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Theotokos versus Mother of God #37689
09/22/04 09:51 AM
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Herbigny Offline OP
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What's the difference between "Theotokos" and "Mother of God"?

Curious minds....

Herb

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37690
09/22/04 10:10 AM
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Intrigued Latin Offline
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In short.. There's no difference.

Theotokos is a Greek word that means "God-bearer" or "Mother of God". It is a title assigned by the early Christian Church to the Virgin Mary at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431 AD.

Brad

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37691
09/22/04 10:15 AM
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Why did Ephesus (or whoever) invent the neologism "Theotokos" since they already had the perfectly usable term "Mother of God"?

Why does the Liturgy say in some places "Theotokos" whilst in others "Mother of God"?

There must be some significance...?

Herb

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37692
09/22/04 10:44 AM
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Herb, the Council nor the entire civilized world, did not use English as their mother tounge. Mother of God is simply a translation of the Gr. Theotokos.
It dates from around the early 3rd century in its theological use. I forget the name of the first theologian to use it, but somewhere in the dusty back closets of my mind, I tend to think it was Origen.
Stephanos I
Use the google search and type in Theotokos.
Very itersting quotes from the Early Fathers, however I do not think is is exhaustive, since it does not mention the title prior to 342 AD.

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37693
09/22/04 10:52 AM
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Herbigny Offline OP
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dear Stephanos I

I don't think "Mother of God" is a direct translation of "Theotokos".

In some places in the Divine Services, "Theotokos" is used and elsewhere "Mater Theou", sometimes I believe even in the same hymn, e.g. the "Axionul" as the Romanians call it, or the "dostoyno yest" in Slavonic.

In Slavonic they also maintain the distinction: "Matir Boha" versus "Bohorodytsa".

What's that all about?

Curious minds...

Herb

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37694
09/22/04 10:52 AM
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Dear Friends,

Well, the literal translation of "Theotokos" is "Bearer of God" or "Birth-giver of God."

The word focuses on the fact of the Incarnation of OLGS Jesus Christ.

To be the "Mother of God" means the same thing, although she could have been Christ's Mother by "adoption" according to Jewish law.

"Theotokos" leaves no doubt as to the actual physical reality of the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

Alex

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37695
09/22/04 11:17 AM
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Dear Herb,

You are correct that there is a difference.

In the Hymn to the Theotokos, sung at most Divine Liturgies, we hear both terms used.


"It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos.
Ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.

More honorable than the Cherubim,
And most glorious beyond compare than the Serafim.

Without defilement you gave birth to God the Word,
True theotokos we magnify you."


In theological terminology, "Mother" or "Father" has the significance of origin. One can not be without their mother or father.

I am "a son of Philadelphia." If there had been no Philadelphia, then I could not have become the same man that I am today. I would be "the son of some other place."

Christ in his humanity is truly "all Marian." This explains some of the Western attempts to assign sinlessness to Mary since they believed that even original sin was inherited in the biological sense. (Other sin may be inherited. If our mother is on crack cocaine then we are born addicted.) But original sin is an inheritance that comes along with our mortality (even though God wants us to live forever) that is a result of our being cut off from the tree of life.

If original sin were a biological inheritance then why did Adam and Eve eventually die? From whom did they inherit it?

Christ is free from original sin in that He is born immortal (but ordered to die on the cross, a command which he obeys, thus opening up for us the possibility for everlasting life just as Adam's disobedience cut us off from the tree of life).

So being the Mother of our God (Mary) means that she gives him all of her "genetics." All of her holiness, purity, devotion, obedience, faithfulness, etc. etc. the list is full of superlatives, is all transferred to Him in His humanity.

It is one thing to be "Birthgiver of God" or the "Godbearer" which are the correct English translations of Theotokos," but it is even a higher calling to be "the Mother of God."

The term for one who gives birth to God could imply that she is simply a vehicle to his birth. (Some heretics liked this possibility.) But Mother of God means that His humanity is her humanity!

Incredible! Not only does God take on humanity in a general sense, but takes on a specific person's humanity! This is the intimate, and most personal God of the East's inscrutable mysticism. The God who leaned on the breast of woman!

In Christ,
Andrew

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37696
09/22/04 11:18 AM
09/22/04 11:18 AM
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Mother of G-d is a very weak translation to Theotokos. But it doesn't necessarily mean the exact same thing. But because She gave birth to G-d the Son (G-d Bearer or she who bore G-d), it would make her a Mother of G-d, but Theotokos doesn't directly mean Mother of G-d.

Does that make sense? I hope I'm not making any heretical statment, because Theotokos is a theological issue.

Let's bring back to more uses of Theotokos. It's very theologically profound, more so than the "Mother of G-d." Why? Because anyone can be the Mother of Jesus (i.e. adopted Mother, birth Mother, etc. Look at Joseph, it's not his seed that brought on the Life of Jesus, but he still was His earthly father), but Mary is the ONLY one who BORE G-d the Word from her flesh and blood (Theotokos)...as well as taking as role as the Mother of G-d.

SPDundas
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Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37697
09/22/04 11:49 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Intrigued Latin:
In short.. There's no difference.

Brad
I stand corrected... Forgive me for attempting to answer a term that is more commonly used in the east and out of my league. I still have a lot to lean about the east.

Brad

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37698
09/22/04 05:00 PM
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dear Brad:

no worries at all!

I obviously didn't know much about the subject.

to quote our favourite Anhelyna: "Let the learning continue!" Now that she's become an expert on all things Byzantine, she needn't use that dictum so much any more. But I still can!

Herb

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37699
09/22/04 05:13 PM
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Many Greek and Russian translations of books and prayers refer to the Theotokos as the Most Holy Mother of God, Mother of God, or Mother of our God.

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37700
09/22/04 05:25 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by alice:
Many Greek and Russian translations of books and prayers refer to the Theotokos as the Most Holy Mother of God, Mother of God, or Mother of our God.
Dear-in-Christ Alice,

I cannot speak much for modern Russian although it generally follows the pattern of Slavonic. The Slavonic preserves the difference between Mother of God and Theotokos. Slavonic has the calque "Bogoroditsa" for Theotokos and Mater Boga for Mother of God.

As pointed out earlier these two terms occur sometimes side-by-side as in the "Axion estin."

Tony

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37701
09/22/04 05:29 PM
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Dear Tony,

It has been in *English* translations of Russian books about saints and the like that I have most come across the Theotokos referred to as 'Mother of God'.

In Christ,
Alice

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37702
09/22/04 06:17 PM
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P.S. Sorry that I didn't make myself clear in my first post...that is why one shouldn't post when one is in a rush! :rolleyes:

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37703
09/22/04 06:21 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by alice:
Dear Tony,

It has been in *English* translations of Russian books about saints and the like that I have most come across the Theotokos referred to as 'Mother of God'.

In Christ,
Alice
Ah! "Russian translations" means English translations. No problem.

I am still unclear if you mean however that an original text that has Theotokos is being rendered Mother of God -in English- or if it is something else you mean. Mother of God is certainly an acceptable term that is hallowed by the use of the Orthodox Church, as is Theotokos. If you look at the texts used by the OCA you will find that both occur, and side-by-side, as in the Slavonic, from the Greek, in the hymn "It is truly meet...."

Her icons in church have the inscription (abbreviated and in Greek) Mother of God not Theotokos. It would be wrong, I think, to change that use.

I don't see any issue with referring to the Most-Holy Lady Theotokos as Mother of God, unless violence is being done to the original language.

T

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37704
09/22/04 09:07 PM
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This is a very interesting thread.

Alice, you are correct in your observations of Russian liturgical texts. It seems in at least some cases to be an editor/translator's choice of how to interpret "Bogoroditsa", as it appears much more frequently in the root texts than "mati Bozha".

Looking at various translations of the Canons to the Mother of God, either the Supplicatory or Akathist, one will find even within the same diocese the responses varying from "Most Holy Theotokos, save us" at one parish to "Most Holy Mother of God, save us" at another. I have noticed this with both Orthodox and Greek Catholics.

It seems in general that "Mother of God" may be overall a somewhat more popular rendering into English from Slavonic texts compared to Theotokos.

In the English Old Rite prayer book from Erie, for example, "Mother of God" appears many times more frequently in English, even when the root Slavonic word is "Bogoroditsa", and not "Mati Bozha".

In the post-Nikonian horologia such as Jordanville and St. Tikhon's, you will find Theotokos used more commonly but still will find "Mother of God" frequently.

This is just my opinion based on observation, but I think perhaps the Slavic mind did not develop as much of a divided sense of usage of these terms as in the Greek-speaking churches, given some of the English translations from the Slavonic have been rendered by eminent experts in the original Slavonic texts.

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37705
09/22/04 09:40 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Diak:
This is a very interesting thread.

Alice, you are correct in your observations of Russian liturgical texts. It seems in at least some cases to be an editor/translator's choice of how to interpret "Bogoroditsa", as it appears much more frequently in the root texts than "mati Bozha".

Snip

In the English Old Rite prayer book from Erie, for example, "Mother of God" appears many times more frequently in English, even when the root Slavonic word is "Bogoroditsa", and not "Mati Bozha".

Snip
Dear-in-Christ Diak,

Can you point to any liturgical (not paraliturgical) texts that use "Mati Bozha"?

Tony

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37706
09/22/04 11:33 PM
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HI,

Even in Greek, there are two words: "Theotokos" and "Mother of G-d"...both are different words.

I know it's Theotoku in Greek, but don't ask me what the words are for "Mother of G-d" cuz my memory isn't working properly.

SPDundas
Deaf Byzantine

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37707
09/22/04 11:39 PM
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perhaps mater theon but then again im no greek expert
stephanos I

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37708
09/23/04 06:58 AM
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Tony, in post-Nikonian usage Mati Boga [excuse my late-night typos in my previous post, I can't get spell check to fix English transliterations of Slavic languages :rolleyes: ] seems generally to appear in paraliturgical prayers or hymns, daily prayers, etc., all certainly of later translation than the liturgical texts. One can hear it used either in Slavonic or in a vernacular rendering especially in hymns from the Carpathian regions.

It does appear liturgically perhaps most prominently in the Dostoyno Yest' in the phrase "matir Boga nashago". This is generally translated literally as "Mother of our God" in most English translations I have seen.

Which makes the translation question all the more puzzling since as I mentioned Bogoroditsa appears so frequently, but is not translated consistently one way or the other from Slavonic. Some of these translations were often done by or in collaboration with persons very familiar with the nuances of the original Slavonic texts.

On a tangent, as a cantor it is often easier to meter out "Mother of God" while singing in various melodies and I wonder if perhaps that was also a consideration in some of the books.

In agreement with your post, I don't see any major theological conflict with using either "Mother of God" or "Theotokos" as the translation of "Bogoroditsa". In English these have developed to the point of use liturgically, paraliturgically, and in hymnody as generally interchangeable terms.

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37709
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Quote
Originally posted by Diak:
Tony, in post-Nikonian usage Mati Boga [excuse my late-night typos in my previous post, I can't get spell check to fix English transliterations of Slavic languages :rolleyes: ] seems generally to appear in paraliturgical prayers or hymns, daily prayers, etc., all certainly of later translation than the liturgical texts. One can hear it used either in Slavonic or in a vernacular rendering especially in hymns from the Carpathian regions.

It does appear liturgically perhaps most prominently in the Dostoyno Yest' in the phrase "matir Boga nashago". This is generally translated literally as "Mother of our God" in most English translations I have seen.
Dear Diak, I remain a bit confused by your response. Please allow to me unfold my initial question to you a bit. You said in your post that "Mati Bozha" appears in liturgical texts. I can't recall seeing that, rather Mater Boga (a rather different form as Boga is the genetive of the noun Bog while Bozha is the feminine of Bozhyi - an adjective) in liturgical texts and Mati Bozha in para liturgical texts such as Marian hymns. In your response these two seem to continue conflated.

So my question remains, are you aware of the use of "Mati Bozha" (as opposed to Mater Boga) in a liturgical text?

Thanks for your reply!

Tony

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37710
09/23/04 08:25 AM
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Tony, I thought I explained myself, sorry if I wasn't direct enough. The first post should have been "Mati Boga" as I explained and clarified in the second post. Perhaps you didn't get my subtle joke about spell check missing errors in transliterating from Slavonic. I did not intend "mati Bozha" to come out but rather "Mati Boga".

You seem to be missing my point perhaps, which had little to do with my typo but had to do with usage in translation of "Theotokos" vs. "Mother of God", which is the general theme of this thread. And no, I am not aware of "mati Bozha" unless someone else made a typo. smile Just please don't tell my OCS professor I made that goof, he would have me writing declinations for the rest of my life. eek

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37711
09/24/04 08:50 AM
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Thanks for all the contributions and very interesting explanations.

Would anyone have any (know any) sources that I could quote or look up for further info re why the Church specifically coined "Theotokos" instead of using "Mother of God".

All the sources I have found explain "Theotokos" as opposed to "Christokos", but never mention how it is distinct from "Mother of God".

Thanks again!

Herb

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37712
09/24/04 09:23 AM
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Greek easily forms compound nouns such as "Theotokos." Latin does also, and the exact equivalent of "Theotokos" is "Deipara," although this word does not occur with anything like the frequency of "Theotokos" in Greek. Slavonic, since it became a literary language for the purpose of translating from Greek, handles this easily, and in traditionally Orthodox countries the vernacular simply uses Slavonic words in such cases. In a sense it is true that "Theotokos" and "Mother of God" mean the same thing; there are shades of difference, but no more. "Mother of God" is idiomatic in English. "Thoeotokos" is not. So it often happens that "Theotokos" is rendered "Mother of God." This does get the meaning across, but, as others have pointed out in this thread, "Theotokos" and "Meter Theou" do occur together in Byzantine-rite hymnody, so some other way of Englishing "Theotokos" is wanted. Hapgood used "Birthgiver of God," which serves but sounds a bit clumsy. There has been a tendency in Orthodox translations to use "Theotokos," straight from Greek, and expect that it will become indigenized in English. A lot of people know what it means, and a lot of others do not and explain it as "Queen of Heaven" or the like. "Godbearer" is ambiguous, and is already used for "Theophoros," so it will not do. "Gottesgebaerin" solved the problem well enough in German; in English we have no entirely satisfactory solution.

Stephen

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37713
09/24/04 02:57 PM
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Thanks everyone.

I think I get the translation issue.

My question is not so much the translation issue but finding the theological reason why they had to coin the term "Theotokos" rather than just going with the already extant and perfectly understandable "Mater Theou" (Mother of God) at the time of Ephesus or whenever they came up with the term.

Herb

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37714
09/24/04 03:11 PM
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Actually Herb,

the Council of Ephesus did not coin the term "Theotokos", so to classify this as a neologism is incorrect. Sorry I cannot cite the exact reference at this time, but Jaroslav Pelikan does point out in his text, Mary through the Centuries , that the Council made use of an already existing term among the faithful to proclaim an essential truth of Faith.

I do have the book at home and I will provide the ciation in a later post.

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37715
09/24/04 03:31 PM
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Herb,

here's on online reference to the history of the term Theotokos :

Excursus on the term, "Theotokos"

BTW, IIRC, the catechetical directors of the Eastern Catholic Churches and I believe the IELC of the Metropolia of Pittsburgh are restoring the term Theotokos in catechetical materials and in liturgical usage instead of the English translation of "Mother of God".

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37716
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dear Father Deacon John:

Thank you for the reference. It was very interesting. I gather that that is a commentary by some scholar on Ephesus?

I actually had heard that the term "Theotokos" preceded Ephesus, ergo my inclusion of the disclaimer "whenever they came up with the term".

And I have found out recently that the term has gained a so popularity amongst Evangelicals, I believe, who find it less offensive than "Mother of God" and make the distinction on that score.

I'm pretty sure that the Evangelical's concerns were not those of the Early Christians and certainly not those of the Holy Fathers at Ephesus.

My question is not so much what whether Mother of God is a good translation of "Theotokos" or whether such terms as "God-birther" or "Godbearer" or "Birthgiver of God" are proper English.

I am presuming that there is some sort of distinction for the Holy Fathers of Ephesus since they focused on that term rather than the term "Mother of God" which they could easily have done.

And many of the postings on this thread have been very enlightening on this question.

I look forward to what Pelikan has to say about my specific quaere! Thanks in advance!

Herb

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37717
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Herb,

some background to the Third Ecumenical Council, the Council of Ephesus.

The Alexandrian school made use use of the term Theotokos("the one who gave birth to God") at least as early as 319-324 AD when Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, refered to Mary as Theotokos in his Letter to Alexander of Byzantium about the heresy of Arius. In Alexandria and other regions, the title Theotokos as ascribed to Mary enjoyed popular liturgical usage.

After the priest, Nestorius, ascended to the episcopal throne of Constantinople in April of 428, he criticized the notion of Mary as Theotokos, because in his opinion it gave the impression that she gave birth to the divine nature. Nestorious preferred the term Christotokos, "the one who gave birth to Christ." This teaching caused a stir among the faithful who had been following established popular liturgical devotion of Mary as Theotokos. Nestorius wrote to Pope Celestine, but even after two letters to the pope no answer was to come.

As a result of that teaching and its refutation by St Cyril of Alexandria, Nestorius accused St Cyril of doctrinal error. St Cyril sought in vain for help from the emperor, Theodosius II. With no imperial assistance forthcoming, St Cyril turned to Rome.

St Cyril sent a dossier on Nestorius and his teachings to Rome. Archdeacon, and future pope, Leo of Rome asked St John Cassian to give his learned opinion upon the teachings of Nestorius. Cassian opined that Nestorius held teachings related to the heresy of Paul of Samosata and Pelagius. Pope St Celestine convoked a synod in August, 430, and condemned Nestorius. Under pain of excommunication, the synod required Nestorius to recant his opinions and teachings within ten days. In November, 430, at the instigation of Nestorius,Emperor Thedosius II called for a council to convene in Ephesus on Pentecost, 431.

We know of course, the Third Ecumenical Council upheld the doctrinal purity of the liturgical Marian title of Theotokos. The title "Mother of God" had not been used as a Marian title in the Greek, although this is how Theotokos had been translated in the Latin, ("Mater Dei") and the subsequent Romance languages. In German it has been translated as Mutter Gottes.

Pelikan notes:

Quote
Therefore when Athanasius spoke of the Logos "taking flesh of a Virgin, Mary the Theotokos," he was echoing the language of popular devotion; but he had already begun to provode the title with the very rationale that was to help defend it against attack half a century after his death. As Newman suggested in The Arians of the Fourth Century, the people were orthodox even when the bishops were not. In his use of the Theotokos, as in his use of other titles and metaphors, Athanasius aligned himself with the orthodoxy of popular devotion and vindicated it. The idea of lex orandi, lex credendi, that implicit in Christian worship there was a normative doctrinal content, which needed to be made explicit, seems to have been formulated shortly after the time of Athanasius, but he evidently worked on the basis of some such idea. Mary Through the Centuries , p 59.
The controversy surrounding the Nestorian heresy was primarily Christological. As a result, the Church was able to elaborate upon the principle of the communicatio idiomatum , "communication of the properties". This rule holds that as a result of the Incarnation, the Theanthropos, the God-man, Jesus Christ, can be described in both human and divine attributes and they can be used interchangeably since the terms refer to the one and the same Person. Although the Eastern Fathers could have made use of the title "Mother of God" by communicatio idiomatum , the title Theotokos already had an orthodox Christological understanding among the faithful because of its popular liturgical usage.

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37718
09/25/04 01:11 PM
09/25/04 01:11 PM
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Posts: 7,461
Kansas/UGCC
Diak Offline
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Diak  Offline
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Quote
My question is not so much what whether Mother of God is a good translation of "Theotokos" or whether such terms as "God-birther" or "Godbearer" or "Birthgiver of God" are proper English.
Herb, I would say that while all three convey some of the meaning of "Theotokos" perhaps the last one makes more sense in English. "Theotokos" was certainly in use and known of by the time of the Council of Nicea in 325.

You have just entered into the "Translation Zone" where ancient root words and terms written in Greek of patristic times collide with evolving modern languages and license of translators. smile

Re: Theotokos versus Mother of God #37719
09/26/04 08:01 PM
09/26/04 08:01 PM
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Posts: 87
Oregon
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Stephen R. Offline
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Stephen R.  Offline
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Oregon
The translation problem is a bear, as I mentioned in the former epistle. "God-bearer" is ambiguous, and not available because already claimed as the translation of "Theophoros." "Birth-giver of God" was used a century ago by Hapgood, and has some currency mainly because of that; but it strikes many as rather clumsy; "Godbirther" I have not seen, it is accurate enough, but I doubt that it would be any more popular than "Birth-Giver of God." Not translating at all, just saying "Theotokos," has become pretty widespread in the last quarter of the twentieth century; it has some difficulties too. There seems to be no single solution that is obviously better than the others. I can't think that French or Spanish have it any easier than English here; maybe that will be some comfort, since misery loves company.

Stephen

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