Small Changes, Big Difference? The Gospel According to Luke

Luke 5:30-31

The Pharisees and their scribes were muttering and addressing his students: “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and criminals?” Jesus answered by saying: “The healthy have no need of a doctor, but the sick do. I did not come to ask just men to change, but the criminals.”

ἐγόγγυζον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγοντες, “Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε;”

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, “Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ ἀλλὰ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες·  οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.”

During a review sessions for Greek 1 today, I was reading this passage with a student (it is in Athenaze).  I don’t read the NT often, but as I did today with a student who knows the New Testament pretty well, I was reminded by how much translation can change the way we take it in English.  For example, where a Platonic dialogue might have “students” for μαθητὰς, “doctor” for ἰατροῦ and “change” for μετάνοιαν as I have done, the passage rings very differently changing just a few words in English:

The Pharisees and their scribes were muttering and addressing his disciples: “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered by saying: “The healthy have no need of a healer, but the sick do. I did not come to summon just men to repent, but the sinners.”

I am obviously offering no revolutionary observations here—small is the difference between many translations. But in my first reading of the passage today, with a Platonic mindset, the tone and the language seemed much more similar to something from Philostratus.

But it has probably just been too long since I’ve read this…

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