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Would γάμους be better translated as marriages instead of marriage feast?
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FrancisJ
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February 24, 2024 - 11:30 am

Hello Berean Patriot and others,

This is my first post on here. I've been using interlinear bibles more often and in Matthew 22 and 25 the Greek word γάμους is translated often as marriage feast. However, this doesn't make much sense to me as it is just the plural form of γάμος which is translated marriage or wedding. When i put γάμους into translators it comes back as weddings or marriages but never wedding feast which would be the phrase "γαμήλια γιορτή". Also when putting the entire Greek verse of Mat 22:2 into the translator it also translated it as "the kingdom of heaven is likened to a man, a king who made marriages for his son".

I suspect that biblical translations of γάμους into wedding feast is just a way to avoid the implication of polygyny in the text. I saw in your BOS bible it was also translated as marriage feast so I didn't know if it was an oversight or maybe I am missing something that would make marriage feast a more correct translation over marriages. 

I do not know anything about the Greek language so your response would be a great help to me in my biblical studies.

Thank you!

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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February 25, 2024 - 1:24 pm

At first glance you have a very good point.  However, unlike in English, a few Greek words (and other ancient languages as well) do sometimes change meaning slightly if they are singular vs plural.  Thayer's has this: 

plural (referring apparently to the several acts of feasting)

If you look at verse 4, he says that his ἄριστόν (dinner, singular) is ready.  That's important because it's a different word than the one we're discussing, indicating that it seems a singular dinner is in view.  Thus, it likely means a single marriage, not multiple marriages. 

In verses 8 and 10, he uses γάμος in the singular as well.  Those two uses seem to reinforce the idea that the word means a marriage or wedding in the singular, but then refers to the feast(s) after the wedding in the plural.  A wedding celebration in those days would go on for days, so saying "feasts" (plural) makes sense.  It literally is the "feasts" (plural) are ready because there would be multiple days of feasting, thus explaining the slight change of meaning from singular to plural.  

I copy/pasted γάμους into Google translate and here's what I got back: (emphasis mine)

a marriage ceremony, especially considered as including the associated celebrations.
Synonyms:
marriage, marriage ceremony, wedding ceremony, nuptial ceremony, marriage service, wedding service, marriage rites, wedding rites, matrimony, holy matrimony, nuptials, union; archaic: espousal(s)  informal: big day

I wouldn't use Google for word definitions ordinarily since that will reflect modern Greek not Koine Greek, but it seems the meaning of the word hasn't change much (if at all) in the last ~2000 years.  

There are places where (mis)translation touches on polygyny, but I don't think this is one of them. 

All that said, I might tweak the translation to make them plural "wedding feasts" in the appropriate places.  However, that runs the risk of being misleading. Hmm.  I'll have to think about that. 

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FrancisJ
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February 25, 2024 - 9:32 pm

Thank you for your response. I have so much to learn about translations so this explanation is very helpful to me.

Would this also apply to Matthew 25: 1-13? The virgins go into the γάμους with the bridegroom which can imply he would be marrying them as the virgins represent believers who are betrothed to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). Must γάμους always mean wedding feast or is weddings appropriate in this context? It seems they are waiting for the bridegroom like a bride would be in Jewish customs around that time and if he isn't marrying the virgins who represent us believers, then who is he marrying?

I am asking because I recently had a debate on polygyny (on Twitter lol) and used this as a defense. They had no answer but I always want to prove points for weaknesses so I can be best prepared. I will continue to research so I can better understand the Bible. Thank you for taking the time to respond!

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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February 26, 2024 - 10:30 am

So, even if the use of γάμους in Matthew 25 could legitimately be translated "weddings" (and I'm not saying it can't, but it seems unlikely), I still wouldn't make that a point of argument.  

The reason is because in most people's mind, if you can prove one component of the argument wrong, you've proven the whole argument wrong.  This appears to be a subconscious thing and of course isn't true, but it looks true to many people.  Thus, since it's easy to cast doubt on γάμους here, that casts doubt on the entire line of reasoning in Matthew 25.  Thus, it's best to ignore weaker and/or more debatable arguments whenever possible to avoid introducing these perceived/rhetorical weaknesses into your position.  

Additionally, weak arguments allow people to ignore your main/strongest arguments by focusing on your weaker arguments.  If the goal is truth and correct doctrine -- and it should be -- then you really would prefer discussing the stronger arguments for both sides.  And BTW, this cuts both ways; make sure you tackle opposing arguments head on and answer them soundly with scripture.  Don't just "pit one scripture against another"; look at the opposing side's arguments and demonstrate why they are wrong.  

Personally, I would only use "Jesus pictures Himself as a polygynous man in a parable" as a secondary argument.  I prefer to focus on the stronger argument of God directly commanding polygyny several times in the Old Testament. It's rather hard to argue that something is wrong when God issued a standing command to do that thing.  The Matthew 25 parable works better as a "cherry on top" sort of argument in my opinion.  (And I'm guessing you've read it, but I do have an article on polygyny if you haven't read it.)  

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FrancisJ
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February 26, 2024 - 11:16 pm

Thank you for your responses. I did read that article on your webpage (as well as many of your other articles lol). Your article on the best bible translations convinced me to use the NASB95. I like how you reason through things so I figured this would be one of the best places for me to go to ask tough theological questions to. Thank you again for your help!

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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February 27, 2024 - 4:17 pm

You're welcome. 🙂 I'm really glad my article(s) helped you and I was happy to answer. 

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