One of the readings at church last Sunday was from Philippians 4, starting Rejoice in the Lord always, and continuing Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The preacher spoke mainly on the idea of gentleness.
As a choral singer, I know two anthems on that text, one by Henry Purcell (which my number one commenter of recent times, Batchman, mentioned in a recent comment) and the other by Anon or John Redford. The first uses the text Let your moderation be known and the second Let your softness be known, so obviously there are different translations out there. In fact, Bible Gateway has 25 overlapping translations of these words in 62 versions. These can be divided into noun( phrase)s (typically Let your N be known, or Let everyone see your N) and adjectives (typically Let everyone see that you are Adj).
gentle spirit 3
gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience]
chassidus (piety) 1
patient mind 1
unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit) 1
gentle and kind 3
gentle and gracious
gentle [kind; considerate; patient]
reasonable and gentle
unselfish and considerate
Two are very different: the Message version, which has Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them and the Worldwide English version, which has Let everyone know that you think kindly of others before yourselves.
The Greek word behind all these English translations is ἐπιεικής, epieikés, from epí upon and eikos equitable, fair. It is an adjective; the equivalent noun is epieíkeia. Bible Hub explains: epieikḗs (“justice beyond ordinary justice”) builds on the real intent (purpose) of what is really at stake … and hence, is true equity that appropriately fulfils the spirit (not just the letter) of the law.
I first said to the preacher that the best word out of all those seems to be moderation, but I later thought of the rather cumbersome equitability and equitableness, which, not surprisingly, none of the translations uses.
If any Greek (or Hebrew) word has 25 different (but overlapping) meanings in English (or any other language), can we say what the bible says (or even means)? I’m sure it is possible to worry too much about this, as I have probably just done.
I have but a brief moment to reply right now, but wish to comment about the words “equity,” “gentle” and “moderate.” I already posted about “equity” on this blog (though for some reason the search function doesn’t find the post). “gentle” has an intriguing etymological history and is related to “genteel” and “jaunty” among other things. As for “moderate”, it’s been a hot political word on this side for a long time, and I’ve been bemused by the continual berating of politicians for being “too moderate.”
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