Но когда пришли братья Его, тогда и Он пришел на праздник не явно, а как бы тайно.

  • Whats как бы doing in this sentence (as in function)?
  • Would it be possible to leave it out, without changing the meaning? And/Or if it would be let out, what would be changed by it?
  • What would be a typical example for when to use как бы?

It can be thrown away if it is used as "parasite" word (which is quite common nowadays - meaning is similar to "kinda" or "like"). But not in this case.

Efremova dictionary states that Как бы is used as:

I союз
1. Употребляется при присоединении члена предложения со значением условно-предположительного сравнения, соответствуя по значению сл.: как будто.

2. Употребляется при присоединении члена предложения или придаточной части сложноподчиненного предложения со значением сравнения (которое представляется недостоверным), соответствуя по значению сл.: как бы, будто бы, как если бы.

II част.
Употребляется при выражении предположительности, условности высказывания, соответствуя по значению сл.: будто, будто бы.

I think in your example it is conjunction that means "as if". So the meaning here is that "He" did not visit the celebration officially, but he did come without drawing attention to his presence. Though he did not really made a secret from his coming. Omitting "как бы" here would mean that he did tried to be unnoticed.

As you can see from the Efremova citation there are 2 more other ways of using "как бы".

By the way, when speaking on religious texts they cannot be taken as typical examples of usage. As Yellow Sky stated, the text of Bible is not changed for centuries and therefore outdated in terms of modern language use.

  • Could you point out (even) more clearly the difference between ...не явно, а тайно. and ...не явно, а как бы тайно. I'm not yet getting the nuance of it. – user3538 May 5 '14 at 15:20
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    When you say "не тихо, а громко" you just mean "громко". When you say "не тихо, а как бы громко" you mean that it is not really so loud, but louder than needed. – Artemix May 5 '14 at 15:23
  • Okay, think I got it. – user3538 May 5 '14 at 15:25
  • Concerning the edit: to me it seems in the given sentence it doesn't make much difference, does it? – user3538 May 5 '14 at 15:28
  • I would translate it as "somewhat", i.e. "somewhat secretly". – Aksakal almost surely binary May 5 '14 at 15:40

Your quote is from the Gospel of John 7:10. In correspondence with the Russian как бы the Latin Biblia Sacra Vulgata has quasi, the English King James Bible has as it were. The idea of как бы is 'kind of', 'as if'.

And no, it cannot be left out, it's the Bible, long ago every word in it became a part of the foundation of the modern culture. And this very John in Revelation 22:19 says it out right:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

  • +1 for the Bible reference, but I think your interpretation of John's statement is not applicable to translations. John's didn't mean to say that there can only be one Russian translation of the Bible. His statement concerns the original words of God, which were spoken in some other language (Aramaic?). – Aksakal almost surely binary May 5 '14 at 15:36
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    В. Н. Кузнецова, author of the modern translation of the New Testament, most probably does not share your confidence that как бы can’t be left out. In her translation John 7:10 looks like ‘Но после того, как Его братья ушли на праздник, Иисус тоже пошел туда, только не открыто, а тайно’. – Dmitry Alexandrov May 5 '14 at 16:42
  • @DmitryAlexandrov - But В. Н. Кузнецова didn't actually leave it out, she substituted it for a phrase with a very similar meaning. Note that the OP didn't ask about the possibility of substituting the phrase, that's why I didn't write anything about that. – Yellow Sky May 5 '14 at 23:27
  • @Aksakal - The original text of the Gospel of John was in Koine Greek: "οὐ φανερῶς ἀλλὰ ὡς ἐν κρυπτῷ" (not openly but like in secret), the Church Slavonic canonical text translates the Greek phrase practically word-for-word: "не явѣ, но яко тай" (not openly but like secretly), and the Synodal Translation quoted by the OP also translates the original Greek phrase the same way. – Yellow Sky May 5 '14 at 23:50
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    Actually this is kind of the word that can always be left out, and Bible-reference changes nothing. Bible is also a text, and actually not very well-written. – Viridianus May 6 '14 at 10:50

"как бы" can be translated as "as if" or "sort of".

Your example can be trnaslated as "...He came to the celebration not openly, but as if secretly".

As for a typical example, here is one from Tutchev:

Люблю грозу в начале мая,

Когда весенний, первый гром,

Как бы резвяся и играя,

Грохочет в небе голубом.

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