Is “Has Been Causing to Grow” Redundant? (1 Cor 3:6)

2465 reads

There are 8 Comments

T Howard's picture

Quote:
Take for example 1 Cor 3:6. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God has been causing the growth (ηὔξανεν).” Because ηὔξανεν is an imperfect — past time; imperfective aspect — every first year Greek teacher would expect an explicitly durative translation: “has been causing.”

This is great for first year Greek, but let me ask the question. Isn’t the actual meaning of “grow” a durative idea? Do we have to explicitly say “has been causing” to get the durative idea across? Of course not.

My understanding of imperfective aspect is that it communicates the action as a process or as in progress. The point here being that God didn't just cause growth once in the past (perfective aspect = action viewed as a whole or complete; the aorist tense-form is used to describe Paul's and Apollos' efforts), but he was continuing to cause growth, both quantitatively and qualitatively. In fact, in verse 7, Paul moves from the imperfect tense-form to a present participle, stressing that the growth God was causing in the past is still in process at the time of Paul's writing. So, the translation "God has been causing the growth" is justifiable, in that it is emphasizing that it was God (not Paul or Apollos) causing the growth in the past and it is God (not Paul or Apollos) causing the growth even at the time Paul was writing his letter to the Corinthians.

 

FYI, the first comment to Mounce's article nails the issue succinctly...

Quote:
You make the point that “causing to grow” is a redundant translation in 1 Cor. 3:6. But isn’t the durative sense of the imperfect here applied to the causing not the growing? What is durative is God’s never stopping God’s life-giving growth, not the growth itself.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Here is the text:

  • ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, Ἀπολλὼς ἐπότισεν, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ Θεὸς ηὔξανεν 

The other verbs are all aorists, which I which I would classify as constative aorists. That is, they're describing a simple historical event in the past. "I planted, Apollos watered . . ."

The last bit is imperfect, and I agree that is a durative imperfect. But, I don't see anything wrong with explicitly bringing that out; "God has been causing the growth." I'm not sure if there is a way to make that neater English, but I don't really think the durative sense makes it that bad!

One reason why I wouldn't want to drop the durative sense is that, sometimes, things stop growing because they die. Paul wasn't speaking of this growth as a simple, historical event in the past. Paul and Apollos did work in the past, and the result is that God is making the Corinthians grow even now, as the letter was written. Tyndale, KJV and NKJV each agree with Mounce, though. 

But, Mounce is just a little bit more experienced at Greek than I am! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Maybe, since the congregation (2nd,pl) is the subject (see v.5), you could get around the awkward rendering of the durative imperfect by adding the "you" to v.6, as well. So, it would read something like, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God has been making you grow." This isn't rigid to the point of awkward English, and yet it accurately captures what Paul is saying without sacrificing the true sense of the imperfect in this context.

Thoughts?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:
But, Mounce is just a little bit more experienced at Greek than I am!

True, but if we took that line of argument, we would never question a commentary, translation, interpretation, etc. provided by a "bible scholar." The point of learning the original languages is to be able to interact with the primary sources and to evaluate what you read in secondary sources. So, stay humble, but make your best argument as to why Mounce is missing the point.

TylerR wrote:

Maybe, since the congregation (2nd,pl) is the subject (see v.5), you could get around the awkward rendering of the durative imperfect by adding the "you" to v.6, as well. So, it would read something like, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God is making you grow." This isn't rigid to the point of awkward English, and yet it accurately captures what Paul is saying without sacrificing the true sense of the imperfect in this context.

Tyler, I think the first comment to Mounce's article is correct. It's not the growing that Paul is stressing using imperfective aspect, it's the causing. Sure, the durative process of growth is lexical, but the "in-process causing" is not, and that is what Paul is emphasizing.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree with what you're saying; the focus is the cause of the growth, not the growth itself. I think Mounce's basic objection is that you turn the verse into bad English if you insist on being "rigid" with the categories. I see what he's saying, but there seems to be a good way of getting around that - like supplying a 2nd, pl pronoun in the sentence to smooth the English out.

On a related note, I am increasingly noticing how awkward of a translation the NASB is. I don't use the translation myself, but I refer to it whenever I do translations. It's so rigid that it's actually very awkward English in many places. Of the newer translations, I have been increasingly impressed by the NET. I do all my NT study and family devotions with the UBS-5 by my side, and I have been very pleased with the NET. It's colloquial without venturing into paraphrase, and yet it's accurate and you can always see what the translators did from the Greek. I like it a lot.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

I regularly use the ESV when preaching and teaching. Before that I used the KJV (because the church we attended required it). I agree with you that the NASB can be a very wooden translation (that's why seminary Greek students like it!). Regardless of English translation I use, I always start with the Greek / Hebrew and translate the passage myself. Last week when I preached from Ezekiel 7:5-9, I preached from my ESV but worked primarily with the Hebrew during my study. One thing I've noticed when reading the NET is that it often leaves out Hebrew words/phrases it considers redundant ... and not in an "answering, he said..." kind of redundancy.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I can't speak to Hebrew yet - I'm starting it this coming semester!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:

I can't speak to Hebrew yet - I'm starting it this coming semester!

Good luck. The hardest part of learning Hebrew for me was memorizing all the vocab (524+ words) and quickly realizing that when the words are used in a Hebrew sentence, they often get transformed into something completely unrecognizable unless you remember all the vowel lengthening and shortening rules along with the consonant assimilation rules. Grrrrrr.

But, that being said, I'm reading my BHS every day (working through the Torah this year) and continue to review my Hebrew vocab via Zondervan's OT Hebrew vocab app.