Tuesday, February 9, 2021

What's in a translation?

Last Sunday the Gospel was Mark 1:29-39. (You were there, right, and heard it?)

Something struck me in the passage for the first time but then I realised it was striking in one translation but not in others.

Concerning verse 31, when Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law.

Here are some non-striking - for me, on this occasion, as I will explain - translations: 

"Jesus went and took hold of her hand, and raised her to her feet." (REB)

"He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up." (CEB)

"He went to her, took her by the hand, and helped her up." (GNB)

"He went in to her, took her by the hand and helped her up." (NJB)

What about the Greek itself?

"And going to [her] he raised her holding the hand."

So, nothing wrong with any of the translations above!

But the translation which caught my eye was the NRSV:

"He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up."

What struck me was the NRSV's "lifted her up." 

That got me thinking and the thinking became part of my sermon. Jesus lifted her up. That's what he does, he lifts people up. He lifts you and me up. Do we need lifting up today? So many things get us down and we need lifting up. And Jesus will do this!

Now to this week's Gospel, Mark 1:40-45.

A very striking issue arises.

The leper at the centre of the story begs Jesus, "If you choose, you can make me clean." (40, NRSV)

Does this mean Jesus could have chosen not to heal the leper?

Does this mean when we are not healed that Jesus has chosen not to heal us?

Answers on a postcard ... or a comment!


Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter, I find this thread particularly interesting - having been part of a group at St.Paul's, Symonds Street, in Auckland at the beginnings of the Charisdmatic Movement in the Anglican Church in the 1960s.

Our Bible Studies were centred around the work of the Holy Spirit in Acts, the Letters of Paul and the Gospels. Paul, in particular speaks of the 'Gifts of the Holy Spirit' given to believers in Jesus as the Christ, Son of God. The subject of 'spiritual healing' was one which commanded perhaps the greatest interest to the many people attending - as part of the ministry of the believers. However, healing was one of the gifts which seemed to me at the time perhaps the most significant.

Unfortunately, some of the more enthusiastic people in the gatherings that began to assemble in that community were almost insistent that, if one was prayed for - for personal healing in that group, and there was no apparently immediately obvious beneficial outcome then they obviously did not have enough faith. Mind you, these were usually the people who also said that, unless you 'spoke in tongues' after having hands laid upon you by the community, you also were lacking in faith! (As one who was neither healed not spoke in tongues at my initial experience of the 'laying on of hands', I was naturally a sceptic of their hard-line theology of being healed as the sign of being - as the meme of that time put it - 'Baptised in the Holy Spirit'.

Since that time, later as a Franciscan Brother and later a priest in ACANZP, I have come to realise that there is no set formula for 'Baptism in the Holy Spirit' excepting the rist of Baptism itself and a consequent ecceptance of Christ as God's Incarnate Redeemer. The operation of 'Gifts of the Holy Spirit' are - as the word 'gift' implies - purely at God's discretion and subject to one's personal acceptance of the fact that God utilises one's faith to be in a position to receive the gift. As Paul says; no-one has all the gifts, each in the Church's believing community, though, is given a particular gift that is useful in the community in which they are meant to minister.

That said, when we speak of the healing ministry of Jesus, this was one of the 'signs and wonders' which, as God's Incarnate Son, was to help the people to recognise God's power at work within Him. One aspect of Jesus' healing was his compassion (his feeling of 'virtue' (strength?) being taken from him) to bring about a specific healing. There is no biblical record (as far as I know) of Jesus being asked for healing by anyone who was ever turned away.


Father Ron said...


The incident you mention "You can heal me If you want to" was the appropriate supplication of a humble person who wasn't actually claiming 'the right' to be healed; but was content to await the outcome, as a believer in Jesus' power to heal. This is rather different from a person approaching an 'altar call' being led to believe (by some well-intentioned minister) that they have the 'right' to be healed - a philosophy, sadly, that some over zealous lay or clergy persons seem prone to use in advertising their 'personal' ministry.

I do believe, however, that no prayer for healing is ever wasted - whether, or not, the specific ailment mentioned is seen to be dramatically healed (although, from my own experience, I know that some are!). When the person prayed for has some faith in Christ for healing, there is usually some aspect of that person's life that is changed for the better . One cannot discount the words of Jesus to at least one suppliant: "Go in peace, you faith has made you whole". We must remember, though, that Jesus is the healer - who always wants us to become whole. We are NOT Jesus, but our faith in him as healer and redeemer can give a powerful witness to the community of the presence of Jesus among his people.

I remember once being asked to pray for an elderly lady suffering from a severe heart condition who was flown back from Auckland Hospital to die here in the hopital in Christchurch. Her husband asked me to minister to her. I began (knowing that she was a person of deep faith); (name) Do you want to be healed in the here and know? Or are you willing to let God decide on your future?. Given the willing acceptance from her that she only wanted "what God wants" - her own words - I prayed that God would do the very best for her in her critical condition. When I visited her the next morning (fully expecting hat she would have died in the night), I found her sitting up in bed having her breakfast! She lived a useful life in the community for at least another ten years, +God rest her soul!

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter.
This morning I came across this amazing testimony to the place of Faith in the process of being healed. I think it worth your readers' attention: Agape!


Anonymous said...

Yes and yes, if and only if, in a modern technological way, we understand healing to be merely the curing of disease in tissue. More broadly, God's providence is curing illness and sickness in all believers as a matter of course. Their spiritual bodies in the world to come will be beyond disease.



Anonymous said...

I have not read an evangelical comment on inerrancy that is as good as this one by Mike Bird in a long time.



Dr Mike Lance said...

Yes, Jesus could have chosen not to heal the leper. I find the leper's statement very interesting 'if you choose'or 'if you are willing' recognises the sovereignty of both Jesus and himself. It has the feeling, to me, of almost a negotiation - what will our relationship be, will you favour/heal me? Will we be healer and healed one, or something else? There is deep stuff going on here.Jesus who has 'compassion' on the leper chooses to enact (or maybe enable) the healing and the leper chooses to receive it.

I do not think Jesus ever chooses 'not to heal us'. However there can be dynamics at play in our lives which means we may experience slow or limited, or apparently no healing ( and also actually no healing at times). I do not see this as a 'failure of faith' as some in the church have thought, and some still think, but rather as a project not yet ready for completion. A discussion of some of these dynamics, which I found to be very helpful can be found in "Invisible acts of power- personal choices that create miracles" by Caroline Myss ISBN 0-7432-6371-5. A second useful work is "Healing happens with your help- understanding the hidden meanings behind illness" Carol Ritberger ISBN 13:978-1-4019-1760-9.