Μὴ γίνεσθε ἑτεροζυγοῦντες ἀπίστοις

Recently I was approached by a friend who wanted my take on Paul’s comment that Christians should not be “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). This particular friend is in an interfaith marriage and had been challenged by someone who took Paul’s comment as a prohibition against such marriages.

Μὴ γίνεσθε ἑτεροζυγοῦντες ἀπίστοις· τίς γὰρ μετοχὴ δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ἀνομίᾳ, ἢ τίς κοινωνία φωτὶ πρὸς σκότος;

I’ve spent some time looking at the way this verse has been used and reading the relevant section of 2 Corinthians carefully. Here are a few observations on what I have found:

1. The passage in question (2 Corinthians 6) does not address marriage at all. It is about the work of the gospel, the work of early Christians in spreading the “good news” (to use Paul’s favorite term for it elsewhere). If this one verse refers to marriage, it seems quite out-of-place here.

2. The phrase “unequally yoked” translates the Greek word ἑτεροζυγοῦντες—a compound of the two words ἕτερος and ζυγέω. A problem with interpreting this as a reference to interfaith marriage is that the verb ζυγέω is not used elsewhere to refer to marriage. It refers to wearing a device that allows two animals (or slaves) to work together, not to form a family together. If Paul used the term figuratively to refer to marriage, he used it in a very odd way.

A much more reasonable interpretation of the verb would be something like, “Don’t partner with unbelievers [in the work of spreading the gospel].” In fact, in the very next clause Paul asks, “What partnership (μετοχὴ) [is there] between righteousness and lawlessness?” (τίς γὰρ μετοχὴ δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ἀνομίᾳ).

Note that I’m not arguing a theological point here. I can’t speak for Paul about his view of interfaith marriage. I just notice that this particular verse does not appear to be about marriage at all, but about partnership in the work of the gospel.

There’s a separate issue that can be raised in reference to this same statement in 2 Corinthians 6:14, and that has to do with the word ἀπίστοις. Most published English translations render ἀπίστοις as unbelievers. While this adjective does seem to have that sense in a number of other contexts, it is important to realize that it is a combination of the privative α- and the adjective πιστός (faithful) and can also describe a lack of faithfulness rather than a lack of belief.

Of course translating ἀπίστοις  as unfaithful would significantly change the meaning of the passage. Rather than arguing that the Corinthians not work with unbelievers in the spread of the gospel, Paul would be arguing that they should not work with those who are unfaithful. This could very well include his opponents within the Corinthian church! Why would he have to counsel them not to work with unbelievers in the spread of the gospel anyway? Why would unbelievers want to be involved in that work?

If we read ἀπίστοις as unfaithful, we would see Paul as counseling the Corinthians not to work with unfaithful Christians. Doing so could damage their witness. He prefers that they work with those who are faithful (πιστός) like him.

The Sociolinguistics of Translating Canonical Religious Texts

After reading some comments on Sociolinguistics over at the b-greek forum a few days ago, I was fascinated to find a 1994 paper by Eugene Nida on Sociolinguistics and translation today. The article is available online. If you are unclear on the distinction between Sociolinguistics and other forms of Linguistic inquiry, you will find this article helpful.

The Sociolinguistics of Translating Canonical Religious Texts

Language Choice in Ancient Palestine

I have added Hughson Ong’s article, ”Language Choice in Ancient Palestine: A Sociolinguistic Study of Jesus’ Language Use Based on Four ‘I Have Com’” Sayings” (Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics. 1.3 [2012]) to the bibliography at Greek-Language.com.

Here’s the abstract I included:

Ong discusses language authenticity to address a problem in historical Jesus research—the lingua franca of Jesus’ social environment. Using sociolinguistic principles he argues that Palestine was a multilingual society and that various social groups necessitate the use of language varieties, raising the issue of language choice (the occasions and reasons multilingual people use their native tongue over and against their second language). Ong’s objective is to show in four “I have come” sayings in the Synoptic Gospels that, with high probability, Jesus’ internal language was Aramaic, and his public language was Greek.

Those of you interested in sociolinguistics may find Ong’s argument particularly stimulating.

Greek-Language.com Version 3 (or is it 4?)

Today I uploaded a completely redesigned site at Greek-Language.com. Every page except the grammar has been redesigned. You will see much that looks familiar, but plenty that is new as well. The greatest changes are behind the scenes, with a thorough rewriting of the code that makes the site run. I have written many hundreds of lines of HTML and totally replaced all of the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) that control the look of the pages.

Here are some of the more obvious changes:

  1. The alphabet page now contains pronunciation recommendations for the Hellenistic period. (It always had them for Classical and Modern Greek.) I have inserted audio recordings with the Hellenistic Koine pronunciation suggestions. This slows down page load time, but has a big enough payoff to warrant it. The recordings are not stellar, but they provide an approximation of one of the many varieties of pronunciation that were current during the period.
  2. ALL informational pages now have a Google search bar at the bottom of the page.
  3. The bibliographies page has been cleaned up and now has a clearer, easier to follow organization. Several former pages have been combined into a single elegant page.
  4. The blogs page had become obsolete since the same information it contained is included here on this blog in the blogroll on the right. This page was simply replaced by a link that brings you here.
  5. The dictionaries page includes a number of additions, including a new section with basic information on Ancient Greek lexicographers—writers in the ancient world who wrote discussions of Greek vocabulary or early lexicons.
  6. In addition to cleaning up the epigraphy page I have added information on resources that have come online since the last major renovation of this site (2009).
  7. I added Textkit’s Greek and Latin Forum to the forums page and streamlined the look of all the resources presented there.
  8. Little has changes on the history page other than visual presentation and small improvements in wording.
  9. On the learn Greek page, I deleted references to sites that have not been updated in the last couple of years and added a link to William Mounce’s online resources for his Basics of Biblical Greek.
  10. The manuscripts page brings a range of improvements from updated information on the resources that were already listed there to adding resources that were not available in 2009.
  11. The software page has also seen updates with the deletion of links to organizations that have provided nothing new for the study of Greek in several years to the addition of one company that has recently begun a move into Ancient Greek software.
  12. Since the overwhelming majority of computers now on the market can use Unicode fonts, and there are many of them available on the internet, I have eliminated the fonts page here at Greek-Language.com.

I hope you enjoy the updated site and find it useful.

Like everything new in the world of computing, I’m sure there will be some mistakes in what I have created. I encourage you to point them out to me. You can do that either by emailing me, if you already have my address (I’m sorry I can’t post it here because of SPAM bots that read websites to find them!), or by using the contact option in the menu bar just under the picture at the top of this page.

If Only Paul Had Used The Chicago Manual of Style

I ran across a Google doc today written by Roger Omanson with some great examples of the kinds of difficulties the lack of punctuation in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament can cause. He writes in a way that can be easily understood even if you don’t read Greek.

Here’s the doc: “If Only Paul Had Used The Chicago Manual of Style

I had the tremendous pleasure of studying under Dr. Omanson at Southern Seminary many years ago. His knowledge of the Greek text of the New Testament is truly amazing.

Green Certified? Really?

It’s something of an odd distinction for a site dedicated to linguistics and Ancient Greek to have received, but Greek-Language.com is now Green Certified. That’s because the hosting company that provides the space on the web and the fancy functionality to make this site work is now 100% wind powered. You can read about it on our certification page or by clicking on the wind-power icon in the sidebar to the right.