My good friend Kathy shared this on Facebook, and tagged me about how this might be translated into Biblical Greek, and of course, I couldn’t pass up the learning opportunity…
So here’s what I think. The thing with Greek is that you can say something in multiple ways, but since our Koine friends are all dead, I can’t just ask them style questions. And it you really dig into your lexicon, you see how word meanings can have so many nuances. There are multiple verbs that have to do with “being” (besides EIMI), but it’s just too easy to build a jalopy translation (which then just makes me want to do it MORE!).
So I start by looking for closely matching examples in scripture. (This actually gets into a whole lecture on the REAL reason why deponents are fascinating, but I’ll save that for another day). But long story short, this is a perfectly valid technique.
I searched NRSV for “have been” and found 1 Cor. 13:12 – “Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” ἐπεγνώσθην = have been fully known. So, not so much. Another is 2 Cor. 7:14 – κεκαύχημαι = I have been boastful/proud. So these remind me of something I already kind of knew, that there are many verbs in Greek that equate to “being XXXXX”. Where we have to use a whole phrase to say it, they have a single word! Kind of like French and verbs for cooking techniques. Did you know they have a SINGLE verb that means “to hang meat from the ceiling and let it drain to cure”? Woo hoo! Which reinforces for me the idea that thinking and feeling are pretty important in Greek culture, but that’s yet another lecture for another day (actually I could stand to learn a LOT more about the culture).
So, I could just look for a verb along the lines of “be bad” and call it a day, but now I’m all emotionally invested, so let’s keep trucking anyway. I found 2 Cor 12:11 – Γέγονα ἄφρων = I have been/become a fool. This seems promising. Except that the -ων ending of ἄφρων is odd, because that’s often how we turn an adjective into an adverb. So, I’m not convinced it’s quite what I want. So I look at BDAG’s citations for ἄφρων and find Eph. 5:17 – μὴ γίνεσθε ἄφρονες = do not become ones not knowing. Even though it’s a participle, it’s adjectival, so this is good enough for me.
So that just leaves taking a deep look at γίνομαι to see whether there might be a catch. Can we just use it like we want to? BDAG reminds me that EIMI is equitive. It really wants to say that 2 things (say nouns) are equivalent, which isn’t what’s happening here. γίνομαι is more about a state of being, which is what we want. It means additional things like coming into being as well, BTW. And if you follow down to where BDAG says “used w. an adj. to paraphrase the passive” there are many other similar examples.
So, using 2 Cor 12:11 as example, perfect active indicative – γέγονας κακός. To get “very”, I happen to know that πολύς (which normally just means “many”) actually gets frequently used as an intensifier with verbs/adverbs/adjectives, and that’s its nominative form, so – γέγονας πολύς κακός.