Translation commentary on Mark 6:37 – 6:38

Exegesis:

apokritheis eipen (cf. 3.33 for this construction) ‘he answered.’

dote … humeis ‘you … give’: the personal pronoun here is emphatic – ‘you yourselves give (them something to eat)’ (cf. The Modern Speech New Testament, Moffatt, Goodspeed, Translator’s New Testament).

dēnariōn diakosiōn artous ‘loaves of two hundred denarii’: the genitive expresses the price, ‘two hundred denarii worth of loaves.’

dēnarion (12.15; 14.5) ‘denarius’: at the time of Jesus the coin is generally supposed to have been the equivalent of a rural worker’s daily wage, as in Mt. 20.2.

artos ‘bread,’ ‘loaf’: in this incident probably barley loaves are indicated (cf. Jn. 6.9).

posous echete artous; ‘how many loaves have you?’

posos (8.5, 19, 20; 9.21; 15.4) ‘how much,’ ‘how many.’

ichthuas (6.41, 43) ‘fish’: here, of course, not fresh fish but prepared fish, either cooked or pickled (cf. Jn. 6.9).

Translation:

Answered is not used in the sense of ‘answer a question,’ but ‘reply to their statement’ or ‘speak in return.’

The question of the disciples is probably best interpreted as a rhetorical question, not a request for permission or authorization to go and buy; a kind of exclamatory question, implying the utter foolishness of such an idea (compare the parallel passages: Mt. 14.13-21, Luke 9.11-17, and John 6.5-13).

Denarii poses a problem in translation, for though it was a coin for which the silver content would be equivalent to about 20 cents in American money, its buying power was much greater, as a result of the relatively low standard of living prevailing in Palestine in those days among the lower classes. It would not be reasonable to translate it by some equivalent coin equal to 20 cents U.S. Moreover, if one chooses any local currency the translation may be badly out of line within a short time, due to extreme inflation, as has occurred in so many parts of the world. (Some countries have seen inflationary pressures within the last two or three years change currency rates from as much as 100 to 1 – in terms of the dollar – to as much as 10,000 to 1.) In areas where there is a relatively stable currency and there is a unit of currency roughly equivalent to a day’s wage of a common laborer, such a coin may be used. In most instances, however, it has seemed best to borrow the Greek word denarius, and speak of ‘bread worth 200 denarius coins’ (or ‘pieces of money’). One can then use a footnote and explain that a denarius (or whatever the appropriate transliterated form might be) was equivalent to a day’s wage. It is recommended that one employ a short table of Weights and Measures (see appendix) in publications of New Testaments or Bibles, and that in such a table the various units of currency be related to the basic unit of the denarius.

Five, and two fish must be reproduced in full grammatical form in some languages, ‘we have five loaves and two fish.’

Quoted with permission from Bratcher, Robert G. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1961. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

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