Thursday, 22 October 2015

In THE beginning (3)

So far I have set out my conclusion that the lack of article in John 1:1 before “beginning” is normal despite the fact that we translate it into modern languages with the definite article. It’s time to see what I base that on and how we can deal with the few exceptions.

The first place to start is to ask ourselves: do we see the exact phrase en arche ever separated by the definite article? Here, where it matters most, we have total agreement: no. This expression is simply the way to express “In the beginning” and our three other biblical examples include the author in question, John, as well as both Paul and Luke. These are the New Testament examples (I will briefly cover the LXX afterward), all of which are in the dative case like John 1:

NAS: In the beginning was the Word,
KJV: In the beginning was the Word,
INT: In [the] beginning was the

NO ARTICLE John 1:2 (dative singular)
GRK: ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν
NAS: He was in [the] beginning with God.

NO ARTICLE Acts 11:15 (dative singular)
GRK: ἡμᾶς ἐν ἀρχῇ 
KJV: …us at [the] beginning.

NO ARTICLE Philippians 4:15 (dative singular)
GRK: ὅτι ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου
KJV: in [the] beginning of the gospel,

This might seem like scant evidence – do not worry! There is much more to come as we widen out to other cases and configurations. But here we have four exact matches (including John 1:1) across three of the most represented New Testament authors, John, Paul and Luke.

What about the LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament? Are there any instances of an articular arche in this form, i.e. en + article + arche ? Here we must concede one, and it is obscure. It is in Daniel 9:21, and is not translated as “in the beginning” at all. 

Firstly, I do not have access to textual variations on article inclusion/exclusion for Daniel 9:21 in the LXX. Scribes definitely do play around with articles a little in subsequent centuries so it is a possibility that the articular version we read today was not originally articular.

Secondly, when you look up the Hebrew word used in Daniel here, בַּתְּחִלָּה֙ it is not the same word as used in the Hebrew, original, version of Genesis 1:1 בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית, to which all scholars would agree there is at least some connection for John’s prologue writer. And yes, before you ask, the LXX also does indeed commence Genesis with the anarthrous “En arche” (no article). The Hebrew used for this idea is found in three other locations in the Old Testament, all of them in Jeremiah. However, only one of these, Jeremiah 26:1, is translated in the LXX as “En arche”. The other two Jeremiah references seem to show evidence of serious textual corruptions, I presume, into the Septuagint tradition because the book of Jeremiah seems to differ generally and significantly beyond this point between the Hebrew and its Greek translation. I should look into this more, but it is no longer of relevance to the current investigation.

So far, so good: En arche in Greek = In THE beginning.

But that should not satisfy, as we need to look at arche in its other forms and without the preposition “en”, which could affect how the need for the article applies is in Greek. However, we shall see that there too, a distinctive pattern will still emerge, albeit with a few more explainable exceptions.

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