Monday, January 15, 2024

Suspense Suspended: The Greek of Eph. 2:1-5

When I was dating Becky, she never wanted to know beforehand where we would be going. She said that the anticipation was half the fun.

My reading this morning was in Eph. 2:1-5, that great passage where Paul contrasts man's sinful condition and God's merciful intervention. 

What we are by nature is contrasted with what we can be by grace. To emphasize this contrast, Paul does something authors of all ages would do when they wanted to create a sense of anticipation. In the Greek of Eph. 2:1-5 there is no main verb describing God's action until the expression "he has made alive together in Christ" in verse 5. It is a great pity that English versions place this verb in verse 1, apparently to "ease the awkwardness of waiting for it so long" (Stott). Remember, the original recipients of Ephesians would have no idea what the main verb was until verse 5. 

Sadly, we've suspended the suspense. Paul's art of building anticipation is all but forgotten. He wanted to keep his readers on the edge of their seats, engaged and invested, until they asked, "Where is all of this going?" It's no different than when you or I keep flipping the pages of the novel we're reading, craving more information with each turn of the page. By understanding the power of timing, Paul would have captivated his readers' imagination. The real significance of verses 1-4 lies in what is left unsaid. At best, God's intervention is implied in these verses rather than stated. 

Is it ever possible to sacrifice accuracy for readability when translating the New Testament? I believe it is. And perhaps this has happened in Eph. 2:1-5.