Thursday, July 19, 2007

Admonishing admonition

I’m not sure if I got the meaning and thrust of “admonish one another” exactly spot on in my sermon a couple of weeks ago on Colossians 1:28 c.f. 3:16. I’m sure I had the right doctrine even if I had the wrong text! Admonition: more careful attention the the words and their other biblical usages required! If you’d like to think about what “admonish” means a bit more, you might find Rev’d Dr David Field’s observations and questions help to clarify things.

The Concise OED gives the meaning of the English word “admonish” as “reprove… urge… give earnest advice to… warn.” It is Middle English from Old French amonester and ultimately from the Latin admone_e, warn. “Reprove” means to rebuke and comes from the late Latin reprobare, disapprove.

The underlying Greek word in Colossians is nouthetountes which is variously translated:

Bible Works, Abbott-Smith: admonish / exhort

Pope’s Grammatical Analysis: admonish / advise

Brown and Comfort literal translation: warning / admonishing

American Standard Version, NIB, NIV, NJB: admonishing – NEB: admonish

Young’s Literal Version, Marshall’s literal translation, English Standard Version, King James Version, NKJ, NRS, RSV: warning – NLT, JBP, GND: warn

Its really annoying that the translators cant be consistent here because you want to see both words are the same to realise that you’re meant to do this “admonishing” thing that Paul does, to “one another”. Its especially wicked that Brown and Comfort switch the word in their supposedly scholarly interlinear study Bible, which uses the UBS 4th edition / NA 27th edition Greek text and has the NRSV in parallel columns. They say in the introduction that “very few people learn Greek well enough to read the Greek New Testament unaided”. That all depends what you mean by “unaided”, of course, but I think we should be cautious about retreating to their book. I find it a great effort to even read the Greek if the English is there below it. Its very easy just to shortcut the process but if their going to switch the words around, its vitally important not to depend on their English equivalents, and I even think I could find it more a hindrance than a help if I’m inclined to think that different English words suggest different Greek words.

Its at times like this that one (i.e. I) wants to be a real expert in the languages and own the big authoritative dictionaries. Hum ho.

“Admonishing” kind of feels like the sort of thing a father might do to his (sometimes naughty or prone to stray) kids sometimes? It seems to have a negative kind of warning, correction, rebuke sort of note to it (in distinction from “teaching”, which could just be positive)?

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