A Very Inconvenient Truth (Part 3)

…Ready to plug some words where they belong? Ready to read “blessings” instead of “bountifully” or “generously”? Here we go! Click here for part 2.

2 Corinthians 9: 6 He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows “blessings” will also reap “blessings”.

Now that we did it, let us examine the verse for a minute. Read it carefully, and you will probably realize that it is not structurally correct. That is because the first part, using an adverb (sparingly) speaks of how (how…much?) to sow, while the second part, using a noun (blessings) speaks of what to sow. In other words, as currently written, one can easily make the argument that it is possible to sow blessings “sparingly”, which would readily highlight the problem with the structure of this sentence.

But this is where it gets very interesting…
Of the two occurrences of the word “blessings” in this verse, the Greek text actually has one additional word just before the first one, but not before the second. The Greek word in question is epi. So, the structure of the verse is actually as follows…

2 Corinthians 9: 6 – He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows epi” blessings will also reap blessings.

So what is epi? It means “on”, “to” or “on the basis of”. Verse 6 therefore reads:

2 Corinthians 9:6He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings.

Now this sentence is structurally sound, because the two parts speak of the same thing: how to sow! How amazing! And in case you wonder, we shall see that it is not “how much” either. So what are we seeing? All three bible versions (and may be more) not only changed a word (blessing), but also deleted one (on the basis of)! We have a double jeopardy, yay!!

The meaning of the second statement (…and he who sows on the basis of blessings will also reap blessings) could not be more different than what these bible translations and church leaders would have us believe.

It is clear that it is the motivation behind – or the basis for – the sowing that is the focus here. What a difference a seemingly insignificant 3-letter word can make! By itself, it confirms that the motivation, the motive, the intention, the basis, the attitude, etc. is what is of concern in this verse. Now therefore, a plausible paraphrase of the second part could be…he whose motivation to sow is that it will bless someone will himself receive blessings in return. The quantity that is to be sown is not at all being referenced here…and guess what…it does not need to be! Why? Because if the other instances of the word eulogia such as in Galatians and Hebrews (as discussed in part 2) are any indication, the very fact that the sowing is performed on the basis of blessings automatically implies that the “right” quantity will be given.
So, dear church leaders…it is time to teach people HOW to give, and stop hammering them about HOW MUCH to give, because that is simply not what this verse teaches. But…will you do it? You know your church bank account may experience some – how shall we say it -…issues as a result! Or will it…

By the way, here is how the amplified bible (AMP) cleverly puts it.

2 Corinthians 9:6  …he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.

If you asks us, we see an attempt to reconcile these two views, by making reference both to the quantity, and to the way one sows…all in one sentence…clever huh?! Unfortunately, no matter how pleasing this may sound, we simply find no biblical basis for that.

It is actually very clear that all these bible translators understood full well the need to have sentences that are structurally correct. Look. They used adverbs when changing the meaning of the noun eulogia. They used the adverb generously, not the noun generosity. They used the adverb bountifully, not the noun bounty. And to make all fit, the word epi simply had to be removed. Why? Because otherwise there are two choices: either one writes…on the basis of (epi) generosity, or one writes…generously.  But these two statements are very different. The former clearly emphasizes the motivation, while the latter could certainly refer to the the quantity. They chose quantity (and our church leaders are the more happy for it), and epi had to go! Here goes the sad story of our little epi

So where does that bring us? To the first part of verse 6 of course. Now that we have restored the wordings in the second part, we may now turn to the first part…and there, sparingly sure sounds like quantity! Or does it…?

A Very Inconvenient Truth (Part 2)

In this series, we are making the argument that, in 2 Corinthians 9: 6 and 7, God does not make at all reference to the quantity one gives. In quite a contrast, we are arguing that the sole focus (and emphasis) of this passage is on the intention behind the giving. Click here for Part 1.

Are you ready for some Bible translations?
Let’s revisit verse 6, but now looking at not one, but three (3) popular bible translations: The New International Version (NIV), the New King James Version (NKJV), and the New Living Translation (NLT).

2 Corinthians 9:6 [NIV] – Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
2 Corinthians 9:6 [NKJV] – But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
2 Corinthians 9:6 [NLT] – Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.

We see that verse 6 identifies two courses of actions leading to opposite results. The first – sowing sparingly – results in reaping sparingly, while the other – sowing bountifully – results in reaping bountifully. These two actions are claimed to be making reference to the quantity sown: “sparingly” versus “bountifully” respectively. In fact, the NLT version makes this specific claim very explicit with its translation: “planting a few seeds versus planting generously (in other words, planting many seeds)”. There is no doubt that the three Bible versions refer to how much one sows.

But wait…what is that Greek word again?
See, the word that was translated “bountifully” in the NKJV and “generously” in the other two versions is the Greek word eulogia, which means blessing. This word – eulogia – actually appears in 15 other places throughout the New Testament. And in most of them, it is translated (guess what)…“blessing”. Let us look at just two such instances (Galatians 3:14 and Hebrew 6:7) in both the NKJV and the NLT.

Galatians 3:14 [NKJV] – That the blessing (eulogia) of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:14 [NLT] – Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing (eulogia) he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.
Hebrews 6:7 [NKJV] – For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing (eulogia) from God.
Hebrews 6:7 [NLT] – When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing (eulogia).

Hum…Interesting!
Did you notice that even the NLT translates this word as “blessing” in both instances!? And actually, it turns out that save only one (1) other place (Romans 16:18), 2 Corinthians 9 is the only place where this word eulogia is not translated “blessing”. Therefore, in the face of such exception, one must ask…WhyWhy is eulogia not translated here as “blessing” as it is everywhere else? This fact alone should cause us to look further into what appears to be a blatant discrepancy.

In all of those places where the word “blessing” is used, what is highlighted is the good intention of the one giving. Simply the intention to bless, not more and not less. In the case of Galatians 3 and Hebrews 6, the one who gives is God. When we read these passages, we cannot help but realize that what is received is something good, and that it was given with the best of intentions…it was given, literally…to bless. That is the focus in those passages.

How much quantity you said it was?
The one giving gives because he or she knows how much it will bless the recipient. There is simply “no” indication of the quantity given other than it must be the right quantity. Let us think about it for a minute. Back in Hebrews 6:7, how much quantity of rain does the earth receive from God? Does it receive a lot of it? We all know that too much rain could be very bad. What about a little of it? We all know that too little rain can be very bad as well. So what is the right answer, because it is a fact that the earth does receive some rain?! The only right answer pertaining to quantity is that the earth receives the right, perfect quantity of rain. This bears repeating. The earth receives the right quantity of rain from God. And being the right quantity is one reason it is a blessing, otherwise, it would not be! Too little and the earth would starve, too much and it would saturate.

Galatians 3:14 is even more profound. What was the quantity of the blessing Abraham was promised? That’s a good one huh! All we can say with assurance is that it was the right quantity…that’s all, the right quantity! Therefore, we see from these records that by its very definition, a blessing already embodies within itself the notion of right quantity. The right quantity is one of the attributes that makes a blessing what it is…a blessing.

Two major points here.
One: Bible translations. They introduce in their own rights a host of issues, as was already illustrated previously. Here as well, it is manifestly no different. None of the three popular Bible versions cited here used the right word…blessing! Why?
Two: Nature of a blessing. The different passages referenced here demonstrated that a blessing, by its very nature, includes the notion of right quantity. When it is a blessing, the quantity given is the right one. So what’s next? Well, it is time to take the wrong word out (bountifully or generously) and plug in its stead the right one (blessing) and see what will happen…