A Comma Can Make Quite a Difference

As I said, I am reading the book of Luke in Greek as a Lenten project. At the urging of a friend, I have decided to write down my translation, which I will post here when completed. So today, I started working on the verses I’d already read, but had not written down. As I was doing this, I decided to read the Greek not only in my UBS4, but also in my Byzantine text. (The Byzantine textform is essentially the Greek text that underlies the Textus Receptus, which was used by the translators of the King James bible, so it is quite different in some places from the NA27/UBS4.) I have now noted two places in my translation where there are differences between them.

The one that was most interesting today was Luke 1:35b. Here it is from the UBS4,

διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται, υἱὸς θεοῦ.

And here it is from the Byzantine,

διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται υἱὸς θεοῦ.

Can you spot the difference? The UBS4 has a comma after κληθήσεται, but the Byzantine does not. Thus, the UBS4 would be translated something like,

And because of this, the one who is born will be called holy, the son of God.

But without the comma, the Byzantine comes across something like this,

And because of this, the holy one who is born will be called the son of God.

You can argue that there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two, and there probably isn’t, but the feel of the two is different. At least I think it is. The King James bible takes it even farther, with unusually awkward language,

therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

I think I’ll stick with my UBS4 translation. 🙂

Of course, in antiquity, when these documents were originally written down, they didn’t use any punctuation at all. Or spaces between words! It wasn’t until the Middle Ages (I believe) before Greek writing included spaces, punctuation and accents. So, the placement of a comma or not is certainly up for debate.

I said I’d noticed two differences between the two texts, and even though this one has nothing to do with a comma, I will point it out for those who care. It is an additional clause in Gabriel’s greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28. The UBS4 has,

καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.

and the Byzantine has

καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη· ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ, εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν.

The first would be translated,

And he went in to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

And the second,

And he went in to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one; the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.”

There was a bit of a punctuation change, a semicolon for a comma, but nothing major. The real difference was that the Byzantine had the extra bit about being blessed among women. I love this sort of thing, by the way: seeing differences between manuscript traditions and thinking about why one has something and another does not. I can’t tell you why the Byzantine has the extra clause and the UBS4 doesn’t, but it’s still an interesting thing to think about.