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Translation of Texts
in Isaiah, Hebrews and Ephesians
Item 17, 48, 42
17) Isaiah 23:13 For this, see the presentation in Know the Lord ... Section 34, Translations of the Bible, in the last unit supplied.
This is a wholly fascinating piece of lyrical drama, flaming with judgment, ripe with message, incandescent with glory.
As E. J. Young points out in his work, “The Book of Isaiah,” Vol. 2, the ‘towers’ may be those of Tyre’s making or those of en enemy, assault towers. The context must show it. Again, the AV and NKJV ‘raised’ is better razed, or laid bare, as Young indicates, adducing the nearby Isaiah 32:11: this is contrary to both the AV and the NKJV but appears the common rendering, and for good reason. The translation appears, then, from this and in view of Delitzch’s contribution (Commentary on the Old Testament – Isaiah Vol. 1), to be as follows: Behold the land of the Chaldeans:
§This people which was not,
Assyria founded it for wild beasts of the desert.
They set up its towers,
They laid bare its palaces,
He brought it to ruin.
The NJKV appears particularly misleading here, actually adding in italics an ‘and’ which assuredly is not in the text, but which, in the setting the translators here provide, appears to imply a plural subject: for those preceding the ‘and’ inserted, are plural. This however is not the case. As a basic datum one needs to know, it is singular. Italics should reveal the underlying next, but this does not do so.
What then is the sense ? It seems that the Lord, in full parallel to the whole chapter 14, is denigrating the lofty and presumptuous oppressors and haughty imperial magnates who multiply their own praise and significance. Thus though Babylon indeed is to assault Tyre and flout its glory, yet it is the LORD who will bring about Tyre’s desolation! It is HE who will bring it to ruin. Indeed, in the day of Alexander the Great this unqualified ruin, this utter ravishing occurred, when that conqueror took the stones from the coastal city of Tyre, in order to construct WITH THEM as building materials, a causeway THROUGH THE SEA thus allowing the conquest of the Tyrian State, removed in flight to the island adjoining.
With the usual magnificence of precision, and foresight, the Lord had also prophesied in Ezekiel 26, that the stones of Tyre would be laid in the sea, a fitting envelopment for this once so proud and pantheistic city, in its spiritual harlotry. Its actual site would become like the top of a rock, a location not for city but for fishing! This literally occurred, as Peter Stoner points out in his Science Speaks. The site was abandoned. The city did not care for its former location. Painful indeed was the destruction wrought thus in stages, consummated by Alexander in the 4th century BC. As to the one who did it, HE, the LORD did it.
Thus the sense of Isaiah 23:14 appears to be gained in this way. WHY should there be these three ultra-dramatic seeming, staccato and matching lines, in the latter part of verse 13. Clearly these brisk utterances, with the ‘they’ initial uncertainty as to the subject, are a kind of tour de force. It is to be interpreted, as in any great and moving speech, in view of the tenor and thrust of it. What here is that ? It is the futility of man’s building himself up, the smallness even of those who destroy, and their nauseous disregard of the actual power, principles and personal Being who runs the universe, whose divine and actual name is neglected, but whose attributes are conveyed here and there, by the ungodly and rapaciously religious, like Autumn leaves from no tree at all, none whatsoever!
Thus, we are forced to find in the first of these lines, subject 1 – they built the towers, the worker. Someone has to be there for the impact of the desolation. Tyre, though the theme of this chapter, with other bodies in mere relationship with it, was not being discussed in the line just above. It is rather the Chaldees. Since the ruin of the city is the topic, however, overall, and this thrust is indicative of the desolating or destructive action, it is needful to have the city brought into focus before it is destroyed!
Hence THEY (the Tyrians) built the towers, as in the thrust of the chapter, in pride and self-congratulation. That is the first point. However, weak and vain though the Chaldeans are compared with their actual attainments, since Assyria was a vast builder of what they inherited, and they were like ‘wild beasts’, unsophisticated wanderers in the vast spaces in their early days, yet it is they who, now better placed, are to take some negative action here. They, the Chaldeans, expose, lay bare, the palaces, thus resuming in this action, the topic of the immediate vicinity, namely these denigrated but yet active Chaldeans.
Yet theirs was not the decisive action which was utterly to destroy Tyre, so that its desolation would endure. That was to come later. It is HE, the LORD who brings it to ruin.
Not merely does this match what is known of history, as it would seem, but it matches the impelling needs of the context.
Thus it becomes: THE TYRIANS BUILT IT UP,
THE CHALDEANS EXPOSED ITS PALACES,
THE LORD BROUGHT IT TO RUIN.
It is a vast historic panorama in which the theme of the chapter is fully realised.
Now we come to a most grievous mistranslation of the NKJV.
That is Revelation 19:8, which may also be viewed at this cited site.
Considering the notable term upostasis (A) often rendered assurance, but having a terminological relationship to underlying reality, substance and foundation, on the one hand, and the next basic term, elegcos (B) often rendered conviction, but able to mean proof, or evidence containing or constituting it: then taking the totality in one sweep, and next returning to ponder the parts, one comes to such a presentation or translation as this.
§Faith is the foundational assurance of things hoped for,
the concurrent evidencing and evidence-based conviction of things not seen.
It is true that as a translation it may seem odd to add 'concurrent' but then, this could be put in italics as is the custom in such matters, in the AV. This is here done. The flavour of upostasis (A) is thus gained on the one hand, and the interplay between this substance, or substantial aspect and what follows (B), the concept of a piece of evidence, a proof, of what shows a thing to be true, with its further translatability in conviction, is thus aided. Now when the second term COULD mean conviction, and MIGHT mean proof, may be evidence-based conviction OR is perhaps demonstration, then we touch on both the inward or the outward, on what produces the conviction and the conviction produced.
Thayer puts this aspect rather well in his Greek Dictionary, concerning the word some translate 'evidence', elegcos: "that by which invisible things are proved (and we are convinced of their reality."
This being so, it may seem a little harsh simply to select. In terms of the interplay of concepts between A and B, both having reaches in the objective or outward, and scope for the inward, it seems best to seek to bring out more than one might otherwise feel to do.
There is a mutuality of additiveness to which one would fain do justice. Hence both are brought in. There is the concept of a foundation, a base, and a conviction; there is next the concept of an evidencing and of evidence. To suppress this duality appears to be insensitive. Hence both aspects proceed. This fits the context in this, that it is full of cases where the profound assurance, going to the foundation of things, is present, and the operational power of what these witnesses so utterly and devoutly believe, is so no less.
There is the foundational conviction (1), and there is the power to convict (2) of that in which they believe. Thus "by faith the walls of Jericho fell down" (11:30), and in this without doubt there is an indication here of (2), this power to convict, to convince coming from the actual reality of the thing believed. On the other hand, we find that "others were tortured, not accepting deliverance" (11:35), and this too is by faith. Indeed, in the same verse, we find that by faith, some received their dead restored to life.
There is what could all but be called an inextricable interweaving of the two aspects:
the prominent power to attest itself,
and the dominant reality of what has this power on the one hand,
and the conviction which moves effortlessly in the midst of such power, on the other.
It is like walking in the midst of some marvellous garden, flowing with architectural intimacies, grand domains, glorious vistas and profound sweeps, and being continually, on the one hand, filled with a desire and delight in the REALITY which thrusts itself into one's consciousness and objectively envelops one with its wonder, while on the other, finding evoked an inspiration and a conviction of how splendid it all is.
Without any doubt, the thrust of Hebrews 11:1 is on REALITY and SUBSTANTIALITY, and there is interchange between this and the CONVICTION and ASSURANCE which this infuses. Faith occurs when this is so.
While we are here, let us apply these things somewhat, in formulating them.
Faith is the absolute assurance of things hoped for - it is not a finger on a pulse, but a grasping with both hands.
Faith is affirming testimony of things not seen - the confirmatory cry in response, the conviction which draws on evidence, prompted by reality, stirred by actuality, like a fish, waving its tail and meeting water with it! It is what is found when both hands meet the hand of God.
Here there are two aspects. Firstly, there is a fundamental reality so great that its appreciation brings strong assurance. Secondly, there is an evidential thrust so enormous that it brings a conviction from its very plainness. Things unseen are inescapable, inveterate, basic and original. They include all your purposes, motives and aspirations, all your heart's store of plan and intention, but more importantly, those of the Creator of this universe, and the Maker of the heart and spirit of man. Spoken into a book, the book of the Lord (Isaiah 8:20), manifested in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-3), applied by prophets with just one message over the millennia (Heb. 1:1), it stands under the power of the living God. This is the character of the conspectus in view in the Bible, and express in Hebrews 11.
You see that the source of the visible is the invisible, the source of the programmed is the unprogrammed, the beginning and the end for man lies in the free origin of his sinful spirit - the Maker of liberty whose product, man, has twisted and torn it, until only a new making can redeem it (John 3). Of Him we read in Hebrews 1:1-3: who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person, when He had by Himself purged sin, sat down on the right hand of Majesty on High. Where He lived, He returned (cf. John 6:62, 5:19-23, 8:58, 17:1-3, Micah 5:1ff.).
Hence in Hebrews 11 the text proceeds from the invisible source of visible and limited nature, to the invisible stimulus of the spiritual beings, men, who by faith grasp the One who grasping them in reciprocity, uses them, moving as "seeing Him who is invisible" and waiting "for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God", who built and made this temporary vessel called the universe, which is just as made, to be sent packing when test concluded, faith consummated, salvation manifest, the whole exercise in the temporal with the spiritual, ends in the eternal field from which it came.
Ephesians 1:3-5 constitutes an amazingly delightful translation issue.
It could mean
1) He chose us in Him... to be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons
2) He chose us in Him... to be holy and without blame before Him, in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons
3) He chose us in Him ... to be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestined us to adoption as sons
Punctuation is so helpful.
In Greek, it is not to be found here.
Hence, we need other considerations to enable us to find the best translation.
Many considerations point in just one way, as it happens. Nor is this by chance.
Firstly, let us consider the "in Him", "before Him" and "in love" adverbial phrases, all of this kind grammatically. We are chosen IN HIM. We are chosen to without blame BEFORE HIM. We have been predestined IN LOVE. The verb chosen, has its phrase, as does that 'to be' and the participial construction of the verb, 'predestined'. That is the position if you opt for 3) above.
We would in that situation notice that the verb 'to choose', has its phrase a little after it, as is the case with the verb 'to be', and that the verb 'to predestine' in that case has its phrase before it.
Thus schematically it would be as follows: We are chosen IN HIM, to be holy BEFORE HIM, IN LOVE predestined...
There is a certain balance of emphasis, each verb with its phrase, and there is just that emphasis on the "in love" aspect which Ephesians 3:16-19, which follows shortly, one of the greatest love passages in Paul, would lead us to expect. How is this achieved ? It is by reversing the order when it comes to love. Chosen in Him, holy before Him, in love predestined... becomes the sense. With love, it comes first!
This fits perfectly with Ephesians 3:18 which contrary to what may appear in some translations, has the same order, the phrase before the verb, which in the Greek appears as this: "in love being rooted and grounded that you may be able ..." Here not only is the phrase "in love" before the verbal form, but it is the SAME phrase, 'in love', in the same epistle which highlights love and uses this primary position of the phrase indubitably in this case of Ephesians 3, before the verbal form. Not only so, the verb is in the participial form, as is the case in the tested case, Ephesians 1:3-5. Thus we have this,in Ephesians 3 - "in love being rooted and grounded that ..." and in Ephesians 1, if we follow 3), "in love having predestined us to adoption".
This gives the following schema. Adverbial phrase, 'in love', for emphasis coming first, participle joined with it giving atmospheric emphasis, a graphical presentation, this verbal form thus adding to the emphasis of having the phrase first; and in each case, it is the precise phrase 'in love', not something merely similar, that is used, which appears rather like this: 'en agaph'. In sense, in the one case, we are found IN LOVE PREDESTINED, in the other IN LOVE ROOTED AND GROUNDED. In each case action results, in the former - Ch.1, that we become adopted, in the latter, Ch. 3, that of Christians being enabled to comprehend the illimitable dimensions of love.
Not only is this so, but the very emphasis on the illimitable in love, both in direction and importance, and in height and sublimity and in depth and wonder, makes an all-encompassing approach apparent from Ephesians 3 which would in the translation 3) for Ephesians 1:3-5, be reflected in full.
Thus structurally and topically, emphatically and positionally, it is all one. Paul is emphasising something, using primacy of phrase to do it, depth of expression, and placing first things first, is presenting divine action in participial graphicality before leading on to more blessing. In the first case, this blessing is adoption, in the second, realisation of the splendour of the illimitable dimensions of 'love', each site using the phrase 'in love'.
As if this were not enough, we find further that in Ephesians 1:11, this same emphasis on the primary in a primary positioning of the phrase is found: IN HIM we have obtained an inheritance, we discover. It is not "we have obtained an inheritance in Him," but that "in Him we have obtained an inheritance." Indeed, the same emphatic technique continues throughout. Thus in Ephesians 2:8, it is BY GRACE you are having been saved persons, once again, the phrase being placed first because of its eminence of consideration, its importance in the theme being presented. The primary has the primary place in these instances in what grammatically is called 'inversion'. The same inversion is found in 2:5, again by grace you have been saved, and in 2:18, where it reads, THROUGH HIM we have access...
Further, in Ephesians 2:19-20, we have a parallel form, in which the persons precede the participial construction thus: FELLOW CITIZENS, HAVING BEEN BUILT, with the two relative pronoun phrases, "in whom" occurring in 21-22, keeping the same feeling of thrust, as the apostle is impelled to write, phrase first, action later (cf. I Cor. 2:9-13, I Peter 1:10--12).
In Ephesians 4:1-3, again, we have WITH ALL LOWLINESS ... ENDEAVOURING, the same adverbial phrase with following participial construction which is deep in the heart of this epistle. It suits it. It is an emphatic device, a clarificatory emphasis, and a merging method, enabling matters in this way to be seen in a clamant perspective which cannot be missed.
These things being so, the thought of ignoring the emphatic mode, the emphatic topic (here love for our Ch. 1 concern) and the spirit of the emphasis throughout being alien, it is impossible to prefer what lacks similar credentials, so that one must applaud in this the translation of the Berkeley Version, the American Standard Version and that of the RSV (all with type 3) translation as above).
This, in essence ? 'In love having predestined'. The phrase is with the predestination!
Further, in Ephesians 1:9, we learn that God has made known to us the mystery of His will according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself. It proceeds to state that this purpose involves His gathering all things in Christ: the criterion. It is IN HIMSELF that this good pleasure is purposed. This brings out the intensely personal side of this predestination, and since GOD IS LOVE (I John 4), and since Paul is emphasising in this very epistle in language of the most intensive, the illimitable character of the love of God, these in combination lead to the same conclusion: the intensively personal God who is love, and in whose love is illimitable wonder, has in this mystery of marvel, acted in and with this love to forge links of salvation which do not break (Ephesians 1:11).
As to translation 2) above at the outset, while it is possible, it is rather limping, adding this phrase in that style, when the topic is so impelling in this epistle (and not this alone, as I Corinthians 13 would remind us soon enough!). What do we find in I Cor. there ? It is this, that without love, anything is nothing. It is not different in predestination. To be sure, the apostle in I Cor. 13 is speaking of man; but this is BECAUSE OF WHO AND WHAT GOD IS. Love is not pre-eminent for man because God is other, but because this Being, whose nature is love, is as He is and has made us in His image!
As to translation 1) above, it has no comparable credentials for selection. It would put the love last in the series of features in view for man's conduct, which is of course anomalous here, in this particular epistle. It would omit the 'love' from the 'good pleasure of His will' in a way which is not actually the case. It would breach the form found so often in the epistle, and that allied even to the content 'in love' as shown above. It would moreover tear apart a fascinating parallel. That ? It is as we now find.
Thus in 1:3-5, we have with this priority of love, a predestinating movement concerning His people. IN LOVE predestinating "to the praise of the glory of His grace". What then of this glorious grace, this kindness, this merciful wonder in the Lord which is infinitely filial with love ? It is to an end which is now stated in 1:6, and it is that BY THIS GRACE we should be "accepted in the Beloved." Thus the generic love in predestination, in 3) would lead to the entrance in an entrancing manner, to the Beloved. IN LOVE predestining, so that grace may be praised, He acts to make us accepted IN THE BELOVED, becomes the sense.
Thus the propelling love (of predestination) becomes the accepting love (of adoption in Christ), and the predestining dynamic becomes the acceptance dynamic. What moves becomes what accepts. He loves in predestination so that He accepts in destination: where ? IN the Beloved.
To tear apart so many considerations for a weak and strangely secondarily placed phrasing as in 1) above, is not really in the end, a translation but a divestment. Again, it is not that slender evidence attests translation 3), but that it is perfectly incomparable in force in context and conception, in form and structure, with anything else.
Therefore we translate as constrained:
§"... just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world
that we should be holy and blameless before Him,
in love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself,
according to the good pleasure of His will,
to the praise of the glory of His grace,
in which He made us objects of grace in the Beloved.
"In Him we have redemption through His blood..."
Love works in choice, blamelessness works in resultant in the adopted: the agent is Christ, the glory is in grace, its compass is objects of grace who are in this same Christ, not only agent but express image of God, who to this end poured out His blood, that its flood should enable the grace to abound, the adoption to astound and express that love so profound. It is in GOD, that we are based, in GOD that we find the action of predestining, in GOD that the grace is to be praised, and it is in GOD that the love is impelling to the Son of God who acts on it, so allowing our reception in truth as His own.
Any other construction would merely constitute a divorce not only in form, in situation, in force, in dynamic and in cohesion, but of the primacy of what is primary from the One who is primary. It is unthinkable, egregious and inconstant, unable to stand in the context.
When, moreover, we see the continuation into the redemption by His blood (Ephesians 1:7), we find once again the testimony of the love impelling, in predestination, with the love accepting, in adoption, and the love dispelling, as in the blood. It is bound as by vast magnetic forces of conceptual cohesion. We look further, "BLESSED be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him, in love having predestined us to adoption ..."
Thence we see even further the sequence. How blessed is the God who has seated us in things, in places spiritual, indeed in the realm of the heavenlies, and done it is Christ. This is entirely like the way He chose us in the first place to be holy and blameless, in love having even predestined ... It is all about the blessing imparted, the love exhibited, the grace found, the founding being profound, and the amazing thing, as in Ephesians 3, being the outthrust of a love uncontainable, expressing itself like sunshine in multiplied ways in the flora of the earth, so here in the flourishing of the soul.