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How does Greek translate into English in the Bible? [astheneo and kamno] Section 1. In the book of James there is a discussion about “sickness” which reveals the subtle differences than can arise in the translation of Biblical texts from Greek to English…
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Download file to see previous pages According to dictionary definitions, the core meaning of the Greek word is weakness, feebleness and being without strength, powerless. ( The Bible uses this word astheneo very often in connection with the healing miracles of Jesus, for example when he healed lepers (Matt. 10:8), “any sick with divers diseases” (Luke 4:40), Lazarus (John 11:1-6) and the Authorised Version often uses this same word “sick” to translate them. There are some cases, however, where this same word astheneo translated with different English words. In John 5:3-4 there is mention of an “impotent man” and in John 6:2 this same astheneo is translated as “diseased.” Having seen examples of the healing miracles of Jesus, the disciples were sent out by Jesus with a dual mission: “And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2) This gospel usage focuses on medical sickness, and the curing of disease as a demonstration of the power of Jesus. In the New Testament letters of Paul, however, the word astheneo is applied not only to physical causes, but also spiritual causes, and the most common translation here is the English word “weak”, as for example: “it (= the law) was weak through the flesh” (Romans 8:3) and “And being not weak in faith…” (Romans 4:19) Paul uses astheneo to contrast the weakness of human beings with the power of God: “For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God.” (2 Cor. 13:4) In the next verse of the passage in the book of James the author uses a different Greek word, kamno, which has a primary meaning of “weary” and a secondary meaning “sick” ( The translation into English repeats with the same word “sick”, however: “And the prayer of the faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:15) There are only two other New Testament examples of the word kamno and they both concentrate on the primary meaning of “weary” : “…lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3) and “And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake has laboured and hast not fainted.” These examples show that the New Testament uses two Greek concepts which range from purely medical disease to spiritual weakness and to weariness in maintaining actual life or spiritual life. The two terms astheneo and kamno overlap somewhat in their basic meaning and so translators do have some lee-way in choosing which of these emphases to bring out in their version. The English words “sick” or “diseased” tend to have a connotation of the physical condition of a person, while “weary” or “faint” tends to have a connotation of the mental or spiritual condition of a person. In the Bible there is sometimes a clear distinction between these two dimensions, as for example when a person who suffers from a disease like leprosy is healed, but very often it is not clear whether a physical affliction is referred to, or a spiritual one. Looking at the letter of James it appears that the first verse echoes the gospel emphasis on physical healing. The work of Jesus wandering through the region, preaching the gospel and healing people is the inspiration for this usage. The second verse, which stresses the weariness aspect of kamno, leans on the emphasis of Paul, however. The connection between sin and sickness is much stronger, and the healing power of Jesus is shown as ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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