Subtle Subtext

I don’t think anything is more easily misinterpreted than text. Not so much textbooks but the free flow of someone’s hand communicating to someone else. letters, replies to posts on the internet, comments in a newspaper. That’s why people invented emotes I suspect. After all when you give a sarcastic reply verbally there’s usually a tell, maybe you wink or there’s a twitch to your lips. Intent is communicated through tone of voice as well as gestures, body language, facial expression and this can never be transmitted through text unless you know the person well. So when I read the Bible it’s hard sometimes for me to get the nitty gritty of what is meant without help.

Help comes first and foremost from the Holy Spirit both in me and in the translators. It can also come from commentaries, good teaching and friends. Today I was reading more Philippians. It’s so easy to forget Paul was writing a letter to people he knew and cared about. I was thankful for the new translation this morning that gave me fresh insight into verses I have read many many times.

And more so, I now realize that all I gained and thought was important was nothing but yesterday’s garbage compared to knowing the Anointed Jesus my Lord. For Him I have thrown everything aside—it’s nothing but a pile of waste—so that I may gain Him.

Philippians 3:8

The Voice tries to express what the readers would have understood, the subtleties and subtext we can miss because we are separated by almost 2000 years of culture and language change. The word garbage in this verse could be a much stronger word in Paul’s day.

10 I want to know Him inside and out. I want to experience the power of His resurrection and join in His suffering, shaped by His death,

Philippians 3:10

Can’t you imagine Paul writing, frustrated by the limitations of ink and paper, clenching his fists as he sought the right words to express just how much he wanted to know Jesus, how much he wanted those to whom he was writing to know Jesus. This greek word ‘to know’ was an idiom for the intimacy between a man and a woman, that’s the depth of knowledge Paul wanted.

12 I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go.

Philippians 3:12

I suspect the hand scribing these words was racing to keep up with Paul’s passion, the windows maybe rattling as the force of his urgency was expressed in louder tones. Can’t you almost hear him, see him running in place trying to express the way he is charging onwards, casting all else aside?

13 Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission.

14 I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed.

Philippians 3:13-14

Putting it all on the line. Paul was completely committed, no time for second guessing himself or his calling. No time to get distracted things that are garbage compared to Jesus. Then there he is again, sprinting now, getting a second wind to make new headway towards the goal of his life, towards the prize.

I confess I find reading the Bible dry sometimes. I am glad God gave me this insight today, I pray I’ll get it again and again as I run the race. As I feel that cloud of witnesses who must be cheering me on. I hope you got some of the excitement and enthusiasm I felt. If you could see me you’d have seen me trying to imitate Paul’s passion, making gestures as I tried to find the right words. I am no Paul but it did give me an insight, one I intend to hone and use to take me deeper into His Word.


4 thoughts on “Subtle Subtext

  1. Oh to have that passion for Christ that Paul communicates in this letter.. you did it justice in this and brought it to life. Thank you Jules 🙂


  2. You are right. The Word can sometimes become stale when we read it from our particular mood. However, reading the text in light of the passion that you expressed, it just came to life for me in a new way. Thanks.


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