My Photo
Location: United States

Friday, June 03, 2011

Gordon Fee & direct translation of Revelation 1:1

As most of you probably know, Gordon Fee’s book on Revelation was published early this year by  Wipf & Stock. I found it at the local library. Gordon Fee is a professional textual critic and New Testament exegete. His works on Philippians and First Corinthians are required reading. The target audience for his Revelation commentary is general readers. The text used is the NIV2011 but his exegesis is most certainly based on the Greek text. This is not a review, rather a continuation of our discussion of direct translation.

In the notes on Revelation 1:1 Fee points out the ambiguity in the first verse of the Apocalypse and what the NIV committee[1] did to remove it. Removing ambiguity results in a curtailment of inferential options. In other words, there are alternative readings in the Greek text which are eliminated in the NIV2011 (hereafter, NIV).

1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,  NIV2011

Revelation of John 1:
1  Αποκαλυψις Ιησου Χριστου, ην εδωκεν αυτῳ ο θεος δειξαι τοις δουλοις αυτου, α δει γενεσθαι εν ταχει, και εσημανεν αποστειλας δια του αγγελου αυτου τῳ δουλῳ αυτου Ιωαννῃ,  — SBLGNT  M. Holmes

Three words into the NIV the first ambiguity is removed, “from Jesus Christ” makes Jesus the source or agent of the revelation. The genitive construction Αποκαλυψις Ιησου Χριστου is ambiguous, Jesus Christ could also be the substance (object) of the revelation.  John the Apostle[2] was a cleaver author. He certainly understood ambiguity and used it intentionally. Fee argues that the very next clause ην εδωκεν αυτῳ ο θεος δειξαι … “which God gave him to show” supports the NIV rendering of the genitive. But that argument is self defeating. If that clause makes it obvious in greek[3] it also makes it obvious in english and for that reason there is no need to remove the ambiguity. Retaining the ambiguity “the revelation of Jesus Christ” preserves the literary quality of John’s original, the intentional use of language with a potential double meaning. In other words, the original wording had inferential richness which the NIV removes. A direct translation would retain the ambiguity.

[1]G. Fee is a member of the NIV committee.

[2]I agree with Gordon Fee, that the author of the apocalypse was the Apostle John who was also the author of the John’s Gospel.

[3] Not everyone agrees that it is obvious, see F. J. A. Hort, The Apocalypse of St. John 1-3: The Greek Text with Introduction , Commentary, and Additional Notes, Macmillan and. Co., 1908.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home