John 1:5

June 29, 2016 18:49

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not master it...

The word here rendered as ‘master’ is KATALAMBANŌ/καταλαμβάνω.

[BDAG] lists these glosses:

  1. to make something one’s own, win, attain
  2. to gain control of someone through pursuit, catch up with, seize
  3. to come upon someone, with implication of surprise, catch
  4. to process information, understand, grasp

So we have essentially two approaches to rendering this passage:

  • the darkness did not understand it
  • the darkness did not overcome it

Translators into English have taken various approaches:

Tyndale (1526) and darcknes comprehended it not.
KJV (1611) and the darknesse comprehended it not.
RSV and the darkness has not overcome it.
NASB and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Wuest the darkness did not overwhelm it.
The Message the darkness couldn't put it out.
Phillips the darkness has never put it out.
Moffat but the darkness did not master it.

I’m rendering it ‘master’, since that English word has the sense both of ‘mastering an opponent’ (overcoming) and ‘mastering a subject’ (understanding), which fits the Greek passably well.

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