Noble but unparsable sentiments
January 29, 2007
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Mark Liberman, in his usual engaging way, discusses “the tangled history of a mangled maxim” at Language Log.
It was prompted by a statement in Bush’s State of the Union address: “Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required,” which should be (to be parsable) something like “To whom much is given, of them much is required.”
Liberman notes that this eventually goes back to the New Testament, specifically Luke 12:48, which, in King James’s Engish, is: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” The more modern Revised Standard Version has:
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.
I’m wondering whether, along with all the linguistic reasons given as
possible ‘just so’ stories for the transmutation to the “To whom much
is given, much is required” variants, whether another reason is the
desire to avoid apparent sexism in the Bible versions. Take the RSV,
remove the clause containing ‘him’ and you get:
To whom much was given, much
of him will be required.
which (modulo tense) is the same as Bush’s aphorism.
(Update: I should have noted that the title is a quote from Liberman’s post.)