I started reading St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and I was really struck with the opening seventeen lines. Here’s the New American Bible translation which divides the seventeen lines in a greeting, a thanksgiving, and a profession of the Gospel. I took a few liberties with the arrangement on the page so I could emphasize the individual sentences. I put the line number in parenthesizes and did not separate according to established line numbers so that one could read the sentence as it flows.
The NAB translation has been criticized for its lack luster English, and while the diction may not be elevated I find the rhythm of the sentences rather pleasing. When people criticize bible translations for not having lofty or sublime language, they are usually reacting to the diction. But diction should be a function of the original text. It should approximate the original language’s style, elevated or low, simple or flowery. If the original text is not lofty in its original language, then I don’t see any reason why the translation should be. I can’t speak to the diction choices made for any of the translations since I don’t read the original Hebrew or Greek. But I can appreciate the sentence arrangement. Here it should also approximate the original style but it should have modern rhythm.
Quick orientation: Paul is writing to the Christian community in Rome for an upcoming visit. He has been planning such a visit for many years, but his plans have been repeatedly disrupted, mainly because he’s been incarcerated for preaching Christianity.
Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
(1) Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, (2) which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures, (3) the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, (4) but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
(5) Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, (6) among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; (7) to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(8) First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world.
(9) God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in proclaiming the gospel of his Son, that I remember you constantly, (10) always asking in my prayers that somehow by God’s will I may at last find my way clear to come to you.
(11) For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened, (12) that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine.
(13) I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I often planned to come to you, though I was prevented until now, that I might harvest some fruit among you, too, as among the rest of the Gentiles.
(14) To Greeks and non-Greeks alike, to the wise and the ignorant, I am under obligation; (15) that is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome.
God’s Power for Salvation
(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel.
It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek.
(17) For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.”
I love that part about mutually encouraging one another’s faith. Faith does seem to increase as more participate together. I hope you got to appreciate the rhythm of the sentences, but more importantly I hope it provided a touch of faith for this Friday.