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Monday, November 07, 2005

Translating "charis" with the component of joy

As is the case with many terms in the New Testament, the Greek term charis, translated most often as grace, carries a wide range of meaning. In addition to grace, the King James Version translates charis as thanks, favor, pleasure, joy, benefit, gift and liberality.

Several years ago I made a comparative study of nine Greek terms which are cognate (closely related linguistically) with charis. What I found was that the thread of meaning shared by these terms is joy. In Word Studies in the New Testament, Dr. Marvin Vincent points out that the Greek word charis, most often translated grace, primarily means that which gives joy (chara). In Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Dr. Kenneth Wuest points out the connection between charis and the Greek verb chairo, which means to be glad/happy.

In The Better Life Bible, I expressed the component of joy in the term charis wherever appropriate. For example, the New King James Version translated the latter part of Galatians 5:4, you have fallen from grace, while I translated it, you'll be missing out on the better life God wants us all to enjoy.

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At Mon Nov 07, 10:41:00 PM, Blogger John said...

Does this mean that Charismatics, are really joymatics or happy matics? :-)

Be encouraged!

At Tue Nov 08, 04:14:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

I wonder, though, whether this isn't something D. A. Carson (and others) in Exegetical Fallacies warned about. The presence of the root does not guarantee that the root carries a fundamental meaning in all occurences of the root word. Obviously we think in English of "pineapple"; neither "pine" nor "apple" carry meaning into the new word, even though the roots of both words appear.

In the case of XARIS, we have to be careful about not doing the same thing. Specifically as sometimes the referent or source is God, and sometimes a human, but the effect is different. XARIS in relation to God suggests something about the inner character of God himself (. Whereas XARIS for the Christian is something that is brought about by God working in the person.

At Tue Nov 08, 05:22:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Rich, I agree that we must be careful here. We certainly mustn't assume just from the shared verbal root that χάρις (more conventionally transliterated a CARIS, for X = ξ xi) shares meaning with χαίρω and/or χαρά. On the other hand, Vincent and Wuest seem to have found some such shared meaning. And this seems reasonable, although not certain, from the general structure of the Greek language. It would certainly make sense for the χάρις or "grace" given by God to humans to be essentially something intended to bring about eternal χαρά "joy" in those humans - although that may not exhaust the meaning of "grace".

Meanwhile I am surprised to see you suggest that χάρις is something in the inner character of God; surely it is more the outworking of that inner character in bringing benefits and χαρά to others. The only place I can find in the NT, from a brief search, where "grace" might be understood as an inner attribute of God is John 1:14, but v.16 makes it clear that this grace is something which abundantly benefits humans.

At Tue Nov 22, 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Rich Tatum said...

I had arrived at these insights previously when preparing a sermon on joy and grace two years ago. In light of the topic, you might find this quote by Denis Prager interesting:

I once asked a deeply religious man if he considered himself a truly pious person. He responded that while he aspired to be one, he felt that he fell short in two areas. One of those areas, he said, was his not being a happy enough person to be considered truly pious.

His point was that unhappy religious people reflect poorly on their religion and on their Creator. He was right; in fact, unhappy religious people pose a real challenge to faith. If their faith is so impressive, why aren't these devoted adherents happy? There are only two possible reasons: either they are not practicing their faith correctly, or they are practicing their faith correctly and the religion itself is not conducive to happiness. Most outsiders assume the latter reason. Unhappy religious people should therefore think about how important being happy is—if not for themselves, then for the sake of their religion. Unhappy, let alone angry, religious people provide more persuasive arguments for atheism and secularism than do all the arguments of atheists.

(Happiness Is a Serious Problem [Regan Books, 1998], p.4)

I know that's not on-topic regarding exegetical issues, but this is just my $0.02 worth regarding the fundamental connection between grace and joy. I agree with the poster who said that perhaps the joy we are intended to exhibit is principally given us by grace.




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