Sundays with Silva: On Translation and Long Apostolic Sentences

In the most recent installment of Mondays with Moisés, we read our Infallible Hero state, in what at first blush might seem like a throwaway comment, that since “the message communicates more clearly” in translations of modern literature which sound “as though they had originally been written in English” (with due allowance for the original context), “one can argue that they are more accurate than literal renderings would be.” Yet the careful reader will immediately note that his use of “one can argue” here practically demands some sort of qualification for this statement. One such qualification, it seems to me, relates to the use of so-called “insider language,” as I suggested in my recent rejoinder to the much-missed Lingamish. Another, as I argued many years ago in another such discussion, is the notion that a literarily sensitive translation “will not be complicated where the original is not, and by the same token, will not be simpler than the original.” Do such added qualifications find any support at all in the Silvanic canon, however? Fortunately for us, the material from the Youngblood Festschrift reworks, with somewhat different emphases, similar material from our Infallible Hero’s earlier publication, God, Language and Scripture. In addition to beautifully nuancing—and rounding out—an admittedly complex discussion, our text today affords us an excellent illustration of a fundamental principle of Moisifical Infallibility: to wit, that Moisés Silva is his own best interpreter.

silva“The task of producing a good translation is exceedingly arduous. Students of the biblical languages do not always have a good appreciation of what is involved. They have learned to produce ‘literal’ translations by consulting the lexicon and so the process seems rather straightforward. In fact, however, a successful translation requires (1) mastery of the source language—certainly a much more sophisticated knowledge than one can acquire over a period of four or five years; (2) superb interpretive skills and breadth of knowledge so as not to miss the nuances of the original; and (3) a very high aptitude for writing in the target language so as to express accurately both the cognitive and the affective elements of the message.

“Even when one has all that equipment, frustration lurks at every turn. If we capture with some precision the propositional content of a statement, we may give up the emotional nuances that form part of the total meaning. If we have a stroke of genius and come up with a turn of phrase that conveys powerfully the message of the original, we may realize that our rendering blurs somewhat its cognitive detail. Not surprisingly, some rabbis used to complain: ‘He who translates a verse literally is a liar, and he who paraphrases is a blasphemer!’ Italians are more concise: traduttore traditore, ‘translators are traitors.’ […]

“We must ever keep in mind that no one translation can possibly convey fully and unambiguously the meaning of the original. Different translators, and even different philosophies of translation, contribute to express various features of the original. […] Moreover, recent advances in linguistics place much emphasis on the context of speech. The admirable desire to produce translations that do not sound like translations and are thus clearer and more accessible to the modern reader must be accompanied by the reminder that the biblical stories took place in the Middle East rather than the Western world, in ancient times rather than in the twentieth century. To the extent that ‘readable’ translations indirectly encourage modern readers to forget such a setting, to that extent they also fail to capture part of the meaning of the text. Besides, one detects a definite tendency to make modern translations much simpler than the original Greek and Hebrew. If the Corinthians had some difficulty understanding Paul’s Greek, it is no disgrace when a modern English reader has to struggle through a long apostolic sentence.

“It is also misleading, however, to assume that a rendering that is formally equivalent to the original necessarily conveys the meaning more faithfully. If I translate the Spanish sentence Tengo frío en los pies literally, ‘I have cold in the feet,’ rather than idiomatically, ‘My feet are cold,’ English readers will probably understand the rendering, but they will gain absolutely nothing by its literalness—indeed, they could be misled to think that there is some special nuance they are missing! Literal translations are easier to produce, and the approach can degenerate into an excuse for not doing the hard exegetical and literary work of conveying faithfully the meaning of the ancient text to the modern reader.”

Moisés Silva, “God, Language and Scripture,” in Moisés Silva (ed.), Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation: Six Volumes in One (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 273, 275-6.


Sundays with Silva: The Problem of Overinterpretation

“It is approximately the year 2790. The most powerful nation on earth occupies a large territory in Central Africa, and its citizens speak Swahili. The United States and other English-speaking countries have long ceased to exist, and much of the literature prior to 2012 (the year of the Great Conflagration) is not extant. Some archaeologists digging in the western regions of North America discover a short but well-preserved text that can confidently be dated to the last quarter of the twentieth century. It reads thus:

“Marilyn, tired of her glamorous image, embarked on a new project. She would now cultivate her mind, sharpen her verbal skills, pay attention to standards of etiquette. Most important of all, she would devote herself to charitable causes. Accordingly, she offered her services at the local hospital, which needed volunteers to cheer up terminal patients, many of whom had been in considerable pain for a long time. The weeks flew by. One day she was sitting at the cafeteria when her supervisor approached her and said, ‘I didn’t see you yesterday. What were you doing?’ ‘I painted my apartment; it was my day off,’ she responded.

“The archaeologists know just enough English to realize that this fragment is a major literary find that deserves closer inspection, so they rush the piece to one of the finest philologists in their home country. This scholar dedicates his next sabbatical to a thorough study of the text and decides to publish an exegetical commentary on it, as follows:

“We are unable to determine whether this text is an excerpt from a novel or from a historical biography. Almost surely, however, it was produced in a religious context, as is evident from the use of such words as devoted, offered, charitable. In any case, this passage illustrates the literary power of twentieth-century English, a language full of metaphors. The verb embarked calls to mind an ocean liner leaving for an adventuresome cruise, while cultivate possibly alerts the reader to Marilyn’s botanical interests. In those days North Americans compared time to a birdprobably the eaglethat flies.

“The author of this piece, moreover, makes clever use of word associations. For example, the term glamorous is etymologically related to grammar, a concept no doubt reflected in the comment about Marilyn’s ‘verbal skills.’ Consider also the subtleties implied by the statement that ‘her supervisor approached her.’ The verb approach has a rich usage. It my indicate similar appearance or condition (this painting approaches the quality of a Picasso); it may have a sexual innuendo (the rapist approached his victim); it may reflect subservience (he approached his boss for a raise). The cognate noun can be used in contexts of engineering (e.g. access to a bridge), sports (of a golf stroke following the drive from the tee), and even war (a trench that protects troops besieging a fortress).

“Society in the twentieth century is greatly illuminated by this text. The word patient (from patience, meaning ‘endurance’) indicates that sick people then underwent a great deal of suffering: they endured not only the affliction of their physical illness, but also the mediocre skills of their medical doctors, and even (to judge from other contemporary documents) the burden of increasing financial costs.

A few syntactical notes may be of interest to language students. The preposition of had different uses: casual (tired of), superlative (most important of all), and partitive (many of whom). The simple past tense had several aoristic functions: embarked clearly implies determination, while offered suggests Marilyn’s once-for-all, definitive intention. Quite noticeable is the tense variation at the end of the text. The supervisor in his question uses the imperfect tense, ‘were doing,’ perhaps suggesting monotony, slowness, or even laziness. Offended, Marilyn retorts with a punctiliar and emphatic aorist, ‘I painted.’

“Readers of Bible commentaries, as well as listeners of sermons, will recognize that my caricature is only mildly outrageous. What is wrong with such a commentary? It is not precisely that the ‘facts’ are wrong (though even these are expressed in a way that misleads the reader). Nor is it sufficient to say that our imaginary scholar has taken things too far. There is a more fundamental error here: a misconception of how language normally works.

“Our familiarity with the English language helps us see quite clearly that any ‘exegesis’ such as the one I have just made up is, in the first place, and overinterpretation of the passage. Except perhaps in certain poetic contexts, we do not use words and grammatical functions as suggested by those comments. Of course, none of usnot even the finest scholarcan acquire the same familiarity with biblical Hebrew and New Testament Greek that we have with our native, living tongue. Consequently, it is a littler easier to read alien concepts into an ancient text and sound quite scholarly as we do it. And if the text in question was written by a great classical author, we are even more readily disposed to assume that it contains great richness of meaning.

“The problem intensifies when we deal with Scripture. Surely and inspired text must be full of meaning: we can hardly think that so much as a single word in the Bible is insignificant or dispensable. True enough. But we must never forget that God has spoken to us in the language of the people. Much of what passes for biblical interpretation, whether in books or sermons, implies that God has used an artificial, coded, or even esoteric language. Ironically, not a few examples of ‘grammatico-historical exegesis’ suggest that the Bible is as distant from common believers as it was assumed by the proponents of the allegorical method. We must recall this basic principle: the richness and divine origin of the biblical message are not compromised by the naturalness and simplicity of the form in which God has chosen to communicate to us.

“In addition to overinterpreting the passage, however, our whimsical commentary above is deficient at a more important level: it contributes virtually nothing to the reader’s understanding of what the passage actually says! A simple translation into twenty-eighth-century Swahili would have conveyed far more accurately and efficiently the point of the text. Similarly, clear English versions of the Bible communicate to the modern reader the main (and therefore most important) point of any passage without recourse to obscure points of grammar.

“Preachers who make appeals to ‘the original’ may in some cases help their readers obtain a better insight into Scripture. More often than not, however such appeals serve one of two functions: (1) they merely furnish illustrations to heighten interest to that hearers think they have a better understanding of the passage (cf. the comment on embark above); (2) they provide the occasion to make a point that has little do to with the passage (cf. the comment on patient).”

Moisés Silva, “God, Language and Scripture: Reading the Bible in the Light of General Linguistics” in Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation: Six Volumes in One, ed. Moisés Silva (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pages 199-201.

Sundays with Silva: On Academic Responsibility

In a recent post, I pointed to academic responsibility as the higher path that believing scholars should relentlessly pursue as they go about their work. I realize, however, that this may be a little too abstract a notion, and that even those who may wish to follow the summons might be left wondering precisely what this entails. Fortunately for us all, our Infallible Hero has written a number of articles that address in some detail the challenges of conducting one’s intellectual work at the juncture of faith and criticism, so I have decided to quote at length from one of them below.

In his conclusion to a masterful analysis of Ned B. Stonehouse’s brilliant (and even daring) interaction with critical scholarship as a confessional biblical scholar, Silva suggests:

“[W]e should recall Stonehouse’s appreciation for careful scholarship, whether arising from evangelical circles or not. Stonehouse himself, no doubt, was strongly influenced by his teacher, J. Gresham Machen, in this regard. The tendency to play down the significance of contemporary critical theories, and the apparently related habit of too swift a use of modern scholarship when it supports a conservative positionthese are qualities that we must eschew once and for all”1.

Twenty years later, Silva returned to these short yet tightly packed lines in his Presidential Address before the Evangelical Theological Society, marvelously entitled “‘Can Two Walk Together Unless They Be Agreed?’ Evangelical Theology and Biblical Scholarship” (the full text of which is available both in an invaluable anthology of ETS Presidential Addresses and in PDF format from the JETS website). In this address, Silva seeks to engage James Barr’s “valid insights” into the problems of Evangelical scholarship in his well known book Fundamentalismthough not, of course, without frankly discussing the many regrettable deficiencies of  Barr’s overall argument. It is at this point that we catch up with Silva, as he raises the often uncomfortable issue of intellectual honesty in confessional biblical scholarship, which speaks directly to our stated concern with academic responsibility:

“We may begin by noticing Barr’s complaint that conservative literature often uses a double standard when assessing the validity of critical views with regard to history:

The fact that historical demonstration is probabilistic and not absolute is constantly exploited by fundamentalists in order to show that critical reconstructions are not certain; on the other hand, . . . the same probabilistic element is exploited . . . in order to achieve at all points the most conservative picture possible. . . . Critical judgments [according to the fundamentalist argument] are at the best hypotheses, which cannot be demonstrated unless the most final and coercive proofs are brought: conservative judgments on the same historical issues are fully reliable knowledge, and cannot be disproved except by the most final and coercive proofs.

“The point is overstated, but if we are not honest enough to recognize that there is considerable truth in this complaint we are not likely to make much progress in articulating a view of Biblical history characterized by intellectual integrity and persuasive power.

“More damagingly, Barr exposes a serious defect in the development of evangelical Biblical scholarshipnamely, the tendency to adopt a critical point of view but to use that approach only when it supports the evangelical agenda. This can happen directly or vicariously. By vicarious I mean the approach of many evangelicals who themselves reject critical methods in principle but who read liberal works looking for arguments that debunk other scholars. Barr justifiably says that this is not fair. How can we claim that a conservative conclusion developed within the framework of so-called higher criticism is valid unless we are willing to say that the framework itself is legitimate and that therefore in principle nonconservative conclusions too may be valid?

“In addition to this secondhand use of criticism, there is the more direct approach of many of us who are actually engaged in critical Biblical scholarship. We explore text-critical problems, analyze linguistic data, pass historical judgments on the literature, and so on; but we tend to avoid dogmatic arguments by focusing on areas that do not conflict with evangelical convictions. Barr points out that

the framework within which such conservative scholarship sets out its position, and the overt principles of demonstration that it uses, lie within a world that is largely shared with critical scholarship. . . . Unlike all scholars who share and actually work with the dogmatic positions of fundamentalism, these conservative scholars share the same universe of discourse with critical scholars and know perfectly well that they do. What they fail to do is to point out the fact, and its lessons, to their fundamentalist readership.

“Barr then remarks that works like the New Bible Dictionary and the New Bible Commentary contain developments that are “quite equivocal in relation to the principles” held so dear by conservative readers. These readers take pride in the fine scholars who defend conservative ideas, but in fact “the deservedly high reputation of some conservative scholarship rests to a large extent on the degree to which it fails to be conservative in the sense that the conservative evangelical public desiderate.”

“We can hardly afford to ignore such criticisms. In fact, the problem may be even more serious than these quotations suggest. Barr suggests that scholars who in one way or another identify themselves as conservative know that they have abandoned distinctive evangelical principles and are simply not very honest about it. That may well be true in some cases. But much more alarming is the evidence that growing numbers of evangelical scholars are blissfully unaware of having adopted approaches or positions that conflict with their religious convictions at a fundamental level.

“In any case, Barr’s criticisms highlight a tensionreflected in the title of this addressthat needs to be faced squarely. I do not concede that this tension is a bad thing in itself or that it indicates a fundamental instability in the work of evangelical scholarship. The fact that we may feel pulled in different directions says nothing about the validity of our position. We may be sure that we will always experience that kind of frustration in this life. The question, however, is whether we are willing to acknowledge the problem, reflect on its implications, and work toward a cogent articulation of our position”2.



1 Moisés Silva, “Ned B. Stonehouse and Redaction Criticism,” WTJ 40 (1977–78):302.

2 Moisés Silva, “‘Can Two Walk Together Unless the Be Agreed? Evangelical Theology and Biblical Scholarship,” JETS 41/1, pages 7-9.

Sundays with Silva: πίστις Χριστοῦ and the Witness of the Greek Fathers

I am overjoyed, my gentle snowflakes, to have found at long last an opportunity to offer another installment of “Sundays with Silva” for your edification. This is, in fact, the very installment that I intended to post when my computer suddenly gave up the ghost on account of my lamentable covenant-breaking. In the selection below, our Infallible Hero examines the burning question of what light, if any, the use of πίστις Χριστοῦ in Greek Christian literature might shed on the Pauline use of this same phrase, noting, in particular, a number of errors that can be (and usually are) made when weighing the evidence.

“As far as can be determined, Greek-speaking writers in the early church who commented on Galatians 2:16 (and parallel passages) understood the phrase as a reference to out faith in Christ. To be sure, they do not stop to address directly the question of whether it refers to our faith or Christ’s: they just repeat the phrase, apparently assuming that the meaning is obvious (though this factor itself may be a significant clue). Occasionally, however, they make their understanding explicit. Chrysostom, for example, paraphrases the thought of Galatians 2:15-16 by saying, ‘we have fled for refuge to the faith which is in Christ’ (κατεφὐγομεν εἰς πίστιν τὴν εἰς Χριστόν).  More important, both Chrysostom and other writers, in their exposition of the passage as a whole, make repeated references to the Christian’s act of believing in Christ, while never once unambiguously speaking of the πίστις that Christ himself has or exercises*.

[*Footnote, page 228: “Here again, the question is not at all whether the church fathers believed in the theological significance of Christ’s faithful obedience . . . , but whether they were likely to use the phrase πίστις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ to express that truth” (emphasis mine).]

“The significance of this facts needs to be fully appreciated. It is not a matter of how much weight should be given to an ancient writer’s exegetical opinion. The point is rather that native Greek speakers seem to have perceived no difficulty whatever in understanding the expression as an ‘objective genitive.’ Even if some exceptions were to be found in the literature, the fact would remain that a reference to the believer’s faith did not at all offend the linguistic intuitions of those for whom Greek was their mother tongueindeed, they preferred such a reference and apparently (as far as we can tell) did not entertain the possibility that there was another option.

“What this means for the present debate is that one can hardly take seriously certain linguistic arguments that have been advanced against the traditional interpretation, such as the view that the ‘objective genitive’ is not natural, or that a majority of the extrabiblical instances of πίστις with a genitive are ‘subjective,” or that the objective genitive ‘demands a verbal ruling noun . . . whose cognate verb is transitive.’ These and other arguments fail to take into account the point I have emphasized above: genitival constructions merely indicate that a relationship exists between the two nouns in question, and the nature of the relationship can be established only by the reader’s knowledge of the linguistic and historical context.

“The matter can be easily illustrated with reference to Luke 6:12, which tells us that Jesus spent the night ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ.  The phrase is, of course, universally understood as a so-called objective genitive and translated, ‘praying to God’ (NRSV, ‘in prayer to God’).  Now let us fancy someone arguing along the following lines:

The usual translation of this phrase does not seem very natural, and in fact the construction cannot be an objective genitive because the verb προσεύχομαι is used with the dative, rather than the direct object, of the person to whom one prays.  More important, every other NT use of προσευχή with a genitive is subjective (Acts 10:4, 31; Rom 1:10; Eph 1:16; 1 Thess 1:2; Phlm 4, 22; 1 Pet 3:4; Rev 3:8; 8:3-4).  As if that were not enough, there are almost sixty occurrences of the construction in the LXX, and all of them (except for the unusual phrase in Isa 56:7; 66:7) are also subjective.  The normal way to express an objective relationship would be with the dative, as in Psalm 42:8 (LXX 41:9), προσευχὴ τῷ θεῷ τῆς ζωῆς μου.

“Superficial statistics of this sort may appear impressive to some, but they totally miss the point and are thus altogether irrelevant.  The only thing that matters is that, as both Luke and his readers know, God is never represented as praying (or as possessing prayers or whatever), while people are routinely spoken of as praying to God.  Let us then return to πίστις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ and ask, What information would have let the Greek fathers to understand this phrase as a reference to faith in Christ?”

Moisés Silva, “Faith Versus Works of Law in Galatians,” in D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid (eds.), Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 2: The Paradoxes of Paul (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck and Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), pages 228-230.

Sundays with Silva: On the Conflict Between Jesus and the Pharisees

“Legalism, theologically understood, can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Whether or not the Pharisees explicitly taught a merit system [….], we must recognize that Jesus is never represented in the Gospels as criticizing them for believing that they could atone for their own sins. He does indeed condemn them for their legalismbut a legalism that finds expression in a somewhat different form, namely, through the relaxation of God’s standards.

“This point can be illustrated most clearly by referring to a well-known legal ruling, the prozbul, attributed to Hillel the Elder, who apparently lived during the reign of Herod the Great. This ruling in effect did away with the command that debts were to be cancelled every seven years (Dt 15:1-3). That command was accompanied by a solem warning: ‘Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin” (v 9). During Hillel’s time, however, the wealthy were in fact refusing to lend money, fearing they would lose it in the sabbatical year. Since the poor were the ones suffering, Hillel (if we may trust the rabbinic attribution) used the legal fiction that debts cease to be private when transferred to a court, and he ordained that in such cases the debts may be collected. For humanitarian reasons, therefore, Hillel devised a way of ‘breaking’ the Torah; the explanation, of course, would have been that such ‘innovations and amendments . . . fulfilled the basic reason of the commandment, whereas its literal observance nullified its original intent.’ [E. E. Urbach, The Sages, 1:373. -ed.]

“This enactmentand other examples could be usedshow[s] that we miss the point when we view the Pharisees as being concerned with the letter rather than the spirit of the Law. While that may well have been the case in some instances, it does not address the basic motivation for the rabbinic interpretation of the Torah. [….] In a very important sense, the Pharisees made the Torah easier to obey. As a result of the prozbul, wealthy Jews no longer needed to be concerned about the solemn warning of Deuteronomy 15:9. The divine standard had been relaxed. The Torah had been accomodated to meet the weaknesses of the people. [….]

“It turns out, then, that Jesus, who like the Old Testament prophets demanded perfection (Mt 5:48), would have been critical of the Pharisees, not because they obeyed the Torah too strictly, but because they interpreted it too loosely. This is clearly and precisely the point of Mark 7:1-13, generally recognized as a key passage for understanding the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. The controversy described in this passage centers on the law that ceremonial washing was required before eating. In fact, this is not an Old Testament law; it is not part of the Written Torah. But it was part of the Oral Torah, that is, the traditions of the elders. Scholars are generally agreed that the concept of the Twofold Law was the most distinctive feature of Pharisaic and later Judaism. The Oral Law was viewed as on a par with the Written Lawindeed, in some respects, as more important, for a ruling that is part of the Oral Law may in effect set aside the Written Law, as in the case of the prozbul.

“Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Mark 7 is that they ‘have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the tradition of men’ (v 8). And, after describing a particularly insidious example, He concludes: ‘Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down’ (v 13). This undermining of God’s Word, moreover, resulted in a muted consciousness of sin, for normally there were ways of interpreting the divine commands that mitigated their force. This frame of mind is almost surely the background for Matthew 5, whre Jesus is said to demand of His disciples a righteousness greater than that of the Pharisees (v 20). Then, to preclude any interpretive moves that might render the law innocuous, He goes on to intensify specific Scriptural commands. Just in case anyone might have missed the point, He concludes: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (v 48), the equivalent of Leviticus 11:45, ‘ . . . therefore be holy, because I am holy.’

“The Pharisees were often in danger of thinking that they had adequately fulfilled their duty before God (cf. Lk 18:9-12:21), and therefore no great sense of dependence on God’s grace was likely to arise. In contrast, Jesus emphasized that the truse servants of God are those who are ever conscious of their unworthiness (Lk 17:7-10) and who have learned to pray, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Lk 18:13).”

(Moisés Silva, “The Place of Historical Reconstruction in New Testament Criticism,” in D. A. Carson and John D. Woobridge [eds.], Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon [1986; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995], pages 119-121.)

Sundays with Silva: On the Study of Greek

It surely no secret to anyone who has been reading this blog for more than two minutes that one of its chief purposes is to spread the knowledge of the infallibility of Moisés Silva throughout the land. I have therefore decided to institute a new occasional feature like unto the Saturday à Machen, and dedicated to share with you, my genteel gazelles, choice quotations from Silva’s admirable writings for your edification.

Our Silvanic golden nugget for today is buried in a footnote, but deserves wider exposure:

“Ideally, students learning biblical Greek should do so only within the context of learning Hellenistic Greek generally (with at least a smattering of the late classical period). Of course, such a program would easily require a tripling of the time and effort nowadays devoted to the subject, and it would be virtually impossible to persuade students (or even faculty and administrators) that one needs to ‘waste time’ with Plato and Polybius and Plutarch in order to understand the language of Paul. But can one imagine a person with two years of college French daring to translate (or write an exegetical commentary on) the plays of Molière?”

Moisés Silva, “Are Translators Traitors? Some Personal Reflections,” in Glen G. Scorgie et al. (eds.), The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God’s Word to the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), page 49 n. 12.

Having presciently heeded Silva’s advice on this matter, I can only say that I am all the richer for having spent a few years pursuing the study of late Classical and Hellenistic Greek, and I encourage all who have the opportunity to do so to take advantage of it. Sometimes I have the feeling that we haven’t really overcome Hermann Cremer’s notion that the Greek of the New Testament is some kind of “Holy Ghost language.” The difference is that, instead of saying that the Holy Spirit created a theretofore unattested special language for revelatory purposes, some are now saying that the Holy Spirit doggedly stuck to a non-literary variety of the language for revelatory purposes. The first error was dispelled by the pioneering work on papyri and inscriptions by the likes of Deissmann, Grenfell, and Hunt; the second will only be laid to rest by increased exposure to Greek literature contemporary to the New Testament.

[For other wondrous Silvanic quotations, see here, here, here, here, and here; and for some links of articles by Silva conveniently available online, see here.]