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“I have the right to do anything” ( 1 Cor 6:12) Really? — Mondays with Mounce 210
Does Paul really believe that “I have the right to do anything” ( 1 Cor 6:12)? Really? Anything?
Of course not. Paul does not have the right to sin. He doesn’t have the right to walk away from his ministry. So what is happening in v 12? And why does the NASB and KJV write, “All things are lawful for me” when we know they are not?
What do the other translations tell you? Many translations put the phrase in quotation marks. “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful” (ESV, also HCSB, NRSV, NET). What would be the point? If you have done your homework, you know what Paul is doing. He is quoting what his Corinthians opponents are saying. He doesn’t agree with them, but he is citing them. So how do you indicate that in English?
The ESV and others put the sentence in quotation marks.
This explains where the extra “you say” comes from in the NIV. “‘I have the right to do anything,” you say.” The CBT obviously felt that the simple quotation marks were not sufficiently clear, and the NLT does the same. “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’”
The TEV becomes even more interpretive (or should I say, helpful). “Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’”
You may not agree with their decision, but you can at least see why they did it. No translation is random. I have not yet found one. There always is a reason. In this case, preventing misunderstanding is a strong motivation for being a little more interpretive.
We do not have the right to do anything; but even if we did, “not everything is beneficial.” Freedom is not the gauge by which we make decisions. Sometimes freedom is self-limited because there are other things that are more important beneficial, such as love.
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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