Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Mark 4:38"

One of the key Greek teachers that I have learned from is from Dr Bill Mounce, whose texbook on learning biblical Greek has been used in many seminaries. During my Greek classes, there will be a short application of a Greek passage, where the nuances of the language are highlighted, making our commonly used English translations less accurate when we have the original text at hand. Remember again that every translation in itself is an interpretation. This week, Mounce shared on Mark 4:38 which reads differently among various translations.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" (Mark 4:38, NIV)
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38, ESV)
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, "Teacher, don't you care that we're going to drown?" (Mark 4:38, NLT)
These translations raise a problem. Are the disciples already drowning, or are they simply worrying about drowning? The NIV basically inserts the word 'if' that suggests a possibility of drowning. It looks analytical. The ESV is a better translation but falls short of the drama of drowning. The NLT also does not escalate the actual fear as well as the original Greek. Mounce observes that there is a blatant absence of the Greek word εἰ (“if ”) in the original text.

 Mounce writes:

That makes sense, until you start looking at the Greek and the other translations. Word for word, the disciples say, “Teacher (διδάσκαλε), is it not a concern to yo (οὐ μέλει σοι) that we are perishing (ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα;)? It is the present tense ἀπολλύμεθα and the absence of εἰ (“if”) that caught my eye. (link)

The word "perishing" is in the present continuous, which means the disciples were actually in the process of drowning, highlighting the urgency of their cries to Jesus. This is a significant with regards to those of us struggling through life. It tells us that Jesus is smack at the center with us, in the midst of our struggles through this life. We are not alone. For God is with us, not in terms of a distant promise, but a near reality. God can be trusted.


1 comment:

gaurav agarwal said...

awesome posts

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