Authority of Lexicons, Pt. 4, Avoiding “Repetition”

Repetition as the BANE of the Translator

We must have something NEW. Always, and everytime. We just can’t stand still, we must move on to more “modern” expression.

It seems the translator of the Bible today is afraid of being “boring” to his/her audience. In the translator’s mind, it is urgent to break with the old boring tradition, and translate into “exciting” modern English. Or, for those translating into Spanish, and other languages of the world, they have the same problem. So they think.

KAI is AND, or IS IT?

Let’s go back to the most used conjunction in the New Covenant text. That is, the Koiné Greek text. For it is here that the new translator of today finds the field to play. Because of the instructions in the Lexicons and the “reason” for Lexicons, the translator today claims full freedom to translate, in essence, according to his own preference. Of course, as one translator wrote me, “the Lexicons do not give us that freedom”. That is a paraphrase of his comment. However, like it or not, that is exactly what the Lexicons do, and they indirectly admit it. Because of adding to the Lexicons the “suggested” OTHER possible ways of translating a word, Pandora’s Box is opened to a chaos in translation. If it were not so, then you could not have the examples I gave in the last post.

I would like to suggest to all who think that KAI, [and of course all the other Greek words] can be translated by a dozen or more English meanings does not make it so.

Let’s ask a question. No, let’s ask more than one question? WHO caused the writing of the text of the New Covenant? Was it man, or the Creator of man? If you believe it was man, then there is no need to read any further. Just continue with your chaotic translations. However, if you answer that it was the Creator of man, then that is a whole different story. For, if He is the ultimate Author of the text, then there is a reason that KAI was used as often as it was in producing the text.

Another question. WHEN YOU look at the Greek text do you see any other word in place of KAI? Or, in every place where it was written, is it not there as KAI? Sounds like a silly question doesn’t it. But, if you read the translations you will NEVER be able to know where to place KAI if you are translating back into Greek. Why? Because there are other words for THEN, NEXT, etc. So, unless you have memorized the text, there is no way to be 100% sure.

Another question. WHEN a Greek person of the first century read the text, did they change the meaning each time they came to the word KAI? Did they say in their mind, oh, here it means then, here it means now, here next, oh, look, there it means and, etc.?

Final question, for now? WHEN a first century reader read the text, did he or she get BORED with reading so many KAI’s? Did they say, “Wow, what a boring text, I hope someone retranslates this so it isn’t boring.”?

The bottom line is this, then, or and, next, perhaps so, or now. The translator believes KAI does not mean only AND, but has all kinds of shades of meaning that can be expressed in English in order not to be boring. Yet, the real bottom line is this. With this kind of false reasoning, there is no way any English text can be accurately retranslated back into Greek to make sure the translation is accurate. So, to them, KAI isn’t AND, except when they want it to be. Otherwise, it will be something else. Now, let’s read what the A&G reviser and editor has to say about this:

Because of its rich morphological reservoir Greek can be minimalist in its vocabulary compared to English. A seemingly endless variety of connotative possibilities can enrich the meaning of a lexeme, which the English language in its own way is able to color by drawing on its vast repertoire of synonyms within a specific semantic set. For example, the repeated us of KAI in a Greek text does not elicit the boredom that might be hazarded by the repetition of “and” in a translation of such text. Nor is this to ber interpreted along the lines: it takes a lexicographer to love it. The syntagmatic setting in Greek itself provides pleasing varieties of color in the use of KAI, but these variations must be reproduced in English with a corresponding variety of expressions to AVOID AN “AND” BANALITY. P. 26, Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography, Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker, c. 2004, Lexical Evolution and Linguistic Hazard, FrederickWilliam Danker

Read carefully, we can see that the need is to avoid boredom and banality for the translator and lexicographer under the guise of not boring the reader of the final text.

By the way, it just so happens that the KJV translation, and the Concordant Literal Translation has chapter 8 of Revelation translated correctly with KAI, and anyone wanting to retranslate into Greek would get the KAI right.

Now, isn’t that what we should all want? A translation that is capable of reverse translation? Why not? Then we would know we weren’t being snowed.

Finally, take this little test. Take Berry’s Interlinear and read Revelation, or any other book in the NT, and when you come to KAI, read it only as AND and then tell me, or yourself, where is a verse where AND would not work, and work accurately in conveying what was originally preserved in the Greek text. AND, comes through in English translation without losing any meaning? If you find a real one I would like to know about it.

Coming in another article: WHEN is “ordained” not “ordained” in the OB translation? AND, where?

Author: Bob Petry

Student of the Bible since 1953. And am still learning.