2 Jul 2014

Labor or strive to enter God's rest?

Submitted by theshovel
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Yes, here I am back again with another Shoveletter, and it is related to the last one in that it revolves around the questionable translation of the same Greek word. Like the last Shoveletter, I’ve taken and expanded upon another article for this one. I’m hoping you will be encouraged by the impact this properly defined word has upon a Bible verse that has been used to keep so many believers counterproductively straining to enter God’s rest. And by the way, I don’t know how I did it, but I provided an incorrect link in the last Shoveletter when referencing its original article. So if you were looking for that it can be found here: Study to shew thyself approved

So first, let’s take a look at the various translations of this verse:

King James Version:

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:11 KJV

New International Version:

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11 NIV

English Standard Version:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11 ESV

New American Standard Bible:

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11 NASB

Good News Translation:

Let us, then, do our best to receive that rest, so that no one of us will fail as they did because of their lack of faith. Hebrews 4:11 GNB92

The word we’re looking at in those verses is spoudazo, and yes it is the same word that has been translated as study or endeavor (KJV vs. NASB) in 2 Timothy 2:15. I’m thinking that if the KJV translators had striven to be a little more consistent, they could have made Hebrews 4:11 say Study to enter His rest! Here I was thinking that “study” would be a silly translation, but I looked through more than 30 different translations and found 2 pre-KJV English translations that actually did:

Let vs study therfore to entre into that rest lest eny man faule after the same ensample in to vnbelefe. Hebrew 4:11 Tyndale

Let vs studie therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same ensample of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11 Bishops

Now, the really odd thing here is that this simple word spoudazo means to make haste. And as a side note: although I have found no suggestion that our word speed comes from this Greek word, based upon its etymology (word-origins) I suspect they are related: Old Saxon spodian, Middle Dutch spoeden. I may not be an expert, but those early words for speed sure look like the Greek spoudazo to me! I have to wonder, though, did the actual meaning of to make haste impact any of the translators? I mean, they had to know. So I looked for more translations and found two.

Douay-Rheims (1582):

Let us hasten therefore to enter into that rest: lest any man fall into the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:11 RHE

Wycliffe (1382):

Therefore haste we to enter into that rest, that no man fall into the same ensample of unbelief [that no man fall into the same example of unbelief]. Hebrews 4:11 WYC

Both of the above versions were translated not from the Greek but from the Latin Vulgate. Yeah, go figure. Even the Latin version gave them a better meaning of the Greek word that Greek scholars can’t seem to produce. The Douay-Rheims is a Catholic translation — which surprised me — but the one I’m more interested in is the Wycliffe translation because of its early date. Did the later translators know that spoudazo means to make haste? Look, if the Latin Vulgate which came from the Greek still retained the English meaning of to make haste, there is no reason to think otherwise. And you can be certain that they knew about Wycliffe’s translation, after all, he was called “The Morning Star of the Reformation.” On top of that, considering the fact that the Bishops’ Bible was used as the base text for the King James Version, the translators had come to the familiar “Let vs studie…” but decided against it. I can only imagine the intense and heated arguments before agreeing on an equally poor translation.

So, why did a word that means to make haste end up being used to convey striving or laboring. I mean, what’s that all about? Especially when I can plug the meaning of make haste into most all places where spoudazo is used — and it works. Check out this theological slop:

G4704 σπουδάζω spoudazo (spou-dad’-zo) v.
1. to use speed, i.e. to make effort, be prompt or earnest

How do you show the actual meaning, “to use speed,” and then say, in other words it means to make effort? You see, that’s the rationale used by the KJV crew to come up with “labor to enter his rest.” Really?! And that goes for almost every other translation as well.

Another form of that Greek word is also used in a few verses.

G4692 σπεύδω
speudō; a prim. word; to hasten, urge on

It’s used here:

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  Luke 2:15-16 NASB

“they came in a hurry.” KJV says they “made haste.” Not surprising, eh? I mean, you can almost feel the inner sense of urgency that compelled those shepherds to go to Bethlehem. Of the 4 uses of spoude, not even the KJV translators tried in insinuate striving or laboring. Such inconsistency!

If you take a look at Hebrews 4:11 in view of the meaning to make haste, it makes a lot more sense than turning God’s rest into something you have to work up or work for or strive and strain to enter. In context, the writer of Hebrews was comparing the Jews hesitance to truly believe that Jesus was the once-for-all sacrifice for sin with the hesitance of their ancestors who hung back at the entrance to the promised land. What if the writer was getting a simple message across to them like this: Get off your butts right now and enter into God’s rest!

I often picture modern-day religious folks as being just like the Hebrews who almost unanimously decided against going into the promised land. What if Bible translators have been of (or at least have been influenced by) the same mindset that existed in those who hung back in disbelief? Just hang on the impact of that for a moment. Wouldn’t something like that show up here and there? I mean, we’ve got people all over the world talking about their assurance in Christ, only to hang back in fear because they know there is a verse somewhere that says, “Let us strive to enter his rest!”

While it may be slightly better, even the NASB offering of “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest,” can be just as mired in the muck because the word diligence is given many meanings, as seen in some of its synonyms like: industrious, hard-working, assiduous, conscientious, particular, punctilious, meticulous, painstaking, rigorous, careful, thorough. Do you notice anything in those words that suggest speed or making haste?

This is a far cry from the simplicity found in the meaning: make haste. How about synonyms like hurry, urgent, right now, or even eager (as is used in some verses)? Yes, the true rest of God, where he rested from his works of creation, is found in Jesus Christ. This is a good message for those who hesitate to truly believe in the sufficiency of Christ based upon their religious affiliations and conformity to religious requirements. That’s who Hebrews was written to.

Jim

 

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