August 13, 2005

2 Timothy 2:2 - Conclusions (or Lack Thereof)

Last week, I posted on the translation of the prepositon dia in 2 Timothy 2:2. I want to thank everyone for all the responses and the links (particularly the links from Better Bibles Blog and PastoralEpistles.com). Thanks to lengthy email discussions with commenters John Kendall and Stephen C. Carlson, (which I apologize for my limited participation in and late response to), I think that a basic understanding has been reached on which both translations can be seen to be justified (which is what I had hoped for; I didn't particularly want all of the major translations to be wrong). The usage of dia to mean "in the midst of" does in fact have other evidence, but all of that evidence is questionable. About five sources are routinely cited (including notably Philo's epistle to Gaius, 187, and Plutarchs Moralia 338F), and several important lexica (including a tiny note that I missed in LSJ at the end of A.I.3 of the entry) do list this meaning.

That said, I must still favor the interpretation of dia here meaning "through" because of two points. (1) Occam's Razor. The existence of the "with" meaning of dia is an unecessary postulate based on all the evidence that I can see, so we are justified in throwing it out. (2) The Vulgate. The Latin Vulgate translation, which was written at a time when there were still native speakers of the language walking around, translated the relevant portion "quae audisti a me per multos testes," and the Latin per also normally means "through." However, we are in much the same position with the Latin, as, according the Lewis and Short, per does occasionally mean "with," and again I suspect the references they cite are questionable and this is one of them.

In sum, the "with" interpretation makes sense in the context, but the lexicographic evidence for it is weak. It seems likely to me that this was a questionable decision made by the Geneva Bible (which, by the way, renders it "among many witnesses") and accepted without enough questioning by future generations of translators.

Posted by Kenny at August 13, 2005 5:59 PM
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