The Good Confession? (1 Timothy 6:12,13)
... Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate ...So, we have a picture of Jesus in court before Pilate, in the witness box. If we know anything of the story, we know that he was answering serious charges brought against him. So we read on:
... made the good confession, ...What does this mean? If the defendant in a court case makes a confession, that can mean only one thing: he acknowledges his own crime and effectively changes his plea to guilty. Is this what Jesus did? Well, if we have read the gospels we probably think he did not, but this verse seems to teach that he did. Of course we might be confused about what might make his confession "the good confession" - but perhaps only that he did the right thing. So, we probably conclude that this verse teaches that Jesus pleaded guilty and accepted that he deserved to be put to death.
The problem, of course, is that in modern English the word "confession" is rather negative and used almost only of acknowledging some kind of wrongdoing. Even in church contexts, while we sometimes speak of a "confession of faith" such as the Westminster Confession, we are more likely to think of confession as acknowledging one's sins. When someone says something positive, they are more likely to use the word "profession" (so "profession of faith"), "affirmation", or even "assertion".
The issue is made more complicated in that the same Greek words "good confession" are used in verse 12, not of Christ but of Timothy and presumably referring to his profession of faith, probably at his baptism.
What are the alternatives? NLT simply has
who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate,which seems fine, except that it loses the link with "confessed so well" in verse 12. The Message also loses the link with its otherwise good dynamic equivalent
who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn't give an inch.Similarly JB Phillips's rendering is good:
who fearlessly witnessed to the truth before Pontius Pilate,but loses the link with verse 12.
The Good News Translation (TEV) has
who firmly professed his faith before Pontius Pilate,and CEV has
who openly told Pontius Pilate about his faith.These last two seem much better at first sight, but introduce an extraneous theological issue in stating that Jesus Christ had faith. This was denied by Thomas Aquinas, so it is surprising to find the same issue in the New Jerusalem Bible:
who witnessed to his noble profession of faith before Pontius Pilate,so saying the same as TEV in higher level language.
So I am driven back to the original Jerusalem Bible as the most satisfactory rendering I can find:
who spoke up for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate,which links satisfactorily with its rendering of the end of verse 12:
when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth,although I don't see why they didn't use "profession" in verse 13 as well.