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Friday, January 17

When does καί not mean “and”? (Eph 1:1)

One of the problems of memorizing word glosses in first year Greek is that it is possible to miss the richness of a word’s meaning, especially its breadth of meaning (“semantic range”).

For example, in BBG I give the definition of καί as, “and, even, also, namely.” In retrospect, I wish I had listed it as, “and; even, also; namely.” That would have done a better job emphasizing that καί has at least three basic semantic ranges. But if you go through life thinking that καί basically means “and,” not only would you be wrong but you are going to find many verses that are deeply puzzling, even troubling.

BDAG gives two basic meanings. (1) “1. marker of connections, and. 2. marker to indicate an additive relation that is not coordinate to connect clauses and sentences, also, likewise, funct. as an adv.” Under the first option they list, “c. oft. explicative; i.e., a word or clause is connected by means of καί w. another word or clause, for the purpose of explaining what goes before it and so, that is, namely.” In my experience, I prefer to see the “explicative” use as a separate category, and I tend to call it the “epexegetical” use.

So let‘s take a look at Ephesians 1:1. The NRSV reads, “To the saints who are in Ephesus and (καί) are faithful in Christ Jesus.” What is the relationship between “ the saints who are in Ephesus” and those who “are faithful in Christ Jesus”? One or two groups? Is the former the larger and the latter a subset? Can you be a “saint” and not be “faithful”?

The Greek is, at first glance, a little more ambiguous than the NRSV. τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ] καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Word for word: “to the Saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus.” Grammatically, the question is the precise meaning of καί.

The translations all see correctly (in my opinion) that this cannot be two groups of people. Paul can’t be addressing the “saints,” and then a second group who are “faithful.” If you let a gloss of καί control your understanding of its meaning, you could make this mistake. But none of the translations do.

The ESV comes dangerously close to conveying the wrong idea. “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” In fact, I think they step over the line and miscommunicate. (I lost this vote in committee.)

NASB. “To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” The repetition of the “who” connects both phrases to the same “saints.” The NLT makes some effort to avoid the confusion with the use of the comma: “I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.”

The NIV beautifully sees the καί as epexegetical and writes, “To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

The HCSB removes all doubt. “To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.”

The point is that καί has a range of meaning, and you can’t always just stick in “and” and move on.

This also illustrated the myth of translations not being interpretive. If you just went word for word and translated with “and,” you would suggest there are two groups of people, and in my view of Pauline theology that is not possible.

On a totally person note, today (Friday, January 17) is my daughter Rachel’s birthday. She is 26 and celebrating with her grandmother in heaven; she died four hours after birth from a rare genetic disease. Heart-wrenching times, but God, who is always faithful, works in the midst of all joys and sorrows to bring about his changes in our lives for his glory and our progress in the faith. And for that I am now thankful. Happy birthday Rachel.

And in the course of things I find it blissfully ironic that my son Tyler is engaged and getting married this May to another Rachel. God often brings life full circle.