Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful NT Wording

by Steve Ray on September 10, 2013

We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. The original language of the Bible is full of rich imagery, stark reality, and colorful terminology.

Toilets.jpgFor example, Paul writes that he considers all things as refuse that he might gain Christ (Phil 4:8).  We lose the impact of his graphic language. Paul wrote in Greek and in Greek the word refuse means human waste or crap. In Paul’s day it might have been the equivalent of the “sh–” word forbidden in proper communication. Paul used crude language, and it was very graphic for the original readers. Our English translations are very “proper”.

(Picture: Steve sitting on old stone Roman toilets in Philippi, filming in “Paul, Contending for the Faith“)

As a Pharisee, Paul tried to earn his righteousness by his self-righteous efforts and pride. But now that he has learned of faith in Christ and salvation by grace along, he considers his old efforts and self-righteousness to be nothing but crap. English Bibles santize this wording for us :-)

Let’s look at another crude example.  In Galatians 5:12 Paul reacts to the Jewish converts who tried to make the Gentiles get circumcised.  They said the pagans must be circumcised and obey all the 613 laws of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1).  The heretics made Paul so mad that he says he wished the false teachers would not just cut off the foreskin of the penis but slip and cut the whole thing off.  Ouch!

Flint Knife.jpgEverywhere else this Greek word is used in the New Testament, it is translated “cut it off” but in this passage most prim and proper English translations render the word as “mutilate themselves” though a few say “castrate themselves” or “go all the way and emasculate themselves.”  Paul didn’t mince his words, nor hide his anger and frustration.

(Picture: Ancient flint knife, the kind used for circumcisions in biblical times)

One of my favorite gold nuggets that I discovered in the New Testament is a Greek word used only twice in the whole New Testament. This word relates to God’s two creations.  By reading the English Bible you would never know these two different passages use the same Greek word. But you would never know it from reading the English. When you dig deep you find gold!

What are these two creations of God?  The first is obviously the physical world created “in the beginning.”  The second creation is the Church, into which we are ‘born again” through baptism, a new creation. Both creations were “born” out of water with the Spirit of God hovering over the water (Gen 1:2; Mk 1:9-110, John 3:1-5).

Ready? Well here are the two verses; I have italicized the English words that have the Greek word in common:

First, the physical creation: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).

Second, the spiritual creation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Was I right? Would you have known that the underlying Greek word in both verses is poiema? It is the Greek word from which we get our English word poem. In Romans 1:20, five English words are used to translate one Greek word: poiema which refers to the physical created universe.  The word workmanship is what you are, what the Church is. The poem of the Church includes you.

So, God has “written” two poems: the physical world and the Church.  God is a poet, He is an artist, and his two great works of art reveal much about Him as an artist. You can learn a lot from looking at the paintings of an artist or by reading the pages of a poet.  Just as any poet can be understood by reading his work, so God can be understood to some degree by reading his poetry.

Solar System.jpgGo out at night and look at the sky –  ponder the masterpiece of God’s creation. Look at the symmetry and beauty of a flower, the power and creatures of the oceans, the majesty of mountains and thunderstorms. Then look at the Church around the world as she redeems sinners. Think of the billions of people that have accepted her embrace and been born into a heavenly family, a culture of love and blessings. Two marvelous, breath-taking creations.

Any you? You are part of God’s two creations, you are written into his poetry and painted on his canvas.  He treasures you.  You are not a random mass of molecules that happened to appear on lonely planet earth spinning meaninglessly around the sun. No, you are part of God’s glorious poetry that angels admire and God cherishes. Be proud, be thankful!  Live worthy of your place in God’s heart.

So, the New Testament is rich in its vocabulary. It is richer than the English language reveals. Like Paul says, anyone that tries to please God by their meager human efforts has nothing but crap to show for it, unworthy of the kingdom of God. Anyone who says we must be circumcised to be a Christian opposes God’s plan of free grace. Paul wanted them to castrate themselves.

Actually the New Testament is rich in imagery and figures of speech.  You are blessed to be freely made part of God’s two creations. You are beautiful. The Word of God says so!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard October 16, 2011 at 2:30 PM

neat

My comment was only the word ‘neat’, but I got a message that it was too short, so I will include a poem that I wrote:

Untitled Haiku for Steve Irwin

Crock wrasslin’ no more.
Murmuring waves kiss the shore.
Empty marriage bed.

georgia hedrick October 16, 2011 at 6:22 PM

I JUST KNEW IT!!! I mean that I just figured out that the English translation wasn’t really on target, just sorta carefully tiptoeing around the reality of what was being said. I’ve been on this realization of late because maybe I am just getting close to the end of my life.

Look at the prayer: GLORY BE TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT–(that’s okay but the next part is nonsense), as IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING (whose beginning, cannot be God’s beginning because God IS–) IS NOW, AND EVER SHALL BE, ‘WORLD’ WITHOUT END. (What world???)
Is the ‘Earth’? Is there a distinction to be made between ‘earth’ and ‘world’?

Teach me someone!!!! I want to know! gh

Neomi Olivares October 17, 2011 at 1:10 AM

Ms. Georgia,

Let me try to explain the “Glory Be,” a prayer I pray many times during the day. Aside from being both a personal and collective acclamation to God, “Glory Be” is an exhortation to all peoples in the world to give glory and honor to God in this world where we live. The glory, grandeur and majesty of God is unchanging, undiminished even if there were no creature praising Him. Prior to the fall of man, all created things gave glory to God–that is, they glorified Him by performing or fulfilling what they were created for. For instance, the essence of a tree is to grow, bear branches or fruit, give shelter to human beings or animals, absorb rain water, and simply be–be beautiful in itself. By being essentially a tree, it fulfills the purpose for which God created it and, thus, gives glory to God. When a tree or trees are wasted/burned/destroyed, they are not able to fulfill the reason for their existence. In a similar manner, God created human beings, the most intelligent of all creatures, to use their entire self–body, soul, spirit–to give glory to God by knowing Him, obeying him, loving Him and serving Him. But we all know that sin and evil have so corrupted much on this earth, that creatures are prevented from giving glory to their Creator. At the end of this world as we know it, there will be a new heaven and new earth, where all creatures will give glory and honor to God. And that is the “new world” that will last forever. I hope that this will help you somehow in your understanding and recitation of this beautiful prayer “Glory Be.”

Richard M October 17, 2011 at 1:50 AM

In the third paragraph, you use the phrase “salvation by grace along”. I’m guessing this could be a typo for “salvation by grace alone” which would be a complete “Protestant” error. Perhaps you didn’t complete the phrase? Could it be: “Paul didn’t go from works alone to faith alone, but to faith along with works, together.”

Henry October 17, 2011 at 8:16 AM

The Gory Be is properly translated Glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages (or forever and ever.)

jeremiah October 18, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Mr. Richard,

I am glad you raised that point. All Christians believe that salvation is by grace ALONE. To say anything else, would be to fall into the heresies of Pelgianism or Semi-Pelagianism. Simply put, we can not save ourselves. However, as Catholics we would not say that this constitutes faith alone because Scripture and tradition both say so. Rather, we are saved by our Christian life that is constituted by the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. Of course such a life begins and is rooted in faith. Faith and works is true but so is grace ALONE.
God bless.

De Maria September 1, 2012 at 7:45 PM

Hi Jeremiah and Richard,

Although I think I understand both sides, I fall on Richard’s side in that question of whether the Church teaches that salvation is by grace or by grace alone.

As far as I know, the Protestant doctrine of grace alone was used to discount everything from the authority of the Church to the validity of the priesthood. In the case of Calvinism, it is even used to discredit the human will. So, although many of our Catholic brethren, converts from Protestantism, use the phrase liberally, I’ve yet to see it officially taught by the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church teaches that God created the world ALONE but did not choose to save us ALONE, that is, without our effort. I believe St. Augustine said something to that effect.

CCC 1847 “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.”116 To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”117

Although that does not explicitly refer to salvation by grace, I believe it applies.

The Church teaches salvation by grace (not alone) through faith. The Church also teaches that “all is grace”. In other words, all which we do in response to the grace of God is itself by the grace of God. Therefore, “all” is grace.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Pooh Bear September 3, 2012 at 7:51 AM

Would “modern translation” not be more to the point than “english translation”.

Jason Almeida September 10, 2013 at 1:15 PM

I have these set of questions, please anyone tell in which group can Catholicism be placed:

1. Does God unconditionally elect only some men to eternal life?
2. Did Jesus Christ die for all the sins of all men?
3. Which comes first, faith or regeneration?
4. Will Jesus lose any of those He came to save?
5. Is eternal life unconditional or conditional?

To the five questions above: an Arminian will say … no, yes, faith, yes, conditional.

To the five questions above: a Calvinist will say … yes, no, faith or regeneration, no, conditional.

To the five questions above: Bible truth must answer … yes, no, regeneration, no, unconditional.

Bill 912 September 11, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Jason, what is the connection between this thread and your comments/questions?

Joanne Rader September 11, 2013 at 7:03 PM

I was just listening to my car radio on IHM Catholic Radio and you were talking about the current and past Muslim leaders such as Mubarak and you said a very interesting thing about the Middle East being tribal. You also mentioned that Mubarak and others (Assad?) that even though they are Muslim they are tolerant of Christians. I was on pilgrimage last late Oct. and early Nov. and our guide was a Palestinian Catholic (the best guide in the world!) who lived in Nazareth. He was telling us the very same thing! We were blest to have an audience with the Bishop of Jerusalem and he asked us to pray that Assad not be deposed because the Christians would suffer then. So, I was so pleased to hear someone else say that, namely you, because it is something no one is talking about. In fact, we pilgrims took up a collection between the 40 of us and presented it to the Bishop who was going to see that it went to the benefit of Christians in Syria. I wrote my congressmen and asked them not to use military force against the dictator. And, here we are looking at using military force there. God be with us!

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