Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What are your neighbors doing?

The other day I was traveling along in my car listening to a Christian radio station and a blurb which was named Parable (something or other) came on and a young fellow, and by that I mean somewhere between a boy and a man, said, "Today's parable is...'Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing'. As it reads in the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible". "Thank you," he said, "this has been the Parable of the day", or parable something or other. Well, it was not a parable. But that is not what struck me. I sat there and I thought to myself, what... what in the world does that mean? This is Truth here, after all, that we are dealing with. What is the truth that is revealed in this verse, I asked myself? I couldn't get anything out of it. I thought of many things it may mean. Like, be interested in other people's business and what they are doing. Why? Where is the eternal value in that. Does that just open the door for nosy people. Or for people to involve themselves in affairs of another that they just have no place in. Affairs which they do not have sufficient information about or may not even be able to understand. In many situations it's not o.k. to stick your nose in other peoples business. Does that mean a believer is obliged to share his personal affairs with other believers upon their request? At best, it sounded like a poor representation of a bible verse.

So I finally looked at the verse and what it said, at home one day, with the aid of a few other resources. Along with a Greek dictionary, I looked at the verse in the KJV, NIV, and my NASV. And of course, read the whole first, second, and third chapter of Philippians, to gain the perspective of what was being talked about. I came to the crux of the problem I was having when I saw the verse in my interlineary Bible translation of Greek and English.

A rendering of the verse in the New American Standard Bible reads,
Phil. 2:3-4, "Do nothing from selfishness or vain conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others".

...which seems to include and summarize all of the Greek words that were written in the original text of verse 4 as well as verse 3, of which it was a part. The original text which we can trace back to being in circulation at the time of the lives of the apostles. A letter which Paul wrote to the church of Philippi in which he left nothing to interpretation. He never did. There was one truth, and Christ had chosen him and the other apostles to deliver that truth.

The verse that I heard on the radio, that made no sense to me, seemed to even contradict a valuable principle contained in the rest of the New Testament, which was to worry about only yourself, and not others. Something a parent is constantly trying to teach their child.

And then I saw in the Greek that there was nothing provided for the NLT's use of the word "what". The interpreters who had written that verse in the New Living Translation added a word that you just can't get out of the Greek text. And they wrote it at the expense of what Christ really meant in Paul's letter, which had a larger meaning of not just "what" but also "how" these other people are doing. If He even meant "what" at all. The interpreters of the NLT also wrote verse four as a complete sentence, whereas in the Greek text, verse four is the second half of a larger sentence. To make verse 4 a complete sentence, standing alone, is changing it from what Christ told Paul. In the interpreters (translators) attempts to somehow make it easier to understand, they made it mean something different in their NLT. They took all of the Truth out of it. It's a beautiful verse which, among other things, offers us some ways and means by which we can regard others as more important than ourselves, and truly show our humility. Which is very hard to do. But it's even harder without a true representation of what God is telling us. Be careful out there with all of those "message" bibles. If one allows someone to get between them and the Word as it was delivered to Paul and the other apostles, and recorded in their letters to us, exactly as it was Breathed to them, then, it just might not be the Truth anymore.


jeff said...

Nice work Todd. That kind of research and study makes your pastor proud!

H K Flynn said...

Now if your experience of Christ's encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy, do make my best hope for you come true! Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other then you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people's point of view.

H K Flynn said...

J.B. Phillips' 'translation' really a paraphrase though I hear that term is out, is the best of them, I think.

It is British, and about 50 yrs old so it doesn't come off as casually as others do.

Good post!



Todd said...

Hi Jodie,

Thanks for steering me to that Phillips translation page. Nice resource! See you. Todd

H K Flynn said...

Glad you like it-js