Mangled again

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"Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast", 1/2/2012:

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone.  And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that “for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.

The quote is from Luke 12:48, and the Greek original is

παντὶ δὲ ᾧ ἐδόθη πολύ, πολὺ ζητηθήσεται παρ' αὐτοῦ
"but to each one to whom much has been given, much will be required from him"

The Latin Vulgate has

omni autem cui multum datum est multum quaeretur ab eo
"but to whomsoever much has been given, much will be asked of him"

The KJV is

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required

The English Standard Version is

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required

Unlike all of these, President Obama's version leaves out the "of him" or "from him" associated with required.  The omission is more obvious if we put the relative clause in its usual place:

Much shall be required of him unto whom much is given.

If we chop out "of him", the result is ungrammatical.

*Much shall be required unto whom much is given.

If we swap the order of the clauses in the unchopped version, we get an awkward but (marginally) grammatical English sentence:

Unto whom much is given, much shall be required of him.

Chopping out the prepositional phrase from the second clause of the swapped version makes it smoother, but also makes it ungrammatical and semantically incoherent:

*Unto whom much is given, much shall be required.

President Obama is far from the first person to garble this quotation in an analogous way. The Gates Foundation did it on their web site, announced as one of their two founding principles ("To whom much has been given, much is expected"); President George W. Bush did it in a State of the Union message ("Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required") — and many others have done it over the centuries, starting with JC Bingham, "Report Respecting the Religious State of Spanish America", The Missionary Herald, Nov. 1826 ("Unto whom much is given, much will be required"). There's even a version in verse (George Henry Boker, "The Lesson of Life", 1848):

517 "But woe to you who love the gilded cage,
518 Who pander basely to the present hour,
519 Who build not on that firm foundation, Truth!
[...]
526 Who seek, with untaught power of mighty verse,
527 To lure their weaker brothers far astray;
528 Or praise their blinded errings. Each one knows,
529 Within his heart, himself a hypocrite;
530 Sees the sad tears the ravished muses shed
531 O'er their undoing; hears a potent voice
532 Thunder within his hollow soul—"Thou Traitor!
533 Unto whom much is given, much is required."
534 How back in horror draws the shuddering mind
535 When pondering the fate of erring genius!

For more analytic and historical background, see "Ungrammatical timeless truths", 1/24/2007; "The tangled history of a mangled maxim", 1/26/2007.

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53 Comments »

  1. Faldone said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 7:23 am

    If by "semantically incoherent" you mean that it cannot be understood, I'd say you are flat out wrong. I find nothing not understandable about his quote.

    [(myl) No, I meant that the obvious meaning cannot be derived compositionally from the way the words and phrases are put together syntactically. Compare "More people have been to Russia than I have", which is also easy to interpret but suffers from a similar problem.]

  2. Brian Buccola said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    There is a children's summer program in Louisiana (GPGC) whose slogan is Ab illo cui multum datur multum requiritur, which translates literally as "From him to whom much is given, much is required", which I find to be more natural sounding a translation than "To whom … from (of) him".

    I wonder if the Latin and Greek speakers had a word order preference.

  3. Matt Williams said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    With great power comes great responsibility.

  4. pj said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    @myl, in response to Faldone

    Compare "More people have visited Russia than I have", which is also easy to interpret…

    Uh… is it? Am I being really stupid? I can't interpret it; I get as far as 'More people have visited Russia than', and then 'I have' crashes me into a wall of utter impenetrability. I can't see 'through' the syntactic composition to the intended meaning at all. I'm now gazing at the sentence blankly as if it were a magic eye picture and the sense might leap out at me if I unfocus. Help! What is meant?

  5. Steve Reilly said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    Funny, right after reading this post I looked up something by Zadie Smith, and notice that she writes, "To whom much is given, much is expected."

  6. Steve Reilly said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    Forgot the url: http://www.liberatormagazine.com/community/showthread.php?tid=1450

  7. Rube said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 9:02 am

    @pj — I take it to mean "Other people have visited Russia more than I have". It looks dead on a computer screen, but I think it would be more understandable in conversation.

  8. Carl said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 9:12 am

    Put me down as another vote for the sentence not feeling ungrammatical.

    There is some kind of double elision at work though I guess. I think the trouble is that the same "whom" ends up being given and being required, and that works if you invert the word order, but not if you use a standard word order: "Much shall be required from whom unto which much has been given."

  9. Mr Fnortner said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    Yet, "for of whom much is given, much shall be required" makes good grammatical sense to me, and may be what most speakers and writers are mentally processing. Rearranged, this is "much shall be required of whom much is given."

  10. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 9:31 am

    It's a reasonably well-known quote, which people may have previously encountered in various wordings (both because of the multiplicity of Bible translations and a tendency toward paraphrase/recasting) and probably an even better-known idea (i.e. this is one way of expressing broader notions of noblesse oblige or the duty of the successful to "give back") in our particular culture. It's easy to understand the ill-formed version if you have the background cultural knowledge to guess what's likely intended to be conveyed. If you didn't already know the quote or at least the idea, I'm not so sure you would smoothly interpret the ill-formed version into the correct meaning.

    Come to think of it, however, this works in context precisely because it's become something of a cliche that's floated loose from its scriptural moorings, since if you play out the metaphor from the relevant parable in Luke, it treats citizens as servants (or slaves, in some modern translations) and government as the master/owner/lord, and the immediately proceeding passage distinguishes between those servants who should be whipped quite a lot and those who should be whipped more lightly. Not, I should think, the most emolient metaphor to discuss potential changes in tax policy as to who should pay what. But as I said, this doesn't seem a real gaffe because the language misquoted is just a cliche that no longer evokes its original context. Were it not for the prayer breakfast context, it could equally well have been attributed to Shakespeare or Mark Twain or Winston Churchill or any of the other usual suspects for attracting misattributions.

  11. Rube said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    @J.W. Brewer — I think you have it. If I were just listening to this, or reading it in the paper, not Language Log, I don't think I'd process it word by word. I'd just see enough to fill in the expression in my mind, and keep going.

  12. John Shutt said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 9:51 am

    Interestingly, Obama's wording works just fine for me, but change "unto" to "to" and it doesn't work as well. Possibly because applying the shared element of the parallelism (unto whom) to the second element (much shall be required) works only if one dives down to a somewhat deeper structural level (where the choice of preposition fades), and the use of "unto", being less common today and associated with rather sober contexts, slows things down and helps the audience to settle into that deeper level.

  13. buford puser said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    WITH GREAT POWER THERE MUST ALSO COME – - GREAT RESPONSIBILITY!
    Lee, S. 1962. [i]Amazing Fantasy[/i] 15; New York: Marvel Comics [the first appearance of Spider-Man]

  14. John David Stone said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    There is at least one possible structure that employs inversion and conforms to all of the traditional grammatical conventions:

    "Of him unto whom much is given, much will be required."

  15. James said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 10:38 am

    Very interesting.
    I find it very difficult to come up with the compositionally coherent sentence to express, in approximately the given form, what was intended. I am certain that I would fail if I had to do it in a conversation.

    Mr Fortner likes

    "for of whom much is given, much shall be required"

    But I cannot parse this string. For one thing, the word 'given' seems to me to require the preposition 'to' somewhere, and it's missing. For another, the word 'for' could be the 'because' or 'since' type of 'for', in which case I get it, but I keep wanting to read it as the preposition that goes with 'required', in which case the result doesn't seem meaningful.
    Look at this try:

    Of to whom much is given, much shall be required.

    I can parse this. It has the form

    Of NP much shall be required.

    (Doesn't it? Or would it have to be, "Of him to whom much is given…"?)
    And restructured as

    Much shall be required of whomever much is given to.

    it sounds and looks okay. But the actual convoluted form headed by two prepositions just sounds terrible.

  16. Acilius said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    @James: I parse παντὶ in Luke as a dative of reference. So, rendering it into a mechanical sort of translation-ese, I might say "And with regard to each one to whom much has been given, much shall be required of him." Obviously that isn't particularly idiomatic English, let alone elegant, but I think it is compositionally coherent.

  17. Giacomo Ponzetto said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    @James: From the Aramaic Bible in Plain English:

    from everyone to whom much is given, much shall be required

  18. Mr Fnortner said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    In defense of my own assertion, there is an indirect object in there: FIrst, "much is given (to object)" -> "much is given ([to] object)" -> "much is given [to] whom". When the clause is subordinated, "whom" shifts: "whom much is given [to]". Then "much shall be required of (agent)" -> "much shall be required of whom much is given [to]". Rearrange and clean up: "for of whom much is given, much shall be required."

    FWIW, and forgive the politics, the implied subject of the passive clauses is the deity, not the government.

  19. James said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    Ah, I see! "Much is given him", with 'to' (or 'unto') elided.

    But in my idiolect, it has to reappear in the form

    To whom much is given…

    That is, for me something like

    *I saw whom money was given.

    is not grammatical.

  20. Alexander said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    Mark, perhaps the source of the Russia sentence should be cited here: Montalbetti, M. (1984). After Binding. On the Interpretation of Pronouns. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT

    It is also worth observing a disanalogy between the "more" case and the "required unto" problem. The change from "required to" to "required of" seems to involve only a lexical substitution. The change from "more people have visited russia than I have" to "people have visited Russia more than I have" (if this latter sentence was in fact the message the speaker intended to convey in using the first) involves at least difference in what "more" goes with. There might be interesting psychological differences between the two sorts of errors.

  21. Harold said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    It is just a hunch, since I am not a classical scholar, but I think people's ability to understand this is based the parallel (or analogy) with Latin poetry, which frequently employs "qui " "He who" as the subject of a sentence. "He who/m" and "To whom" are not all that different. Versions of this must in English have been commonplace in formal discourse (such as preaching) and poetry written in translation and imitation of Latin poetry, since at one time preachers and orators were all educated in Latin and well versed in such imitations and translation.

    So I think it is wrong to call it "incoherent", myself. It is poetic.

  22. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    I think Mr. Fnortner has identified the real problem here, which is that both Jesus and Pres. Obama have used the Passive Voice, which we all now is Bad because it's Vague About Agency(tm). It's like this is one of the two times a day when the Stopped Clock of Prescriptivism is accurate.

  23. komfo,amonan said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    Obama's example, for me, is partially redeemed by the fact that it cannot be interpreted as meaning anything other than what he meant. I could very well be wrong and invite alternative interpretations.

    With regard to "More people have visited Russia than I have" — I don't know if I would have gotten to "Other people have visited Russia more than I have" on my own. Maybe if I had encountered it in context. And is the speaker measuring number of visits or total time spent visiting? Or is it ambiguous? I am actually (muddleheadedly, probably) confused on that point.

  24. Forestgirl said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

    Is this a (subconscious?) elision to avoid having to use the masculine pronoun?

  25. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

    @Alexander: Thanks. Montalbetti's sentence seems to be "More people have been to Berlin than I have," which he attributes to one Hermann Schultze. I looked through Montalbetti's thesis and don't see that he discussed it; he just mentions it in the acknowledgements.

    The only sense I can get out of it is "More people than just me have been to Berlin."

  26. LDavidH said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

    New Living Translation: "When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required." OK, there's the Vague About Agency(tm) issue again, but I can live with that, if it makes the sentence understandable.

  27. Richard Sabey said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

    @Harold "To whom" is crucially different. Two noun slots need filling. "He who" supplies a pronoun for each. "To whom" looks as if it supplies a pronoun for only one slot, namely in the PP "To whom" itself. Granted, a fused relative would fill both slots, but it's so unusual for a preposition's object to be fused relative, that the reader would probably not think of that possibility.

  28. Bill Walderman said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    Actually, the original Greek seems to suffer from the same sort of technical syntactic anomaly as the English phrase used by Obama and others. The antecedent παντὶ of the relative pronoun ᾧ has been "attracted" into the dative case. If the clauses were switched around, it would be

    πολὺ δὲ ζητηθήσεται παρα παντοσ ᾧ ἐδόθη πολύ

    with pantos in the genitive. (Apologies for the lack of accents and final sigma.) Attraction of an antecedent into the case of the relative is not uncommon in Greek. See Smyth's Greek Grammar, sec. 2533, although this example doesn't quite match any of the situations discussed there.

    In MYL's English translation, "to each one" is also syntactically odd in the same way: "but to each one to whom much has been given, much will be required from him" How does "to each one" relate syntactically to the rest of the sentence?

  29. Smartass Remark said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    Can we just translate the Greek as "soak the rich" and be done with it?

    [(myl) Not really, as J.W. Brewer observes above -- the context is a parable about responsibility, oversight, and the consequences of various degrees of failure to attend to one's duties when it seems that no one is watching:

    35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

    41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

    ]

  30. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

    Re the him-avoidance suggestion: it's easy enough to find multple modern translations (not just the NLT) that render the passage into syntactically well-formed English while avoiding any gendered pronoun. But maybe if the speechwriters didn't poke around for an alternate version but instead tried to edit a him-containing version already in front of them that could be the explanation.

  31. Acilius said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

    @Bill Walderman: I think I have to disagree with you. While attraction is common enough in Koine Greek, miscellaneous datives are even more common. And παντὶ makes perfect sense here, if we take it as a miscellaneous dative.

  32. Stephen C. Carlson said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    The quotation from the Vulgate is missing the word "omni" at the beginning of the sentence.

    [(myl) True; fixed now.]

  33. Stephen C. Carlson said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

    I have to agree with Walderman that the Greek of Luke 12:48 is an example of "inverse attraction" where the case of the antecedent is assimilated to the case of the relative pronoun.

    As in other examples of casus pendens (or "left dislocation" in more modern linguistic terminology), the case of the antecedent here should have been in the nominative, e.g., as πᾶς.

    Indeed, the Blass-Debrunner-Funk grammar discusses this very verse at § 295 under the heading "inverse attraction."

  34. Ted said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

    The myl/Montalbetti example is syntactically coherent, if you assume it predates the Thirteenth Amendment.

  35. Ellen K. said,

    February 3, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    I'm thinking the colloquial way to say it would be "If you've been given a lot, much is expected of you". :)

  36. Helena Constantine said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 12:15 am

    I don't think panti is a dative or reference or an example of attraction; it's just the indirect object. How it could possibly function in that sentence in the nominative (as one commenter suggested), I can't imagine.

  37. John Swindle said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 1:54 am

    Mormon church founder Joseph Smith reported receiving a divine revelation on April 26, 1832, "For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation" (Doctrine & Covenants 82:3).

    From what I've read here I gather that "of him unto whom much is given much is required" is a reasonable translation of Luke's Greek. If President Obama had a similar version of Luke in mind—no Mormon influence implied—then what he said didn't mangle the quotation: it just shortened it, with some grammatical loss but no loss of meaning.

  38. UK Lawyer said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 3:23 am

    For me, the KJV has the best rhetoric and yet the greatest clarity when read out loud. Interestingly, President Obama chooses a form of words that is quite close to this version, but curtailed. He creates a more modern, less soaring rhythm, which emphasises the repetition of the word "much" rather than the word "whomsoever" in the KJV. In doing so it is natural to drop the "of him" but as you say this loses some of the sense, particularly when viewed on the page.

  39. pj said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 5:14 am

    Thanks to myl for making the 'Russia' sentence in the first-post response a link now – I would have clicked before querying, of course, if it had been one originally; I read it as a spontaneously-generated example and don't have the breadth of reading in linguistics or the length of Language-Log memory to recognise it as a 'standard' of sorts.

  40. Bill Walderman said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 10:10 am

    "I don't think panti is a dative or reference or an example of attraction; it's just the indirect object."

    Indirect object of what? ᾧ is the indirect object of ἐδόθη. παντὶ is the antecedent of ᾧ. So what is παντὶ the indirect object of?

    With the addition of omni, the Latin Vulgate is a word-for-word translation of the Greek and presents exactly the same syntactic anomaly. What is the syntactic function of omni?

  41. Mr Fnortner said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    It has been possible, at least historically, to ask more of our pronouns than we appreciate. For example, in "Who steals my purse steals trash….", Shakespeare forgoes "He" as in "He who…." A little mind-stretching makes some constructions easier to grasp.

    [(myl) Such constructions are traditionally called "headless relatives" (or in CGEL "fused relatives"). The issue in the mangled versions of the Luke quotation is not the use of a headless relative, but the omission of one of the needed prepositional phrases. It's possible, though, that the current weakening of headless-relative constructions is part of what makes people feel that the ungrammatical versions of Luke are actually OK -- just another archaic construction that doesn't quite parse according to their modern norms...]

  42. Alexander said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    @Jerry Friedman and others

    Recently there has been some psycholinguistic work in the lab of Colin Phillips lab at U Maryland, lead by Alexis Wellwood, on what happens when people hear sentences like the "More people have been to Russia than I have" – addressing such questions as whether they somehow manage to construe the "more" adverbially. Below is a reference from a couple years back, but the work is ongoing.

    The role of event comparison in comparative illusions. (Alexis Wellwood, Roumyana Pancheva, Valentine Hacquard, Scott Fults, & Colin Phillips.) Poster at the CUNY 2009 Conference, UC Davis, March 2009.

  43. Tom Recht said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

    Another bit of evidence that Obama's speechwriters were not particularly concerned with the syntactic coherence of this quote is the ungrammatical double complementizer: "Jesus’s teaching that for unto whom…". They obviously regarded that 'for' as an archaic decoration with no syntactic function.

    As for the Greek dative παντί, Walderman and Carlson are surely right that it's the result of attraction. The sentence has a correlative structure: 'Every one to whom much has been given, of that one much will be expected.' Without attraction we'd expect either a nominative or possibly a genitive agreeing anticipatorily with αὐτοῦ. But relative attraction is so common in Greek – at least, in Classical Greek; I'm no Koineist – that I have no doubt it's what we're looking at here.

  44. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

    Thanks, Alexander.

    Seen in the wild: "More people have gone through more life challenges than I have, no arguments from me on that." I wouldn't absolutely swear that the author is a native speaker of English—"willed" for "wheeled" is an odd error.

    "In fact more people have directly benefited from my work than I have."

  45. Tom Recht said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

    On second thought, maybe they did intend for as a preposition: 'For [those] unto whom much is given, much shall be required'. In which case the sentence is still ungrammatical, but only because of the omitted pronoun, not because of an omitted PP.

  46. Dakota said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

    I don't know why everyone is quoting KJV when Obama is Church of
    Christ, one of the "mainstream Protestant" denominations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainline_Protestant
    The ones I'm familiar with use NRSV, which is supposed to be gender-accurate. The literalist denominations like Baptist tend to use NIV (old) or maybe TNIV which is supposedly gender-accurate but controversial in some circles.

    NRSV: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required;"
    TNIV: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;"

  47. Bill Walderman said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

    @ Helena Constantine: "How it could possibly function in that sentence in the nominative (as one commenter suggested), I can't imagine."

    See Smyth sec. 3008e "Nominative in suspense," under a general discussion of anacoluthon: "The nominative 'in suspense' may stand at the head of a sentence instead of another case required by the following construction."

    In the quotation from Luke 12:48, the noun or pronoun παντὶ , which might have been nominative, as Stephen C. Carlson suggested, has been "attracted" into the dative by the relative pronoun ᾧ, which is dative because it's the indirect object of ἐδόθη. But it turns out, as the sentence unfolds, that [παρ'] αὐτοῦ is the real antecedent of ᾧ.

    This sort of anacoluthon, which is not uncommon in Greek, is very similar to the anacoluthon of "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required". The syntax violates strict logic, but not in a way that affects intelligibility. But no one said that language has to be strictly logical, did they?

  48. J.W. Brewer said,

    February 4, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

    @Dakota, presumably people are discussing the KJV at least in part because the somewhat-archaic preposition "unto" is a hint that the President's speechwriters were trying to evoke a KJV-ish register (archaic, "poetic," "sonorous," "churchy" — whatever you want to call it). It would have been easy enough for them to pick a non-archaic and syntactically well-formed version from any of a number of modern translations (that would not only have had "to" for "unto" but also potentially have avoided the oft-controversial pronoun "him"), but for whatever reason they did not do so. I don't know what the general practice of the presidential speechwriting staff is for double-checking direct quotations in speeches, but one wonders whether (and if not why not) anyone involved in the drafting process actually looked at a Bible (in whatever translation) anywhere along the way and if not whether the relevant personnel were cutting and pasting from an unreliable secondary source or just working from memory. (Note that when the 2d President Bush used a similarly botched version, he just called it a "timeless truth" rather than an attributed direct quote.)

    If discomfort with the pronoun "him" was really what was driving this, adding "of them" while keeping the "unto whom" would have fixed the syntactic problem, and been defensible on stylistic grounds by reference to myl's prior LL posts observing that "singular they" is in fact supported by the authority of the KJV.

  49. andrew said,

    February 5, 2012 @ 12:45 am

    ὅν θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νεός anyone? "whom the gods love dies young" is the most common translation i've seen.

  50. Nelida said,

    February 5, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    @John David Stone:

    There is at least one possible structure that employs inversion and conforms to all of the traditional grammatical conventions:

    "Of him unto whom much is given, much will be required."

    To me, this is grammatically correct and maintains the biblical flavor, and leaves no room for ambiguities. Could also be "from" instead of "of".

  51. Eric P Smith said,

    February 5, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

    I encountered in church this morning an error of exactly the same type. It is in a Holy Communion liturgy published by the Iona Community. The bread, we are told, holds a story. It is a story of bread, but it is also a story of the body of Christ. The liturgy continues:

    "It is both the story of what it is in itself and the story of which it reminds us."

    If you parse the words in bold type, you will find they say that merely that the story reminds us of itself, which is not what the writer meant. What he meant is:

    "It is both the story of what it is in itself and the story of what it reminds us of."

  52. Nathan Myers said,

    February 7, 2012 @ 4:53 am

    Thems what gets has gots to give. Amen.

  53. Jimbino said,

    February 7, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

    The KJV renders Luke 12:39 as:

    And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.

    The version cited by Smartass Remark abuses the subjunctive:

    But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into.

    "…was coming…" needs to read "…were coming…."

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