Editor’s Note: The following background is necessary to understand some of the dated references to be found in this article.
The History of “The Concordant Library”
Originally issued in serialized fascicles, the first complete printed edition of The Concordant Version of the Sacred Scriptures was called “The Complete Edition.” Printed in 1926, it contained the Greek Text, with sublinear word-for-word translation, the resultant idiomatic Version, and Commentary Notes by the Translator. The Greek text with sublinear and Commentary Notes were not included in any subsequent edition. They were, however, printed in separate volumes (The Concordant Greek Text, and, The Concordant Commentary of the New Testament).
The next major edition was issued in 1931, simply called “The Concordant Version of the Sacred Scriptures.” It contained the Version, as well as The Analytical Concordance, and The Greek Elements. The latter two works have been subsequently printed as separate volumes.
The article below was written in 1939, in preparation of the next major edition of the Concordant Version for printing. Referred to here as the proposed “Keyword Edition,” when finally issued in 1944, it was, in fact, called “The International Edition.” It included The Keyword Concordance (which was once also printed as a separate volume). It was the first major revision of the Version, reflecting advances Mr. Knoch had made while preparing the German Concordant Version, hence the designation “International.” This edition first introduces the use of lightface type to indicate words not found in the text and superscript markings to indicate features of the Greek text, such as verb tenses, plural number, presence of the definite article, besides Greek words omitted (as reflected by lightface English words, added for readability; such lightface words, however, sometimes do correspond to such considerations as Greek case endings, etc.). These are common features familiar to users of the current edition of The Concordant Version.
In 1966 a revised edition was published, entitled The Concordant Literal New Testament. It was designated “The Memorial Edition” because Mr. Knoch had been laid to repose the previous year. The most recent revision was the current 1976 edition; retaining the title, The Concordant Literal New Testament, it has been reprinted several times.
This article describes the role of the translator in dealing with the tension existing between the rigid and ultra-literal sublinear word-for-word translation, and the idiomatic English Version.
What is a Version?
THE TURNING of the Sacred Scriptures into languages other than those in which they were written has been done in a variety of ways, which we may designate, according to their literal adherence to the text, sublinears or interlinears, literal translations, translations, and versions. Each one has its advantages and shortcomings. The CONCORDANT VERSION seeks to be of the greatest service by giving both extremes, a detailed sublinear and an idiomatic version, supplemented by a concordance. In the proposed Keyword edition the sublinear will be partly replaced by signs in the text and by explanations in the concordance.
The complete version, with the companion volume, gives the reason why for most of the facts in the sublinear and the version, but, as idiomatic changes are not usually concordant, they have been ignored as not pertaining to the plan, as well as being self-evident in most cases. This no-man’s land between the sublinear and the version is of special interest to many. A few find the apparent lack of uniformity inconsistent with the aim of the version, forgetting that they would not even have known this if they did not have the sublinear, which alone can be uniform. For all such as desire further information in these things we have jotted down a paragraph occasionally, and now combine these into an article, to show the need for non-uniformity in a version, and also reveal the effort made to make even this irregularity consistent within its limits.
As it will be necessary to use grammatical and other terms with which some of our readers may not be fully familiar, we will define them as occasion arises. Thus even the unlearned student will find it easy to follow our explanations if he has a version at hand and consults the Greek, sublinear and version of each passage, as it is discussed.
As we have often been asked why the version varies from the sublinear, and why it differs from such works as Young’s Literal Translation and Rotherham’s Emphasized Version, as well as others, we will seek to make clear that the object before the translator was different in each case, and this affects their renderings. This may be understood better when I say that the Keyword CONCORDANT VERSION will differ slightly from the present text, because it is not accompanied by a sublinear. With a sublinear, a word in the Greek could be omitted if the English did not need it, because the reader had the sublinear at hand. But in the Keyword every word must be accounted for, even if it can only be indicated by a sign. The article will be represented in several thousand instances, when it cannot appear in English, by a dot.
One of the first translations which interested me, other than the Authorized and Revised Versions, was Rotherham’s Emphasized. As a zealous seeker after truth, I was delighted with some of his passages, as quoted to me by a friend. Others could not bear the queer English, so I did not obtain a copy for myself until much later, when I wished to study the subject of emphasis. Here, also, I was disappointed, for, in reading it aloud with the stress as indicated, it did not seem to suit the context as a rule. Some things seemed over-emphasized, others not enough. I also hoped to get help with his vocabulary, but here also I found nothing because our plans were so different in practice. Although much more uniform than others, it was not sufficiently so to aid me. Yet I am very fond of Rotherham, though he convinced me that a combined “Version-Sublinear” was not practicable. A version must be idiomatic, like English, and a literal sublinear must be like Greek; a mixture of the two makes an incompatible hybrid. So I chose rather to separate these two into a sublinear like Greek, and a version like English.
Yet even versions differ in their aim. There are traditional versions, which cling to the past, in which the language cleaves quite closely to the original, and “modern” versions, which not only use up-to-date phraseology, but are to a large extent “running commentaries,” as Weymouth himself characterized his work. We seek to avoid both of these extremes, to use such language as Tyndale would have used were he living today, and to be as accurate as Weymouth would have been if he had lived in Tyndale’s day.
In revising the version we have been impressed with the thought that all versions, from their very nature, must be full of minor deviations. So we would like to distinguish between a translation and a version, using the former term, in a special sense, for something between a version and a sublinear, in which the order of the words, the grammar and the rendering are close to the Greek, while, in a version, these things vary from the Greek and conform to English usage. A literal translation can be made quite uniform, and gives rise to little difference of opinion, but a version may vary in various directions, so that, of different renderings, several may be “correct,” according to the viewpoint of the one who makes it.
Some, including ourselves, would like to see all the words rendered uniformly or consistently, even at the expense of other things. Others lay more stress on grammatical uniformity, and would use a variety of words to attain this. Again, it is a question whether the order of the words is as important, or more so, than identical grammar. One of our associates wishes to preserve the participle wherever possible. Others think that this is not idiomatic. All of this shows that, in fact, a version is a continual deviation from the exact facts of the original, and demands, not merely knowledge, but judgment, in its compilation. It calls for a continual weighing of the evidence, and often it is necessary to give one decision where it would be much easier to give two or three alternatives.
Faithfulness or “exactitude” is a very different thing in a version, and in a sublinear. The latter must be literal, and calls for comparatively little judgment in its determination. A version, however, though it may be literal so long as Greek and English run parallel, is especially valuable and faithful when it departs from literality in case this is misleading. Hence, even when based on a sublinear, it consists of deviations from it, mostly to give the language fluency, but also to express the proper sense. In the sublinear it is a question of the meaning of words, in the version of their usage. Hence they are not always the same. In a sublinear, the remote contexts, the other occurrences of the same forms, are the determining factor, while a version is concerned with the immediate context. There is a continual conflict between these two. A contentious translator will only stir up strife. A conciliating hand alone can bring satisfaction and repose.
NEAR AND FAR CONTEXT
To show how the two systems —concord with the near and with the remote contexts— clash, let us consider Hebrews 13:3, “Be mindful of those bound, as bound together; of those maltreated, as being yourselves also in the body.” The remote contexts require that we change those bound to prisoners, as this word is always so rendered elsewhere. It seems a pity to break the uniformity by rendering it bound in this single passage. But the meaning is the same, and the near context practically forces us to change, in order to conform to, and help the connection with “as bound together,” as well as maintaining a harmony with those maltreated. The remote contexts call for prisoner, the near context demands bound.
Since the essence of a version consists in varying from the Greek to fit English diction or idiom, anyone should be able to find “departures from the original,” “distortions,” “perversions,” etc., in almost every line. For instance, the first line of the CONCORDANT VERSION (the scroll of the lineage), contains two glaring blunders, for the Greek has no article before either the word “scroll” or the word “lineage.” Some will insist that these are unwarranted and unpardonable additions to the Word of God, yet others are horrified at the English when the article is omitted. So do not be disturbed if the version is criticized because of its additions or omissions, its changes or contradictions, for all these must be there, or it would not be a version at all. From this it is clear that a translator must be a confirmed criminal, for he is forced to “change the word of God” in nearly every sentence. He must pass the death sentence upon himself to avoid the eternal torment to which the critics consign him for his uncounted crimes.
To one who seeks to do justice to the vocabulary, the grammar, and the emphasis of the Greek, and seeks to put all on as broad a basis as possible, the making of a version is a continual conciliation of clashing forces, and a constant exercise of judgment so as to use his knowledge wisely, and avoid the worst of two or more evils, while compelled to introduce into his work the lesser one. Here we have a good word, but the grammar will need to be violated if we employ it. There the emphasis seems so important that the grammar is once more desecrated. Yet in other cases it is the reverse. Usually the vocabulary is given first place, then the grammar, followed by the emphasis. But this order may vary according to the context. In Hebrew poetry, for instance, the order of the words may be deemed more essential than the grammar if it does not vitally change the sense, for it is essential to the diction.
Since this is so, do not be unduly distressed if someone points out a place in the CONCORDANT VERSION where it has “departed from the Greek.” The best course probably would be to show the critic several more in the same sentence, when this can be done. If anyone specializes on vocabulary, he can find quite a few idiomatic variations, thousands of cases where the connective differs from the sublinear and other occurrences, and such “errors.” If he specializes in grammar, he can probably find many more. Few specialize in emphasis, but I have spent many months at it, and I regret that the grammar often hinders the proper placing of the words. I have been trying to “specialize” on a combination of all the features and do constructive work, that is, find a rendering which gives the proper emphasis with the correct vocabulary and grammar. The greatest lack in the present CONCORDANT VERSION is in the emphasis, and this we are specially seeking to improve.
To illustrate what is meant let us consider a suggested rendering of Acts 14:1. The Greek is: BECAME YET IN ICONIUM according-to THE SAME. The CONCORDANT VERSION reads: “Now in Iconium the same thing occurred.” I am asked to change this to “Now in Iconium it occurred in accord with the same thing.” I freely acknowledge that the idiomatic rendering leaves out a Greek word entirely. It will be indicated by
ac in the Keyword edition. I may be greatly mistaken, but I cannot recognize the change as English. I have never seen any like it. If some great truth were at stake I would gladly adopt it and trust to time to make it idiomatic. But we say “the same thing” with “occurred” when we mean another of like nature. Without further evidence I am not inclined to make the change. It is neither Greek nor English, for the words are one and the idiom the other — a mongrel mixture.
In our attempts to make a version we should seek to avoid compromise, so that we produce a hybrid thing, which is neither fish nor fowl, neither literal nor idiomatic. A version, like a sublinear, should be extreme. Just as a sublinear should be impossible English, so a version should be impossible Greek. Those who criticize the sublinear because it is poor English are no more lacking than those who object to the version because it is poor Greek. There are and must be, disagreements and divergences.
Let us further illustrate these abstract ideas by a longer example. At the same time we will be able to explain some features of the proposed Keyword edition, which seeks to combine advantages of both version and translation by means of a concordance and special signs in the text. We will take the words spoken by the woman of Samaria to the men of her city (John 4:28), “Come hither! Lo! there is a Man Who told me all whatever I do. Is not this the Christ?” The sublinear reads:
HITHER BE-PERCEIVING human WHO said to-ME
ALL as-much-as I-DO NO-ANY this is THE ANOINTED
It will be seen, in this simple speech, that we have added and altered and omitted words which are in the original. The first question is, Why? The second one is, Can it be improved? That it is open to criticism we soon will see, but we shall also see that all versions are liable to this, for they are obliged to deviate from absolute uniformity with the pattern.
HITHER, OR COME HITHER
The Greek adverb, deuro, is usually used in a figurative sense for the verb, come hither, just as in English. Usually they correspond perfectly. But there are passages where the English demands that we add the verb come. When our Lord called Lazarus from the tomb, He simply said “Hither! Out!” (John 4:29; 11:43). That is how I would like to render it. But I have never seen an English version without the verb. It is too abrupt for us. So I have rendered it “[Come] out hither!” So also in the narrative of Acts 7:3. It was said to Abraham, “and [come] hither into the land...” The come seems necessary to us. So it seemed to me in John 4:29. But, in time, especially in case we are conversant with the Greek, the force of such a necessity may weaken. Now, it seems to me that we can manage without the verb in this passage. So I have canceled it.
It will be seen that this is not a question of “right” or “wrong,” but of delicate nuances and various viewpoints. Hither! as a passionate command needs no verb. The heat of the moment drops all words not absolutely essential. But the quiet statement, “you shall [come] hither” demands a verb. Two practical considerations would eliminate the “come” in connection with this word. As a separate word it may be confused with the Greek word erchomai, COME. It is needed very seldom to reinforce hither. Hence, in the Keyword edition come, when used to help hither, will be printed in lightface type, to show that it is not in the Greek, in the few instances where it seems needed. Perhaps, in time, it may be dispensed with altogether. The use of this device may hasten this process, for many who use the Keyword version will omit the words not in the Greek.
Let me repeat, the two renderings, “Hither!” and “[Come] hither!” may both be justified, for the action of this verb lies in the adverb. In changing to “Hither!” I am aware that some may say it is too harsh, too commanding. The woman would hardly order the men of Samaria to go out. She would soften it, had she spoken English, by the word “come.” But this, again, is a question of habit. As the other occurrences of the word, without come, in the Scriptures, are not harsh, they will help to soften this passage. Let us not overemphasize such distinctions. The sense of the passage remains the same in either case.
PERCEIVE, OR LO, OR SEE
Western languages, as a rule, do not possess a good verb which includes knowledge gained by the use of all of the organs of sensation, such as the Greek eidoo, PERCEIVE. This has cost me much labor and is largely responsible for making the CONCORDANT VERSION “peculiar.” In English we overdo the use of the word “see,” and employ it as a near metonymy for the exercise of all our organs of sensation. When we go to see anyone, we go to make his acquaintance through the medium of other senses as well as sight. Even a blind man can “see” his friends. It is a good figure, and well understood, but, in making a concordant version, where we wish to distinguish seeing and hearing from perceiving with all the senses, it creates a difficult situation.
Were it not for English usage or “idiom” we would simply transcribe our sublinear, “Be perceiving [a] human.” That would give the sense very closely, and amount to this: Use all your senses in making the acquaintance of this [not male man, but] human being. As a matter of fact the narrative lays all the stress on what they heard, not on what they saw. The woman was not impressed with the effect on her eyes but on her ears. She tells the men what He had said to her. She does not describe His appearance at all. And, when all was done, they declared that “we have heard Him, and we are aware...” (4:42). Even in English, a better figure would be hear, rather than see.
In seeking to keep see separate from perceive, I found an agreeable substitute in our exclamatory particle lo, in the imperative. Although it is usually given as the equivalent of see, it seems to have a wider usage, more like the word attention! So it seems quite a suitable rendering for perceive in the imperative. In the complete state, and in a few other cases, the verbs be aware, and be acquainted seem to be especially good renderings of this difficult verb. In fact the word acquaint seems the best when used of persons. So that, if we cannot well say “Perceive a Man” we can say “Lo, [a] Man,” or “Acquaint [yourselves with a] Man.” The latter brings out the sense most clearly, but the former seems far more fitting under the circumstances.
I was under the impression that “Lo! [a] man...” is too abrupt for English, so I inserted the words [there is]. Ordinarily we do not say lo! something, but use it only as an independent exclamation. This, however, jars when the grammar of the Greek, as anthroopon (human) is the object of the verb PERCEIVE (lo!). Putting in there is makes it the subject of another verb. The sense is changed from “Perceive a Man” to “a Man there is.” Of course it comes to the same thing, nevertheless we seek to avoid such changes when it can be done. Yet we must face the fact that in thousands of cases the grammar of English and Greek stubbornly disagree. The simplest things, such as singular and plural, cannot always be carried over. The gender is often different. These things must be “wrong” in a version to some extent, or it would not be a version at all. All will agree that the addition of there is does not really use is as a separate verb, but as an auxiliary to lo, making it transitive. It is an idiomatic phrase, in which there does not denote the place where, or is existence, both together as a phrase make it possible to add an object to the intransitive verb lo. Try it out with the verb look!
I find, however, that the exclamation Lo! can be used in English without there is, and with an object following. Indeed, I have so rendered it myself in 1 John 3:1: “Lo! what manner of love...” It has the sense of perceive in these cases. That it is exclamatory in this passage seems obvious from the context. The woman was very strongly moved. That is why she did not merely say “Come” but “Hither!” And “Acquaint yourselves with,” in English, seems too labored for the occasion, when the same thought can be more forcefully indicated by the wondering and arresting lo!
There may be times when it seems that we are compelled to use see for perceive, as in John 1:39, “Come and see.” We will go through the whole list again and seek to reduce these to a minimum. Moreover, in such cases, we may put a small italic superior p (
p) in front of the word, thus
psee, and list these as idiomatic in the Keyword concordance. It does not seem wise to change to see in the passage before us, (See [a] Man) simply to preserve the supposed grammar of the word Man, in a case where this is not at all vital.
To distinguish the word PERCEIVE from the verbs SEE, BEHOLD, etc., is one of the difficult problems which the CONCORDANT VERSION seeks to solve. One who has not faced it in its entirety has no conception of the labor involved, or the many unimportant yet vexing variations which this makes in the grammar. To get the correct conception of the meaning of this word is far more profitable than preserving superficial grammatical uniformity, regardless of difficulties.
HUMAN OR MAN
As we have often spoken of the lack in our language, which forces us to use the same word “man” of a human being as well as of a mature male, we will not enlarge on it again in this connection. Years of work on a German version has deepened the desire to introduce the word human, as a noun, into English. I am thankful that we were bold enough to put it in the sublinear. I hoped that we could transfer it to the Version some day. There has been a faint response, but by far too feeble to warrant its use in the Version yet. Here also, the truth lover will say the version is “wrong,” yet the unsympathetic would say that human is “impossible,” “peculiar,” “freakish,” etc. In either case we will be condemned for the word we retain.
TOLD OR SAID
The word ”said” has a peculiar weakness in English, as compared with the Greek, as shown in this passage. There is no good reason why we cannot say “Who said to me all...” It simply is not done. So here again the right is wrong and the wrong right, according as we look at it from the Greek or English standpoint. I would say that “said” is wrong in a version but right in a sublinear or translation. The distinction, however, is not usually vital, as the impression conveyed is the same in English, so we will not pursue a point of no practical import.
WHICH-WHICH OR WHATEVER
For our whatever the Greek has a very expressive term, which-which. Perhaps we can understand it better if we change one which to that, and render it “all that-which I do.” We certainly cannot transcribe the Greek and say, “all which-which I do.” Our word whatever fits almost all cases, so it must be a close equivalent of the Greek. But we cannot claim absolute conformity in our renderings.
NOT OR NO-ANY
The transference of the Greek negatives into English is an intricate problem. That is why, in the proposed Keyword edition, we have recourse to special devices in order to keep them distinct. In the sublinear of the complete edition we have made the relative negative (mê) NO, and the absolute negative (ouk) NOT, but their difference is not very clearly registered by these English words. Yet they at least indicate the fact of a distinction, which the student can supply from a consideration of the contexts. In the Keyword edition we hope to transfer this to the version by making it no[t] (with a weak t) when it should be no, and no
t (with a small t added) when it should be not.
The many combinations which contain these negatives make the matter still more complicated. Here, for instance, we have NO-ANY, and the only possible English rendering seems to be not. The meaning seems to be “Is not [this by] any [chance]...” In the Keyword this will appear as no[t]
a, with a weak t and a small high italic a, to indicate any. In German we can express it by nicht etwa. Here again, all English versions are “wrong,” or at least they fall short. The only way to remedy the matter is by a sublinear or by artificial indications such as those used in the Keyword. At least I have never seen a very successful rendering of the syllable ANY.
THE ORDER OF THE WORDS
Once we get the sense fairly well fixed, the emphasis will claim our attention, and the order of the words demands recognition. Most of the changes in the Keyword edition are concerned with this matter. The first sentence in the passage before us follows the order of the Greek exactly so that in this particular it is quite correct. But in the second we encounter a difficulty which often confronts us in this work. English does not, as a rule, allow the negative at the beginning of a sentence, though, quite often, it is the most emphatic thing in it.
We have purposely chosen a passage which we can all consider dispassionately, and which some would not deem of any particular importance, even if it has been translated with much variety in various versions. The general sense is sufficiently clear in all of them so that no serious misunderstanding can result. The Revisers have placed the word “Can” in the question in place of the negative, thus: “Can this be the Christ?” Aside from our principle of cleaving as closely as possible to the words of the original, even in a version, may not this suggest a lingering doubt on the part of the woman rather than challenging any contradiction on the part of the men? In this case the spirit of the Revised Version does not appeal to me.
Disregarding English usage, we might render this thus: “No[t by] ANY [chance] THIS [One] is the Anointed!?” It seems to be an exclamation as well as a question, and to challenge contradictions by putting the negative at the very commencement of the sentence. But in English it seems practically impossible to give it the proper emphasis, either by position or in reading, especially as the following word demands even more stress, being a purely emphatic addition to the sentence. So that, in fact, all English versions are forced to fail in this regard. We hope to put one or two heavier letters to show the emphasis. As this is impracticable here we will use italics. We have indicated the emphasis thus, for the Keyword. Try it out by reading it forcefully aloud: Hither! Lo! a Man Who told Me all whatever I do. Is not
a this the Christ?
Those who use the sublinear in their studies are usually strongly inclined to a literal rendering, regardless of the English, and some carry this so far as to look askance at any rendering which is otherwise. No one can object to this, for the sublinear was made in order to enable them to get the facts as they are in the Greek apart from English idiom. Yet I fear the most ardent students, including ourselves, are apt to carry this to extremes in our attitude toward the version. If this is simply to be a repetition of the sublinear it is of no use, and should not have been made. As we have a literal rendering, there is no such need of literality in our version as in the case of those renderings which seek to combine a literal with an idiomatic version. We are free to be idiomatic, so long as the sense is clearly preserved, and the principles of consistency and exclusiveness are not violated, for these must be kept, if it is to remain a concordant version.
In all of our writing we seek to use only such words and constructions as will be understood by all English readers, in any part of the world. We avoid peculiar or provincial language. But even this course has its weakness, for we are all inclined to think the best of English odd if it is otherwise than the speech of those about us. We speak of the King’s English. I well remember the first time that the King of England spoke over the radio so that he could be heard in far off California. My son was anxious to listen in, and hear what the King’s English is like. But he was taught a salutary lesson, for he could hardly understand it, seeing that the enunciation and pronunciation differed so from what he had been taught in school. What is the King’s English? In the United States the unchallenged standard for words is Webster’s Dictionary. In England I take it that the Oxford Dictionary is recognized as a rule, among the several works of this nature.
But when we go beyond words to constructions the confusion grows. An experience I have just had may help to illustrate and confirm this. To be safe, I have added three works on English to my tools, “The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English,” “The King’s English,” and “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage.” They are all from the Clarendon Press, Oxford, and one of the authors of each is the same person. I have dipped into “The King’s English” a bit and have had several shocks. The first paragraph of the Preface ends thus: “...it merely shows that they have been among the necessarily limited number chosen to collect instances from.” The sentence ends with from, a “preposition” or connective. I still remember one of the rules intended to keep us from using bad English, given us in the lower grades in school: “Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.” We thought it a witty way of putting it, for the rule disobeyed its own command. Therefore it remained in my memory, and I have seldom committed this literary crime.
But now, what shall I think? In the very beginning of a book on “The King’s English,” which I am bound to recognize as the highest authority, I find this construction. As an editor, I would have changed this sentence to read “it merely shows that they are among the few chosen from which to collect instances.” Now I am glad to have the consciousness that I have never condemned or ridiculed anyone for this fault. But I still feel that a connective is more naturally placed between the words it joins, rather than at the end of a sentence, where it stretches its hand out to vacuity.
Now, turning to the first chapter, I find that it begins, “ANY one who...” Again I am perplexed. So I turn up the point in the “Dictionary of Usage,” which is intended to settle such matters, and, to my astonishment I find that it recommends “ANYONE,” not “ANY one,” one word, not two. One book, in practice, uses what the other volume disapproves! I suppose that the printer of one did not use the other! My rule is simple. When the one is a numeral, meaning single, it should be a separate word, but when it simply fills out a word it ought to be joined to it. The one exception seems to be the negative no one. Even here, the old word none might be extended in its usage, except that, in many instances, the emphasis would suffer.
Is it not evident, from these examples, that many a usage which we would condemn may be sanctioned by the highest authorities, and therefore it is more a matter of disposition than of knowledge? One who is well disposed can find evidence in favor of any one or anyone, but, if he is otherwise inclined, he can prove that either or both are wrong. And if it is a work which seeks to bring God’s truth nearer to the people, the Adversary, who is a counterworker, will see to it that men take his point of view. I have used these examples because they occur in works of the very highest character, in order to show that the very best of scholars have need of sympathetic kindliness, and hope that each one of us, however high our attainments may be, may learn to look graciously on the failings of others, lest, at some time, they may prove to be our own.
Lest I should be judging the work unjustly, or according to my ignorance, or even by American standards, I sought for further light in the proper place, under prepositions.” At the very end of the chapter is a bracketed note acknowledging that the “Superstition against ending clause or sentence with a preposition” is a “widespread belief.” It refers readers to an article in Modern English Usage on the subject. As a superstition consists in “credulity regarding the supernatural,” and a belief is the “acceptance as true or existing (of any fact or statement)” according to the Oxford Dictionary, these words cannot be intended literally, but figuratively. They are a product of feeling rather than of fact. It seems that a reviewer had condemned The King’s English out of hand on the ground that the first paragraph of the preface ended in a preposition. But the non-use of late prepositions is not supernatural, nor is it a fact, so I do not feel that I am guilty of superstition or of misguided faith.
Turning to the article in Modern English Usage on “Preposition at End,” we find this offensive language repeated. It is called a “cherished superstition,” yet “a very general belief.” Dryden, it seems, an knowledged English master, actually went through all his prefaces “contriving away the final prepositions.” A number of examples are given from leading English authors. One acquainted with the formation of Greek verbs will be struck with the fact that in English we also combine the so-called “preposition” with the verb in sense, though not in form. For instance “shine upon” is really the same as ON- SHINE. So it is usually a part of the verb which comes at the end of these sentences. They are connectives, but do not connect, for the next member either has been or is not expressed. They modify the sense of the verb. In such cases they should not be judged as “prepositions,” but rather as “postpositions,” according to Webster’s Dictionary.
The final advice is based on the feelings of the writer: If the construction sounds comfortable at the end or has compensating vigour, use it. I imagine that the expert himself was far from comfortable when he found that his whole work had been condemned because he had ended its first paragraph with “to collect instances from.” Would it not be more comfortable to use another verb for collect-from? Why not say “to supply [furnish, provide] instances.” If we wish to keep the word collect, it would be terse, vigorous, understandable English to simply say, “to collect instances,” leaving the from to the imagination. I have the feeling that the from is uncomfortable by itself, stretching out its hand in the dark, as it were, like a brave connective, but finding nothing to grasp [or take hold of!].
Pardon another personal experience! As a young typesetter I took the liberty once of using the “commercial” and (&) character, the ampersand, because there was not room enough in the line for the word itself. Though a half century has intervened, I have not forgotten the utter disgust on the part of the foreman, that such a gross stylistic error should be committed in our chapel. Yet he patiently explained to me that this character must not be used in anything except firm names. And ever since I have looked upon all printing which broke this rule as of the lowest grade. Yet here is a volume which assumes to be the authority in such matters, yet the word “and” seems to be replaced by & throughout! I know that it is of no consequence, yet it makes uncomfortable reading, and leaves a poor impression. I would not care to use it even in the sublinear of the version, though perhaps I would if it were of any practical advantage.
BRITISH AND AMERICAN SPELLING
Occasionally I have seriously considered the advisability of inserting the u in such words as favour and honour, especially in the version, so as to avoid the prejudice which rejects everything American. With this in view I turned up the article on -OUR & -OR, and was agreeably impressed by the following:
Our first notification that the book we are reading is not English but American is often, nowadays, the sight of an -or. “Yankee” we say, & congratulate ourselves on spelling like gentlemen, we wisely decline to regard it as a matter for argument; the English way cannot but be better than the American way; that is enough. Most of us, therefore, do not come to the question with an open mind. Those who are willing to put national prejudice aside & examine the facts quickly realize, first, that the British -our words are much fewer in proportion to the -or words than they supposed, &, secondly, that there seems to be no discoverable line between the two sets so based on principle as to serve any useful purpose. By the side of our favour is horror, beside ardour pallor, beside odour tremor, & so forth....when some general reform of spelling is consented to, reduction of -our to -or will be one of the least disputed items, or, failing general reform, we shall see word after word in -our go the way of governour. It is not worth while to resist such a gradual change....
In view of these admissions, it does not seem wise to insert the u, though I am sure that our American friends would not object, and would gladly accommodate themselves to the desires of others in such a trivial matter. To carry it out consistently, especially in matter already in type, would cost a considerable sum, besides much labo[u]r, and this may all be fruitless if a change is made. The American idea of adapting the language to the purpose of communicating ideas with as little useless ballast as possible, rather than keeping it fit for display in a museum of antiquities, is the natural outcome of the strenuous life which some of them were forced to live. When engaged in an argument with Indians they needed the lead for bullets, so cast out these idle mutes. As they are now falling into disrepute in English also, we will anticipate their exit from the British spellers, asking the indulgence of all who find our manners in this matter uncouth and ungentlemanly.
It seems as if the story is true which represents an Englishman in America asking for the name which is given to those who pursue no gainful vocation for a living. “We call them the gentry,” said he. “We call them tramps,” said the American, whose knowledge of the literary language was somewhat limited. It seems that people and letters which serve some utilitarian purpose do so at the risk of their social standing. Yet even after they have attained it they may revert to their former states. The well-known instance of pig being confined to the animal when in the care of Saxon herdsmen but pork when on the table of their French lords, is an example. Pig is too low to fall further, but pork has reverted to its low origin in the derivatives porker and porkling.
I confess to a certain amount of impatience, if not repugnance, in regard to mere, elegance, or euphony of style, not only in a version but also in other writings intended to open up the Word of God. But a version cannot ride rough shod over the feelings of its readers without repelling them. A well worded phrase may often be, an artful aid to the memory. The foregoing sentence is intended to be an example and a test of this fact. After reading it over a few times, emphasizing the italicized letters, almost anyone will be able to repeat it if given one word or phrase as a reminder. It has rhythm and rhyme. It is not true poetry, for it lacks elevation of thought. But it should not be despised on that account, and condemned as futile jingle, for it fulfills an important function if it assists the memory and smooths the way in reading. But such aids have a very limited sphere in a version, and consist largely in the insertion of weak syllables between two emphatic ones in order to aid in reading.
I find fossils interesting, but I do not care to be one, or to make a fossil version. Fossils are dead, though unburied, like the religion of Christendom. It craves a fossil version, to accord with its own condition. What we need is a living version, pulsing with words that breathe, and move, and work, which are our companions in our week-day life, not our Sunday death. Yet this should not be carried to unnecessary extremes. If the past contains an expression which has no modern equivalent, and is really needed to complete our vocabulary, we should not hesitate to bring it back to life by contact with the living oracles. A translator must peer ahead, not look behind. He will be read in the future, not in the past. The inscriptions on gravestones are doubtless interesting, but the inhabitants of a cemetery will not buy the Bible. Our most ambitious dictionaries are largely useless for translation, as they record what has been, not what will be. Tyndale, in his day, did not use the language of Wycliffe, nor would he use his own ancient vocabulary were he in the twentieth century. Let us seek to sense the trend of the language, especially among those who are less bound by tradition, and anticipate the standard diction of tomorrow. But let us make it our special endeavor to mo[u]ld the language where necessary so as to be a better receptacle for God’s revelation. We have more right to do this than those who express the thoughts of men. In fact it is our duty to do it, in order to reveal the heart of God.
Some forms that are in common use today are not yet archaic, but are rapidly becoming so. We should try to anticipate this, when possible. The word WITNESS, as a verb, especially in the combination, bear witness, is being displaced by testify. The word witness itself is being confined to the passive sense conveyed by eye-witness. Therefore the few passages where the older form was still used in the CONCORDANT VERSION, though they may sound unusual for a while, are better changed to the uniform rendering testify, with attest for the middle.
In order to deal consistently even with the aberrations of English idiom an effort will be made in the Keyword edition to note some of the variations due to English usage, especially those which occur frequently, in the lexical part of the concordance. Some words demand that they be followed by certain connectives. These may be noted with the words. Sometimes they refuse a connective in English, even though there may be one in Greek.
The differences by which a version varies from a sublinear should not degenerate into arbitrary interpretation, hence it is well to reduce these to rule as much as possible. This will also save many unnecessary special decisions. For instance, in such frequent phrases as THE, esteem OF-Him, we leave out the THE always, OF-Him is changed to His and placed before the word, and esteem is regularly glory, thus: “His glory” in place of THE esteem OF-Him.
The word idiom has been used as a cloak for false doctrine and unwarranted renderings. In fact anything that the church needs to hide her departure from God’s Word can be supplied to her by a subservient scholarship under this pretense. And it can be used with great effect against real truth seekers, because they are supposed to be ignorant of ancient idiom, even if they reject it as absurd. Some even use the false logic that the church and its scholars, being in the majority, must be right. Real reasoning, based on revelation, would say that the Scriptures teach that the church will be apostate, hence the majority most probably will be wrong, and our attitude toward the popular teaching should be one of skepticism, and we should be open to any corrections based on the real facts of revelation. We hope that this discussion will make it clear that the CONCORDANT VERSION recognizes idiom in almost every sentence, even if it does not accept every attempt to justify the false teachings of the day by an appeal to this figure.
We should seek to distinguish between real idioms and merely unusual expressions and language. Thus, in German, the participle form of the verb, as “I am writing,” is not used, hence it does not appear in the German version, but we distinguish it from the indefinite “I write” by a sign ('). But in our English, though it is sometimes unusual to do so, we seek to retain this form (which should not be allowed to leave the language) because it expresses an important distinction in the Greek and Hebrew verbs. It seems to us that it is only in some cases that it is no longer English idiom to use it. In commands, we would not say “Be going!” but “Go!” on account of its brevity. In the infinitive we do not often say “to be going” but “to go.” And we do not care for too many —ing’s at one time. In these cases the CONCORDANT VERSION drops the —ing, but will indicate it by an upright stroke (') in the Keyword edition, in case it is lacking.
THE DOUBLE NEGATIVE
“We don’t know nothing” is generally rated as poor English, as used by those who are ignorant. But it has also been used by those well acquainted with its character, as a vivid and powerful figure of speech, with telling effect, and, as it is perfectly understandable and uniquely impressive, it will probably make a place for itself in the language in time. But, at present, it is still too strange and striking to be used to represent the Greek double negative.
English, especially as used in the colonies and the United States, has a strong tendency toward terseness of expression. A shorter form is favored, and much is abbreviated, and the longer forms have often taken on a special significance. Thus a Pharisee asked our Lord so that He should be lunching with him (Luke 11: 17). We make this much shorter and ask others to lunch with us. If we use so, it would indicate the manner in which we did the asking. The to lunch is shortened from in order to get Him to lunch, which has much in common with the Greek. The future is taken for granted. The subjunctive is involved. The action is understood. So the Revision has to dine, even though they are somewhat inclined to give the Greek grammar where English idiom does not agree. In Luke 11:16 we have another such expression for “to place before.”
Due to the fact that Greek words which really have no trace of gender in their significance may be masculine or feminine, it is necessary, at times, to translate quite contrary to the Greek. Thus the word word is masculine, so pronouns referring to it must also be of this gender. A Greek always calls a word “he.” This caused much confusion for some in the first chapter of John’s evangel, where it seems to support the customary interpretation that the “Word” is a Person, not a thing. Again, in John 12:48 we usually read that “He who is repudiating Me and not getting My declarations, has One that judges him: the word that I speak, that will be judging Him in the last day.” Yet the context seems to clearly indicate that the masculine, ton krinonta (THE one-JUDGING) refers to the word word, which is also masculine, and therefore should be rendered that which.
WHAT A VERSION IS
The main object of this discussion is to help my friends to see what a version really is, and how, in many minute particulars, it is forced to differ from the original. These divergences cannot all be removed. The problem is not merely to reduce their number, but to eliminate those which affect the sense adversely, leaving those which affect the sense the least. Thus, in English, we are forced to ignore the gender as a rule, but without any appreciable loss, as the gender is mostly artificial. In the pronouns, indeed, we must alter the gender or give quite a false impression.
We sympathize most sincerely with all who are distressed at any deviation from the grammar of the Greek. For instance, very seldom can we carry over the middle signification, however much we would like to do so. An interesting case was brought to our attention recently. In Mark 4:14-20, in which the word sow is used in the middle for those sown beside the road, on rocky places, and into the thorns, but changes to the passive when referring to those sown on ideal earth. In German we can make a verb like this middle by adding sich as a rule, but sich säen would mean that a plant scatters its own seed, and would eliminate the Sower entirely, just as if we said “sow itself” in English, which we cannot very well do, as the word for self is lacking in the Greek. English has no word for the middle, like German.
Anyone who will compare any version with the CONCORDANT VERSION sublinear will see how often, in English, we must substitute a verb of fact for one of action, especially in the imperative. In giving a command we make it as short as possible. Where the Greek has be repenting (Matt.3:2) we shorten it to Repent! In German all of the verbs of action must be rendered “wrong,” simply because the language will no longer bear the longer forms, even if they still exist. English is tending in the same direction. That is why it is hardly ever necessary to change a verb of fact to one of action, but the incomplete is often rendered as an indefinite. That is why, in the proposed Keyword edition, all the “wrong” verbs will he marked'. In this regard we do not anticipate the future, but seek to stop the tendency, because it will mean a distinct loss to the English language.
A version, then, is a matter of judgment, rather than exactitude. In this it is in contrast to a sublinear, in which the order of the words, their form, and their composition are kept as closely as possible to the Greek. This should be retained in a version only to a degree compatible with intelligible, fluent English. But there is much room here for differences of opinion, and mutual forbearance. We feel sure that the CONCORDANT VERSION, with its friends, still leans too much in the direction of the sublinear, notwithstanding the fact that it, having such a complement, might well go to the opposite extreme. So far we have held too closely to the Greek idiom for fear of departing from the strict mode of expression in the Greek, and thus introducing our thoughts into God’s Word. May He forgive our delinquencies in view of the motive that prompted them!
This publication may be reproduced for personal use
(all other rights reserved by copyright holder).