A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Double entendre

A key expression at the center of today’s first reading (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8) is a bit ambiguous.

Modern translations, such as the well-regarded Revised Standard Version and also the lectionary used in the United States, exhort “that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor”whereas older translations say “that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.”

The most significant difference in the translation lies chiefly in whether the word translated as “vessel” is a metaphor for one’s body or for one’s wife.

An additional layer of complexity comes in verse 6, in which some translations (such as the lectionary) warn “not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter” (i.e., lustful conduct) while other translations (such as the classic Douay-Rheims) say that no man should “overreach nor circumvent his brother in business”.

All of this verbal ambiguity has a certain instructional utility:
for whether one is speaking of one’s body
or one’s wife
or even one’s customer, employee or competitor,
one is to conduct oneself with “holiness and honor
and to not treat oneself or others
as dehumanized objects
for one’s selfish pleasure or advantage.

Therefore, he that despiseth these things,
despiseth not man,
but God,
who also hath given his holy Spirit in us.

May we always treat ourselves and others with holiness and honor in accordance with the Holy Spirit of God.