Sunday, March 22, 2015

Romans 12:11 Aglow With The Spirit.

Pictorial Language Series

Romans 12:11 “Be industrious, not lazy. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.” Other translations

I was intrigued by an observation made in the 2013 New World Translation in an appendix on page 1719. There it said that the Greek word used for “aglow” was “boiling.”

Depending on which Bible verse is being referenced with regards “zeal,” those recognized as respected Bible commentators (see note below) have proposed two different interpretations of "spirit." First is the power that God gives us to accomplish his will. In this respect, we give Him all credit for the small part we play in accomplishing his will. Second, "the spirit" could be the spirit we demonstrate, our outward prominent demeanor characterized by heartfelt appreciation for God's love.

So which is it in Romans 12:11? As always, taking into account the context helps to solve the issue. Notice verses 9 through 15. In the context of those verses, Paul addresses cognitive, decision-based actions and attitudes. Our predominant character is, in effect, “aglow” with appreciation for God. But what does being “aglow,” showing “zeal,” being “enthusiastic,” or any of the other words used in the linked “other translations” shown above have to do with the Greek word “boiling”? That to me was the intriguing part of the question. Surely the translators must have stumbled on something that would help them understand “boiling” as “enthusiasm, zeal, fervor.”

The closest I came to an explanation is the following quote: “literally "boiling" with interest or desire.” Perhaps young, expressive children are the best at illustrating this emotion. They come up to us ready to burst inside with all the amazing things they experienced that day. Just like a boiling pot that may start bubbling over the sides of container, these children are bubbling over with gleeful expressions about their day. Additionally, In American English we have a few phrases that begin with the words "bubbling over." There is "bubbling over with excitement; bubbling over with enthusiasm; and bubbling over with joy."

In all these, the phrase "bubbling over" is actually a reference to a cooking pot that is boiling and therefore bubbling or spilling over the sides of the pot. Although there is no proof the phrase actually came from zeo, the Greek word for boil, its interesting that it is used the same way in the Bible as we do in modern speech. With that in mind, we can now ask, “What did Paul mean?”

In answer, like the small children and the common phrase "bubbling over" previously mentioned, true Christians ought to find their faith so invigorating that others seeing our contagious, infectious joyful spirit, would be obliged to react as they would to a boiling pot--taking action either in a positive or negative way, but not passively.

Note about Bible commentators: Although it is readily known that I completely respect the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for its explanation of scripture, for the sake of this article I was actually referring to more general authorities such as the ones commenting on Romans 12:11 on this link.

Watchtower References:
Issue: 12/15/2010

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