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Back Up with the Blogs - Mondays with Mounce 234
It’s good to be back. I have had a great vacation, time to rest, and time to clear my head. Hope you have been enjoying the archived blogs.
Before starting, I do want to ask for your prayers this week. We are video recording Bruce Waltke teaching on Proverbs. This is for BiblicalTraining.org and we are trying an experiment of recording in our home. If this works, it will save BiblicalTraining potentially a lot of money. Hopefully, the class will be on the site in a few months.
I was reminded the other day about how important word choice is. I am not talking about getting the right word; I am talking about getting just the right word. So much can lost in translation despite the best efforts of the translators.
1 Peter 2:1-2 reads, “Therefore, having put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander of every kind, like newborn babes, ἐπιποθήσατε the milk that is pure and spiritual, so that by it you may grow up to salvation.” When a baby is first born, how do you describe its desire for mother’s milk? It’s pretty intense, isn’t it? There is only one thing on the baby’s mind, and that’s food; the baby will cry and fuss and do anything possible to be fed. It is with this same tenacity that we are to desire our “spiritual milk” so that its nutrients will enable us to grow up in Christ.
So what is just the right word?
The entry in BDAG for ἐπιποθέω is “to have a strong desire for something, with implication of need, long for, desire.” It is a “strong” word, by which we mean that it conveys an intense idea, in this case the idea of “desire.”
The problem is that different words have slightly different meanings for different people, which is why translations are done by committees who don’t always agree. We hear things differently.
To me, “long for” (NASB, ESV, NRSV) isn’t quite the right phrase. It’s not immediate enough. I long for God’s blessing on BiblicalTraining. I long to see friends who have been emotionally and relationally damaged to be made whole. But to me it feels like something more longterm than a baby needing food right now.
Likewise, “desire” (HCSB) isn’t an especially strong word, certainly not on par with a baby’s “desire” for food without which he or she will die. I desire a lot of things, and often “desire” means only a little more than “like to have.”
“Crave” (NIV, NLT) and “yearn” (NET) are much closer to the intensity of ἐπιποθέω. If I crave something, it means I have such an intense desire that almost everything else fades into the background and I am thinking of only that one thing. If you know me personally, you know that there are really only four things in my life: the Lord, my family, Greek, and BiblicalTraining. They are the only things I think about, crave, yearn for. The intensity of my love for my wife and children goes far beyond “desire.” “Longing” hardly describes my passionate pursuit of finding new and better ways to train the future leaders of the church through BiblicalTraining.org.
How is our “desire” to know Christ in ever deepening ways? Do we “want” to know him? Do we “desire” him. Or can we agree with the words of the psalmist, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Just as a deer being chased by hunters must eventually stop and drink water lest it dies in the midst of the pursuit, so also we must stop during the day to spend time with Jesus. Do we “crave” him?
Just as a baby craves physical nourishment, the end goal of our education and learning should be that we too yearn for Him with a passion that makes everything else secondary, even life and death.
The right word matters!
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.
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