12, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    >>>…You are right that the NLT itself claims it is a “revision.”…

    I think that the discussion could end right there.

  75. Posted April 13, 2010 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    It started with the original texts and translated them.

    I am very sceptical that there is a line one can draw between translations from the original languages and revisions or paraphrases.

    Tyndale and Coverdale made extensive use of the Latin and German translations in addition to the original languages. Every translation since then inherits or rejects the wording of these translations.

  76. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Sue wrote: I am very sceptical that there is a line one can draw between translations from the original languages and revisions or paraphrases.

    If one understands the term paraphrase to refer to inaccurate translation, and/or it’s an antonym to literal translation, then I completely agree.

    In fact, I’m more than just skeptical; it’s impossible to draw the line. Given the idiomatic nature of language, any translation is in some sense inaccurate and to some degree non-literal. So, since one can’t draw the line, this definition of paraphrase has no explanatory power when applied to a text. It’s pretty much just an emotive word.

    If one uses the term paraphrase in its technical sense, then it’s completely obvious there’s a difference between paraphrase and translation.

    I agree with your take on revision. It’s not really related to translation, per se. A paraphrase on the other hand (in its technical sense) is always a revision. Also, I agree that every translation since Coverdale and Tyndale is in some sense a revision.

  77. Posted April 14, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Sue and Mike, there are Bible versions which the translators claim to have been done from the Greek and Hebrew alone without reference to any existing translations. I guess the translators still have a memory of KJV etc wording in many places, but it is hardly fair to call those versions revisions.

  78. Mike Sangrey
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Good point Peter. I was thinking too narrowly. I was thinking (somewhat) of the translation “genealogy” diagrams.

    I suppose some translations could be referred to as “white room” or “clean room” efforts. :-)

  79. Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I guess the translators still have a memory of KJV etc wording in many places, but it is hardly fair to call those versions revisions.

    Peter, this is ironic since KJV may be considered a version. Here’s how Willis Barnstone puts it:

    “The model for high and good translation of the New Testament remains the King James Authorized Version of 1611. Strictly speaking, the King James is, as its title states, ‘a version’ [i.e., a revision, or paraphrase] rather than a translation, since about eighty percent of its New Testament comes directly, with minimal change in letter of punctuation, from the William Tyndale translation, which appeared between 1525 and 1536. In rendering about half the Hebrew Bible directly from the Hebrew and the complete New Testament from the Greek, Tyndale produced a lucid version, beautiful in its cadences, plain in its lexicon, favoring [in its paraphrasing] the Anglo-Saxon over the Latin word. Erasmus saw in Tyndale ‘the evangelist to the poor.’ However, the near century of rapid change in the language also distances Tyndale that much more from contemporary spelling…. And it was in their famous preface that Miles Smith [of the KJV team] said… ‘Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light.’ The Authorized let in the light with bright focus and minimum distortion…. [The] William Tyndale is fully satisfying and still ‘old’ enough in spelling and speech to make it of the earlier age. There is not a stilted or churchy phrase in Tyndale’s everyday word, no obtrusive inversions. Tyndale’s English is as plain and compelling as Mark’s ordinary Greek.”
    (page 1293, Restored New Testament)

  80. Posted April 14, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Here’s Tyndale:

    27 For he hath put all thinges vnder his fete. But when he sayth all thinges are put vnder him it is manyfest that he is excepted which dyd put all thinges vnder him.

    28 When all thinges are subdued vnto him: then shall the sonne also him selfe be subiecte vnto him that put all thinges vnder him yt God maye be all in all thinges.

  81. Posted April 15, 2010 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    My understanding is that the Living Bible was developed directly from the ASV, with reference to other English translations. Kenneth Taylor did not claim to refer to original language texts. It says it is a “paraphrase” right on the cover.

    The New Living Translation was developed with reference to original languages, but also followed Taylor’s wording in many places.

    * * * *

    The origins of the KJV, as explicitly stated in James’ charter, was to produce a translation that could compete with the extremely popular Geneva Bible, but without theological notes (in particular, James was bother by anti-monarchical notes). Formally, the KJV was supposed to be a revision of the Bishops’ Bible, with reference to other English translations, but in fact, the textual basis of the KJV is the Geneva Bible (which in turn was based on Tyndale-Coverdale).

    The KJV’s anachronisms (as of the English language c. 1611) are largely due to the influence of the dominant Geneva Bible. The KJV failed to capture the public’s imagination, and languished even after Archbishop William Laud forbade printing or importing the Geneva. After the Restoration, the Geneva was largely believed to be politically suspect because of its close association with the Puritan movement, and finally — 50 years after its initial publication, the KJV finally began to enjoy strong use. It was still another 100 years later, with the polemics of Bishop Robert Lowth in 1760s, that the KJV began to be viewed as a literary masterpiece. Acceptance of the KJV was significantly later in the American colonies (and the early years of the United States).

    It is fascinating to consider the relative literary advantages of Tyndale, the Geneva, and the Authorized Version. Each of these has merits and demerits and no one of the three can easily declared to be superior to the other two.

    * * *

    It is remarkable, however, that with the King James version, a long “dark ages” descended on English Biblical translation. While there was a flurry of translations beginning with the Revised Translation (and accelerating right until our current age) aimed at either using better source material, better understanding of original languages, or less anachronistic (or simpler) language, these later translations were, from a literary standpoint, steps backwards from the Tyndale-Geneva-KJV translations. (I should mention that some interesting translations did appear, such as Ronald Knox’s Vulgate translation or the New English Bible, although these are remarkable for the freshness of their interpretation and wording rather than pure literary merit. It also bears mention that much interesting activity took place in other vernacular languages, such as the Buber-Rosenzweig translation.) It is only in our current time, as individual scholars such as Robert Alter, Willis Barnstone, Everett Fox, Richard Lattimore, and Reynolds Price have turned their attention to Biblical translation that we are once again seeing translations that can compete on literary merit.

  82. Posted April 15, 2010 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Theophrastus, you are correct. The Living Bible was paraphrased from the ASV.


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