Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hypography, Puffery & Hypocrisy (Part II): Warnings from 1 Corinthians 4:6-7

In my previous post, I pointed out the variance among the translations of the phrase

     ἵνα ἐν ἡμῖν μάθητε τὸ μὴ ὑπὲρ  γέγραπται (to mā hyper ha gegraptai).

A quite literal (or word-for-word) translation is as follows:

     “that in us you may learn the not-beyond-what-is-written”.

Since this is not very good English (by this I simply mean that it does not sound proper to a native English speaker), translators supply an extra word. But as seen in my last post, there is little agreement as to what word should be supplied.

I contend that all major translations have missed the mark here and have even obscured the original point. By supplying extra words such as "to go beyond" or "to exceed" or "the saying," the object of knowledge is changed. Does Paul want the Corinthians to learn "to not go" or to learn "the saying" or something else altogether? To decide, let's take a closer look at the text.

The article (τό) makes the following prepositional phrase (“beyond what is written”) with the negative adverb (“not”) into a substantive (noun-like). That is, the article shows that the object of learning is “that thing which is not beyond what is written”. What is it that is not beyond the Scripture ("what is written")? Right! That which is bounded by Scriptures -- the Scripture itself and things in accord with the Scritpures!

A more full (interpretive) translation reads:

     "that you might learn by us that which is within the bounds of Scripture"

So, contrary to the ESV (and NIV, RSV, NET, ASV, NAS) Paul is not forbidding the Corinthians from going beyond the Scripture ("what is written"), but is exhorting them to learn things that are Scriptural. He is not telling the Corinthians to avoid other arenas of knowledge (i.e. science, math, philosophy, humanities, psychology, etc. that are "beyond" the Scripture), but to make sure they do learn what is in the bounds of what is written (that which is not beyond).

In 1 Corinthians 4:6 Paul begins to draw to a close his lengthy first point to the Corinthian Church. He has been drawing a distinction between human folly under the guise of rhetoric and godly wisdom expressed in the simplicity of the Gospel message. The former leads to one being "puffed up in favor of one against another" (1 Cor 4:6b) but the latter leads to unity and humility in the recognition that we are all "servants of Christ" (1 Cor. 4:1).

In verse 7 Paul rhetorically asks the Corinthians what makes them unique or special that they should be puffed up with conceit. Surely all that they have they received. But they are acting as though they were to be praised for their wisdom and rhetorical prowess. They were benefactors of Paul's missionary efforts but acting as though they were somehow better than Paul, their "father in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 4:15). How often are we guilty of the same attitude -- of wanting praise for our own insight into the Scriptures or our own theories about life rather than acknowledging that the Gospel is a profoundly simple gift? How often is the church unity destroyed by things that have no Scriptural relevance?

Paul does not forbid us from going beyond what is written (hypography) as modern English translation intimate, but exhorts us to learn that which is Scriptural so that we we do not become conceited in our own thinking (puffery) and deny that we are merely unworthy recipients of God's grace (hypocrisy). 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hypography, Puffery & Hypocrisy: Warnings from 1 Corinthians 4:6-7

Wikipedia (the ever faithful friend of the lazy researcher) defines a hypograph as shown below.

Hypograph (mathematics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In mathematics, the hypograph of a function f : Rn → R is the set of points lying on or below its graph:
\mbox{hyp} f = \{ (x, \mu) \, : \, x \in \mathbb{R}^n,\, \mu \in \mathbb{R},\, \mu \le f(x) \} \subseteq \mathbb{R}^{n}
and the strict hypograph of the function is:
\mbox{hyp}_S f = \{ (x, \mu) \, : \, x \in \mathbb{R}^n,\, \mu \in \mathbb{R},\,  \mu <  f(x) \} \subseteq \mathbb{R}^{n}.
The set is empty if f \equiv -\infty .
Similarly, the set of points on or above the function's graph is its epigraph.

It's all Math to me! But I am thrilled to see a familiar little Greek letter mu (μ) (I've 
never seen a Greek letter mooo, however).

Let me draw a connection here to 1 Corinthians 4:6 in which Paul begins to draw 

to a close his lengthy first point to the Corinthian Church. He had been drawing a 
distinction between human folly under the guise of rhetoric and godly wisdom 
expressed in the simplicity of the Gospel message.

"I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, 

that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may 
be puffed up in favor of one against another." (ESV)

In the Greek text, “to go” is absent.

It reads τὸ μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται (to mā hyper ha gegraptai)

Here the astute reader may notice my connection to the hypograph (hyper + grapho 

= beyond the writing). Translators have had a hard time bringing this phrase into 
English as can be seen by a quick perusal of various translations.

Screen Clipping taken of Logos 4 Bible Comparison Tool. The NET, NAS, HCSB, ASV, KJV, and NIV are compared to the ESV.
The strike-through-text is replaced in those versions with the blue-text. 

Notice the different words added in: "exceed", "go", "the saying", "think of men above". Next week 
I will discuss how this phrase should be translated and show that all the major translations mask 
Paul's point here and can lead to some seriously off-the-mark conclusions.