Saturday, July 30, 2022

Our Only Source of Peace

This beautiful music blessed my soul this morning.

"Dona nobis pacem" simply means "Grant us peace" in Latin. I sang a different version of this hymn when I was a freshman music major at the University of Hawaii as part of a classical music chorale. It may have been the first time I ever sang something in Latin. 

Here's a passage about peace I read this morning. 

I've been chronicling my pet peeves about English Bible versions on this blog for years, but I somehow wish we could do a better job of indicating emphasis when we render the New Testament into English. Here in John 14:27, Jesus says, "I am giving you my peace." Actually, there are several options in Greek when you want to say "my peace." Here they are in ascending order of emphasis:

1) hē eirenē mou (the normal construction)

2) hē eirenē emou (a little more emphasis on "my")

3) mou hē eirenē (even more emphasis on "my")

4) emou hē eirenē (even more emphasis on "my")

5) hē emē eirenē (a great deal more emphasis on "my")

6) hē eirenē hē emē (probably the strongest possible way in Greek of saying"my")

It's this last construction that's used here in John 14:27. Not only that, but the words "my peace" come before the verb "I am giving." 

So what are our options in English? Unfortunately, we can't use what we should use to indicate emphasis, namely, italics. Those are already taken to indicate words in English that aren't found in the Greek. Hence we have to resort to a paraphrase of sorts. Remember, #5 is very strong. I might render it as, "It is my peace that I am giving you." But #6 is even stronger. Perhaps we can say, "It is my peace -- yes, my very own peace --  that I am giving you." 

Why bother? When I teach Greek, I encourage my students to look for the smallest details that might have exegetical significance. In fact, we spend a lot of time talking about emphasis and how Greek achieves it. I can translate the words alright, but it's no good if I just repeat what I already know from the English ("my peace I give you"). I am handling a book in which not only the words are inspired by the Holy Spirit but other features of language as well. 

As head of the church, Jesus Christ himself is offering us his peace. It's as though he is saying, "There's a big fight ahead, and I want to prepare you for it." The world says peace is downing a six pack or gorging our stomachs or spending money at the mall that we don't have. Christ says there's only one kind of peace that works. His peace. The peace he gives us. 

It's not a peace that removes hardships and confusion. But it is a peace that will sustain us through our biggest wars.