Sunday, September 4, 2011

Apto and Logos

In Elder's Quorum today we had a lesson about Joseph Smith and his call to be a prophet.  During the lesson, the teacher asked, "Have you ever read a different translation of the Bible that is perhaps easier to read?"  and then proceeded to explain the horrors associated with a Biblical translation bereft of prophetic guidance.  The class was in full agreement and in the spirit of unity, I declined to share my thoughts on that occasion, but I have included a few examples as a rebuttal to his position.

First of all and most obviously, the Bible translation that is currently endorsed by the Church we believe was inspired but was prepared without prophetic guidance.  Is it at all possible, I wanted to ask him, that others with the same enlightened spirit could offer in some cases a better translation?  I have included two examples that have long confused me.

μη μου απτου (Touch me not)

John 20:11-17 KJV 

11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
 12And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
 13And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my LORD, and I know not where they have laid him.
 14And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
 15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
 16Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Now, before we start talking about the metaphysics of a resurrected being which invariably sparks late night discussions among missionaries, let's take a closer look at the Greek word for 'touch.'  The lexicons give a few definitions of the Greek word which is translated here as 'touch': touch, hold, take hold of.  The JST of this verse changes the word touch for hold.  Believing the simplest explanation to be best, it is more likely that Mary, realizing who the "gardener" was, embraced Him.  When it was time to part, I imagine Christ gently telling her, "Stop holding me.  It's time to let go.  I haven't even been to see the Father yet...etc."

According to Dana and Mantey, authors of the A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament,
the phrase is written in the present imperative and that a prohibition in the present imperative demands that action then in progress be stopped.  The difference is slight, but important as in "Don't eat," which has a different meaning than "Stop eating."

17 λε   λεγει αυτη ο ιϲ μη μου απτου ου πω γαρ αναβεβη κα προϲ τον πατε ρα · πορευου δε προϲ 
τουϲ αδελφουϲ   και ειπε αυτοιϲ · ϊδου αναβαινω προϲ το πατερα μου και πα τερα ϋμων · και θν 
μου · και θν ϋμων · 


I believe some things like names and titles should remain untranslated.  The opening canticle of John is a perfect reason why.  


  1. εν αρχη ην ο λογοϲ και ο λογοϲ ην  προϲ τον θν και

       In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2. θϲ ην ο λογοϲ ου τοϲ ην εν αρχη

     He was in the beginning with God.     

3. προϲ τον θν πα τα δι αυτου εγενε το και χωριϲ αυτου εγενετο ουδεν ˙

     All things came into being through him, and without him came into being not one thing that is in being.

4. ὁ γεγονεν · εν αυτω ζωη εϲτιν · και η ζωη ην το φωϲ των ανθρω

     In him is life, and the life was the light of men.     

5. πων · και το φωϲ εν τη ϲκοτια φαι νει και η ϲκοτι α αυτο ου κατε λαβεν ·

     And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.

During seminary and other lessons on John 1, I was unsatisfied with the answers of the teachers and students about what the heck John is talking about.  Why does he say the 'Word' capitalized and say things about the 'Word' that we ascribe to Jesus?  Why couldn't he say "In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God."?

Various answers I heard were, "It refers to Christ as the author of the Gospel," or, "The 'Word' means scripture was with God and, okay it's not a perfect analogy," or some other behemoth falsity.  Turns out in Greek, 'Word is translated from λογοs or logos.  It literally means 'word.'  Any word as it turns out, but then why 
capitalize it?

Not until you go back to around the time that John was written (circa 90 AD) can you understand the context  
surrounding logos.  There was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher named Philo who diead around 50 AD.  He 
borrowed the title logos from the Greeks and applied his understanding to it.  His writings are rather dense
and require a working knowledge of Platonic "idea" principles, but simply, Logos is the bridge or intermediary
between matter and Plato's perfect idea.  Philo wrote that Logos is "the first-born of God...the Logos is the 
living God which is the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevents them from being dissolved and separated."

So when the authors of John introduce  logos, they are using a popular concept and claiming that the 'Logos' 
everyone is talking about is Christ.  John says, "Hey, Logos and Jesus are the same. Listen to what Jesus says."

Unfortunately, the title Logos got translated to English as Word and Tyndale couldn't have forseen 
that when he sacrificed the title for poetic cadence, a generation of incurious teachers would hand down
poorly drafted ideas about what John 1 actually means. I would have left it as "In the beginning was Logos
and Logos was with God and Logos was God."

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