Monday, March 20, 2017

A Peculiar Translation In John 2:1

TWH: I was reading John 2 yesterday morning when I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before––the translation of γάμος in the Reina-Valera translation. Here's the Greek, followed by the Reina-Valera 1960:
NA28: Καὶ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ γάμος ἐγένετο ἐν Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, καὶ ἦν ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐκεῖ·
R60: "Al tercer día se hicieron unas bodas en Caná de Galilea; y estaba allí la madre de Jesús."
I've underlined the Greek word in question and the translation for that particular lexeme found in the Reina-Valera. So we would translate "unas bodas" something like "some weddings." The issue is the use of the plural when γάμος is singular. What's more interesting is I can't find a single manuscript that has γάμοι here, but it makes me think there was one (at least). Or was there some other reason for this translation in John 2:1? There isn't another translation that I've seen in Spanish (or otherwise) that uses the plural in John 2:1. In any event, the translation issue was cleared up with the 2015 edition of Reina-Valera. Anyone have an idea why the plural was used in John 2:1 until 2015 when it was changed to "una boda"?


  1. I'm wondering if there might be an archaic usage. Using Google Translate for "unas bodas" I got "a wedding." In I found the singular usage, but also the idiom for one's golden wedding anniversary: "En la celebración de unas bodas de oro uno podría desear que ahora todo empiece realmente en serio." ( My Diccionario Poligloto Barsa from Brittanica (1980) defines "boda" and then provides the example "Con gran pompa se celebraron las bodas."

    1. Thanks, Henry. That makes sense to me. Idioms and archaisms are so difficult for non-native speakers. I wonder how many people today read the RV60 and think there was actually more than one wedding? I asked Lesly about it and she immediately thought Jesus went to more than one wedding during that time. I'm guessing that is the default understanding since the RV changed the translation in the past few years. The problem is the default translation in Spanish is still one of the older versions of the RV.

  2. Bodas in plural may imply two famílies or two weddings in the sense that it is a bilateral alliance, of two different people although one contract.Two rings!

  3. Hi, Thomas. It's a long time since the last time I visited your blog.

    In Spain we say "esponsales", "bodas", but it is not always obvious that we mean two or more weddings. In the case of Cana, we always say "bodas de Cana" (weddings of Cana, but actually one wedding).

    Best regards.

    Here you can check it (Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary, the official institution in charge of Sanish language standardisation and normalisation):

    U. t. en pl. con el mismo significado que en sing. Asistieron a las bodas de la infanta Isabel.
    (Use it also in plural with the samw meaning than in singular: They went to Infanta Isabel "bodas"

    And in the Vatican site you can check another Spanish translation as " bodas" but the actual meaning is just one and only wedding.

    So there isn't any problem in the Reina-Valera translation and it is not an archaism. It's a correct and modern Spanish syntagma and means just one wedding.

    1. Thanks, J.P. Are there other examples in Spanish of a noun used in the plural but the intended referent is just one?

      I noticed that the RV editions after 1960 changed this to "body" to avoid any confusion. So even though the plural is acceptable speech, the editors of the RV must have seen enough support to change the plural to singular. Any thoughts?

  4. Hi, again. Sorry for the delay but I've been terribly busy.

    Well, you know we say "buenos días", "buenas tardes", "buenas noches" meanwhile in other languages is usually in singular!

    Another examples: pantalón/pantalones (trousers), calzón/calzones (short trousers) both valid in singular and plural when you actually mean just one piece of garment.

    The same for tijera/tijeras (scissors):


    I guess that the modification of the translation to singular is simply an attempt to be more faithful to the original Greek, that's all. Other modern, Catholic translations use also the singular 'boda': Biblia de Jerusalén, Cantera-Iglesias, Spanish Episcopal Conference Official Translation, Martin Nieto (la boda, in the translation but las bodas in the title of the pericope for the last three bibles), etc.

    Typically, native Spanish speakers should not have bigger problems with 'bodas' when they read there's just only one groom, after all. ;)

    1. J.P.!!!! Thanks so much. I don't know why I wasn't making the connection. I feel silly not picking up on this. We have plenty of these in English, and that cause non-English speakers lots of confusion sometimes (e.g., pants, jeans, shorts, which you mentioned as well in Spanish). That makes total sense. Thanks for taking the time to "show me the light."

    2. You're welcome. Sometimes things admit an easy explanation, but not always!