Monday, October 8, 2012

Infant Baptism and Matthew 19:13-15

I was recently preparing a lecture on Matthew 19-25 for my class with the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan and noticed a fairly important difference between the NABRE and RSV-2CE.  It occurred while looking at Matthew 19:14, where Jesus famously blesses the children.  The NABRE renders it this way: "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them."  The RSV-2CE goes with: "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them."  Both are certainly fine, legitimate translations of that verse, with the only real difference being in how they translate the Greek (root) word κωλύω.  The NABRE goes with "prevent" while the RSV-2CE (as well as the original RSV and ESV) go with "hinder."

Now what makes the NABRE more helpful than the RSV, particularly in regards to the issue of infant Baptism, is that the same Greek word κωλύω is also used in Acts 8:36, where Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch.  The NABRE reads: "As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, 'Look, there is water.  What is to prevent my being baptized?'"  However, in the RSV-2CE, κωλύω is translated as "prevent" instead of "hinder" on this occasion.  (This change also occurs in the original RSV and ESV.)  So, by not consistently translating the Greek word κωλύω as "prevent" or "hinder" in both cases, the English language reader, using the RSV-2CE, may miss the connection.

And get this, the NABRE commentary, which is castigated more often than the translation itself, notes this important connection.

4 comments:

Jason Engel said...

Translation can be such a hard thing between modern living languages, even more so when it's original Biblical languages. Understanding that a given word can have multiple minutely nuanced meanings influenced by context, it's not necessarily correct to assume that κωλύω must always mean "prevent", or that the presence of the same Greek word in two different books by different authors is meant to suggest a connection above & beyond identical meaning in the original language (or in English). This is why I actually prefer to have multiple English translations, so that we are required to contemplate not only the original meaning (if possible) but how to apply it today.

CatholicMom said...

This is an interesting post.
(But...did you mean hinder for the rsv2ce in acts? Or am I misunderstanding something?)

losabio said...

One thing that I find neat about using the original language words to learn different nuances of meaning, is that the knowledge of the different renditions will (variously) stay with me, thereby informing future readings of the Scriptures in question, from translation to translation.

There is a translation called the Amplified Bible (AMP) which renders Mt 19.14 thusly:

But He said, Leave the children alone! Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or restrain or hinder them, for of such [as these] is the kingdom of heaven composed.

CJA Mayo said...

I think the Amplified Bible is a great resource for those who wish to study the Bible a little more deeply, but can't, don't, or won't learn the Biblical languages (no shame in that, as I can't read Hebrew, even though I was required to learn it). The Amplified Bible, at some points, however, has "Amplifications" that are strongly Protestant in character - mostly on ecclesiology and the five solas, as I've not found it to have a noticeable or strong bias towards Reformed or Arminian soteriology.

But, nothing in English, maybe with the exception of a good, hyper-literal, non-reverse interlinear, can come close to being able to read the original languages.

I believe in the supremacy of the Byzantine text-type (the Majority Text, of which the TR is a derivative or sub-set), but, for reading the NT in Greek, there is an excellent resource called the "Reader's Edition of the UBS 4th Ed. Greek New Testament" (Critical Eclectic Text), which anyone, after limited study of Greek (i.e. Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek + the flash cards, about a month or six weeks of study) can use to read the NT in its original language, as the book includes a dictionary/glosses for all Greek words that occur less than thirty times (BBG and the flash cards teach you every word that occurs more than thirty times) in the text.

It's a great tool.

It sucks that there's nothing equivalent for the LXX out there, so, I'm forced to have recourse to a $600(!) dictionary of "The Septuagint and Early Christian Literature" when reading it at times, although I find I need it less and less. Some lexicons, such as Brown-Driver-Briggs, are available online (I don't think BDAG or BADG are), but try typing polyphonic Greek using an English keyboard in English Windows OS!