The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Feb 17, 2011

The Granville Sharp rule: A defense of Daniel Wallace in light of Stanley Porter's review

In 2009, Daniel Wallace was finally able to publish his dissertation of some years ago under the title Granville Sharp’s Canon and its Kin: Semantics and Significance (Studies in Biblical Greek 14; New York: Peter Lang, 2009). While this particular work was slow in coming, Wallace has made clear his views on the Granville Sharp rule in other articles as well as his excellent Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics.

In the latest volume of The Journal of the Evangelical Society 53:4 (December 2010), pp. 828-832, Stanley Porter has published a lengthy and mostly negative review. While I will be the first to acknowledge Porter’s brilliance as a linguistic, and while I also appreciate his overall moderate tone of critique, and while there is one area of Porter’s critique that I will agree with him on, nevertheless Porter has not himself adequately examined Granville Sharp’s Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament and thus makes two statements, central to his critique of Wallace, that are inaccurate. It is my sincere desire that my essay here is not overly critical of Porter (and Porter himself always keeps a moderate tone in his discussions, one that I hope to emulate); ultimately my rhetoric is driven more by a desire to defend Wallace against what I feel is an unfair review than any desire to criticize Porter.

Before we begin, the reader should note that this discussion assumes a basic knowledge of Wallace’s position. Furthermore, this discussion revolves around Granville Sharp’s Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament (3rd ed.; London: 1803). This work is available for free from Google Books; as of today, the proper link is http://books.google.com/books?id=e1oXAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=granville+sharp&hl=en&ei=gtdTYzZC8eCtge4naTiCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
In other words, the reader can easily verify for his or herself what Wallace, Porter, and I claim that Sharp is saying, Indeed, anyone who wishes to study out the issue is strongly encouraged to read Sharp’s work for themselves. Needless to say, any page numbers I refer to from Sharp’s work are the actual page numbers of the manuscript, not the pdf page numbers.

Also, the reader should note that we are concerned with Sharp’s rule #1 here, not necessarily with the other rules (though the other rules relate to the first rule; indeed, Sharp himself states, “the rules which follow are intended only to illustrate the particularity of the several sentences which fall under the first rule . . .” (Sharp, Remarks, 7).

To begin with, after citing Wallace’s articulation of Sharp’s rule, Porter claims that “Sharp does not address the question of plurals” (829, six lines from the top). This is inexplicable since a few lines down Porter discusses just how exactly Sharp does deal with plurals. Porter (829) cites Wallace who is citing Sharp (Sharp, Remarks, p. 6), where Sharp states “except the nouns be proper names, or in the plural number, in which case there are many exceptions.” This statement by Sharp is still under the heading of “Rule I.” Porter (review, 829) argues that Wallace neglects to add the following comment by Sharp that “there are not wanting examples, even of plural nouns, which are expressed exactly agreeable to this rule” (Sharp, 6). Yet in response to Porter, how does this disprove Wallace’s argument? How can it be any more clearer that Sharp does say that plural nouns are not part of the rule? Indeed: “except the nouns be proper names or in the plural number.” The fact that Sharp admits that some plural nouns act similar to the singular nouns here does not mean that the rule applies to plural nouns! (Porter himself omits one word of Sharp: “though”; in other words, what Sharp says is “though there are not wanting examples . . .” [Sharp, 6], which would seem to indicate that Sharp’s statement is almost an aside here). If I make the statement, “all land-based animals breathe air; there are no exceptions to this rule” and then follow this up with “however, some water-based animals (e.g. whales) also breathe air,” would it be legitimate to say that the rule is just as much about the former as it is about the latter (especially if the rule is a couple hundred words and the term “water-breathing” is only mentioned once?) Hardly! Indeed, in Sharp’s rule, the issue of plural nouns only occurs in one sentence (twice in two independent clauses in that sentence), and not a single one of his NT examples for his rule are plural constructions (Sharp, 4-5)

All Sharp is saying, as an aside, is that some plural nouns seem to follow the pattern. But the rule itself is strictly for singular personal nouns: this is apparent if we go back and read Sharp’s formulation of the rule on pages 3, which refers to “person” in the singular (“ . . . the latter always relates to the same person . . . i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person”) Simply because Sharp casually observed that there are quite a few examples of plural nouns in TSKS constructions that refer to the same group does not change the fact that his rule refers to singular nouns; I cannot think of anyway Sharp himself could have made this clear other than his own statement on p. 6, “except the nouns be proper names, or in the plural number.” In the NT there are quite a few instances where plural nouns refer in a TSKS construction refer to different groups (e.g. Matthew 3:7), whereas with singular, personal nouns (not proper names), there are almost no exceptions (in fact, I believe in the NT no exceptions at all). The contrast between the two types of constructions (singular vs. plural) is striking, and both Wallace and Sharp have realized that.

More seriously, however, on page 829 of his review Porter makes the following statement: “Wallace further stresses that Sharp means that the substantives must have an ‘identical referent’ . . . however, that is not what the rule says. It is only when Sharp is discussing Christological significant examples that he uses such terms as ‘identity of person(s)’ (Sharp, Remarks 28, 30). Wallace seems to have a narrower view of the rule than did Sharp himself.”

In response to Porter, I urge the reader to consider the following statements by Sharp himself: 1. “When two personal nouns of the same case are connected by the copulative kai, if the former has the definitive article, and the latter has not, they both relate to the same person” (Sharp, Remarks xxxix, in the table of contents). 2. When the copulative kai . . . the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e. it denotes a farther description of the first-named person.” (Sharp, 3; this is the formulation of the rule proper). My own emphasis has been added in both cases. Now, please compare what Sharp says vs. what Porter says—“they both relate to the same person” and “always relates to the same person” vs. “[Wallace’s assertion that] the substantives must have an ‘identical referent’ . . . is not what the rule says.”

If Sharp states that both substantives refer to the same person (“both relate to the same person” is his exact statement), then does not that logically imply “an identical referent”? How can two words refer to the same person and yet not be said to have an identical referent? Thus we see that Wallace is correct and Porter has, unfortunately, misrepresented Sharp’s rule. The reader is advised not to take my word for it but to download their own free copy from Google Books and examine the evidence for themselves.

Thus, contra Porter, the following must be observed: 1. Sharp’s rule deals with plurals in that it  clearlyexcludes them and makes it clear that the rule is meant to apply to singular nouns, not plural nouns or proper names (even though, as an aside, Sharp mentions that some plural TSKS constructions do fit the pattern); and, more importantly, 2. Sharp’s rule is concerned with identical referents.

Another area that Porter is unfair to Wallace is when he accuses him of allowing Christological concerns to trump a proper understanding of Sharp’s rule (Porter, 831, last paragraph). Yet Sharp himself is the one who saw in “Rule #1” the means to prove the deity of Christ in Scripture. The reader is advised to note especially Sharp, Remarks, top of page 3 (last sentence before “Rule I”) and page 7 (before the heading “Rule II”). Although Sharp himself was concerned with the rule strictly in NT Greek and not Koine Greek in general, it is understandable why Sharp and Wallace would be excited about the rule; if it could be established that in TSKS constructions (article + substantive + kai+ substantive), when the construction is personal, singular, and not a proper name (which, as I have argued above, is obviously how Sharp qualified it; once again the reader is advised to read for themselves Sharp’s Remarks, pp. xxxix and 3-7), then the construction (at least in the NT) always refers to the same person (there are no exceptions to this in the New Testament, that I know of; this applies equally to theological and non-theological texts; in contrast, there are a significantly large number of plural and non-personal TSKS constructions  in the NT and in Koine that do not have the same referent). Since there are no exceptions in the NT, than naturally one could view this as a deliberate construction specifically used by a Greek writer or speaker to refer to the same person. Thus, when it applies to God [which is not a proper name] and Savior, where Jesus Christ is the referent of the latter, then one could naturally assume that He is also the referent of the former. This is strengthened if indeed the rule holds true in other Koine documents.

Obviously Porter himself believes in the deity of Christ or he would hardly be publishing in JETS! What Porter is objecting to (see Porter, pp. 831-832, the last paragraph of his review) is the way Wallace uses the Granville Sharp rule to attempt to prove Christ’s deity. What I am arguing here is that what Wallace is doing is being true to Sharp’s original observations, that Sharp himself thought that the rule could be used to prove Christ’s divinity simply because it was without exception in the NT (and Wallace and I would both add with very few exceptions in the vast scope of Koine literature).

Thus Sharp’s formulation of the rule, contra Porter, was not meant to be “a usable general principle . . . . that establishes that elements under a common article are related to each other, and in some circumstances are meant to be equated with each other” (Porter, 831-832, last sentence in the review). Once again, the reader should examine Sharp’s own words: in a TSKS construction with “two personal nouns of the same case . . . the latter always relates to the same person” [Sharp, Remarks, 3; emphasis added; notice the last two words: “same person”; this implies a singular, personal construction, not a plural or impersonal construction]. The reader will forgive my confusion if I wonder how we can go from Sharp’s statement to Porter’s significantly broader statement “elements under a common article are related to each other, and in some circumstance are meant to be equated with each other” (Porter, 832, last sentence).

I hope that at this point we have established what Sharp actually said. The question is, of course, was Sharp right? At this point we must argue out that no rule in any language is going to have perfect conformity within that language, and also that rules change overtime. Thus Porter is correct in taking Wallace to task for trying to hard to get rid certain exceptions to the rule (829-831). In a sense, Porter may be right that Wallace engages in “special pleading” (Porter, 829). Nevertheless, I ask the reader: if a particular construction acts a particular way in 99 percent of the time, do the 1 percent of exceptions invalidate any rule based on the 99 percent? In mathematics and science, no doubt, but I would argue not so in language.
For example, I can make the statement that in Japanese it is expected that an employee will address his boss with a certain type of verb ending (the honorific verb endings); thus a casual asou or souka (“is that so?”), when addressed to a superior, should take the honorific ending (asoudesuka or soudesuka?) The fact that exceptions exist to this rule (e.g. when one is drunk or when one is a foreigner learning still learning the language) does not invalidate that cultural and linguistic rule/principle/whatever you wish to call it!

Furthermore, I imagine that statistically the odds are too great that it is a coincidence that singular, personal TSKS constructions would act that way while plural and impersonal TSKS constructions are not even comparable in their behavior (in fact, my own unverified suspicion at this point is that TSKS constructions that are plural and/or impersonal most of the time do not have the same identity; at least from the LXX I can make a strong case for that, for now).

Ironically, Wallace’s dismissal of “translation Greek” (see Porter, 830, #(2)), deprives him of what I believe is a further prove of the general validity of Sharp’s rule #1. My own studies in the Septuagint have convinced me that Proverbs 24:21 is an anomaly—even the translators of the LXX treated TSKS constructions in the way that Sharp and Wallace outlined. The reader is advised to take the following singular, personal constructions—Ezra 7:21, Nehemiah 8:9, Isaiah 24:20, Tobit 1:22, I Esdras 8:8, 8:9, 9:39, 9:42, and 9:49, all referring to the same person—and contrast them with TSKS constructions that do not meet that criteria: (e.g. Exodus 9:3; Psalm 88 (89): 13; etc.). My research is fairly limited at this point, but everything I’ve seen indicate that even the translators of the LXX seemed to take the TSKS constructions in the same way that the NT and other documents in Koine Greek do. The odds are too high that the significant difference between singular and personal TSKS constructions and other TSKS constructions is coincidental.

While Wallace’s treatment of the topic is hardly perfect, and while I believe Porter is actually more moderate and gentler in the debate than Wallace is, nevertheless I believe Wallace has more accurately understood Sharp’s rule than Porter has, and that Sharp’s original articulation of the rule stands remarkably in Koine Greek. If Wallace’s thesis has any major fault, it lies in his attempt to argue away what may be valid exceptions to the rule, valid exceptions that are nevertheless a drop in the bucket of the vast amount of Koine TSKS constructions that were deliberately meant to indicate a single person under two headings or titles.

Feb 6, 2011

Skopos theory in Bible translation, by John R. Himes

John R. Himes is a 30-year veteran missionary to Japan. He is currently working on a new Japanese translation of the Greek New Testament and at point taught Biblical Greek in Japanese to Japanese ministerial students.

Skopos Theory
By John R. Himes

Skopos (σκοπος) is the Greek word for “goal,” occurring in the New Testament only in Phil. 3:14 as “mark” in the KJV. The “skopos theory” of translation was formulated by translation studies scholar Hans Vermeer. In his words, “The word skopos, then, is a technical term for the aim or purpose of a translation” (The Translation Studies Reader, ed. by Lawrence Venuti, 2nd Ed. New York: Routledge, 2004, p. 227). Again, Vermeer says, “The aim of any translational action, and the mode in which it is to be realized, are negotiated with the client who commissions the action. A precise specification of aim and mode is essential for the translator” (ibid). So to a skopos theorist, whether or not the translation achieves its goal is more important than its equivalence (formal, dynamic, optimal, etc.) to the original.

According to Giuseppe Palumbo, “The skopos…is the overriding factor governing either the choices and decisions made during the translation process or the criteria based on which a translation is assessed” (Key Terms in Translation Studies. New York: Continuum, 2009, p. 107). Edwin Gentzler puts it this way: “For most practical purposes, then, the Skopos is not located in either the source or the target text of culture; rather it is negotiated between the client and the translator, with reference to both the source text and receiving audience” (Contemporary Translation Theories, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, Ltd., 2001, p. 73).

This is the secular theory of translation most likely to resonate with the professional translator, since Vermeer views him or her as the expert. The basic premise of the theory is that the translator should (and usually does) translate according to the purpose of his contract. In the case of a professional in the secular world, this often means that he will translate with the goals given him by the contract he signed, or the goals delineated by his boss, or those given him by his client if he is an independent translator.

In 2010 I was asked to correct an English translation of the information brochure put out by the local water treatment plant. The goal was to take my Japanese client’s work and put it into good, grammatical, smooth English. I wanted it to read like it had been written in English so that the reader was not distracted by what we call Japlish—a mixed up version of English influenced by Japanese syntax and loan words from English. I thus operated with a skopos, a definite goal that did not limit me to strictly literal renderings. Because of this, more than once I did a free rendering of the original text, something I almost never do in translating the Greek New Testament. In skopos theory the tools and methods of the translator depend on his goal. My goal in this case was a faithful yet readable translation of the brochure, so I worked accordingly. As Vermeer writes, “The skopos can also help to determine whether the source text needs to be ‘translated’, ‘paraphrased’ or completely ‘re-edited’” (ibid, p. 237).

This theory has not penetrated much yet into the world of Bible translation scholars. One of the most recent books on Bible translating, Translating the New Testament (ed. by Stanley Porter and Mark Boda, Eerdmans, 2009), does not even mention the theory or Vermeer, even though Porter has a whole chapter on modern theories, “Assessing Translation Theory: Beyond Literal and Dynamic Equivalence.” Surely Porter knows about this theory, since he mentions “the functionalist approach” (p. 128; different from Nida’s functional equivalence), which includes skopos theory. However, he apparently doesn’t see its relevance to Bible translation.

As far as I know Dr. Cristiane Nord, the leading advocate of the theory next to Vermeer himself, is the only scholar writing about skopos theory and Bible translation. I wrote Dr. Nord asking for her article, “Functions of Orality in the Translation of New Testament and Early Christian Texts: a skopos-theoretical perspective.” She graciously answered and sent me not only that article but another as well. She makes a good case with skopos theory for integrity in Bible translation. She writes:

“Translators have to decide beforehand what their translation is intended to mean to the addressed audience – in other words: what kind of communicative function(s) it is aiming at. Since in the case of biblical and apocryphal texts there is a large variety of possible skopoi, translators should be obliged (and given the opportunity, e.g., in a preface) to justify and defend their translational decisions. A team of translators and other experts who do not disclose their identity (like in GNG 1997) can create the false impression of having translated objectively and thus violate their obligation to loyalty with regard to the target readership.” (“Function and Loyalty in Bible Translation,” by Christiane Nord, p. 19; included in the book, Apropos of Ideology. Translation Studies on Ideology – Ideologies in Translation Studies.)

When skopos theory does penetrate the ivory (or maybe just brick) towers of the Bible translation scholars’ world, how will it influence Bible translators? First of all, it should make them consider their goals in a much deeper way. Are they aiming at a tool for evangelism first of all, or a faithful rendering of the original text? Secondly, they ought to be prayerfully thinking about the original Author of the Bible, and how that Author would have them translate. Their view of Biblical inspiration will then shape their methods and what tools they use. Integrity in relation to the original text is a key point. However it happens, the translator should grow simply by being aware of skopos theory.