1 Timothy 4: On Cognates and Translation

I understand there are problems with false cognates in translation. It can be a sign of laziness too when a translator simply goes for the most similar word to hand between languages. But sometimes it can be powerful and evocative. For some reason, 1 Timothy 4 has a few quite potent cognates:

But the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will apostasize (apostēsontai) from the faith, paying attention to deceptive spirits and the teachings of demons, liars in their hypocrisy, having their own consciences cauterized (kekaustēriasmenōn). (4:1-2)

Unto this end we labour and agonize (agōnizometha), because we have hoped in the living God, who is the saviour of all people–of believers above all. (4:10)

To me, simply using the English cognates–which, after all, were derived from the Greek–strikes a more powerful chord. For instance, “apostasize” is both more accurate and more troubling than the TNIV’s “abandon.” Again, “cauterized” is the one word which translates the elliptical “seared with a hot iron.” Finally, “agonize” carries with it all the meaning of “strive,” but with more intensity. There is a time for everything, and once in a while I think it’s time for a good cognate.

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