Category Archives: Translation Aids

Book Review; 1-3 John: A General Reader

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A book which attempts and succeeds at helping novice to advanced Greek New Testament students improve their reading and textual critical skills.

I John : A General Reader, edited by J. Klay Harrison and Chad M. Foster, aims to target those finished with the basics of New Testament Greek and want to advance their skills — an area that is greatly lacking in resources and may be the source of why so many abandon Greek studies. I have been feeling that the whole realm of ancient Greek studies is in a woefully neglected state, greatly due to lack of demand and also that its methodology, and outdated teaching manuals, are putting it into the realm of obscurity and eccentrics. Then this comes across my desk and gives hope, opening the door for more to successfully study this genre. This is a good sign and a start of new things to come.

This book is part of an ongoing series of books being published by GlossaHouse, a young publishing company founded for the purpose of helping “students and researchers advance in the language.” Their website is full of helpful materials focusing on the Greek language.

It is clear that I John: A General Reader achieves this objective for mid-level students. It gives the necessary tools for the novice to make the jump into reading, understanding, and comprehending. It also sets the student up in working in the important realm of textual criticism. Textual criticism is not a bad word here. It merely is educating the student on an age-old system of notation which is a quick way of demonstrating differences in the Greek texts. The notation system seems a bit overwhelming at first but the book significantly helps develop awareness in this important aspect. It helps save a lot time in that you don’t have to go the manuscripts themselves to find these differences, they are already found for you, and you can make translation decisions in seconds rather than hours. It also help avoid having to read the many different Greek print styles, especially the handwritten ones – deciphering Greek calligraphy is a skill in itself, and is often a difficult process.

Harrison and Foster softly but firmly introduce you into the world of reading, translating and analyzing ancient Greek texts in a meaningful and comprehensive way.

The book itself is typed in a good-sized readable Greek font that is nicely set and spaced for easy reading. There are copious footnotes of almost every word, describing syntax, grammar, morphology and other nuances inside the context of I John. This allows the reader to move through the text at a rapid pace, learning new concepts on the way, and strengthening old ones.

The General Reader can be used in a classroom, or as a self-study tool. This is a must-have for those wishing to critically read 1-3 John in the original Greek. What would take the regular Greek reader hours in learning new vocabulary, analysis of variant textual manuscripts, grammar, and various textual problems, is reduced to a matter of minutes, if not seconds, by using this book. It is evident that lots of hard work and thought were put into this General Reader.

The price is inexpensive too. It can purchased at amazon.com

Donnegan's Greek Dictionary Updated

An updated version of Donnegan’s A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider is available.

This work has a niche in defining philosophical and platonic Greek words.

This digital file was originally scanned by Google but I have improved it in three ways:

  • An alphabetical index has been added to the file so that it is easier to navigate through the book to find a word.

  • unimportant non-text pages deleted and the image files were optimized to speed up processing speed. It also made the overall file size much smaller

  • corrected a Google scanning error where 43 pages were duplicated.

For those who have already downloaded the previous version, it is highly recommended that this dictionary be downloaded and overwrite or delete the older one.

Click on this link for the new version, A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider by James Donnegan. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Co. 1836.

Once you have the file open on your computer, make sure to click on the bookmark icon to see the alphabetical index.

A full list of ancient Greek dictionaries can be found at Ancient Digitized Greek Dictionaries.

It has been noted that there are further pages out of order. Please contact me with any pages mis-scanned or improperly paginated so that this file can be improved.

Ancient Greek Dictionaries for Download

Locating and downloading ancient Greek dictionaries.

Thanks to the internet there is a vast array of ancient Greek dictionaries available for the translator. This was unheard of even 10 years ago. This speeds up the process of translating by a factor of at least 10 times.

These dictionaries are all old, and there are no copyright restrictions. Some are not English-Greek dictionaries, and the majority are in non-text searchable and large pdf files, but these are some of the best available today.

Sure, Perseus’ online Lidell and Scott Dictionary is the best for speed and easy access, no question. None of the other solutions come close to its speed and ability to enter a verb in whatever form, identify it, and find the root meaning.

One should always start here and if the word does not exist in this database, or the definition seems too narrow or some other problem, then it is time to go to the other dictionaries.

The weakness of Lidell and Scott’s Dictionary is its almost exclusive focus on classical words. It hardly delves into the realm of Ecclesiastical usage. Problem words, especially the Christian writers of Alexandria, Egypt, and those influenced by them are not represented by Lidell and Scott. One has to look elsewhere.

Perhaps there is a parallel Latin translation and one can find a quick solution, but sometimes even the Latin translators are finding the same difficulty and may skirt around the issue. The translator may even switch from static to dynamic mode, so one has to be careful with the Latin, though the majority of times it is very good.

The majority of these ancient dictionaries have been scanned by Google Books and is available at their Google Books website, but it’s often difficult to find them via their own search engine. So this is a quick alternative to finding and downloading such resources without the hassle. These are provided via a personal DropBox account.

A click on a link will start a download for browser viewing. Once that is complete, find the “Save Page As” in your browser menu and save the document to your hard drive.

There are many more ancient Greek dictionaries available at Google, but the ones listed here are used more frequently.

  • E.A. Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Memorial Edition. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons. 1900. This book is in my top three. Thanks to George Valsamis at Ellopos.net for recommending this one.

  • Dictionnaire Grec-Française Paris: Garnier Frères, 1865.

  • A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider by James Donnegan. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Co. 1836.

  • Lexicon graeco-latinum manuale ex optimis libris concinnatum. E.F. Leopold, ed. Lipsiae: Caroli Tauchnitii. 1852.

  • Cornelius Schrevel’s, Lexicon manuale Græco-Latinum et Latino-Græcum. Petrus Steele, ed. New York: Collins and Hannay. 1825.

  • Stephanus’ Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης is part of a multi-volume series. The volumes listed below are not from the same publisher. There may be some inconsistencies between them. Also, some pages are missing scans.

    Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης, a Greek-Latin dictionary, is over four hundred years old, but has yet to be surpassed in comprehensiveness. The typesetting and the structure of the earliest editions are difficult to follow, but the editions printed in the 1800s and later make it much easier to use. Only the editions 1800 or later are linked here. One can go on Google and find earlier versions.

    Almost every dictionary above owes its ancestry to Stephanus. Many simply are abbreviated forms, condensed, abridged, or anglicized versions based on this work.

    There is a rich history behind the Stephanus name and their contribution to Bible history. Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης was spearheaded by Henri Estienne (also known as Henri Stephanus). This family’s history of publishing, collating manuscripts, and translating has had a major impact on the modern Bible, but hardly recognized.

    Some may ask, “what about Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon?” This one is a recent publication and does not qualify to be in any open source digital book library. Oxford University Press has not ported the printed version into any digital format yet either. Amazon.com has new ones listed from $304-578.00 US. The publisher has alienated a sizeable audience by its pricing and lack of digital availability. It is an OK dictionary, not as good as Stephanus’, and not worth the price. This pricing and availability may also put the book into a deep public slumber – a forgotten work that will sit quietly on a few dusty library bookshelves.

    For more complete information on how to utilize the Perseus digital library, and a more comprehensive listing of other resources, please go the section on dictionaries at the following article, Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers.

A Sample Process of Translating Alexandrian Greek

A sample of the trials, struggles, and success with translating Alexandrian Greek into English.

Third to fifth century Alexandrian Greek is often difficult to translate. It is a melting pot of many different Greek dialects, plus their own oddities. This distinct nuance of the Alexandrian writers during the early centuries has not been clearly documented. Therefore when one approaches these writers, it is a big challenge. And if one likes challenges, this can be fun, but frustrating as well.

Continue reading A Sample Process of Translating Alexandrian Greek

Diacritics in Ancient Greek

Polytonic Greek diacritics, the markings seen above Greek letters, indicate the proper pronunciation. Most novice and intermediate Greek translators ignore these characters, but familiarity with these little markings is a great timesaver and avoids potential translation errors.

For example, the confusing words: ην, η, and ως, each one can have a number of different meanings. A person can use context to decide which meaning is to be used, but a quick glance at the diacritic along with context makes it much faster to understand.

Here are ην, η, and ως, with the diacritics and possible English translations:

ην

  • ἤν conditional particle, shortened form for εἰ ἄν and ἐάνif or when
  • ἦν imperfect indicative active 3rd singular of εἰμίhe was
  • ἤν interjection—see there!
  • ἥν feminine accusative singular relative pronoun—whom, which or that

η

The Greek letter, η, is more complex. The diacritics and context have to be utilized:

  • feminine singular nominative definite article—the
  • feminine singular nominative relative pronoun—who, which or that
  • two possible meanings:
    • feminine dative singular of the relative Pronoun ὅς, ἥ, ὅwhich way, where, how, as, in so far as
    • feminine dative singular—to/for/with/in whom
  • verb, present subjunctive active 3rd singular of εἰμί—no simple English equivalent

  • four possible meanings:
    • comparative—either, or, than
    • adverbially—surely, doubtless
    • the next two are possibilities for in ecclesiastical literature but remote:
      • verb, imperfect indicative active 3rd singular of φημίhe was saying
      • verb, imperfect indicative active 1st singular of εἰμί, Attic Greek—I was

ως

This one can also cause some confusion:

  • ὧς and ὥς (with accent)—so or thus
  • ὡς (without accent) of the relative pronoun ὅςas
  • ὡς relative and Interrogative—how
  • ὡς temporal—when
  • ὡς local—where

A larger list of problem words can be found at chioulaoshi.org.

Mastery of diacritics is beneficial in the translation process. It is worth taking the time to learn.

Ancient Digitized Greek Dictionaries

Links for downloading a variety of ancient Greek dictionaries.

Thanks to the internet there is a vast array of ancient Greek dictionaries available for the translator. This was unheard of even ten years ago. This speeds up the process of translating by a factor of at least ten times.

The following dictionaries listed are all old, and there are no copyright restrictions. Some are not English-Greek dictionaries, none are text searchable, and all are large pdf files.

Sure, Perseus’ online Liddell and Scott Dictionary is the best for speed and easy access, no question. None of the other solutions come close to its speed and ability to enter a verb in whatever form, identify it, and find the root meaning.

However, there are some weaknesses of Liddell and Scott’s Dictionary. The first one is that it hardly delves into the realm of Ecclesiastical usage. Secondly, it is not exhaustive. Not every word can be found here.

One should always start at Perseus and if the word does not exist in this database, the definition seems too narrow, or some other problem, then it is time to go to the other dictionaries.

There are numerous websites that house these ancient Greek dictionaries, but many of them are not easy to navigate through, nor does any one site have all the dictionaries together. It requires some effort to locate and download the files. For your convenience, they are all found here below.

Most are direct links from Google Books. Follow the instructions from Google to download. It isn’t always necessary to download the books to use them. One can do search queries within the book using Greek text online. This cannot be done if the file is downloaded. This online search query isn’t always consistent but does sometimes provide quick results.

A list of Greek dictionaries for download.

There are many more ancient Greek dictionaries available on the internet, but the ones provided here are used more frequently.

  • A New Greek and English Lexicon; Principally on the plan of the Greek and German Lexicon of Schneider by James Donnegan. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Co. 1836. This is one of the best concise English dictionaries on ecclesiastical usage, but the Google original scan has many scan errors — the page numbers are mixed-up, and sometimes duplicated. I corrected many of the problems initially found and built a revised version. Since then, I have found more errors in the page sequencing which require correction, but have yet to do.It can be accessed through this link: A New Greek and English Lexicon
  • E.A. Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Memorial Edition. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons. 1900. Thanks to George Valsamis at Ellopos.net for recommending this one. It is an occasional help.
  • Dictionnaire Grec-Française, Paris: Garnier Frères, 1865. It appears to be helpful. Unfortunately, the pdf file size is very large and takes a long time to render a page. I have tried to reduce the document size using a Photoshop automated system, but it has failed in two attempts.
  • Lexicon graeco-latinum manuale ex optimis libris concinnatum. E.F. Leopold, ed. Lipsiae: Caroli Tauchnitii. 1852.
  • Cornelius Schrevel’s, Lexicon manuale Græco-Latinum et Latino-Græcum. Petrus Steele, ed. New York: Collins and Hannay. 1825.
  • Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης is a Greek-Latin dictionary that is over four hundred years old but has yet to be surpassed in comprehensiveness. The typesetting and the structure of the earliest editions are difficult to follow, but the editions printed in the 1800s and later make it much easier to use. The Firmon-Didot edition is linked here. One can go on Google and find earlier versions.Almost every dictionary above owes its ancestry to Stephanus. Many simply are abbreviated, condensed, abridged, or anglicized versions based on this work.

    Stephanus’ Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης is a multi-volume series. Some pages are missing scans or are scanned poorly. Some versions found on Google Books, such as volume 5, have copies that are missing a whole section, while other volume 5s have it. The link to volume 5 here is the full work.

    The Firmon-Didot editions range from publishing dates of approximately 1817-1842. Due to the varying dates, there may be some inconsistencies between the books. Volumes 1a to 8 are the actual dictionary volumes, while volume 9 is an index. There are volumes containing glossaries after this, but due to space limitations, these are not included.

 

Explanations about the Stephanus name, a note on Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon, and further help from Plotinus’ Philosophical Lexicon.

There is a rich history behind the Stephanus name and their contribution to Bible history. Θησαυρος της Ελληνικης Γλωσσης was spearheaded by Henri Estienne (also known as Henri Stephanus). This family’s history of publishing, collating manuscripts, and translating has had a major impact on the modern Bible. For example the current division of chapters and verses was first introduced by Henri’s father, Robert I.

Some may ask, “what about Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon?” This one is a recent publication and does not qualify to be in any open source digital book library. Oxford University Press has not ported the printed version into any digital format either. Amazon.com has new ones listed from $304-578.00 US. The publisher has alienated a sizeable audience by its pricing and lack of digital availability. It is an OK dictionary, not as good as Stephanus’, and not worth the price. This pricing and availability may also put the book into a deep public slumber — a forgotten work that will sit quietly on a few dusty library bookshelves.

The Ecclesiastical writers borrowed terms, phrases, idioms, and grammatical structure of Greek philosophy. The following dictionary is helpful in these difficult spots: Plotinus Philosophical Lexicon Thank-you to Ryan Clevenger for pointing this one out. The item is listed at the ScribD website, which is usually a paid service.

For more complete information on how to utilize the Perseus digital library, and a more comprehensive listing of other resources, the following article may be of assistance: Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers.

Greek Lexicon searches using Google Books

Google Books search engine allows one to enter actual Greek text as a searchable parameter.

This is a very special resource for those who wish to read or translate the Greek Church Fathers. Google Books can be used as one massive Greek Lexicon database.

It still isn’t quite as concise or have the ability to breakdown a conjugation or declension to its root form as the Perseus digital library does but where Perseus lacks in ecclesiastical usage, Google Books array of Lexicons fills in the void.

The Lexicons are old versions, mostly from the 1800s and the meanings are often in an older English vernacular, but these lexicons are classics and still provide a helpful and necessary aid for users today.

This has been mentioned before in my previous article Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers but the power of such a tool has both been underestimated and improved since the introduction of that article.

How Google Books has accomplished such a feat, it is not known, but for the difficult to read or translate 4th century texts such as Origen, Eusebius and more it is a must-have tool and a great time-saver.

It provides access to at least 6 different Greek Dictionaries. Not all of them are Greek-English Dictionaries; one is French, another Latin, and if one does a more thorough search than done here, likely German too.

One must keep in mind though that it isn’t always accurate. It appears to have difficulties with character recognition. For example, the common Greek word πνευμα pneuma, yields very few results, though if one looks manually into any one of the dictionaries in the Google Books Greek Lexicons, it appears quite frequently.

Another example is the Greek verb πνευματοφορηθῆναι as found in Eusebius’ Church History. If one enters this Greek copy as a search term in Google Books, it will state no such word exists even if one reduces it to a shortened form like πνευματοφ. However the word does exist in its collection. It was manually found in an old version of Lidell and Scott. The example can be found clicking here. Ironically the Perseus database does not contain this verbal form in their version of Liddell and Scott.

This search tool only works on Google Books website. It does not work with pdfs downloaded from the Google Books.

Before the onset of Google Books, translating the Greek Fathers, especially 4th century ones, was a much longer and tedious process. It is a big blessing that scholars even a decade ago would salivate over.

A big thank-you to Google and this amazing free-service they have provided.

The Various Uses of the Infinitive in Ancient Greek

Mastering the various nuances of the infinitive is one of the key elements in translating Patristic Greek.

The infinitive in Ecclesiastical Greek can be easy to translate when used normally, but tough when it comes to advanced forms.

It is easy to spot an infinitive because its ending usually takes on the -ειν as the ending such as:

  • ἄρχειν — οἱ δοκοῦντες ἄρχειν τῶν ἐθνῶν, “they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles,” (KJV; Mark 10:42)

  • φεύγειν — τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν ἀπὸ τῆς μελλούσης ὀργῆς; “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (NIV; Matthew 3:7)

  • λαμβένειν — εἶπεν Μακάριόν ἐστιν διδόναι μᾶλλον ἢ λαμβάνειν “He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (NKJV; Acts 20:35)

So far it is pretty simple. Identify a infinitive and translate into English as to rule, to flee, or to receive. This is basic. The infinitive in ancient Greek goes beyond this.

The infinitive takes on a different use if an article is found in front of it.

This happens quite often in Patristic writings and it is good to keep this quote handy from Donald J. Mastronarde’s book, Introduction to Attic Greek.:

  • nom. τὸ ἄρχειν πόνον φέρει. To rule brings toil

  • gen. ἐκ τοῦ φεύγειν as a result of fleeing

  • dat. πρὸς τῷ δῶρα λαμβένειν in addition to taking bribes

  • acc. πρὸς τὸ ἐλαύνειν τὰς ἵππους with regard to driving the mares(1)Introduction to Attic Greek By Donald J. Mastronarde. Page 65.

One will find in many grammars an oversimplification of the infinitive and doesn’t explain succinctly as Mastronarde does in the above.

However, one has to be very careful with the genitive articular infinitive. Τοῦ may indicate a comparative rather than a result clause. Cyril of Alexandria’s catena on I Corinthians is a good example:

προαποδείκνυσι καὶ ἑτέρως ἀσυγκρίτως ὅν ἐν ἀμείνοσι τοῦ γλώσσῃ λαλεῖν τὸ διερμηνεύειν τὰ προφητῶν

“He also elsewhere shows beyond comparison that the activity of interpreting the prophets is in superiority than speaking in a language.”

There are other techniques used here that have not been explained yet. The infinitive can be used as a gerundive, or a gerund which both happen to occur in the above passage.

First the gerund. The English language uses the gerund quite extensively; ruling, fleeing, and taking are some examples of the gerund construct. But how does that work translating a Patristic writer? The same quote by Cyril of Alexandria has, γλώσσῃ λαλεῖν which is literally, “to speak in a language,” but in this context, it simply does not make good English. Putting it into a gerund makes better sense, “speaking in a language.” When identifying an infinitive, one must always think of the gerund construct as a possible translation.

The Greek writer may have purposely written an infinitive to have a gerundive sense. There is no gerundive construct in English, but there are effective workarounds. The gerundive is especially typical in Latin, and on many occasions the Latin translator likes to translate the Greek articular infinitive as a gerundive, and makes good sense to do so. The articular infinitive does follow the gerundive pattern. A gerundive is a verbal adjective. It has many possible translations based on context. For example in the Cyril text above it has:

τὸ διερμηνεύειν τὰ προφητῶν. It can be translated as:

  • 1. one is about to interpret the things of the prophets
  • 2. one ought to interpret the things of the prophets
  • 3. one is in the act of interpreting the things of the prophets
  • 4. one is bound to interpret the things of the prophets
  • 5. one must interpret the things of the prophets

In this case, the third approach was chosen with some modifications

However, according to a Wikipedia article on Ancient Greek Grammar by an author named Cesarion, the gerundive does exist in a natural Greek state. It doesn’t have to be an articular infinitive:

The gerundive is a passive verbal adjective which indicates the necessity for the action of the verb to be performed. It takes the nominative endings -τέος, -τέᾰ, -τέον, declining like a normal first/second declension adjective. Its stem is normally of the same form as the aorist passive, but with φ changed to π and χ to κ. e.g.

παύωπαυστέος (to be stopped)
λαμβάνωληπτέος (to be taken)

Gerundives may be used as straightforward adjectives, with the agent, if any, in the dative:
βοῦς θυστέος ἐστίν
An ox must be sacrificed

They may also be used to express impersonal necessity
ποιητέον (ἐστί)
It is necessary to do…

However, I have very rarely come across these types of Greek constructs. Perhaps they do frequently exist and they have been overlooked.

The infinitive can be used for declaring a dependent clause:

λέγουσιν τὸν Σωκράτη σοφὸν εἶναι. They say that Socrates is wise.(2)taken directly from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_grammar

One other way the infinitive that cannot be overlooked is that it can be used in a subjunctive sense. Earlier Greek Patristic writers such as Cyril of Alexandria did not utilize the subjunctive mood, ἵνα + subjunctive. Instead the articular infinitive could be written for this purpose. The articular infinitive can indicate cause, purpose, or motive, which falls into the realm of the subjunctive. However, I do not yet have a good example of this to demonstrate, though it does occur frequently and the translator must always be mindful of this.

The Lectionary Studies website has an expanded usage of the infinitive in the Greek New Testament. It also describes how to use the infinitive with various prepositions in front of it. There are some applications from this website that can be applied to ecclesiastical Greek.

As one sees from all this, the infinitive plays an important role in ancient Greek, and the translator should keep in mind these variables.

References   [ + ]

The Mysterious Latin Gerundive

This is an in-depth look at the problems of translating the Latin gerundive and potential solutions.

For example, the so-called Patristic-Latin Ambrosiaster text utilized the gerundive on at least two occasions in its commentary on the Book of Corinthians in the 14th chapter. This is not a problem for a Latin writer to do, but the English lacks a direct equivalent. This leads to the question, how does one translate the gerundive here?

First before delving into the text, one needs to define what a gerundive is.

The gerundive is a future passive participle used in Latin literature. A number of authors and sites are devoted to addressing the gerundive but there is no unanimous approach on how to translate it into English.

Some authors have simplified it for the sake of novice Latin students who are tackling it for the first time. For example, one Latin study guide suggests it “is usually translated into English with the words ‘to be’ followed by the past participle.” (1)link to quote here.

This same website outlines the thought behind the gerundive and how to translate it, “It is important to note that the gerundive does not have an exact translation into English, and in order to convey the idea of obligation or suitability inherent in its meaning, translations can include such forms as ‘fit to be’, ‘must be’ and ‘ought to be’.”(2)link to quote here.

Another author wrote, “The gerundive can be translated with ‘about to be’ or ‘to be’: epistula legenda = the letter (about) to be read. Sometimes it can be translated as a simple adjective: homo abominandus = ‘horrible man’ in place of ‘man about to be abominated.’(3)Link to quote here.

John Burroughs School gets closer to the nuances and range of the gerundive along wth the problems of translating it into English.

“Sometimes the gerundive is used simply as any other Latin adjective, in which case it is best treated as a future passive participle. amandus, for instance, could thus be translated (very literally) “about to be loved,” but “to be loved” gets the same point across. But when Roman authors used gerundives, the emphasis in not only the futurity, but imminence and perhaps even inevitability. Horace himself (whom we, of course, know fondly as Quintus) is very fond of gerundives used like this in his poems. Here is an example: 

cur invidendis postibus…/sublime…moliar atrium?
Why should I toil over a hallway lofty with columns bound to be envied?

Horace’s point is not that, if he exerts lots of effort to build a fancy house, it will cause envy, but that it is bound to cause envy. The emphasis lies not on establishing a time-frame, but upon the probable or even inevitable effect. He could have used a simple adjective invidiosis, which would be translatable as “enviable,” but that would not get across the idea that if you build ostentatiously, somebody is sure to feel envy. As you can see, gerundives bring us firmly into the realm of “nuance” and connotation rather than ordinary denotation.

Here’s another example, again from Horace’s Odes; I have simplified and abridged it for purposes of clarity:

  • compescit Geryonen Tityonque tristi unda enaviganda omnibus, sive reges sive inopes coloni erimus.
  • He imprisons Geryon and Tityos with that gloomy stream bound to be navigated by us all, whether we will be kings or peasants.

Horace refers here to Pluto, king of Hades, who uses the River Styx as a sort of security barrier to keep sinners (Geryon and Tityus were two of those eternally punished) in the underworld. But his main point in this sentence is that everybody, rich or poor, is bound to cross that same river–in other words, everyone has to die, regardless of social status. The gerundive enaviganda conveys both the futurity and inevitability of this sad fact with an economy that English cannot manage.”(4)link to quote here.

The author frequently likes to use ‘bound to be’ as his English translation.

Charles E. Bennett’s book, New Latin Grammar, covers it in-depth; “The Gerundive denotes _obligation_, _necessity_, etc. Like other Participles it may be used either as Attributive or Predicate.” He goes on to give some good examples. Here is one of them;

  • “liber legendus, _a book worth reading_;
  • leges observandae, _laws deserving of observance_. “

He described some other important aspects and then wrote that after certain verbs the gerundive has to be translated as a purpose clause;

“After curo, _provide for_; do, trado, _give over_; relinquo,
_leave_; concedo, _hand over_, and some other verbs, instead of an
object clause, or to denote purpose; as,
 
Caesar pontem in Arari faciendum curavit,
Caesar provided for the construction of a bridge over the Arar_;

imperator urbem militibus diripiendam concessit,
the general handed over the city to the soldiers to plunder_. ”

John R. Porter at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) provides the most comprehensive portrait of the gerundive and even challenges the notion that it is a future passive participle. He thinks it is simply the “the adjectival counterpart to the gerund.”

Similar to Bennett’s approach, he translates the gerundive according to context and gave copious examples;

“Gerund: uēnit ad legendum librōs.
Gerundive: uēnit ad librōs legendōs.
[“He/She came with a view to books having an act of reading applied to them.” — i.e., to read books]

Gerund: studium legendī librōs
Gerundive: studium librōrum legendōrum
[“zeal of/for books having an act of reading applied to them” — i.e., of/for reading books]

Gerund: ōtium petit legendī librōs causā.
Gerundive: ōtium petit librōrum legendōrum causā.
[“He/She seeks leisure for the sake of books having an act of reading applied to them.” — i.e., of reading books]

Gerund: discimus legendō librōs.
Gerundive: discimus librīs legendīs.
[“We learn by means of books having an act of reading applied to them.” — i.e., by reading books]

Gerund: hoc locūtus est dē legendō librōs.
Gerundive: hoc locūtus est dē librīs legendīs.
[“He/She said this concerning books having an act of reading applied to them.” — i.e. concerning the reading of books].”

Porter then concluded, “In each instance, the gerundive is inserted as the passive, adjectival correlative to the active, substantival gerund. The construction with the gerundive is much more vivid, to the degree that it allows the immediate focus to be placed on the noun (“books”) rather than on the abstract action (“reading”).”(5)Link to his article here.

Of course there are the typical gerundive as a passive periphrastic or when it is combined with ‘ad’ plus the gerundive to denote purpose, but this is not the case here with the examples shown below with Ambriosaster, so this aspect of the gerundive will be ignored.

The gerundive creates an ambiguity that one must ponder about all the options above and see which one is most suitable for a text. Perhaps it will even take more thought and one may have to use a totally different structure as Charles Bennett demonstrated to capture the nuance.

With all these options in mind, the following two texts in Ambrosiaster’s commentary on the Book of Corinthians provide some good examples on how to translate it.

The following are from MPL Vol. 17. Ad Opera S. Ambrosii Appendix. Comment. In I Ad Corinth. Col. 268ff. The gerundives are highlighted in italic for the reader to easily identify.

The first example is from I Corinthians 14:12 “Quia prodest Scripturas explanare propterea ad hanc partem studium monet applicandum.”

If one is to use a number of the methods mentioned above, the translations work out like this:

“Because it [prophecy] is useful to explain the Scriptures…

    1. The ‘about to be’ method: “therefore he teaches learning is about to be applied by this office.”
    2. The ‘bound to be method’: “therefore he teaches learning is bound to be applied by this office.”
    3. The Porter approach: “therefore he teaches transformational learning [learning having to be actively put into practice with it] by this office.”
    4. The ‘ought, fit or must’ method: “therefore he teaches learning is fit to be put into practice by this office.”

In this instance the preferred translation would be:

“Because it [prophecy] is useful to explain the Scriptures… therefore he teaches transformational learning by this office.”

This one suits the best because Ambrosiaster was trying to emphasize the fact that the learner is going to go deeper in the Scriptures with the aide of a prophet. The prophet can teach a type of knowledge that transcends the intellect and changes one worldview.

The second example is a bit more complex. I Corinthians 14:5 “Non poterat prohibere loqui linguis, qui superius donum istud dicit esse Spiritus sancti : sed ideo prophetandi magis studium habendum, quia utilius est.”

If one is to use a number of the methods mentioned above, and assuming prophetandi to be a gerund, the translations would go something like this: “He could not prohibit to speak in languages which he teaches to be such a superior gift of the holy Spirit but…

If it is to be translated as a gerundive, then these possibilities exist:

    1. The ‘about to be’ method: “more learning is about to be had by means of prophecy because it is more beneficial.”
    2. The ‘bound to be’ method: “more learning is bound to be had by means of prophecy because it is more beneficial.”
    3. The Porter approach: “rather study [having an act applied to it] impacted by prophecy because it is more beneficial.”
    4. The ‘ought, fit or must’ method: “more learning must be had by means of prophecy because it is more beneficial.”

Note that the noun studium – learn, study, zeal, fondness etc., and the adverb magis are changed depending on how the gerundive is understood.

All carry a similar gist to the thought but my personal preference is, “He could not prohibit to speak in languages which he teaches to be such a superior gift of the holy Spirit but more learning is bound to be had by means of prophecy because it is more beneficial.” This does not mean one should use the ‘bound to be’ method every time. It just seemed to fit here the best.

See also Translating Future Active and Passive Participles into English by John Garger.

References   [ + ]

Grammar for Gemara and Targum Onkelos

Grammar for Gemara and Targum Onkelos: an Introduction to Aramaic, by Yitzhak Frank, is an exceptionally well done grammar for those wishing to read, learn, and translate the Talmud Babli or Targum Onkelos.

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