January 12, 2011

x (which translated means y)

Three times in seven verses John translates a Hebrew word for his reader.

v. 38 "Rabbi (which translated means teacher)"

v. 41 "Messiah (which is translated Anointed)"
(or as the note in my study Bible says "Christ")

v. 42 "Cephas (which is translated Peter)"
(Again a note "From the word for rock in Aramaic (kepha) and Greek (petra)")

In Lectionary Group yesterday we pondered for a few moments this oddity, and it has stuck with me through this morning. I did a little digging at it looks like John uses two different words that the NRSV translates as "translates."

The first word is "methermeneuo." It is used in verses 38 and 41 and nowhere else in John. The second is "hermeneuo" and is used in v. 42 and also in 9:7 regarding the Pool of Siloam "(which means Sent)." A third word "lego" normally means "to speak" but is used by John in 20:16 to also indicate a translation from Hebrew/Aramaic into Greek.

From a quick and dirty study of John's Gospel, he chooses to translate: Rabbi, Messiah, Cephas, Siloam, and Rabbouni. Teacher, Christ, Peter, Sent, and Teacher. Interesting choices.

What I don't get is why he doesn't bother to translate Peter's original name, Simon (which is translated God has heard). If names have meaning, and they most certainly seem to in this portion of John's Gospel then is it safe to assume that Simon's situation before meeting Jesus was dire? Was Simon crying out to the Lord in the same way the Hebrew's cried out from bondage in Egypt? Was Andrew out following John without his brother because Simon had given up hope?

God does amazing things in peoples lives. To stretch our use of the word today, God translated Simon's cries in Peter rock. How does he translate you?

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