A friend of mine emailed me asking me about a passage in Matthew 3:3, I sent him a reply and was wondering if what I sent him is good greekerey or if I'm off my rocker. Here is his initial email, followed by my response.
different translations give different meanings to matthew 3:3.. think you can get a good literal translation from it? to 'make his paths straigh't and to 'make straight paths' say two different things..
The greek that is behind this phrase is:
"εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ."
"make straight paths for him", from what I've learned so far, cannot be a literal translation because "for him" would require the greek word "αὐτῷ" instead of the one that is in the text, which is "αὐτοῦ" (of him) I'm assuming your reading this from the NIV as this is the only "mainstream" version that translates this way. Two other versions that translate this way are the cev and the Good news bible, but these two are paraphrases and not translations as the NIV claims to be.
The grammar behind it could potentially allow for two possible translations of this text:
1) make his straight paths
2) make straight the paths of Him
the first translation assumes the word "straight" is an adjective that modifies the word "paths" while the second translation assumes "straight" is an adverb which modifies the verb "make".
the first example although possible is unlikely, because the word "straight" appears before the verb while the rest is after the verb. Typically, an adjective will normaly come directly before or directly after the noun it modifies (there are a few exceptions). While the two words share the same case, the distance between them diminishes the possability of it being translated this way. Also, if it is an adjective, the article appears in front of the noun "paths" instead of the adjective, this would make it a predicate statement rather than an attributive one. Again, it seems like its in need of "an exception to the rule." Don't get me wrong, they do exist, but to have two exception in 5 words implies that the writer A) doesn't know greek very well, or B) is saying something else.
The second example treats the word "straight" as an adverb. It fits more easily as an adverb and doesn't have the hangups that the adjective has. One other thing to note, is that this whole passage is a quotation from the book of Isaiah 40:3. Ironically enough, the NIV translates "straight" as an adverb and not as an adjective in this passage. Its Old Testament so I can't comment on the hebrew behind it, but it does say something about the inconsistancy in the NIV.
so, am I accurate? pls let me know your thoughts.