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Daily Devotion for June 11, 2015
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
A pretty setting of Ave Maria by Mascagni, sung by the wonderful Sissal. (The melody is actually borrowed from an opera, Cavallaria Rusticana.)
(Note: Composers frequently repeat, omit, or put phrases out of order.)
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Heavenly Lord, no matter what I do or which way I turn, my pride raises its ugly head to damage my life. It tells me that my opinions are correct, no matter how ill-informed I might be. I fail to appreciate my stupidity, my weakness, my self-deception and rationalization for my many errors and shortcomings. Help me, O Holy Spirit, to see my fault. Instruct me in my error and support me in my efforts to follow your commandments; for I truly love you, Lord God, and want to grow in service and faith. In the name of Christ, forgive me and bring me closer.
For the Church
O gracious Father, I humbly pray to you for your holy church, that you would be pleased to fill it with all truth. Where hypocrisy exists, help those who suffer it to see their fault and correct it. Where disputes exist, let them be resolved in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, help us to establish and nurture it through your mighty power; where it is in want, provide for it; and where it is divided, reunite it. All this I pray for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever lives to intercede for our very souls, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.
[The deceitful lure of my own opinions.]
Oh God Almighty, send me Your light and truth, to keep this day and all the days of my life. And may Your mighty hand protect me, and all my brothers and sisters who have joined me in prayer this day, blessing our homes and our lives.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Nowhere to Go
I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.
~ Abraham Lincoln
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in. . . .
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.
~ Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man
Galatians 5:13-15 (Daily Prayer Bible)
Freedom is not a License to Sin
13-15 Relish your freedom, but remember, your freedom in Christ is not a license to indulge your instincts. In particular, stop all the backbiting that is going on. What you bite, you consume, and what you consume, you destroy. So backbiting can only lead to mutual destruction. Instead, you must love and serve one another, for the entire law was fulfilled in this one teaching: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not use your freedom as a foundation pLiterally base of operations, used originally in connection with an army. for fleshly acts, but rather for serving one another through love.
14 For the entire law was fulfilled in one teaching, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
15 Do you not see q Or Look out, Beware., that if you engage in biting and devouring rThe Greek syntax (“first class condition”) might imply that this is actually occurring, and the context supports the implication. Paul thinks they are already engaging in this behavior, at least to some degree, and wants them to stop. each other, you destroy rThe tense here is aorist, which unlike the present does not present their destruction as an ongoing process, but rather as a single “consummative” act. sOr consumed, which continues the biting and eating metaphor. Destroyed is a decent translation, but there are other words for destroy in Greek, and this one is used of animals eating one another or fires destroying a building by consuming it in flame. This shades the meaning: they are spending so much time arguing that they do not have time for godly tasks, and that the bitter feelings from their arguments might ultimately destroy their goodness. one another?
About the Daily Prayer BibleThe “Daily Prayer Bible” is a paraphrase translation. This means accuracy to the original text has been sacrificed, to make it more readable and readily understood. This is especially useful in the Epistles of Paul. Verses are often out of order and often explanatory matter is included in the actual translation.
It is part of a larger work, DP 3-Column Bible, a Bible translation with 3 different levels of literal accuracy, which you can access by clicking the link at the bottom of the Scripture section. We call the most readable and least accurate translation the “Daily Prayer Bible”. The middle translation (“The American Bible”) is what is called a “literal” translation, accurate to the original text but using English grammar and idioms.
The third translation is a unique transliterative text, called “Verbatim Bible”, that has an unparalleled degree of accuracy but is not readable except with difficulty. It gives the non-Greek-reading user the ability to see the inaccuracies and ambiguities that become invisible in even the best so-called “literal” translations, such as the NASB or our own American Bible..
Notes on the Scripture
Here we have Paul echoing Christ, with one of the most well-known teachings in the Bible. It translates verbatim from the Greek: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But before we get into the broader meaning, we need to understand the particulars of the passage, because verse 15 is notoriously complex and difficult to translate.
Look at the Verbatim translation: “And if one another you are biting and devouring see you not by one another you are destroyed/consumed.” Here are at least the major problems and how we have chosen to translate them:
- In Greek, the specific type of “if” clause Paul uses often, but not necessarily, implies that the condition already exists. Here the context helps us, because out of all the many forms of “indulging the flesh”, why would Paul single out something as specific and odd as “biting each other” if he didn’t think it was an actual problem? So instead of the hypothetical “if you bite”, we have translated, “stop the biting.”
- Paul’s language literally means “bite” and “devour”, as in “eat”. This is a meaningful metaphor, but sounds cannabalistic and gross to modern readers. Luckily there is a word in English, “backbiting,” that pretty well describes what Paul wants them to stop doing and contains the word “bite,” keeping contact with the original meaning. So, instead of “stop eating each other,” we can go with “Stop the backbiting.”
- “See (you) not” complicates the situation, however; nobody knows whether the negative particle (the “not”) negates what comes before it or what comes after it. To complicate things further, “see” can be either imperative or simple indicative; we have to use the context to determine that it has to be imperative. But does it mean, “See to it that you do not”? Or do we have to go back to the first part of the sentence, and read something to the effect, “If you are biting each other, you must not see that it will destroy you”?
- As if that’s not enough aggravation, the imperative of the particular verb is most often translated as a warning, “Look out!” If that is what it means here, the negative particle must then refer to what follows; Paul simply cannot mean to say, “Do not be careful.” This gives us another correct translation, “Beware lest you . . . .” or “Be careful that you do not . . . .”
- Then, the final word forces us to reconsider the business about eating. The final word can be translated “destroyed,” but there are a lot of words for “destroy” in New Testament Greek. Paul chose the one that specifically refers to being destroyed by something that consumes or wastes, such as fire or a wild animal. Ignoring this would abolish Paul's literary device; his choice of words draws a vivid picture of, say, two wild animals eating one another, perhaps two snakes swallowing each other's tails.
So we have to tread a careful line. We don't want to alienate modern sensibilities by drawing an image of cannibalism, but we would like to retain as much of Paul’s intended metaphor as possible. If we just extract the idea — “Don't you see that constantly criticizing each other will destroy you” — we are not translating what Paul wrote, but replacing his vivid imagery with a dry abstraction.
- Finally, there is a theological implication that we have to decide whether we want to make explicit, or leave for the teacher/scholar/reader to tease out for themselves. (If the word “theological” fills you with misgivings, you will be happy to see that it’s the easiest part of this discussion!)
The Galatians are not literally eating each other's flesh. If they are spending time “biting and devouring” each other, what they are “consuming” is their time and energy, which could be productive; and if their victim hears of it and defends himself, or retaliates, they have consumed his time and energy. They are also destroying each other’s goodness. Christ told us to love our enemies, and perhaps we manage it; but it takes less effort to love someone who is kind to us.
Well, we started off with “love thy neighbor” and ended up with an example of “issues in New Testament translation.” We wouldn‘t want too much of this, but hopefully this little taste of it will be interesting and illuminating. And anyone who has followed the entire discussion now knows more about Galatians 5:15 than 99.99% of Bible-reading Christians!