Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sounds weird?

I remember during my Ephesians exegesis class, I ran into a weird phenomenon. In Ephesians 6:12, the Greek reads:

ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου, πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις.

Which can be translated: "Because/For our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against the spiritual things/forces of evil in the heavenlies."

What is interesting to me is the fact that many major translations (NIV, TNIV, ESV, NKJV, NASB with the exception of NRSV) translates it as "flesh and blood." As far as I can tell, there was one other place where this happens in the NT, at Heb. 2:14, which even the NRSV goes ahead and flips the order around to translate it as "flesh and blood." Is there something about the way the phrase sounds that appeals more to the translators? Even as I say it out loud, "flesh and blood" versus "blood and flesh," the latter sounds a bit more awkward. But then again, I'm wondering if it's because of the striking presence of the first instance of this phrase in the NT, Matt. 16:17, where Jesus declares to Peter that his confession is not due to the revelation of "flesh and blood" but rather his Father in heaven. However, I didn't have time to check the critical apparatus, to see if there is some textual variant that might have caused this.

Either way, I think it's interesting that translators take certain liberties with the ordering of certain words, and while it might not have significance in terms of theology, it's still one example of how reading the text in its original language can be helpful.

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