Fun Greek New Testament Fact of the Day

There is only one clause in the Greek New Testament with a double WH-word construction:

Mark 15:24 καὶ σταυροῦσιν αὐτὸν καὶ διαμερίζονται τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ βάλλοντες κλῆρον ἐπʼ αὐτὰ τίς τί ἄρῃ

And they crucified him and divided up his clothing, casting lots for them [to see] who would take what.

What’s interesting about this is that not a single translation I looked at (NLT, NET, NIrV, TNIV, NCV, AV 1873, ESV, HCSB, RSV, NASB95, NIV, ESV) gave this verse a “literal” translation.


17 thoughts on “Fun Greek New Testament Fact of the Day

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  1. You need to write the definitive literal translation of the Bible, ignoring all English word order and not smoothing anything out. John 3:16 would be “Thus for he loved the God the world that the son the only begotten he gave in order that every the believing into him he might not perish but he might have life eternal.” Nevermind, I think I just reproduced the NASB text…

  2. The Amplified Version capture the who and what:
    And they crucified Him; and they divided His garments and distributed them among themselves, throwing lots for them to decide who should take what.

    Even Young’s Literal Translation doesn’t capture the who and what.

  3. Or my favorite: Mk 8:20 … ὁ δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἔχει ποῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κλίνῃ. I’ve sometimes wondered whether this sort of indirect question is modeled upon Latin usage.

  4. what would you propose for a literal translation? I think the translations are pretty good.

    It would be a bit wooden to say “casting lots for them for the purpose of who might take up what.” Smoother English is required. Maybe you’ve stumbled on an additional use of the subjunctive, the determinitive use i.e. ‘in order to determine’ 🙂

    1. I’d say that what I’ve already got is a “literal” translation. The words “to see” are no more in the text than “for the purpose of” are.

      But with that said, I’d personally never propose a literal translation at all. I think literal translation is unhelpful and wrongheaded.

      1. hmmm, I’m not so sure. I mean the purpose is built into the subjunctive so really I think it would be literal. The same would go for a subjected embedded in a verb… if you add the he/she/it to the verb I don’t think one can say it is not literal, rather, again, it is literal because it is built in to the verb.

        1. The question of what is “literal” translation is indeed what’s at issue here. And this is why I don’t care for so-called “literal” translations. Such translations seek word-for-word and syntactic correspondence with the source text as much as possible. But at the same time, they inconsistently apply semantic features. “Purpose” is indeed one meaning expressed by the subjunctive in Greek. But there’s a difference between “Purpose” as a semantic role and “for the purpose of” which is a prepositional phrase that can be used to express that semantic role in English.

          More importantly, when we call “Purpose” a semantic feature, we’ve left the realm of “literal” translation and entered the realm of Functional translation. Semantic features are the Functions of grammatical forms. And since not all Subjunctives express the semantic role of “Purpose,” as we see English cannot here, the so-called “literal” translation can only translate Function (hence the ESV’s “as literal as possible as free as necessary). So both “for the purpose of” and “to see” above express the semantic role of “Purpose,” but neither of them can be considered literal. They’re both just as functional – one is simply explicit about it.

  5. Kenneth Wuest translated it “And they crucify Him, and distribute His garments among themselves, throwing a lot upon them, who should take what.”

    And so it goes…

    1. When I read, “throwing a lot upon them…” I wonder, “a lot of what?” I don’t think Wuest could have anticipated that particular phrase to gain that meaning.

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