Translating 4 Maccabees 9:7

πείραζε τοιγαροῦν, τύραννε, καὶ τὰς ἡμῶν ψυχὰς εἰ θανατώσεις διὰ τὴν εὐσέβειαν, μὴ νομίσῃς ἡμᾶς βλάπτειν βασανίζων.

NRSV: Therefore, tyrant, put us to the test; and if you take our lives because of our religion, do not suppose that you can injure us by torturing us.

The NRSV’s translation of καὶ here is perplexing. It seems to me that it should be understood as adverbial here and translated like this (οὕτως):

Therefore tyrant, test our souls as well, if you put us to death because of our faith, you should not think you can hurt us with torture.

It’s difficult for me to see “καὶ τὰς ἡμῶν ψυχὰς” as functioning as part of the conditional clause when its placed before εἰ. For the translation of the NRSV, I would have expected the Greek to look like this:

πείραζε τοιγαροῦν, τύραννε, καὶ εἰ θανατώσεις τὰς ἡμῶν ψυχὰς διὰ τὴν εὐσέβειαν, μὴ νομίσῃς ἡμᾶς βλάπτειν βασανίζων.

Thoughts anyone?

11 thoughts on “Translating 4 Maccabees 9:7

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      1. I may be following you too technically, but I took your argument to be that because the kai is preceding the ei it can’t be part of the conditional clause. For the NRSV to be correct, it would also seem by the same token that kai should follow ei.

        I, however, see kai as adjunctive, and, if I knew the rest of the context, might possibly translate it in a synonymous way as outws like you did.

        If we take the vocative out, it would have two conjunctions next to each other, so kai seems to be emphatic and thus adjunctive.

        1. James, let me try to explain:

          If τὰς ἡμῶν ψυχὰς is part of the conditional, then και could either be adverbial (even) or a conjunction (and) – either way the καί doesn’t need to move.

          If τὰς ἡμῶν ψυχὰς is part of the previous clause, then the καί can only be adverbial.

        2. are we using different language for the same concept?

          you are saying kai is adverbial, even

          I am saying that kai is adjunctive, also, if it is in an emphatic position, or it could be ascensive, even, if it is the final point or the point of focus (Wallace’s terms)

          as I see it, adjunctive fits well, since it follows toigaroun and I would go so far as to translate it “as well” (synonymous with outws) if the context permits it

          [unrelated question: why is there no “Reply” to your comments here?]

        3. “are we using different language for the same concept?”

          Yes we are.

          And there’s no reply button anymore because I’ve set it only to go up to 4 levels. I don’t expect to need more than that very often.

  1. I’d take the καί as ascensive. I’d still understand τὰς ἡμῶν ψυχὰς as object of θανατώσεις: “Put it to the test then, king: even if you bring our very selves to death, do not suppose that you are harming us by torturing us.”

      1. No, it’s relatively rare, but it’s not unheard of, and this author is quite clearly sophisticated in his rhetorical style and would not, I think, hesitate to employ a drastic hyperbaton to kick a proposition up a notch. Here he’s imitating a celebrated dictum of Socrates from Plato’s Apology: εὖ γὰρ ἴστε, ἐάν με ἀποκτείνητε τοιοῦτον ὄντα οἷον ἐγὼ λέγω, οὐκ ἐμὲ μείζω βλάψετε ἢ 8 ὑμᾶς αὐτούς· ἐμὲ μὲν γὰρ οὐδὲν ἂν βλάψειεν οὔτε Μέλητος 9 οὔτε Ἄνυτος, echoed later by Epictetus at the end of the Enchiridion, “ἐμὲ δὲ Ἄνυτος καὶ Μέλιτος ἀποκτεῖναι μὲν δύνανται, βλάψαι δὲ οὔ.”

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