My Favourite Translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

My favourite translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is from The Message.

Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.

Translating the vice lists in Paul’s letters is hard. Even if we know exactly what a particular word means in the context of the 1st Century (and we often don’t) it isn’t clear how to understand a 1st Century sin in a 21st Century context. For practical purposes, the vice lists shouldn’t be understood as lists of specific prohibitions, but rather as general guidelines on how to behave. I think The Message translates this vice list perfectly. It covers the general meanings of the terms, and it is in harmony with the types of behaviour that mean we do qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.

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3 thoughts on “My Favourite Translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

  1. I approve the sentiment, but it is hard to call this good translation. Some of the nouns in Paul’s list are famously hard to translate, as you argue elsewhere on this blog, but others aren’t. The Greek specifically refers to worshippers of images, to thieves and robbers and greedy people, to people who speak abusively. It also uses the language of inheritance and not of citizenship (the Greek language as used in the Roman empire had a full vocabulary concerning citizenship, but that is not what Paul used…). It does not mention the earth. To give this to people to read is to replace translation with interpretation — and thus to deny them the opportunity to make the same interpretation for themselves.

    • It is stretching the term ‘translation’ a bit, but I like it in this case because it captures the sense of what Paul meant, in the wider context of Christian teaching. The more conventional translations of the vice lists are often used as forms of commandments, making Christianity into a system of rules, like a poor man’s Law of Moses.

      I think there could be another blog post on the subject coming up 🙂

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