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Sunday, July 29, 2007

1 Cor. 12:13

I still have notes left on 1 Cor. Here is another verse which is used by some to support doctrine and practice. 1 Cor. 12:13,
    For we were all baptized by [a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. TNIV

    1. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or with; or in
Those who really want to dig into this and explore the translation of Greek en into English as either "in" or "by" might be interested in this article. Gordon Fee, who is himself from the Pentecostal tradition, deplores the misuse of this verse. He had argued to have "baptized by one Spirit" changed to "baptized in one Spirit". He pointed out that the Greek baptizo also means simply "immersed" or "soaked in". [In fact, in one case in Josephus' Antiquities it refers to being drunk - immersed in wine to the extent that they become insensible and fell asleep. So, baptizo has a wide range of meaning.]

Fee points out that the believers are immersed in the Spirit and drink of the Spirit, two metaphors which emphasize the unity of the believers.

At one point in the lecture, Fee explained how the TNIV translation committee worked. The committee is composed of specialists in different areas, a Pauline specialist, a specialist in the gospels, etc. I point this out specifically because not all translation committees are composed of specialists, - for example, the original NIV committee was not. I am not sure about others.

The specialist presents the translation of the books which he or she is responsible for to the committee. The committee of 15 must vote 80% in favour of a change or the change presented by the specialist will not be accepted. In many cases, this is resolved by a footnote. The reasoning is that people will not accept a translation which has wording that is too unfamiliar.

This also explains the presence of footnotes which the translators actually disagree with. For example, Fee vigorously disagreed with the footnote for 1 Cor. 11:10 but the committee insisted on it being included.
    It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own [b] head, because of the angels.

Fee was emphatic that there was absolutely no evidence to support the footnote. The main reason why I agree that the footnote cannot be a legitimate reading is that those who support the translation in this footnote have not ever presented evidence to support it. We do know that this is a traditional interpretation of this verse, but we don't have any evidence in Greek literature for this interpretation. I would be very interested in hearing what people think about this kind of footnote. The footnote falsely implies that this could be a possible translation.

In any case, the translation itself is a compromise between what the specialist proposes as the correct translation and what the committee believes the target community will accept, in terms of how much the translation varies from previous translations.

That might explain why, when I was researching 1 Cor. 13, many of the committee translations seemed very similar to me, in spite of the fact that the Greek can be interpreted at certain points in a variety of ways. It also demonstrates the overpowering influence of preceding translations.


At Tue Jul 31, 08:45:00 AM, Blogger David said...

Hi Suzanne: You have been an energetic blogger of late! And never without insight and interest.

I ran across this quote the other day, and though not a 100% fit with this post, it is germane and ... anyway, here it is:

"I'd have to know more about the Greek of that period to make a real criticism of the N.E.B. (N.T. which is the only part I've seen). Odd, the way the less the Bible is read the more it is translated!"

Source: C.S. Lewis, letter to T.S. Eliot, 25 May 1962 (C.S. Lewis Collected Letters, vol. 3, p. 1344).

When one recalls Lewis's vast experience of Greek literature, this should make one cautious! Well, it does me, anyway.

David Reimer

At Tue Jul 31, 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks, David, I'm not too sure that I ever find any answers when investigating something, but it is worth finding out why there are so many differences from one translation to another.

Sometimes it is worth knowing that two are three different interpretations are all legitimate.

I am writing a lot right now because of the summer courses I attended - for audit only. If I was writing the papers I would be swamped right now!

This was the last course that Fee will teach so I am especially glad that I took this opportunity.

At Tue Jul 31, 01:02:00 PM, Blogger Doug Chaplin said...

In 1 Cor 12:13 isn't there just as much reason to take ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι as instrumental and εἰς ἓν σῶμα as what they were baptized into, as to take the former as local and the latter as purposive? Did Fee say why this wasn't so? I can't see anything other than a legitimate diversity of opinion here.

At Tue Jul 31, 01:53:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

His argument was that "in the Spirit" is a metaphor balanced by "given one Spirit to drink". It seems slightly more favoured to me but not by much. I would agree that it is legitimate diversity, but have you read the article which I posted along with it. It argues for using "in" as much as possible for en.

At Wed Aug 01, 03:16:00 PM, Blogger Doug Chaplin said...

I have to confess to only skim-reading the article, Suzanne, but I'm doubtful on linguistic grounds of the main thrust as I picked it up. I don't believe that words have such defined meanings, but that their meaning is expanded or contracted by the other lexemes and the syntax of the utterance they're in. If, generally, that's true of nouns, verbs etc., then I think it's even more true of prepositions. In this case, I think one of the more significant questions for translating ἐν is the presence in the same utterance of εἰς and that would lead me to consider the instrumental use.

At Wed Aug 01, 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I think it is a matter of opinion, but, of course, the basic meaning of baptizo is to "sink, soak, be immersed in", etc. It is probably this collocation that suggests "in". However, in English, we don't always think of "being immersed in" as the basic meaning. In fact, I don't think it has any other meaning in Greek. Submerged - that's it. So how can you be submerged "by" something unless you are in it?

I don't have any special angle on this - I am a sprinkling pedobaptist, myself. I am simply recording what was said. Maybe it is just a legitimate difference of opinion that we can "let go."

However, I definitely feel that maintaining the use of transliteration for baptizo is eirenic. We can all interpret this one symbolically.

At Thu Aug 02, 02:23:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

To me, there is strong evidence for a locative use of en in this verse in the widely quoted (even within the NT) saying of John the Baptist that Jesus would baptise in (en) the Holy Spirit, which must be taken in a locative sense. This was clearly understood as a reference to Christian baptism, which was not just in water but in the Holy Spirit. Surely in 1 Corinthians 12:13 we have an allusion to this same saying, and to the result of it (eis) which is Christians being one body. It is in any case meaningless, surely, to make "one body" the location of baptism.

At Fri Aug 03, 02:33:00 AM, Blogger Doug Chaplin said...

Suzanne, thanks for your response. I don't think we disagree, but I have a more detailed reflection on what I see as the beginnings of a shift in the meaning of the word baptizo.


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