Do We Entrust God with Our Soul or with Everything? (1 Peter 4:19) — Mondays with Mounce 248
Peter concludes a discussion on suffering with these words. “Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust (παρατιθέσθωσαν) themselves (τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν) to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good” (1 Pet 4:19, NRSV).
A friend asked me two questions. The first has to do with the translation of παρατίθημι. While most translations use “entrust,” the NIV uses “commit.” At first I didn’t hear the distinction, which makes a good point. We tend to hear words slightly differently; that’s what makes translation so difficult. But the more I looked at it, I started to hear the difference. “Commit” sounds like a single act of the will, something you do at a point in time. “Entrust” sounds more like an attitude of the will, an attitude of trusting in the midst of difficult circumstances.
BDAG’s third definition of παρατίθημι is “to entrust for safekeeping, give over, entrust, commend.” This is its meaning in the middle. Since παρατιθέσθωσαν is a present imperative, and since there is no time but only aspect outside of the indicative, “entrust” to my ears sounds like a better translation. The KJV actually does a nice job in bringing this out: “commit the keeping of their souls.” But it does illustrate how we hear things slightly differently.
My friend’s second question has to do with “themselves.” The ESV and NASB have “their souls” while most others have “themselves.” ψυχή can certainly refer to the immaterial part of our being, but the question is whether that is the point here. Do we entrust our soul and not necessarily our whole person or our body (see BDAG’s third definition) to the Lord?
I know there is a debate on how Scripture views us, as two or three parts. I am firmly convinced that we are only one part, created as body and soul together, temporarily separated at death, and permanently united at resurrection. So I am going to resist any firm distinction between body and soul.
But more importantly, I can’t believe Peter is saying we should entrust just part of ourselves to the Lord. We are to entrust everything we are — body, soul, mind, strength. Yes, the body will die, perhaps as the result of martyrdom, but don’t we still trust that the Lord will reunite soul and body at the resurrection?
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. 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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