Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Put Up with It?

"Put up with hard times. God uses them to train you. Hebrews 12:7"

This is the verse of the day text I received today. Now, this verse took me aback. I am currently praying for some things in my life, and I have the sense that the Lord will answer me favorably. Then this verse pops up on my cell phone. Now, I am not superstitious, but God can use many different methods to reach us, right? What am I supposed to make of this?
Now the SMS service in question here is quoting from the NIrV, and it only quoted the beginning of the verse. So I decided to look up the verse in my reading translation, the NRSV, which says:

"Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?"

So this is a little clearer maybe. How about the NASB?

"It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"

What we endure, we endure because God is disciplining us. That is slightly different then God using hard times to train you. The NLT fleshes it out a little more:

"As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?"

The first two phrases are blended together to better draw in the concept of God treating us as sons. Finally, a look at the NKJV:

"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?"

The NKJV flows much like the NLT here, with less wordiness. All in all, the best modern translation so far here. However, being raised on the KJV, I happen to be familiar with words like "chastening." So it may not be the best for you.

But the chase does not end here. There is a textual variant that comes into play. Specifically, the word "If" at the front of the verse in the NKJV/KJV is not present in either the Critical Text or the Majority Text. It doesn't seem to affect the meaning of the verse, just how the idea is put across.
Note the NASB's "It is for discipline that you endure," a literal translation of the Critical or Majority texts. The lack of that word "If" forces most modern Critical Text-based versions to break apart the reason for endurance and the second phrase speaking of the Christian's spiritual sonship. Except for the NLT, which paraphrases in order to smooth things out.
The NKJV/KJV do a better job smoothing out the verse in general, thanks to the Textus Receptus text. It may seem, however, that in connecting the endurance of discipline to God's loving care, the NKJV/KJV fail to state as clearly that what we do endure, we endure because He is disciplining us.
In my view, this isn't an issue, because it is simply a different way of emphasizing the same concept. Per the NASB, we endure because of discipline, and God is dealing with us as sons. Per the NKJV, if we endure discipline, God is dealing with us as sons. The connection between the discipline we endure and the God who disciplines is clear either way.

However, in the final analysis, the NKJV is much less convoluted, and much more readable. One would prefer the word "discipline" to "chastening/chasten," though. Despite besting all the other Critical Text-based translations here, the NLT is too wordy, a frequent weakness.

So what of my prayer life? Maybe He has been chastening me, maybe He has not. I know for sure, however, that He is not trying to tell me to "put up with it." As a matter of fact, the NIrV rendering is dangerous... God uses discipline to turn us to Him. The proper response to God's discipline is not stoicism, but repentance and seeking Him. And that's what I am trying to do--seek Him.

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