I read with interest the recent discussion about Philippians 2:6-7. The re-imagining of the frame of that verse has led to a new way of translating the verse. For me, it’s always been a slightly strange expression, “consider equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
Since we’re in the neighborhood, I thought I’d bring up a few of the interesting translation puzzles in chapter 3. First, there is a radical reinterpretation of Phil. 3:9, which is reflected in the NET translation:
and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.
That “Christ’s faithfulness” has traditionally been rendered “faith in Christ” and has created a lot of excitement and controversy. I’ve never thought about it very much, but recently I’ve been reading (and reading and reading… ) Philippians 3. Specifically, verse 3:8 has been very dear to me in the past six months or so as something of a life verse. And that concentration on verse 8 has made me see that the “Christ’s faithfulness” reading makes sense in the context of the whole chapter.
The other translation issue in chapter 3 is the “perfect” problem. How do you translate, TELEOS. Occuring in various forms in 1:16, 3:12, and 3:15. It seems that the NET translators tried to maintain some sort of concordance by always using some form of the word “perfect.” And the first two examples don’t sound too strange, but 3:15 sounds very strange, partly because of punctuation:
Therefore let those of us who are “perfect” embrace this point of view.
Especially in the context of all our righteousness being dung, it’s unlikely that any of us is perfect according to Paul’s theology. But I don’t think that’s what he’s saying here. Instead, those who are mature in their faith will adopt this point of view. The quote marks around perfect are what we call scare quotes these days, meaning “supposedly this thing but not really.” Again, I doubt that was Paul’s intended meaning so “perfect” is not a perfect translation.
There are many other interesting things to look at in this chapter but I will end our little tour with a question that Gary Simmons asked me on Facebook yesterday:
Would you mind a little dialogue on this chapter? I’d be very interested in hearing whatever insight you might have to share. One thing I’ve never been able to grasp is the sense of 3:16. Is it: “nevertheless [despite the fact that God will… correct you if you go astray], let us live by [the example] we’ve attained.”?
I specifically have trouble understanding the sense of both phthano + eis and stoicheo. The two words are rare and obscure to me. Could you offer any help in understanding them? Does stoicheo relate to the simplicity of living the servant life, or is that overloading the word?
What do you think?