Category Archives: Commentary

Ancient Greek Pronunciatio

Translations of the Greek New Testament into other ancient languages help us know what the sounds were in ancient Greek compared to now.  In order to translate Christian texts, the Copts invented 7 extra glyphs for sounds unknown to the Greeks, but which they needed for their language.  This is informative to us as to what Greek sounded like as late as the early church times.  Thus we know that even as late as the Christian era in Egypt, the Greek letter φ (Phi) was not pronounced like English “F” but instead like our English “P.”  We know this because Coptic had to invent a separate letter Ϥ for the F sound, a sound which Coptic had, but Greek did not have.

And because of the law of Phonetic symmetry in the distribution of points of articulation in the mouth, we can reasonably extrapolate this principle to the other set of consonants also, that is, Χ and Κ.  And predict the following: the Greek letter χ sounded like our English “K” and the Greek letter Κ was a softer, unaspirated K for which English does not have a letter or symbol.  In Phonetics we find that languages that have both an aspirated and unaspirated P, will also have both aspirated and unaspirated versions of the other stops such as T and K etc.  Thus, φ was p sound, θ was t sound, χ was k sound, and π, τ, κ were unaspirated versions thereof, for which we do not have letters in English.

Another example that Plumley gives in Metzger’s book shows that the Greek letter θ definitely was not a “th” sound like we have in English, as in the word “thick.”  It was simply our Englsih “t” sound, as in “tick.”  One way we know this is because Coptic translators, when they heard the Greek word θαλασσα, wrote down HALASSA with the feminine definite article T in front of it.  That’s because it was pronounced TALASSA and the scribes or translators heard TALASSA.

The above knowledge can lead us to some interesting insights.  For example, knowing that φ was pronounced “p” and θ was pronounced “t,” we can pronounce correctly the word φθινοπωρινος in Jude v. 12, and recognize our English word “patina” there, and see how that relates to change in color of leaves in Autumn.  Greek had a word φθινα for the mildewing of material (which would change its color), but see also φθῖνάς “a waning, a wasting away”, or φθινιασμα “declining,” and the verb φθινω, “to perish, decay, waste away.”  Our English word patina also refers to the wasting away or corrosion of semi-precious metals, like copper and bronze, upon which a green film accumulates.

This page gives the correct pronunciation of ancient Greek consonants.

Victor of Antioch on Mark 16 vv. 9-20

Victor of Antioch (5th century) in his commentary on the gospel of Mark admits that the verses 16:9-20 “do not appear in the existing Gospel with most copies.”  But he says that the better Palestinian copies included it, and he and others added together what material was in the Palestinian gospel about the Resurrection, to the other copies.  This comment appears in many minuscules.  [Note that Victor is not saying “Egyptian manuscripts” lack the Longer Ending of Mark.  He is ‘of Antioch.’]

Victor of Antioch‘s pertinent Greek text from Cramer’s Catena Vol. 1:

Εἰ δὲ καὶ τὸ,”αναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ” μετὰ τὰ ἐπιφερόμενα παρὰ πλείστοις ἀντιγράφοις οὐ κεῖνται ἐν τῷ παρόντι Εὐαγγελίῳ, ὡς νόθα νομίσαντες αὐτὰ εἶναι, ἀλλ’ ἡμεις ἐξ ἀκριβῶν ἀντιγράφων ἐν πλείστοις εὑρόντες αὐτὰ, καὶ κατὰ τὸ Παλαιστιναῖον Εὐαγγέλιον, ὡς ἔχει ἡ ἀλήθεια Μάρκου, συντεθείκαμεν καὶ τὴν ἐν αὐτῷ ἐπιφερομένην δεσποτικὴν ἀνάστασιν, μετὰ τὸ “ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ,” τουτέστιν ἀπὸ τοῦ “αναστὰς δὲ πρωῒ πρώτῃ σαββάτου” καὶ καθ’ ἑξῆς, μέχρι τοῦ “διὰ τῶν ἐπακολουθούντων σημείων.  Ἀμήν.”

Translation:

‘But even if the words “And having risen early” along with the words following, do not appear in the existing Gospel with most copies, as they are considered spurious, we however, having found them in most of the accurate copies, and in accordance with the Palestinian Gospel, exactly how the truth of Mark is, have added together also that in it, that follows the Master’s resurrection- after the words “for they were afraid,” that is, from “And having risen early on the first day of the week” and so on, up to the words “by the signs accompanying.  Amen.” ‘

You can download the PDF Gospel of Mark of mine from which I cut and pasted the above.

Papyrus 64/67 Readings in Matthew

The oldest Greek manuscript we have of any significant part of the Gospel of Matthew is probably Papyrus 64/67 (𝔓⁶⁴). Regarding Papyrus 64, there are 7 places where the Byzantine Robinson-Pierpont (RP) text and/or the Textus Receptus (TR) disagree with the Critical Text (CT), and where P64 is also extant:

5:20, CT and P64 read υμων η δικαιοσυνη, RP has η δικαιοσυνη υμων

5:22, CT and P64 read αυτου, RP reads αυτου εικη

5:25, CT and P64 read ο κριτης, RP reads ο κριτης σε παραδω

5:27, CT and P64 and RP read ερρεθη, TR reads ερρεθη τοις αρξαιοις (difference between TR and Robinson-Pierpont)

26:8, CT and P64 read μαθηται, RP reads μαθηται αυτου

26:22, CT reads εις εκαστος, RP reads εκαστος αυτων, but P64 omits both of these

26:23, CT and P64 read μετ εμου την χειρα εν τω τρυβλιω, RP reads μετ εμου εν τω τρυβλιω την χειρα

So, P64 agrees with CT 5 out of 7, agrees with CT and RP against TR 1 out of 7, and against both CT and RP 1 out of 7.

The only really significant variant is 5:22. CT and P64 say “angry with his brother,” and RP text says “angry with his brother without a cause”

5:27, CT and P64 and RP say “You have heard that it was said,” and TR says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago.”

26:22, CT says, “they began each one to say to him; RP says “they began each one of them to say to him,’ and P64 says “they began to say.”

Influence of One Bible Translation

The Influence of the Good News for Modern Man translation on other translations of Acts 9:25

The longer I have been observing textual variants in the Greek New Testament, the more I am convinced that the cause of some corruptions in the Greek text, was back-flow from the early important translations into other languages, and from the writings and commentaries of the Fathers.  Because if you lived in a region where the Greek text was not your native language, and the New Testament text you were familiar with was in another language, (Syriac, Coptic, Latin, etc.) but you were charged with re-copying or reproducing the foundational Greek text your church had received, when you did produce it, you would be highly influenced by the memories in your mind of your native language text, which is what you heard repeated all the time, and not the Greek text.  Much of this back-flow could happen unconsciously and not deliberately.  However, some of this could have happened deliberately, for the sake of uniformity of the text among all your churches.

I have a current-day example of this, not of back-editing of the Greek text, but of the influence of one important English translation onto many new translations into other languages.  The principle is the same.  The translators and editors were conscious of the fact that they were deliberately departing from their main source text, in order to effect uniformity of the NT text among all the regional churches.

My example occurred in Papua New Guinea, where I was born and raised.  I discovered this while translating the Acts of the Apostles from Greek to English.  I found that an alarmingly high number of English translations in Acts 9:25 add words to the text that are not in the Greek, any Greek source text; they are not in the Textus Receptus, not in the Nestle-Aland text, and not in the Majority Text, not in any Greek manuscript.  They add the words “an opening in.”  That is, “they lowered him down through “an opening in” the wall.”

The Greek text is straight-forward.  The enemies of Saul were watching the city gates day and night in order to capture Saul and kill him.  So, λαβόντες δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ νυκτὸς διὰ τοῦ τείχους καθῆκαν αὐτὸν χαλάσαντες ἐν σπυρίδι.  So, “the disciples took him at night by way of the wall instead.  They lowered him down in a basket.”

It is not hard to understand.  The gates were not an option, therefore they used the wall to escape.  It says nothing about a hole in the wall, or a window in the wall.  The point was simply that they did not use the gates, but used the wall.  They lowered him down from it in a basket.  The preposition δια here means “by way of”  or “by means of.”  They took him out of the city by way of the wall.  It does not even say they lowered him by means of the wall as some of the translations say.  The verb involved is λαβόντες, they TOOK him by way of the wall.  They lowered him by means of a basket.

I called my father Tom Palmer to find out how he rendered Acts 9:25 in his translation into the Hamtai language of Papua New Guinea.  He said they went with the same addition I mentioned, something about letting Saul down through a window in the wall.  I asked him why in the world the Hamtai translation says a window, when that is not in the Greek, and that is not in the King James Version?  His answer is what I am talking about: back-flow from one very important, early, influential translation used in Papua New Guinea: the Good News for Modern Man.  You see, the country of Papua New Guinea has 700 different languages; not dialects, but 700 languages, with different dialects among those.  But the official language of Papua New Guinea is English, since it was at first a British colony then an Australian colony (though the NE part where I was born was a German colony prior to WW1.)  Many New Guineans therefore can speak some English.  So pretty much all churches in Papua New Guinea, whether Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, SDA, etc., they all were influenced by the same Bible, the Good News for Modern Man, which was produced by the United Bible Societies (UBS).

When I was a child growing up in Papua New Guinea, I read mainly the King James Bible, but for more modern English, I also read the Berkeley version, and the Good News for Modern Man.  The latter was produced by the United Bible Societies, and quickly became the most influential modern English translation in the entire world, including in Papua New Guinea.

So also, for all the indigenous Christians in New Guinea, no matter what denomination, their church was highly influenced by this Bratcher/UBS work, which says in Acts 9:25 there was a hole or opening or window in the wall of the city of Damascus.  So, when my father, or any other translator, was producing a translation into one of the tribal languages there, they had to keep this in mind, that the Bible which the people already had, and had always had in the history of their church, no matter what denomination, was this UBS-produced Good News Bible.  Therefore, for the sake of uniformity, and not disturbing the people too much with too large a departure from what they were familiar with, the wording of the Good News for Modern Man was retained.  Including this corruption of there being a hole in the wall of the city of Damascus.  (Though the Tok Pisin Bible, the translation done by the UBS into the Pidgin English spoken in New Guinea, reads “Tasol ol disaipel bilong Sol i kisim em long nait na ol i bringim em i go antap long bikpela banis i raunim taun. Na ol i tokim em long sindaun long wanpela bikpela basket, na ol i slekim basket i go daun long ausait bilong taun.”  This does not add the words about an opening or window.)

One of the acknowledged causes of corruption in the text of the Greek New Testament is the phenomenon of “harmonization to the familiar.”  This goes hand in hand with the example I gave, but some translations of Acts 9:25 may also be influenced by the account of Rahab helping the spies escape in Joshua 2:15: “Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.”

Old Testament Agreeing With New

In 1 Peter 3:6, Peter tells us that Sarah called Abraham “master” or “lord,” but you could not verify that with half the Bible versions out there.  In Genesis 18:12, Sarah says “after I am grown old shall I have this pleasure, with my master being old as well?”  The Hebrew there for “my master” is וַאדֹנִי  But if the only Bible you had was, say, an NRSV, you would not be able to find anywhere in the Old Testament that Sarah did what Peter said she did.

Typos in Mark?

My son Jacob sent me a list of what he thought might be typos in my translation of Mark:

2:16 – “Torah scholars of the Pharisees” instead of “Torah scholars and the Pharisees”

This is a Greek textual variant between the Nestle/Aland, United Bible Societies’ text, versus the Textus Receptus.  The text as I have it is referring to the Torah scholars belonging to the sect of the Pharisees; there were Torah scholars belonging to other sects as well.  This is not the only place we find this variant; it is in other passages and other gospels too.

2:23 – The heading is “Man Over the Sabbath”. I was wondering if you meant “Lord Over the Sabbath”?

Well, I have it purposely ambiguous, because not only is there a man who is Lord over the Sabbath, Jesus Christ, but also it means man is more important than the Sabbath.  Judaism made the Sabbath the most important thing in the Jewish universe, far more important than people, or any other part of the Torah, even more important than an actual walk with God.

5:35 – “Why inconvenience the teacher any farther?” Farther is used for physical distances. If it is figurative, it should be further. I think it’s a stretch to call it a physical distance.

Yes, further is for abstracts, and farther is for physical distance, but in fact, if you look at it, physical distance is actually what is being talking about.  Jesus had not yet traveled all the way to him, so they are saying, why make Jesus come all the way.  Why make the Rabbi go even farther out of his way.  I do remember thinking about that a long time when I translated it. Maybe I will make a footnote about it.  BTW, people are losing that distinction these days, I have heard even news anchors use the words wrongly.

9:23 – Jesus said to him, “‘If I can’?…” First, shouldn’t the single quote mark be after the question mark? Secondly, why is it necessary, since Jesus is paraphrasing the father?

Yeah, the Greek actually says, quoting the father directly “What is this ‘If you can’ you are saying.”  I’ll have to think about what to do there. But you are right, the quotation marks are not necessary for an indirect quotation.

14:22 – “taking a loaf of bread and blessing” Should there be an it after blessing to indicate that the bread was being blessed?

Here, the Greek word for blessing is also the Greek word often used to mean “giving thanks,” or “praising.”  Jesus was actually blessing God, not the food particularly, but blessing in the sense of praising God for it.  The lesson is, you bless the food by praising God for it. I remember making it deliberately ambiguous so that people would stop and think.  Catholics would have an easier time understanding it, since they use those words more interchangeably than Protestants do.  I guess I should make a footnote explaining it.

Dad

Lying Is Arrogance

In the epistle of James, chapter 3, verse 14, he says, “But if you have bitter jealousy and rivalry in your hearts, do not make yourselves superior to the truth and lie against it.”

This is an amazingly simple but universal truth: when we lie, we are rejecting the truth, and inventing our own reality to substitute for the true reality. This means we are arrogant, because we are making ourselves superior to reality. Making ourselves superior to the truth. Lying, and liars, are a mental illness. But so is any personal reality we prop up to replace God’s reality. It is insane, and evil. Evil and mental illness go hand in hand. They are both chicken and egg simultaneously. Mental illness causes evil, and evil causes mental illness. All because we make ourselves superior to the truth.

James 3:14

Accidental Scribal Addition

An Accidental Scribal Addition in DRP translation of Revelation

I finished translating the Apocalypse of John in April, 2006.  And now in August 2016, as I am making my TR and RP editions, I discovered a scribal error on my part.  In Rev. 16:11, I wrote in English “they reviled the name of the God of heaven.”  But the Greek only says ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸν θεὸν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, they reviled the God of heaven.  So, I made a scribal addition of the words “the name of.”  Even though my exemplar had the correct text.  Why did I accidentally do this?  Because two verses prior, the same word ἐβλασφήμησαν was followed by τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ, “they reviled the name of God,” and I was familiar with that phrase from just having translated that verse.  See immediately below my translation as it stood from April 2006 to August 2016.

16:9 καὶ ἐκαυματίσθησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι καῦμα μέγα, καὶ ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἔχοντος τὴν ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ τὰς πληγὰς ταύτας, καὶ οὐ μετενόησαν δοῦναι αὐτῷ δόξαν.
⁹And the people were burned a very bad burn, and they reviled the name of God, the one having authority over these plagues; yet they did not repent to give him glory.

16:11 καὶ ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸν θεὸν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐκ τῶν πόνων αὐτῶν καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἑλκῶν αὐτῶν, καὶ οὐ μετενόησαν ἐκ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῶν.
¹¹and they reviled the name of the God of heaven, because of their pains and because of their ulcers, yet they did not repent of their works.

I looked in Hoskier’s apparatus to find out if any ancient scribes made the same mistake which I did, and lo, two of them did indeed make the same addition.

The minuscule 1957 reads in v. 11, ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ, an exact duplication of the previous phrase in v. 9, even without the τοῦ οὐρανοῦ of v. 11.

The Philoxenian Syriac in v. 11 reads ἐβλασφήμησαν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.  My translation was an exact translation of the Philoxenian Syriac, without my knowledge or intent.

So, when you see the UBS Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament speculate that a phrase found in the BYZ text but not found in the UBS text, and they say it was added because of scribal familiarity with that phrase a couple verses prior, I can personally attest how that can and does happen.