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Friday, April 13, 2007

Luke 17:21 In your midst

The following verses represent a particularly tricky translation issue. I do not believe there is a clear right answer but there are some observations that can be made.

Luke 17:18

    Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst." εντος εν ὑμιν TNIV
    within you KJV, NIV
    among you HCSB, NRSV
    in your midst TNIV, NASB
    in the midst of you ESV, RSV
Here the KJV and the NIV are in line theologically. However, the TNIV now reflects the interpretation of the other recent translations. It also has the more euphonic and clear "in your midst" instead of "in the midst of you". That expression probably had its origin in example # 4 below.

1 Cor. 3:16

    Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? εν ὑμιν TNIV
      in you ESV, NIV, NASB, KJV, RSV, NRSV
      in your midst TNIV
    Here the TNIV reflects a very possible interpetation but it seems to be unique to the TNIV. It is certainly justified by this verse in John 1:14.

      The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us εν ὑμιν
      among us TNIV, ESV, KJV, NIV, NASB, RSV, NRSV
    Matt. 18:2

      He called a little child, whom he placed among them. εν μεσω αυτων TNIV
      in the midst of them KJV, ESV, RSV
      among them NIV, NRSV, TNIV, HCSB
      before them NASB
    I believe that this shows where the term "in the midst of" originated. However, most modern translations including the NASB have not felt that it was necessary to use this expression to provide a literal translation.

    My sense is that "in the midst of" was a legitimate reflection of the Greek in the pattern of the KJV, but otherwise is inappropriate in a modern translation. On another note, there seems to be a basis for the unique interpretation of the TNIV in 1 Cor. 3:16.

    Note: There is a message on the Greek B-list on Travelling alone and the death of Perseus. Fortunately my post this evening would not have received much benefit from having a Greek lexicon waved over it like a magic wand.


      At Sat Apr 14, 03:46:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      But what do the TNIV and other translators mean by "in your midst", or for that matter "in the midst of you"? To me "midst" is an archaic word and I really don't know if this is supposed to mean "inside you" or "among you". And the dictionary definitions don't help. I can only think that these translators use this archaic word in an attempt to sit on the fence between the two different interpretations. Such attempts usually don't work, and this one doesn't.

      At Sat Apr 14, 09:28:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

      I disagree - I think that "in your midst" means "among you" but is supposed to be clearer.
      I certainly do not think it is fence-sitting.

      However, it does sound archaic and the question remains, does it have clear meaning. I am not sure about that.

      I take it that you feel there are only two options - "among you" and "within you". Possibly.

      I know that I was shocked to see that the ESV had replaced "like sheep among wolves" with "like sheep in the midst of wolves" Matt. 10:16.

      The TNIV uses "midst" very sparingly - 26 times and the ESV over 250 times. FWIW

      At Sat Apr 14, 10:53:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Well, "in the midst" certainly doesn't always mean "among", for example, as confirmed by the American Heritage dictionary, you can say "in the midst of the desert" or "in the midst of the war"; or from TNIV, "in the midst of their uncleanness" (Leviticus 16:16), "In the midst of his plenty" (Job 20:22) etc etc. Indeed most TNIV occurrences of "in the midst" cannot mean "among" and must mean more like "within". Now I accept that with a plural noun its meaning is more probably "among" than "within". But since "you" in Luke 17:21 and 1 Corinthians 3:16 is not immediately clearly plural (although the added "yourselves" in the latter verse implies that), the meaning is by no means immediately obvious. I honestly can't see why the TNIV translators didn't use the clearer and more natural "among" in these two cases if that is the meaning which they wanted to make clear and unambiguous. Now you suggest that there might be a third alternative, but I don't see one, unless perhaps it is that the authors might have intended both meanings as some kind of word play. Well, that is possible, and in that case perhaps the ambiguous "in your midst".

      I now note that the British TNIV has "among you" at 1 Corinthians 3:16, in contrast to "in your midst" in the American edition. But the British edition does have "in your midst" at Luke 17:21, with "within you" in a footnote.

      At Sat Apr 14, 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

      But since "you" in Luke 17:21 and 1 Corinthians 3:16 is not immediately clearly plural (although the added "yourselves" in the latter verse implies that), the meaning is by no means immediately obvious.

      That is the whole point. The "you" is plural in the Greek and only the TNIV has made that plain. In any case, I find "midst" to be awkward and I think that it comes from the KJV, but it is familiar because, I think, of the expression "a stranger in your midst".

      Maybe the TNIV is moving in the direction of eliminating "in your midst" which I don't think would be a bad idea. Still it is better by a long shot than the more awkward "in the midst of you".

      At Sat Apr 14, 01:16:00 PM, Blogger Gary Zimmerli said...

      I wonder, Peter, if this is an example of how the language is evolving differently on your side of the pond than on ours.

      To my American ears, "among you" and "in your midst" sound like an almost identical meaning, but "in your midst" sounds better. British ears apparently prefer "among you". "Midst" doesn't apparently have the same archaic feeling for us as it does for you.

      But I don't know why. ;-)

      At Sat Apr 14, 02:19:00 PM, Blogger Micky said...

      About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

      Peace Be With You

      At Sun Apr 15, 04:40:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Micky, thank you for your great testimony.

      At Sun Apr 15, 11:38:00 PM, Blogger Ruud Vermeij said...

      The Nieuwe Bijbelvertaling (NBV, Dutch) has (Luke 17:21):

      Maar weet wel: het koninkrijk van God ligt binnen uw bereik.

      [But know: the kingdom of God is within your reach.]
      (I think this is bad English, but the Dutch sounds very natural, I think you get the point "it is reachable for you".)

      What do you think?

      At Mon Apr 16, 07:01:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Ruud, "the kingdom of God is within your reach" is good English, and good theology, but I don't think it is good translation of this verse, which unlike some others must mean that the kingdom has already come.


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