Hello, my intrepid friends.
If you’re living in the United States of America I wish you a happy Fourth of July! If you are not in the U.S.A I wish you a hearty Saturday!
As much of you probably know, I am a devout Christian and believer in God. I frequently read my Bible and am currently going through the book of Ephesians.
I gain a lot of insight and reflection when I read the Bible, the New Testament in particular. These days I am re-reading the book of Ephesians. I think that reading Ephesians again has reminded me of the basic yet strong foundations of Christianity that reflect reality itself. In this article I will expound on that thought and also look at the text in other languages. By the way, I am an amateur polyglot!
I start by looking at Ephesians 1. In the beginning of the first chapter Paul says the Ephesian church, as well as every other Christian, was predestined (vv11-12), and that those who heard and believed were marked with a seal for salvation: the Holy Spirit.
Here it is in English:
11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (NIV)
Verse 11 uses fast-moving grammar to convey that this was a done-deal. We were predestined a long time ago and now we are abiding in that destiny. Verse 12 seals the deal by saying this act, and our obedience and participation in God’s plan will praise God and give Him glory. We get a progression in verse 13: hearing, believing and protection. God marks those who believe and that God’s Spirit protects and guards His own till his return. This is akin to Jesus’ parable about the vineyard leased out to managers who would return it to the landowner when he returned.
Now here it is in French for comparison:
11 En lui nous sommes aussi devenus héritiers, ayant été prédestinés suivant la résolution de celui qui opère toutes choses d’après le conseil de sa volonté,
12 afin que nous servions à la louange de sa gloire, nous qui d’avance avons espéré en Christ.
13 En lui vous aussi, après avoir entendu la parole de la vérité, l’Évangile de votre salut, en lui vous avez cru et vous avez été scellés du Saint Esprit qui avait été promis,
14 lequel est un gage de notre héritage, pour la rédemption de ceux que Dieu s’est acquis, à la louange de sa gloire.
In verse 11 (Louis Segond Version) we see that we have become heirs (héritiers) in addition to being predestined. In verse 14 the phrase “gage de notre héritage” literally means a token of our inheritance. I like that verbiage because it means that the Holy Spirit is literally a sign or token of God’s presence in us.
Following this section Paul offers hope to the Ephesian church. He tells them that he is praying for them and that their eyes will be opened to deeper mysteries that God has for them.
Here it is in English:
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your [f]understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
Paul talks of the spirit of wisdom (verse 17), the eyes of their understanding being enlightened (verse 18), the riches of His glory and exceeding greatness of His power towards those who believe. God is shown to be glorious, powerful and mysterious.
Now lets look at it in German:
17 dass der Gott unseres Herrn Jesus Christus, der Vater der Herrlichkeit, euch [den] Geist der Weisheit und Offenbarung[i] gebe in der Erkenntnis[j] seiner selbst, 18 erleuchtete Augen eures Verständnisses[k], damit ihr wisst, was die Hoffnung seiner Berufung und was der Reichtum der Herrlichkeit seines Erbes in den Heiligen ist, 19 was auch die überwältigende Größe seiner Kraftwirkung an uns[l] ist, die wir glauben, gemäß der Wirksamkeit der Macht seiner Stärke[m]. 20 Die hat er wirksam werden lassen in dem Christus, als er ihn aus den Toten auferweckte und ihn zu seiner Rechten setzte in den himmlischen [Regionen],
Much of this section matches up neatly with the English translation (NKJV) minus a few discrepancies like: “in Der Erkenntnis seiner selbst” which translates to in the understanding of himself. This is unique because knowledge and understanding carry different connotations and the inclusion of selbst (self) reminds us again the sentence is about God’s qualities, not ours. Also noteworthy are the choice of words überwältigende and Kraftwirkung. The former means “overwhelming” and indicates how God’s power overwhelms us while the English choice remains “exceeding”, which does mean a huge amount but not one that interacts us with us directly. The latter word is basically the same as the English “the working of” but combined into one word, and that makes the flow of ideas easier in the German translation.
So, what is the takeaway? The lesson is that God’s power, holiness and goodness are all beyond our comprehension and understanding. Paul is reminding the Ephesians, and us, this so that we remember God’s nature when Paul’s life lessons begin. I think this is important because our view of God determines what we are willing and unwilling to believe about him. Consequently, what we believe about God in turn determines what we believe about ourselves and others. This, my friends, is a prime foundation for the Christian faith: sitting in awe at the power, mystery and good nature of God.
Thanks for reading.