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Musings -- A Continuing Series of Comments on Specific Translation Issues within the International Standard Version New Testament

by Dr. David Alan Black

"So great is the force of established usage that even acknowledged corruptions please the greater part, for they prefer to have their copies pretty rather than accurate."


drblack.jpg (5141 bytes)
Dr. David Alan Black
Associate Editor
, ISV New Testament

Good Citizens

"Conduct yourselves" or "Live as good citizens"?

Philippians 1:27-30 constitutes a single sentence in Greek containing a single main verb, politeuesthe (verse 27). This verb is the first command in the entire book and is therefore of great significance. The term politeuesthe is unlike Paul’s customary word for Christian behavior, peripateo (to "walk" or "live"). Literally, Paul’s command is to "live as good citizens."

Considering the fact that the Philippians were Roman citizens who took their citizenship very seriously (the inscriptions at Philippi are in Latin rather than Greek), Paul’s language gives his admonition special prominence. Alas, both the NASB and the NIV have "conduct yourselves." How does the ISV put it?

The only thing that matters is that you live as good citizens in a manner that is worthy of the gospel....

Thus, it is out of their cultural background that the readers are challenged to live as those who have a vastly more significant citizenship.

As one writer has put it, Paul is reminding the Philippians of the new matrix of their existence in Christ that provides them with their identity as a community in the midst of a Roman colony. They are citizens of a new order of being whose reality will endure while Rome’s will crumble. Their role in the midst of the Roman order is to live as worthy citizens of the new order, and the bulk of Paul’s letter provides them the worldview and ethos of citizenship in this new order.

"Conduct yourselves" or "Live as good citizens"? Only one rendering accurately reflects Paul’s thinking. You make the choice.

Introduction Poetry Lettuce? Press on? Good Giving Good Citizens Can Faith Save? On Poets & Liars An Ode to Love The Disciple Teachable? Sloppy Agape Mustering Mystery Alliteration Whom Sweet Whom Conclusion

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