Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Moving from "With" to WITH

This morning in my Bible time I was bumping along in the Vulgate when I saw an interesting preposition in Gal. 1:18:

Apud is not the normal word for "with" in Latin. Then I read this verse in Luther's translation:

Again, bei is the not the usual word for "with" in German. And the Greek?

You guessed it. Pros doesn't usually come to mind when we think of "with." I immediately thought of John 1:1, where the second clause reads "and the Word was with God." Here, for the idea of "with," I might have expected "sun" or "meta" or "para." But pros is used instead.

Likewise, the Vulgate has apud and Luther has bei. In all three languages, these words seem to have a sense of personal intimacy that the other words for "with" lack. If I should say, "Ich bin bei Familie Schmidt," my use of "bei" implies that I'm not only "with" the Smith family but staying in their home, enjoying their company. Likewise, when Paul went up to Jerusalem, he stayed with Peter, undoubtedly in his very home. 

No major English translation that I know of adequately brings across this nuance of pros in John 1:1. They translate the Greek simply as "the Word was with God." C. B. Williams, however, produced his own private translation of the New Testament in 1937. It's called "The New Testament in the Language of the People." 

Here's how he renders John 1:1:

In the beginning the Word existed; and the Word was face to face with God; yea, the Word was God Himself.

I love it. It's one thing to be merely in the presence of someone. It's another thing to be enjoying close fellowship with that person. At this Christmas season, aren't you grateful for the people who've allowed you into their hearts with open arms? Do you know how to tell if someone's that intimate with you? They let you walk right into their house with a sink full of dirty dishes and their hair a mess. We all need people like that.

The Swiss are as cordial and friendly as any Americans I've ever known. They're just more, say, reserved about it. It took several months before Becky and I were invited into someone's home for supper after church when we lived in Basel. That's a really big deal over there. When speaking German, you even change the words you use to talk with one another. You are now on a familiar, even intimate, basis with that family. How sweet that is. These people are now part of your inner circle. People in your inner circle are not just any people. They visit you in the hospital and you can call them when you get a flat. 

Sometimes it's easy to forget that each of us needs a Savior -- not to mention a good old-fashioned friend to encourage us, help build us up, and even explore our pain with us. Become the friend you would like to have. It takes time to develop this kind of closeness, to move from "with" to WITH. But it goes much faster when we make the first move.