Friday, September 16, 2011

1 Thessalonians 1:3, Translation Issues?

3 We remember before our God and Father your work of faith, your labor of love, and your perseverance of hope in our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.

Below is an excerpt from an upcoming Study on 1 and 2 Thessalonians.  This is an example of how hard translation can be.  As you will see below, the passage can mean and be translated three different ways.  As Robert Mounce says in his son's book, Basics of Biblical Greek, "The way a translation handles an ambiguous verse such as this reveals the theological leanings of the translator." (Referring to Romans 9:5, Basics of Biblical Greek, 2nd Edition, William Mounce, Page 13).

     3 The grammatical issue with this verse is where would ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν (before/in the presence of our God and Father) be placed in an English sentence?  In the Greek text, the prepositional phrase is located at the end of the clause, but just because it is located at the end does not mean that it modifies “our Lord Jesus Christ”.  It could also be functioning as an adverbial phrase and modifies  the participle “remembering” (We remember).  If we follow the word order, then the clause would be translated: “remembering your work of faith, labor of love, and the perseverance of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.”  If we keep the word order, why then would Paul want to say that Jesus is in the presence of God and furthermore, what would that rendering have to do with the thanksgiving that Paul is writing about?  The obvious answer is “nothing”.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy where simply stating that as they are praying, they are in the presence of God remembering the Thessalonians. (Fee, NICNT, 22)  On the other hand, Bruce sees the phrase modifying the the attributes of the Thessalonian Church.  In other words, the Thessalonians’ practice of faith, love, and hope are done in the presence of God (WBC, 12-13).

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