Monday, January 21, 2008

Notable use of Sahidic Coptic prepositions in John 1

I note that the Sahidic Coptic version translates the Greek preposition pros at John 1:1, 2 by two different Coptic prepositions.

Pros itself has several meanings. It is often rendered into English as "with," as in "with God." (John 1:1, 2) According to the Greek lexicon abbreviated as BDAG, at John 1:1 the significance of pros is 'by, at, near;
be (in company) with someone.' (page 875)

In the Sahidic Coptic version, pros at John 1:1 is rendered by the Coptic
preposition nnahrn. This word comes from the Coptic word for "face," and implies "in the presence of," "before." (Crum 649b; Lambdin, pp. 10, 23)

However, in the Sahidic Coptic version, the Greek pros at John 1:2 is rendered by the Coptic preposition hatn. This preposition is said to derive from the Coptic word for "hand" (Crum 428b), and has the significance of "under the hand of; beside; with." The later (6th century) Coptic Bohairic version uses hatn (haten) in both verses.

All of which means that, although we could translate both John 1:1 and John 1:2 in the Coptic to say merely that the Word was "with" God, a careful translation of the Sahidic more clearly shows that the Word was distinct from the God whom he was "in the presence of" or "under the hand of" or "beside."

I don't know why the Coptic translators of the Sahidic version used two different prepositions in their text of John 1:1, 2 to translate the one Greek preposition pros. But it surely could indicate that they did not believe the Word and the God he was "with" were one and the same.

And if the Sahidic translators meant hatn instead of nnahrn in verse 2 in its significance that implies "under the hand of," it could even signal that they believed the Word to be definitely subordinate to God. Otherwise, why use two different prepositions at all?

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