Bible blog 2257

Continuing with the new project: translation of the Letter to Colossians, with comment.

COLOSSIANS 1 v 9ff

Accordingly, since the day we heard of it we have not stopped praying for you, asking that you be filled with the understanding of God’s will, through complete wisdom and spiritual insight, so that you lead a life worthy of the master, always increasing your understanding of God. May you be empowered in every way, after the pattern of his splendid strength, for complete endurance and long-suffering, with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has enabled us to share the reward of the holy ones in light. He has rescued us from darkness and transferred us into the realm of his well-loved son, in whom we have liberation, the release from sins

Sant Lucia, a saint in light whose name means light.

This passage is one sentence in the Greek with many of the clauses linked by participles, which is workable in Greek but not in English. Another stylistic oddity is the use of the Greek “panta” meaning “all” which I have translated “complete.”

Like Paul, the Disciple communicates some of his teaching in the guise of his prayers for his audience. He is intelligently concerned for the inner life of the Colossians, not only that they should live rightly but that they should understand what right living is. He twice uses the Greek “epignosis” meaning “knowledge, recognition, understanding” indicating that right living flows from an understanding of God. This seems to me a different emphasis from Paul who saw right actions flowing from faith or trust in God, and was wary of “knowledge” which could lead to religious pride. The Disciple advocates it as a natural and desirable extension of faith, which provides a motivation for right living. We should note that the standard of right living is the “master”, that is, Jesus, which suggests that the Colossians must have had access to traditions about Jesus’ life, as well as the traditions about his death and resurrection used in the Pauline ‘joyful news.” Probably these traditions were carried by itinerant teachers, about whom we know very little.

The “power” which is sought for believers is also defined by reference to Jesus: it should be “after the pattern of his splendid strength” which allowed him to endure suffering. The strength of believers is not that of superman but of Jesus. Already, however the long-suffering is “joyful” because in the midst of troubles believers already share, in advance, the “reward of the holy ones in light,” the reality of life with God. They know that already they have been lifted out of the darkness, in which they were controlled by sin, into the light of liberation from sin, through the joyful news of Jesus. As in the letters of Paul, the Disciple writes of sin as a power which controls and degrades human life.

Readers who know this letter may be surprised by my translation of a phrase usually rendered as “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.” The Greek “apolutrosis” does mean redemption, but often specifically the redemption of a slave, through the payment which liberates her. And the noun often translated forgiveness, “afesis” specifically refers to letting go or release. My translation is not more correct than the traditional one, but it is as correct, and more interesting.

One comment

  1. I like your translation and your defense of choices in your translation. The only reservation is the second occurrence of epignosis, were you again translate as ‘understanding’. I agree with your reservations about ‘knowledge’ – but I think in that second occurrence of the Greek word epignosis, “knowledge of God” may be preferable – may be. Otherwise, this is an excellent exegesis. Thanks.

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