Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, July 1, 2024

Boasting In Paul (Phil 1:26)

In Greek for the Rest of Us, I give the definition of ἐν as “in, by, with.” The preposition is flexible in meaning, and often translation requires significant interpretation. I have often thought it strange that prepositions were introduced into the Greek language to bring clarity to the flexible and various meetings of the cases, and eventually the prepositions suffered the same fate of having a wide variety of meaning that requires interpretation.

A good example of this is Phil 1:26. Paul writes about his future visit to the church, “... in me (ἐν ἐμοί) you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again” (ESV), which is a carry-over from the RSV. The ESV went word-for-word in translating ἐν ἐμοί, which is trying to not make a choice between several interpretations, although “in me” doesn’t really mean anything.

Here is the whole thought. τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν περισσεύῃ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐν ἐμοί διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς.

One interpretation see ἐν ἐμοί as causal: “through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me” (NIV). The NET agrees: “that what you can be proud of may increase because of me in Christ Jesus, when I come back to you.” In other words, the Philippian’s boasting is because of Paul and what the Lord has done through him. The NLT makes this clear. “And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Others see ἐν ἐμοί in other ways. The NRSV appears to connect ἐν ἐμοί to περισσεύῃ. “So that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again” (NRSV).

The NASB hooks the prepositional phrase to καύχημα: “so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus.” Likewise, the KJV “That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”

I cannot see a translation of ἐν ἐμοί in the CSB: “so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound.”

Either way you go, if your understanding of translation is to translate meaning, a decision has to be made.