Greek names and places

Greaco-Roman names such as Dēmētrios (Demetrios (Ac 19:23)), Appiou Phorou (‘Forum of Appius’) and Triōn Tabernōn (‘Three Taverns’) (Ac 28:15); Greaco-Roman places for example, praitōrion (‘palace’, Jn 18: 28), and bēma (‘court’, Ac 25:10). The names of positions in society are kept: rhabdouxous referring to a kind of policeman (Ac 16:35), and paidagōgos referring to a type of child-minder (Ga 3:24).

Loaded Greek words

The Greek for word carries much more than the English. Logos implies reason, argument, logic, account. Pisteuō (believing) is not just a form of intellectual assent, but also trust.

Word plays and alliteration

A pun, wordplay or alliteration can be obvious in the original language, but lost in translation, for example, achrēston and euchrēston (useless/ useful, Phile 11), pneuma (wind/ spirit, Jn 3:8), koimēthentes (fallen asleep/ dead, 1 Co 15:18), Kēphas and Petros (Peter/ rock, Jn 1:42), and aphtharton, amianton and amaranton (perish, spoil and fade, 1 Pe 1:4).

Multiple Greek words, single translation

There are different Greek words behind a single English translation, e.g., to love (Jn 21:15 ff) could translate either agapaō or phileō; to know in 1 Co 13:12: ginōskō, and its cognates piginōskō and epiginōskō; to know in Ac 19:15: ginōskō or epistamai; gift (Ro 5:15): charisma or dōrea and children in Mk 7:27-28: teknōn and paidiōn.

Multiple English words, single derivation

One Greek word is given several translations in English, e.g., orgē could either be ‘anger’ (Col 3:8) or ‘wrath’ (3:6); ethnos could be ‘Gentiles’ (Ma 4:15), ‘nations’ (28:19) or ‘pagans’ (1 Co 5:1); sarx could be ‘flesh’ (Jn 6:63), ‘people’ (Ac 2:17), or ‘sinful nature’ (Ro 7:5).

Getting back to first meanings

Church (ekklēsia) originally connotes an assembly or gathering rather than a building, a reference too often conferred by the translation. Slave is now bound up with understandings of the West African flesh trade whereas doulos may be a more helpful association for an understanding of slavery in the first century.

Word associations

The word for Eucharist (eucharisteō) has its root from the verb for giving thanks (e.g., Mk 14:23). To cause to sin is connected with our use of the verb to scandalize (skandalizō, Mt 5:29). The verb to scatter in Greek (diaspeirō) is also the basis for the term Diaspora (Ac 8:1). The English equivalent eschatological is like its Greek original (eschatē, Jn 6:39) and paraclete, the old English for one who comes alongside is like its original paraklētos (Jn 14:26).

Footnote free

Tektōn (Mk 6:3) could either be a carpenter or someone with a general technical skill; akathartōn (Mk 6:7) could mean unclean (literal) or evil (metaphorical); hadēs (Lk10:15) means both Hades and ‘depths’.

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