Saturday, June 20, 2009

If You are Preaching Tomorrow ...

It may be useful to observe that the NRSV doesn't do its best work on St. Mark 4:40-41. It has Jesus ask "Why are you afraid," and the disciples "filled with great awe."

As usual with arguments over translation, these are certainly defensible renderings. "Awe" does indeed get at one aspect of phobos, the sense of an encounter with vast force. But it misses the intense emotional content, the urge to flee.

We would be happier -- and we think the evangelist's point would be better served -- if the Lord asked, "Why are you acting like cowards," and the disciples, having witnessed a display of divine power, responded by "fearing a great fear," or, in colloquial English, being terrified.

They are terrified, it appears from a close reading of the text, less by the storm (which has already been stilled) than by the power they have seen manifested. They are terrified of Jesus.


Pastor Joelle said...

It's in my car so I'm not sure what Bible it is - think New English? But it's not that new, had it for 20 years or more - it says Jesus asked "Why are you such cowards?"

Father said...

Seems a lot better, both according to the lexicon and in context. And it works better with my sermon, too -- quelle surprise!