Using NT Greek to Learn Spanish: The Use of “Acaso” in a Question

October 27, 2015

I have been studying NT Greek for many years now. In the past several years, I have been learning Spanish so that I can preach and teach in Spanish churches.

I recently got the idea of using my understanding of NT Greek to help me learn more Spanish. This approach has proven to be helpful for understanding certain uses of Spanish words that I was not able to figure out using my Spanish dictionary or grammar books.

The Use of acaso in a question

By looking at the Greek for several passages that in my Spanish Bibles begin with acaso used with an indicative verb in a question, I was able to figure out that this use of acaso signifies a question that expects a negative answer.

For example, Matthew 7:16 reads as follows in the Reina Valera Revised 1960 (R60) and in Scribner’s 1894 Greek New Testament (SCR):

R60 Mat 7:16 Por sus frutos los conoceréis. ¿Acaso se recogen uvas de los espinos, o higos de los abrojos?

SCR Mat 7:16 ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς· μήτι συλλέγουσιν ἀπὸ ἀκανθῶν σταφυλὴν, ἢ ἀπὸ τριβόλων σῦκα;

In this verse, ¿Acaso se recogen . . .? is the Spanish rendering of μήτι συλλέγουσιν . . . ; In the Shorter Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, this verse is directly cited in the entry for μήτι:

μήτι interrogative particle in questions that expect a negative answer, often left untranslated, but cf. μήτι συλλέγουσιν surely they do not gather . . . do they? Mt. 7:16;

I think a literal translation of the R60 of Matthew 7:16 would be something along these lines: “By their fruits you will know them. (Surely) grapes are not gathered from hawthorns, are they? Or, figs from burs of a plant?” and the expected answer to both questions is “No.”

John 7:48 provides another example of this use of acaso in a question: 

R60 Joh 7:48 ¿Acaso ha creído en él alguno de los gobernantes, o de los fariseos? 

SCR Joh 7:48 μή τις ἐκ τῶν ἀρχόντων ἐπίστευσεν εἰς αὐτόν, ἢ ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων;

Based on the Greek of this verse, I would translate the R60 as follows: “Not any from the rulers or the Pharisees have believed in Him, have they?” Again, the expected answer is “No.”

James 3:11 also features acaso in a question to signify that a negative answer is expected:

R60 Jam 3:11 ¿Acaso alguna fuente echa por una misma abertura agua dulce y amarga? 

SCR Jam 3:11 μήτι ἡ πηγὴ ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς ὀπῆς βρύει τὸ γλυκὺ καὶ τὸ πικρόν;

My translation of the Spanish of this verse: “(Surely) a fountain is not putting forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter water, is it? No.”

These three examples show how understanding NT Greek can help with learning Spanish!

Rajesh

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