Fullness of Faith
From Jerome to Luther and on to modern times, translators of Holy Scripture have lamented the difficulty of their task. Indeed, I would not be surprised to learn that even the great Alexandrian Seventy—if only we had their diaries and private correspondence—also recorded complaints on this point.
A major problem—especially acute when the “receiving” language embodies a culture not yet influenced by the Bible—comes from the wealth of certain biblical expressions that have no entire equivalence in other tongues. Two such words, surely, are the noun pistis and the verb pistevo. The former is normally translated “faith” or “loyalty,” but in certain settings it also means “trust.” The verb, depending on the idiomatic context, can be rendered “to believe,” “to trust,” or “to maintain loyalty.”
Let us observe, however, that the difficulty arises only with respect to translation. In Greek itself, both the verb and the noun always contain all those meanings! The translator, guided mainly by the perceived context, is almost never able to convey the full sense of the original.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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