After having written a post about how revisers and translators have sneaked glosses into two texts to make God out as almighty, I thought I would leave that subject as I am not really interested in challenging the idea that he is. A Catechism of The Roman Catholic Church was delivered to me and I opened it on page 100 in order to learn as much as possible about Roman catholicism within a short time. The subject, beginning on page 99, was: “The Almighty”…
Virgin Mary is the highest example of this faith, she who believed that “nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37) […]
Did she really say this? In Greek, what she said was rendered:
ὁτι ουκ αδυνατησει παρα του θυ παν ῥημα
for not won’t be in force of God’s any word/matter
Most bibles translate ουκ + παν ῥημα to ‘nothing’, which is perhaps possible, but the Gothic version reads:
unte nist unmahteig gþa ainhun waurde
for not is without force with/from God any word
A typical expressions for nothing in Gothic is ‘ni waiht(s)’ and ‘ni … ainhun … waurde’ must have come across as saying something about words, rather than things or matters. Waurd does have a wide span of meanings, including it seems judicial cases (2 Cor 13:1), but ainhun waurde is used clearly about utterances in e.g. Eph 4:29.
An old saying
Looking around a bit, this phrase (or ῥημα as we may call it), with some variation, occurs in atleast three more places throughout a bible:
Genesis 18:14 — The angel says this about the idea that Sarah will conceive.
Jeremiah 32:17,27 — Not in Greek but the Hebrew (M) reads like Gen 18:14. Let us look at it:
M: היפּלא מיהוה דּבר
P: ܪܒܐ ܗܝ ܨܒܘܬܐ ܡܢ ܡܪܝܐ
B/03: μη αδυνατει παρα τῳ θεῳ ῥημα
VL: nunquid impossibile est à Deo verbum
Vg: nunquid Deo quidquam est difficile
KJV/ESV/NIV: Is anything too hard for the LORD?
What we see here is the Greek and Vetus Latina — in this case based on a reading in de Trinitate 4.845.a, by Hillary of Poitiers (cited by Sabatier), preserving the ambiguity with word ‘verbum’, whereas Vulgata, Peshitta and modern English translations lock on a ‘thing’.
The Hebrew verb פּלא can mean ‘be beyond reach’, ‘be difficult’ or ‘be extraordinary’, so the Masoretic version would literally translate to “Is beyond reach from Jehovah word/thing/matter?”. In stead of ‘difficult’, the sense of ‘hidden’ will come up in several translations in Jeremiah:
M: לא־יפּלא ממך כּל־דּבר
P: ܘܠܐ ܛܫܐ ܡܢ ܩܕܡܝܟ ܟܠ ܦܬܓܡ
B/03: ου μη αποκρυβῃ απο σου ουθεν
VL: nihil apud te est absconditum
Vg: non erit tibi difficile omne verbum
ESV/NIV: Nothing is too hard for you.
Here Peshitta uses ܛܫܝ meaning ‘hide’ (link to CAL). The last word petgam means ‘statement’. The Greek has instead ουθεν which is a more common way of saying “nothing”. However, it still doesn’t ascribe almighty powers to God for instead of difficult or impossible it has αποκρυβῃ ‘hidden’, and so has Vetus Latina: absconditum ‘hidden’. The fun continues in verse 27…
M: הממני יפּלא כּל־דּבר
P: ..ܕܠܡܐ ܡܢ ܩܕܡܝ ܛܫܐ ܡܕܡ
B/03: μη απ’ εμου κρυβησεται τι
VL: nunquid aliquid à me occultatur
Vg: nunquid mihi difficile erit omne verbum
ESV/NIV: Is anything too hard for me?
Peshitta, LXX and VL agree but modern translations (except NETS, Brenton and NW among the 20 I looked at) all follow Jerome’s interpretation of Genesis 18:14a like it’s raining. Meanwhile, or actually 1600 years ago, Jerome himself seems to have abandoned it and renders consistently דּבר with ‘verbum’.
Unfortunately none of these passages have survived in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
How are we going to make sense of this mess?
I suggest there is an old saying:
*לא־יפּלא מן אלהימ דּבר
*μη αδυνατησει παρα τῳ θεῳ ῥημα
… so that ancient translators and scribes, who were aware of this saying, defaulted towards it when they were unsure of what their vorlage meant. In Jeremiah the ‘hidden’-element is so creative, or otherwise difficult to explain that by the text-critical principle “lectio difficilior potior” = “the most difficult reading prevails” it is likely to be the original sense.
Isn’t this saying a bit similar to Pseudo-Mark “long ending” 16:18b:
καν θανασιμον τι πινωσιν ου μη αυτους βλαψῃ
if ever deadly something they drink not them will it hurt
Anyway, with this we have some background that could help us understand Matthew 19:23-26 and Mark 10:23-27, which end with παντα γαρ δυνατα παρα τῳ θεῳ.
Oh, just one more before we call it a day!
M: אני־אל שדי
P: ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܐܠܫܕܝ ܐܠܗܐ
B/03: εγω ειμι ὁ θεος σου
VL: ego sum Deus / ego sum Deus tuus
Vg: ego Deus omnipotens
ESV/NIV: I am God Almighty
The Hebrew text includes the mysterious ‘shaddai’, for which BDB suggests either ‘sufficient’, ‘almighty’ or ‘my sovereign lord’. Peshitta transcribed: “I = the Elshaddai-god”. The Greek and Old Latin reads “I am your god”. Me thinks if shaddai meant ‘almighty’, it would have been rather easy to translate, as such words are high-involvement and identity carrying and therefore survive across generations and continents.