1Cor 4:1-5 — personal translations

As part of this month’s focus on scripture, I want to share some of my own translation work.  I am finding that the exercise (drill? work? practice?) of translation carries with it more power to get me closer to the text than any other activity I have experienced to date.  Therein lies the primary value, I suspect — it is very personal for me — although there could also be some insight gained by someone who reads and considers the way I’ve translated this or that.

I will also share my renderings of Philemon in a few days.  These translations are works-in-progress — always subject to revision.  The wordings shown below were last revised less than two weeks ago.

Below are my translations of 1Cor 4:1-5, followed by commentary and notes.  Comments are welcome, as is the re-use of these materials.

I. Relatively LiteralSo let everyone[1] deem[2] us subordinate partners of Christ and managing caretakers of God’s disclosed secrets.[4] 2 Furthermore, in our case, it is requisite[5] among the caretakers that one be found trustworthy. 3 But it is negligible[6] for me that I would be judged by you or by a human day in court[7] . . . for I do not assess myself, 4 and I myself am aware[8] of nothing [untrustworthy], but I do not stand justified in this [fact]; rather, judging me is [the prerogative] of the Lord.[9] 5 Therefore, do not assess anything prematurely, before the Lord should come;[10] he will both illuminate the secrets of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts . . . and then the commendation[11] will come to each one from God. [12]  II. Expansive ParaphraseSo let everyone take reality into consideration, regarding us as oarsmen[1] who are subordinate to, and rowing with, Christ our captain—and also as “household managers” of the God-matters designated for insiders.  In thinking of specifically of ourselves as managers, it is a requirement that we be found dependably faithful. 3  But as I myself consider things, it’s inconsequential[2] that we should be judged by you or by contemporary judgment . . . and, come to think of it, I don’t even assess myself; 4 in any event, nothing at all arises in my own consciousness[3] that would suggest anything other than faithful dependability, yet it is not because of this that I stand in an justified state. Actually, it is the Lord who has the prerogative of judging and approving me. . . .  5 Summing up, then:  you must not judge anything before its time—that is to say, not before the coming of the Lord.

He will turn the light on—revealing any hidden dark corners.

He will also display the motives of our hearts.[4]

Then God’s approval—the type that matters—will come to each one.

Rev. 2/10/15

© 2015 Brian Casey.  All rights reserved.  However, any sincere, reasonable request to use one or both of these translations, in whole or in part, or any information from the commentary/notes below, is hereby granted!  (I’d appreciate hearing from you if you save or use this in some way.)

Resource Key

  • BAG57 = Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich lexicon, 1952/57
  • L-N = Louw-Nida
  • MM = Moulton & Milligan
  • RWP = Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament

Commentary and Notes on Literal Translation

Brian Casey, Jan-Feb. 2015

[1] The general “mankind” sense of anthrōpos here is clearly different from, e.g., 7:1.  In keeping with current, common English usage, I’ve rendered the singular anthrōpos as the collective plural “everyone.”

[2] logizesthō, a present middle/passive imperative, seems to have the “intensive” middle sense of emphasizing the agent’s action more than participation in the results.  See above note:  I have opted for the plural sense in the case of the agency.

[4] mysterion—one of only three Pauline uses of this word in the genitive followed by a deity reference. MM provides some intriguing secular context, ultimately emerging with this meaning: “a secret which God wills to make known and has charged His Apostles to declare to those who have ears to hear it.”

[5] hōde loipon — A minority reading is ho de loipon.  ōde seems to denote a concept (“in this/our case”) rather than a locality (“here”).  Some strength in the Greek is to be found in this pairing of terms.  Burton’s Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek shows that the verbs zēteitai (from zēteō) and aphiēmi, usually followed by an infinitive, are each followed one each by ἵνα with the subjunctive,” as it is here in 4:2. BAG57 suggests the sense of “required” as opposed to “sought” or “demanded” here.

[6] elachiston—generally, but not exclusively, a superlative.  See L-N and MM, the latter of which points to 1Cor 15:9 as an example of the true superlative. Cf. 1Cor 6:2, also in a judgment context.

[7] L-N (§ 56.1, Courts and Legal Procedures |A Court of Justice”) gives this rendering: “I am not at all concerned about being judged by you or by any human court.” A differing view is seen in Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament, which suggests a rhetorical contrast between “human day” here and “the Lord’s Day” in 3:13.

[8] MM, LSJ, and Swanson’s Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) suggest that sunoida is a perfective verb used with a present sense.  The word can connote either conscience (NIV and NLT) or conscious awareness (many other English translations), among other subtleties.  Here, either sense (or both) might be indicated.  TDNT notes, apparently with the etymological components in view, that there are two egos at work here:  one that knows and one that shares in the knowledge or consciousness.  For further reading, see TDNT A.1.D. (“When reflection extends to one’s own deeds assessed in connection with human responsibility conscience arises in the moral sense”).

[9] From the last clause of v3 through v4, several facets combine to suggest a chiastic structure:  two reflexive personal pronouns (lines 1 & 2 below), three negations (lines 1, 2, and 3), two perfective verbs at the center (last word of lines 2 and 3), and the contrastive outer senses:  1) Paul’s not judging himself (line 1) and 2) the Lord’s judging Paul (line 4).

ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω ·

4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα,

ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι,

ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν.

[10] The conjunctive use of heōs followed by an and the subjunctive is a grammatical topic of some weight. Taken alone, the deponent erchomai might be said to connote an active sense of a coming-in-progress, whereas the particle and the aoristic aspect of the form elthē seem to suggest something different—combined with a deponent “middle” sense that emphasizes the subject:  ho kurios. The semicolon after this clause suggests a convincing pause after the imperative and the poetic “until the coming of the Lord,” while v5 is still well connected.

[11] epainos is a compound word often rendered “praise,” but in non-deity contexts (such as 1Cor 4:5 and 11:2,7), “commendation” or “approval” seems more apt.  Moreover, since the action of the verb is flowing from God to humankind, it seems better to avoid the connotation of “religious” praise.

[12] Thematic and verbal connections may be observed in Romans 2, viz. judgment in general, God’s judgment of the secrets of men (Rom 2:16, ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ὅτε κρίνει ὁ θεὸς τὰ κρυπτὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιόν μου διὰ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ), and commendation from God (Rom 2:29, οὗ ὁ ἔπαινος οὐκ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλʼ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ).  Cf. also 1Cor 14:25: τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς καρδίας αὐτοῦ φανερὰ γίνεται.

Notes on Expansive Paraphrase

[1] hupēretas is a compound noun, and the second part is from a derivative of eressō.  RWP gives this note on v1:  “The under-rower of Christ has a position of great dignity as steward. . . .”  The juxtaposition of word-concepts here, then, may be intentionally paradoxical: under-rower, dignified house-manager, and care of God’s secrets.  

[2] I suspect there is some Greek emphasis in the combination of estin (a “being” verb) and what RWP refers to as a predicate use of eis that is also found in Hebrew and in the papyri.

[3] Expanding on the suggestion of, e.g., MM and LJS, that sunoida is a perfect used as a present, I have in this paraphrase attempted to combine the aspects here in this paraphrase: “arises” serves as a present tense, while “consciousness” subtly implies a perfected awareness.

[4] The parallel construction here is evident in the two future tenses and the two prepositional phrases with genitives.


9 thoughts on “1Cor 4:1-5 — personal translations

  1. Paul Pollard 02/21/2015 / 9:39 am

    Brian, Good job! I appreciate your heart for the text and getting down into the “cracks.” Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  2. godschildrenorg 02/21/2015 / 11:20 am

    Your translation inspires me, comforts me. It flows well. I especially appreciate the clear reminder that only God knows and judges the intent of the heart. Some are so quick to judge, condemn, push away others because they judge the intent of hearts…actually having no idea what is in anyone’s heart. Often what they perceive as the intent of another’s heart is actually what the judger would do in that situation. “One day God will turn the light on, display the motives of all of our hearts.” Yes, God’s approval is all that matters. ~~ Anne in Transylvania


  3. Brian Casey 02/21/2015 / 10:09 pm

    When two smart, scholarly, insightful, devoted people take a moment to encourage and to notice details of my “overachiever” translation work, I am humbled and most grateful. I’m under no illusion that I have good answers all the time, but getting close to the text does me good. There is more translation “stuff” coming. I often write in order to process thoughts and feelings — which can be dangerous. . . . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • godschildrenorg 10/12/2017 / 6:47 pm

      Reading this again today, I am deeply moved by the clear expression of the message’s intent in your “Expansive Paraphrase — So let everyone take reality into consideration, regarding us as oarsmen[1] who are subordinate to, and rowing with, Christ our captain—and also as “household managers” of the God-matters designated for insiders.”

      For decades people have said, “God is my Co-pilot!” And, I want to reply, “Really??? You have your hands on some of the controls?” God is My Pilot! However, “oarsmen who are subordinate to, and rowing with, Christ our captain,” totally describes the reality of our walk as intentional followers of Christ! Thank you, Brian!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Brian Casey 10/12/2017 / 8:15 pm

      This is timely to receive in two respects. You couldn’t have known. I took a mental health day off today, and was considering God and text *and other things of life) in different light as I hiked in a state park. You are very kind to affirm this, and to take the time to go back to read it at this point. I like very much your relating the captain idea to the flawed co-pilot idea!

      Liked by 1 person

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