September 27, 2009

Ephesians 2:1-2; A Devotional

And you were dead because1 of the transgressions2 and sins in which you once walked, as the world has through the ages3 according to the ruler of domain4 of the air5 ; the spirit now working in the unyielding6 sons.

A major aspect of Christian life is remembering where you came from. Christianity is fundamentally a faith of redemption. Part of redemption is being redeemed from something.

There are two common problems we encounter when dealing with our sinful past:
  1. Forgetting it completely: Many times we look at life from the vantage point of where we are now, a loose site of what a wretch we were before Christ. This creates pride, making us think we're perfect, and often causing us to berate others who are still in need of redemption.
  2. Hanging on to it: There are many that are so caught up in who it is that they used to be that they cannot move on. Either they keep condemning themselves (which is unhealthy), or they are focused on the thing they were redeemed from as the central obstacle in all Christian life (like a former alcoholic believing that all alcohol is evil by nature).
In this particular case, Paul is speaking of the latter sense. Our former existence brings praising God, by reminding us of how grateful we need to be. The grand purpose of Paul is a calling for us to leave that former way of living behind completely, and live in a grander, more heavenly way (which he will describe as being united to one another).

Therefore, this week consider the life you live in comparison to the world. Is it different? Are you living a life that is distinct and holy? Holy doesn't mean that you live perfectly moral. It simply means that you live differently: a life devoted to God. So live that out, and celebrate that we are no longer tied to the concerns and ways of this world, but have been birthed into a greater life.

Translation notes

1 There actually is no preposition here at all, though one is implied because the words 'transgressions' and 'sins' are in the dative (which makes them indirect objects grammatically). Most translations use the term 'in' here, but sense there is really no demand to use any particular preposition here, I thought to use one that explained things better.

2 The word here is literally 'an act of falling aside'.

3 The phrase here is "kata ton aiona tou kosmou toutou" which means "according to the eon of this world". The two basic ways I saw to translate this in other versions was "according to the course of this world" [KJV/etc...] (which is not literal enough to be this cryptic in my opinion) and "following the course of this world" [ESV/NIV]. I think the second is better, but I think both miss the mark since they don't interact with the notion of the 'aion'.
'Aion' is defined as a long period of time. It is even translated as eternity in some contexts. I believe in this context it means the full time of this world, or this world's full lifetime. I then translated it to point this out.

4 Ok, the word is is literally 'air'. What is important to note here is that there is a connection in Greek (and Hebrew) between spirit and air. The Greek (and Hebrew) word for spirit means wind or breath, and the word air can also mean the upper regions. It is also important that the word later on translated as 'spirit' is connected to this word here for this same reason. The "spirit working" is an element of the air. Since it is impossible to translated both of these senses simultaneously in English, I decided to emphasize the other half here.
However, I am really unsure of this choice, and debated for hours before I finally settled on it. Even now I'm really unsure.

5'Exousia' literally means "the right to do what one wishes". Where it was used in chapter 1, I translated it as 'authority', and I still think that that is the best sense of the word. However, it doesn't make sense in this context. The word 'influence' is chosen here just to make the sentence read easier.

6 'Apeitheia' means "won't be convinced". I felt that 'disobedience' was too law focused.

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