MARK 1:1, 1:3 in Greek, Hebrew, and Coptic The Gospel of Mark has always been considered one of the most unique of all the Gospels. Its brevity, use of certain vocabulary, and its all too debated ending make it a key component in academic study and rigor. So, I thought it best to choose a short passage from Mark chapter one. I hope to compare in these few pages three different textual traditions of the first chapter of Mark. Those three traditions are: Hebrew, Greek, and Coptic. I chose Mark 1:1, 1:3 since 1:3 is essentially a quotation from the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint. Thus, it will be possible to compare the Coptic textual tradition by comparing the use of all three of these languages and their unique translations of the original text.1 Mark 1:1 The first verse of Mark in coptic reads: tarCy m-peuaggelion n-is peCc& The literal translation of this verse is: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.2 The word tarCy is best translated “the beginning” with elements t (definite article) and arCy (beginning).
In the Greek of Mark 1:1 of the New Testament, the first word is Ἀρχὴ, which is a word derived from the root ἄρκω, meaning beginning. The greek word can be parsed as a feminine singular nominative. The coptic word arCy is obviously a borrowed greek word and it has the t definite singular feminine marker. The words to follow in the Coptic are m-peuaggelion, which reads, “of the Gospel.” The particle m in this instance,
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I understand the Coptic text is thought to be a translation of the Alexandrian text tradition of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, but either way, I think it is still important to look at all three.
For this verse, we will not include Hebrew, since there is no Hebrew equivalent. -1-
is equivalent to the word “of”. The word peuaggelion can be broke down as p (definite article) and euaggelion, which simply means “gospel or good news.” This phrase in the Greek reads, τοῦ εὐα.ελίου, a genitive construction with the definite article ὁ declined as the genitive τοῦ. The word εὐα.ελίου is declined in a genitive form and its lexical form is εὐα.έλιον, meaning “good news or gospel,” which is obviously the parent form of the word in Coptic. The final phrase in the Coptic is n-is peCc, which reads, “of Jesus the Christ.” The n in the Coptic is equivalent to “of” and the name is is Jesus. The word peCc in the Coptic contains two elements, pe (definite article) and Cc (Christ), which together means “the Christ.” The greek reads Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, a genitive construction translated as Jesus Christ. In most of the Greek NT manuscripts, there is at the end of this verse the phrase υἱοῦ θεοῦ, which is translated, “The Son of God.” The Coptic text is missing this element, but so do a few of the Greek NT manuscripts. Mark 1:3 The third verse of the third chapter of Mark is a quotation from the book of Isaiah, chapter forty verse three. In Coptic, the verse reads, pehroou m-p-et⦲-ws ebol hnterymoc Ce-coutn-tehiy m-pjoeic ntetn-coutn-nefmoeit. The first word here is pehroou, which is translated, “The voice, sound.” The elements of the word are as follows: pe (definite article) and the word hroou (voice, sound).
In the NT quotation and the septuagint this word reads φωνὴ and is translated, “sound, voice.” The Hebrew is simply ” ,קולvoice, sound.” There is neither the definite article in the NT mss, the LXX mss, or the
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Hebrew mss. However, most translations of Mark 1:3 read, “the voice,” probably due to the participle that follows. The next word to be considered in Coptic reads, “m-p-et⦲-ws”, which is translated, “of one crying”. In the LXX and the MT, the words are simply participial in nature. So the LXX reads βοῶντος and the MT reads ” ,קוראone who cries out”. Next, the text reads, “ebol hn-terymoc”. The term ebol is best translated as “from out of” and the words hn-terymoc is read in this way: hn “in” and t (definite article) erymoc (wilderness), thus, “crying out in the wilderness.” The Greek reads, “ἐν τῇ ἐρήµῳ” and the Hebrew reading, “ ,”בּמּ ְדבּרare equally the same, “in the wilderness.” Following this, the Coptic text reads, ָ֕ ִ ַ “Ce-coutn-tehiy m-pjoeic”, and is best translated, “Prepare a path for the Lord”. The word tehiy is simply te (definite article) and hiy (path, way) and the word m-pjoeic is m- (of) and pjoeic (Lord).
The Greek text reads, “Ἑτοιµάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου”. The word Ἑτοιµάσατε is an imperative form in the Greek, along with the word פנוin the Hebrew, thus, Ce-coutn. On that note, so too in the Greek, the definite article followed by the word for path, τὴν ὁδὸν, therefore, tehiy. The Hebrew is different since the word for path דרךis in construct with the divine name, so lacking a definite article. The final part of this verse in Coptic reads, “ntetn-coutn-nefmoeit,” which is translated, “You (pl.) make his paths straight.” This is confirmed in the Greek with the words εὐθείας ποιεῖτε, where the word εὐθείας (straighten) is complemented by the 2nd person plural imperative form of ποιεῖτε (do, make) and also the Hebrew ( ישרוpl. imperative: straighten), thus ntetn-coutn. Finally,
the phrase nefmoeit, best translated, “His paths.” The word is broken down to nef (his) and moeit (paths).
This is confirmed in the Greek, τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ. CONCLUSION Just a quick overview of two of the first three verses of the Gospel of Mark in Coptic reveals that an interesting translation process took place. It is evident that the Greek (probably Alexandrian) was the text used to translate the New Testament into Coptic. This verse happened to be a quotation from the book of Isaiah and allowed us to also compare the Hebrew with the Greek of the LXX and NT, along with the Coptic of the NT. This Sahidic dialect is not the only dialect of Coptic that the NT has been translated into. Nevertheless, it proved to be an interesting dialect to use in this short comparison of the various languages and their use in a certain textual and theological tradition.
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