In my preceding post I asked blog readers to suggest natural English translations for a Hebrew phrase in Isaiah 53:3. Alert readers pointed out that I had chosen a phrase embedded in Hebrew poetry. That gave us some good lessons in translation of poetic language. But it didn’t give us much of an opportunity for translating non-poetic language which was my goal when I gave that particular assignment.
So, let’s try again. There is a phrase which occurs twice in the New Testament, in John 17:12 and 2 Thess. 2:3. It has the same form as the poetic example of Isaiah 53:3, namely, “[NOUN] of [NOUN]”. The phrase in Greek is:
ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας
Formal Equivalent proponents who have translated the form of this phrase to English have typically translated it as “the son of perdition” or “the son of destruction”.
“Son of” is often used in the Bible as a Semitic form which has no relationship to actual sonship. But native English speakers usually do not normally use the form “son of ” to refer to anyone other than when it has the meaning that they are the biological, adopted, or social son of some specific person. Sometimes native speakers use the form “son of” with the name of a place, such as referring to George W. Bush as a “son of Texas.” The phrase then means that GWB comes from Texas. Texas is his home. He belongs to Texas.
As I try to word your assignment this time, I hope I have used a non-poetic example which will restrict us to standard, natural, normal (“unmarked”) forms of English. If any of you think of some “marked” (non-standard) forms which come from book titles or other writing which uses literary license, would you please humor me by not referring to such marked (non-standard forms). Please try to suggest answers which native speakers of English would think of when they are speaking or writing to a wide range of other people, including truck drivers, nurses, carpenters, school teachers, checkout people at the grocery store, et al.
OK, here is the assignment:
“Please suggest ways that native speakers, such as friends of yours, and your neighbors and people who work at jobs, such as those listed in the preceding paragraph, would express in their own words the meaning of the Greek phrase ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας.”
Think about whether or not most native speakers of English would use the words “son of” for the meaning it had in the two John 17:12 and 2 Thess. 2:3, where there is no biological or adoptive sonship.