04 December 2010

"Through" vs. "In" in Philippians

What follows will tire your eyes and probably not be of any meaning. Blame Pope Benedict XVI.

This isn't about the latest flap.  It's because he is a world-class theologian, excellent teacher, and a gentleman and a man of profound talent and humility.  And, - I say this with wry exasperation - he is methodically removing all the obstacles that kept me apart from the Church.

Anyway - you can skip the rest of this.

Today I looked at a bookmark I sometimes use.  It has flowers and a Bible verse, Philippians 4:3.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
I recently had the privilege of acquiring the excellent Baronius edition of the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible.  Curious to see how the verse reads in that version, I looked up the verse.
I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.
I'm not an expert in the English language, but I do have a degree in English and French, so I come by my interest in words honestly.  I'm also old enough to have spent plenty of time diagramming sentences (thanks, Miss Rich!).  I have a strong sense of what words mean, but I admit up front that my understanding is idiosyncratic, in the sense that it's mine, and I'm working without a dictionary open in front of me.

The NIV's version uses the word "everything."  To me, that is a word which, these days, means an agglomeration, an olio of whatever... a lump.  The D-R translates it as "all things."  OK, essentially the same meaning, but more precise.  "Everything" in today's vernacular is often used for hyperbole, and people know it doesn't mean, well, every thing.  "Everything's a mess."  "Everything's great."  "All things" is much more precise.  Even in today's speech, "all things" cannot mean "some" or "a few" or "most."  All is all.  No exceptions.

The second thing I noticed in the difference is the use of the word "through" by the NIV - "through him..." as opposed to "in him..." in the D-R.  That kind of word choice gets my attention.

While I was wandering in the wilderness, so to speak, I read a great many Bible translations, commentaries, sermons and other writings of Protestant scholars and theologians.  I can tell you quickly and helpfully about the characteristics of the KJV, NKJV, NASB and, to some degree, the ESV, in various editions such as the LAB, the Thompson Chain Reference, etc.  I also did some serious rumination over the Catholic versions such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible.  I often compare the translations and wonder how decisions were made, but that's a separate post.

So - why would the NIV have "through him" instead of "in him"?  I think, when you're talking about Jesus, words matter.

Before the ESV came on the market, the NIV was one of the most-used translations in evangelical circles.  I do not question the word choice... I'm sure that the translators can prove why they made that choice.  But, still:  through.

"Through" to me implies a beginning and an end.  You don't go through something eternally; "through" is a temporary state.  Am I right?

"But, but, but," I hear you say, "that's not what's meant.  It means that we get the strength through Jesus."  OK, I agree.

But wait - there's more.

"... who gives me strength."  The word "gives" troubles me.  When you give something, there was a time when the gift had not been given, right?  And a gift cannot be given in future.  If I give you a gift in a box, once I've accepted the gift, opened it, thanked you - the gift is complete and over.

"... who strengtheneth (strengthens) me."  Phrased this way, the meaning is of ongoing strengthening.  However, there is an implied condition.  The strengthening happens in him.  In him.

How do you get in someone?  Well, you don't, usually.  But there is one man who invites you into himself, and will respond to a like invitation.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.
That's in the gospel of John, chapter 6, verse 57.  Most Evangelicals and most Roman Catholics differ on the meaning of this verse.  Evangelicals see it as merely symbolic, and echo the disciples' shocked remonstration in verse 61.  Roman Catholics take it at face value.  In the NIV, it reads:
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
That's quite a difference.

If you're translating the Bible, and Philippians 4:3 comes along, how much does your understanding of John 6:57 guide your choice, if you have one?
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.
I'm a Roman Catholic.  The latter is the way I understand it, and always have.  Jesus is in me, and I am in him, because he provided a way - a mysterious, deeply loving way - to come into my soul, by my invitation.  In that moment, I knew that I was abiding in him.  At this time, I do not participate in communion out of obedience to the Holy Father and the Magisterium; I do not have that right due to choices I made during the wilderness years.  I've never not loved God, however, and Jesus has led and protected me in sometimes quite overt ways through the years.  I trust Him to know me and know my needs.  I am engraved on the hands of God, and my soul has been redeemed through the blood of the Lamb.  Now, I wait expectantly for the next unfolding of God's idea for my life.  I got to this point by surrender to God, abject and utter relinquishment of my right to myself.  That surrender does not allow me to pick and choose, only accept with grateful love whatever He brings to me.

For what I have done in turning away from His Church during her illness (because I see it as that, just as I learned what my mother had was an illness), I cannot expect His mercy.  I took a vow in Confirmation.  I promised Him.  I do not excuse myself.  That said, I did not expect the persecution and horror to come from within the Church; I really didn't.  It blindsided and confused me, and, in the end, coupled with the issues in my life, I couldn't hang on.  One of the last times I went to Confession... maybe it was the last time, I don't really remember... I confessed that I had given in to anger at some of the decisions of the bishops.  I heard a distinct, exasperated "Tsk!" from behind the screen... just like that.  His counsel before absolution was along the line of "just let it go," meaning that the Church I loved was over and done with, and it was time for me to let go and move on with my life.

Intellectually, he was obviously right.  I think he was the one who surprised me by having me suggest the penance, and I don't remember what I said, but whatever he imposed I remember was trifling.

It never made any sense to me.  I was a Catholic who had come to the Church by way of the Manual of Prayers for the Catholic Laity my mother's boyfriend - the one she really loved - gave her in 1942 or so.  The changes imposed after the Vatican II council were bewildering.  It was well before the Internet, so there was no way to reach out and find others who were not cowed and resigned to the disassembly of the Catholic way of life.  There was one woman in our neighborhood who attended a traditional chapel, but she and those with her were talked about as if they were doing something immoral and unfaithful.

I couldn't believe that Jesus would take me into His Church, feed me with Himself, then let it all crumble.  But, by then, I'd had the love of my life leave me, weeping, for another young woman, and my father leave for another not-young woman, and neither of those women were anything like me, so I was used to being abandoned inexplicably.  Maybe that was the way of the world, after all, and maybe the Church that I loved was really gone.  (She survived for 1960-something years, but when I joined - poof! Heh.)  So maybe the Prots were right.  I set out to explore, always staying with Jesus wherever I could find Him.  And He stayed with me.

And now, after John Paul II, who raised my hopes somewhat, we have been given Benedict XVI.  If you had told me all those years ago that we would one day have a wise and dear Pope who would issue Summorum Pontificum, I would have laughed fondly as I would at a hopeful child telling stories to itself in the dark.  But then, if you had told me that I would one day be my dear one's wife, I would have laughed then, too. But here he is, sitting beside me.  Next week will be our first anniversary.  I still reach out and touch him, sometimes, just to reassure myself I'm not dreaming.

Sarai laughed, too.

God has a sense of humor.  And a plan.  He lets the devil roam and whisper and tell his lies and plant doubt in confused minds.  And yet I know - know - that angels walk the earth, and that when one of Jesus' redeemed calls out His name in faith that the devil retreats like a salted snail.

I regret that I did not have the courage to tough it out, that my faith failed its test.  But God has used the intervening years to humble and teach me.  I have a copy of the Baronius 1962 Missal.  There is a FSSP outpost 20 minutes away where Mass is offered in the Extraordinary Form daily.  In my diocese, the bishop is perfectly OK with that and even allows Catholics in any parish to register in the FSSP parish.   God does, truly, restore the years the locust has stolen.  If he can do this, he can do anything... even, if He wants, bring me back into Communion with Him.  In the meantime, He allows me to abide with Him, and He strengthens me.

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