The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: N

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NT punctuation

The Greek language has a system of punctuation marks somewhat similar to ours. Originally, this was not so; there was no punctuation, and moreover, the writing was not separated into words. ("The oldest Greek mss had no chapter and verse divisions, no punctuation marks and hence no separation into sentences, and not even any separation between words. All they have are line after line, column after column, page after page, through a whole book of the NT": Earle, "NIV: Making of Contemporary Translation")

Translators, therefore, are not bound to follow the punctuation which they find in their mss. Scott also tells us that punctuation marks were first introduced in the days of Jerome (c 400 AD), who translated the Bible into Latin.

Translators must therefore look at the possible meaning of a phrase as if all the punctuation marks were ignored.

The best example of this "complication", at least to Christadelphians, is Luk 23:43, where the AV translates "Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise", but a much more appropriate translation might be: "I say to you today, You shall be with me in paradise."

But other instances may be found. For example, the AV translated Luk 16:22,23 as: "The rich man also died and was buried. And in hell he..." William Tyndale (1525) translated this as: "The rich man died and was buried in hades." Likewise, the Douay (Roman Catholic) version (1582) read: "The rich man died also, and was buried in hell" (Harold Hughes, Sh 85:5:7).

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