Tag Archives: Paul

Ephesians 5:19 – Silent Songs?

singing1

When reading Paul’s encouragements to come together for prayer, you might expect him to recommend speaking aloud. Yet if you read the King James Version or the New American Bible, you would be envisioning something different, a silent experience of communal heart-song. With translation, as always, the devil is in the details, so let’s take a look at them.

The Greek says:

λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς [ἐν] ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς, ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν τῷ κυρίῳ, (Eph 5:19)

I’ve bolded the relevant “te kardia” which is translated differently by different translators. Here are the seemingly silent versions:

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (Eph 5:19 KJV)
Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; (Eph 5:19 DRA)
addressing one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, (Eph 5:19 NAB)
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, (Eph 5:19 NIV)
speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, (Eph 5:19 NET)

The last time I checked, when you speak or sing “in your heart,” it’s a silent activity. You’ll also notice in the older KJV and DRA that one could take the English “speaking to yourselves” as reflexive and singular, as in “I was talking to myself.” Now both of these concepts are possible: te kardia can mean “in your heart” and heautois can mean “yourselves” in a reflexive way. Yet it seems highly unlikely that Paul would summon the Christian community to speak, sing and make melody in a completely silent fashion, as if we all came together only to inaudibly hum to ourselves. To back me up, I’ll quote Muddiman’s commentary here:

“If pressed, a true reflexive would mean ‘speaking to yourselves’ and the maxim would then be recommending inward praise during the daily life of believers (as, probably, 1 Thess. 5:16f. and Phil. 4:4–6). But the larger context implies corporate worship and interaction with other Christians (and this must be the sense at Col. 3:16, with its ‘teaching and admonishing each other’).” Muddiman, J. (2001). The Epistle to the Ephesians (p. 248). London: Continuum.

Beyond this point, it is important to note that Paul’s conception of the Christian community as the body of Christ (e.g. 1 Cor 12) would cause him to talk about it as a communal entity. That means, when one members speaks to another member, it would really be the “body” talking to itself. Thus he uses the reflexive heautois and not the expected reciprocal pronoun allelon.

Translations with Audible Singing

Some of the more recent translations do a better job here:

addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, (Eph 5:19 RSV)
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Eph 5:19 ESV)
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (Eph 5:19 NASB)

If you read the RSV, ESV or NASB, you might decide to speak up in church—that is, here Paul recommends speaking, singing and making melody “with your heart” rather than simply “in your heart.” Similarly, the UBS Translation Handbook expresses the confusing array of translations and simply throws up its literary hands:

What follows in Greek is simply “in your heart,” which TEV understands to mean with praise in your hearts. But some translate “in your hearts” (NEB, TNT, NIV, JB), which can only mean inaudible singing; so Westcott: “the outward music was to be accompanied by the inner music of the heart.” But it seems difficult to believe that the writer was telling them to have the strains and choruses of songs and psalms running through their minds. Others translate “from the heart,” “heartily,” “with all your hearts” (Brc, Mft, Gdsp, and others). Abbott, however, notes that the normal way to say this is “from the heart” (see the synonymous “from the soul” in verse 6:6). TEV understands the Greek phrase here to mean “with praise in your heart,” but it may be preferable to take the phrase to mean “with all your heart” (RSV), that is, heartily, enthusiastically. (Bratcher, R. G., & Nida, E. A. [1993]. A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians [p. 136]. New York: United Bible Societies.)

Paul could either be recommending silent but quasi-musical praise of God in your mind or active, out-loud, enthusiastic, musical praise of God with your mouth and vocal chords. That’s a big difference! But what does that difference depend on?

The Dative Difference

The way we translate either “in” or “with” in this case zeroes on the usage of the dative case. (Definition from Robertson’s grammar: “The dative is the case of personal interest [denoting advantage or disadvantage], corresponding to the English to or for, or indirect object.”) In this particular case we are dealing with the fine distinction between the “dative of manner” and the “dative of means/instrument” (using Daniel Wallace’s categories). The dative of manner describes the way in which an action is performed—as in “whether in pretense or in truth” in Phil 1:18. The dative of means/instrument, however, describes the instrument through which the action of the verb is performed—as in “she wiped his feet with her hair” (John 11:2). I would argue that here in Ephesians 5:19, we are not looking at a dative of manner, where all the singing words are internal and trapped in your heart. Rather, Paul is looking at the heart as a musical instrument of sorts, through which all songs and hymns must go in order to come out of our mouths. This usage would be a dative of means/instrument. He is not envisioning a crowd of Christians speaking to themselves quietly and humming tunes soundlessly, but of Christians gathered together and speaking and singing out loud. So next time you come together with other Christians for worship, make sure to open your mouth and sing!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Seasoned with Salt

I like to season my salads with salt, but the Bible has different ideas. I came across an odd connection here that I thought I’d share with you. St. Paul says:saltysalt

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one. (Col 4:6 RSV)

It is kind of a weird idea. I mean, how do you put salt on your speech? And if you could, what would that even mean? I know Jesus tells us “you are the salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13). He seems to mean that believers, disciples, make the world tasty to God. That is, the followers of Jesus enhance the world, make it better, spread the tastiness of the gospel and shed light through their preaching. Even then, he warns that salt can lose its flavor and be good for nothing (Mark 9:50||Luke 14:34). In both cases, Jesus and Paul, salt indicates the relation of the believer with the world–enhancing one’s conversation with the world or enhancing the world as a whole.

Yet the connection I found was more textual. Only one other place in the Bible does the phrase “seasoned with salt” appear. Here:

and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy; (Exo 30:35 RSV)

It’s part of one of the few recipes in the Bible. This recipe is for the incense which will be used in the tabernacle and temple sanctuary. If Paul is alluding back to this Exodus recipe, what could he mean? Is he highlighting the sacred nature of Christian speech, that conversation with unbelievers takes on an almost prayerful/worshipful aspect, so much so as being similar to the holy incense offered in the temple?

frankincenseSome offerings are also seasoned with salt (Lev 2:13) and the Lord even makes a “covenant of salt” (Num 18:19), but I think the main thrust in Paul here links up nicely with Exodus 30:35. Strangely, the Hebrew alone preserves the idea that Paul references. The Hebrew has memulach, which is a pual participle meaning “seasoned with salt.” This is rendered in LXX as memigmenon, which simply means “mixed.” Paul’s phrasing in Colossians 4:6 is halati ertumenos, which clearly relies on the Hebrew, not the Greek. The participle here is from artuo, which means “to make salty” and halati means “with salt.” So we could translate Paul’s phrase as “to make salty with salt.” (One could easily think up some late nineties references here.)

I think the point of Paul’s encouragement is relatively simple: that our spoken words be kind and Christlike, “in grace” and not in malice. The connection with incense highlights the holiness, purity and God-directedness of our speech, but the connection with Jesus’ salt sayings, like “have salt in yourselves” (Luke 14:34), emphasizes the good effects our salty words can have in the world around us.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Is Christ All? How to Translate Colossians 3:11

Colossians 3:11 gives us one of Paul’s lists of formerly-significant people boundaries to indicate that now in Christ, we are all one and these boundaries no longer matter. The text reads:

 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11 ESV)

ὅπου οὐκ ἔνι Ἕλλην καὶ Ἰουδαῖος, περιτομὴ καὶ ἀκροβυστία, βάρβαρος, Σκύθης, δοῦλος, ἐλεύθερος, ἀλλὰ [τὰ] πάντα καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν Χριστός.

Unfortunately, the very last part of the verse always sounds weird. I mean, “Christ is all”–what does that mean? The translations do not deviate much from this line. I’m sure that lots of translators have toiled over this verse, so I don’t mean to scoff at their hard work or claim any sort of omniscience. I merely want to make a suggestion. The copula, the verb of being, is absent in the Greek and therefore always inserted in the translations. Latin can follow the Greek without an “is”: “…sed omnia et in omnibus Christus.” If all I had was that snippet and no context, I’d be very tempted to translate either the Latin or Greek as “…but all and in all, Christ” or “…but all and Christ in all.” So, why not translate the verse that way?

To me it seems that list of divisions Paul rattles off between Greek and Jew, slave and free and so one simply terminates at panta, all. Let’s try another sentence with the same structure to see if this could work: “Here there is no longer short and tall, big and small, serious and silly, but everybody and in everybody is ice cream.” Doesn’t it seem that the final term in my list, everybody, could function as the terminus of the list rather than as a predicate nominative of “ice cream”? “Everybody is ice cream” sounds strange.

To me it seems that the drive to translate our phrase as “Christ is all and in all” comes from the context and the idea of putting on Christ and especially “Christ who is your life” in verse 4. But it really seems like an unnecessary stretch. Why does the adversative, alla, but, have to create a new independent clause, couldn’t it just be Paul’s way of punctuating the turning point in the comparison?: Before, we had all kinds of divisions that divided us, but now we are one. Lastly again, it comes back to trying to make sense of the “Christ is all” statement. What does that even mean? Paul is certainly not pantheist or something, so what could such a statement convey, that every Christian is in some mysterious way, Christ?? I’d prefer that Paul is simply saying in Christ, the divisions fall away and only “all/everybody” is left and in everybody dwells Christ. That seems to fit the grammatical demands and Paul’s theology. Inserting an “is” to me seems an overly creative translation twist.

(Of course, perhaps I’m overlooking something important, so please comment if you can explain why “Christ is all” is the best translation here.)

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

What is “character” in Romans 5:4?

In Romans 5, St. Paul strings together several virtues wherein each leads to the next. Here’s the passage:

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…(Romans 5:3-5a)

This is one of those passages that could simply sound like a nice saying, rather than having theological meat on the bones. I was especially interested in what Paul means by “character.” What is that? 031303-N-3228G-001.jpg

The Greek word for character is dokime (δοκιμη). This word is related to a bunch of words all having to do with approval: dokimazo (to prove or scrutinize), dokeo (to think, suppose), dokimos (accepted). The word has to do with outside approval. Paul is not talking about self-esteem, but moral approval by others–I think we are safe to say, especially the moral approval of God.

Notably Paul uses the word several other times: 2 Cor 2:9, 8:3, 9:13; Phil 2:22. He places an emphasis on this idea of testing or proving one’s character. For him, the true test of character is suffering. If a person can endure “affliction” or persecution or suffering for the sake of the Gospel and maintain their faithfulness to the truth, then they are “approved.” Interestingly, Liddell-Scott-Jones does not cite examples of this word prior to St. Paul. Perhaps it was a favorite of his.

This whole concept reminds me of spy movies where a spy is captured and tortured for information. The heroic ones stick it out and keep their mouth shut, while the cowards cough up secrets before the pain is too much for them to bear.

To me, this is why experience is so valuable. A person with great experience of life who has kept the faith stands as an example of proven character. Not all Christians will suffer at the hands of persecutors, but perseverance in the face of any suffering, whether through physical illness, moral trials or even emotional pain, can be an occasion for spiritual growth and growth in dokime.

 

 
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail