Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Eirene Hymin

 It being then evening the same day, the first from the sabbath, and the doors shut up where the students were students were from fear of the Judeans, Iesous came and stood in the midst, and he says to them, Peace to you. And having said this, he showed both his side and his hands to them. Then the students rejoiced, having seen the Lord. 

Then Iesous said again to them, Peace to you. As the Father has commissioned me, I also send you.

And having said this, he blew on them, and he says to them, Take the Holy Spirit. If you might have let go the sins of any, they are let go for them; if you might hold fast of any, they are held fast.

[John 20:19-23, my rough translation. As always, when I do these I sometimes deliberately do wooden translations to break familiarity or merely-possible translations to look at the range of interpretations the text might afford. 'Students' of course is usually translated as 'disciples', which is accurate, but the word literally means 'students'. 'Judeans' could also be translated as 'Jews' (the latter is just a shortened variation of the former), but I've argued elsewhere that in the Gospel of John, at least, the word probably doesn't mean Jews in general but those that were specifically connected with the Temple and Sanhedrin -- for instance, the Gospel does not seem to include Hellenistic Jews under the designation, calling the latter 'Greeks'/'Hellenists', instead. 

Jesus's comment uses two different words for 'sent'. The first, apestalken, which I have translated as 'commissioned', is the same word from which we get the word 'apostle'; it often means a specific mission in which the one sent represents the one who sent. The second, pempo, is more general. It seems very likely that the use of the two terms in this context is very deliberate; the statement is not trying to draw a parallel, as it often seems to be in English translations, but giving an explanation -- Jesus has a mission with authority, and by that authority he sends the disciples in a way appropriate to his mission.

The final part is particularly interesting. It's often translated, "Receive the Holy Spirit", but the word is literally 'take' (it's the same word used in 'Take and eat'). The natural way to understand the final sentence is the way it is usually translated -- 'forgive' and 'retain', which they can undeniably mean -- but the words literally mean 'send away' and 'seize a hold of'. Famously, while both are subjunctive mood, the tenses are different; 'forgive' is aorist, looking to the past, while 'retain' is present tense, which can sometimes have the force of future tense. Some hold that this indicates that the 'forgive' part indicates a particular act of complete release, whereas the force of the 'retain' is something like 'for as long as you retain them', and thus ongoing.]