Thursday, December 25, 2008

Luke and Greek Rhetoric in the Bible

Feature article from Solomon's Potico

"About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way"
Here Luke uses a "Litotes" which is a form of Greek rhetoric, which seeks to express something by stating the opposite.
The phrase "no little disturbance" actually means a great disturbance.
See also Acts 21:39 "a citizen of no mean city" another example of a litotes.
Some of the most popular English translations do not translate the litotes "no little disturbance" as it appears in the Greek but rather it's actual meaning is translated.

for example...

NKJV, And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way

NIV, About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way

Although no meaning is lost in these translations, it seems to me that some of the prose and character is lost by removing the Greek rhetoric from the verse. The original cultural character of the idiom is lost by translating it into plain English.

Another example of Greek rhetoric in Luke's Gospel is called an exordium, which is a form of introduction to a discourse or essay. An exordium lays out the purpose of a discourse and prepares the audience's frame of mind to receive the intended message.

some examples...

Luke 1
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Against Apion, Josephus
I Suppose that by my books of the Antiquity of the Jews, most
excellent Epaphroditus, have made it evident to those who
peruse them, that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity,
and had a distinct subsistence of its own originally; as also, I
have therein declared how we came to inhabit this country wherein
we now live.

Both Luke and Josephus use the same rhetorical vehicle in setting the tone for their discourses.

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