Most of the translation items from 1 Corinthians that I have discussed on this blog so far are not central to Gordon Fee’s main teaching, but they are matters that we have discussed previously and do, in fact, affect the understanding of certain words. However, this verse is of more interest to Fee as it describes our role in building up the church.
- For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. TNIV
θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί θεοῦ γεώργιον θεοῦ οἰκοδομή ἐστε
The question is, of course, whether Paul is saying that they are co-workers with God, that they work alongside God; or that they are co-workers of each other and they all belong to God.
Fee proposes that the Greek suggests the latter because God is fronted, or emphasized, in the sentence. “It is of God that we are the co-workers,” Fee intoned. However, it still seems ambiguous to me. This is one instance where the KJV and the NRSV, supposedly literal translations, have each chosen a different non-ambiguous interpretative translation.
- For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. KJV
For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. NRSV
It all really brings me to believe that if people really want a literal Bible they should learn the original languages. No one Bible can really be classified as literal except on a relative scale. I don’t think there is anything wrong with appreciating a literal Bible, but it is not a matter of knowing that in one Bible we get God’s truth and in another we don’t. It’s all relative.
One has to consider, of course, that once one has learned the original language, the ambiguity remains. At least now you would know for sure, yup, that verse is ambiguous! Learning the language should teach us humility. Guess what, we don’t know the answer either.