Is your spouse greater than all?

Let’s think about your spouse. Is he or she greater than all?

What do you think of the preceding question?

Can you think of any way to improve my question? How do you think this post might be relevant to English Bible translation? (You may have to think outside the box a little, or allow your brain to associate words in my question with something in the Bible you are already familiar with.)

10 thoughts on “Is your spouse greater than all?

  1. Theophrastus says:

    Is this a discussion about John 10:29?

    There are two possible points which you may be referring to:

    (a) the ambiguity in English between all = “all existence” and all = “all other (individual) things”?

    (Even in the former sense, a possible solution can be found in the philosophical stance of panentheism — not to be confused with pantheism).

    (b) the fact that the superlative is often used in this context rather than the comparative

    But this would be especially awkward in contemporary English, because saying “God is the greatest” would somehow equate God with Muhammad Ali.

  2. Mike Aubrey says:

    I’d never say that. There’s a reason for having superlatives and this is it: when one things is better than all the other things – i.e. the best thing.

  3. codepoke says:

    Google says usage of “greater than all” commonly requires an explicit target. I’m pretty sure the bare phrase could be used successfully when the comparison target is well known, such as in sports, but I cannot find a single instance when it is.

    So, I’m with on this one, Wayne. 🙂

  4. Wayne Leman says:

    Is this a discussion about John 10:29?

    Yes. I noticed last night during our grandchildren’s Bible reading time that “My father … is greater than all” doesn’t sound right in my dialect (or idiolect) of English. It might be OK, however, for other people.

    For me, there needs to be someone or something that the “all” modifies. And, actually, the words “everything” or “everyone” work better for me in this context than “all.” I like one translation (GW) that has “My father …is greater than everyone else.” That sounds like proper English to me. So does “my Father … is more powerful than anyone else” (NLT).

    I am surprised at how many English versions use “all,” because that sounds quite bad to my ears. I’d be interested to know how it sounds to others. Perhaps my ears are just out of tune with how most people speak or write English. So maybe “all” is just fine, in this context, after all(!). The only way to find out is to ask, which I am doing with this post.

  5. Nathan Stitt says:

    my immediate reaction was, “greater than all… what?”

    than all other women?
    than all other people?
    than all other things?
    than anything at all?

    Sounds strange to me as well.

  6. Rich Rhodes says:

    It should be noted that when Muhammed Ali said, “I am the greatest.” He didn’t have to mention that he meant greatest boxer of all.

    It’s not that we can’t leave the comparatum out, but this is just not the wording that supports that omission.

    There’s a lesson in translation here, but it isn’t easy to grasp. The short version is: get the exact wording and you can be more succinct. If you let the source language dictate your wording too much, you lose the ability to get the tight, concise communication that we see in the source language. That conciseness is meaningful in itself, and has to be factored in among the translational trade-offs.

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