Sunday, March 05, 2017

MESITHS (Christ as "Mediator")

This word potentially denotes: "one who mediates [between] two parties to remove a disagreement or reach a common goal, mediator, arbitrator," and it functions as a technical term (terminus technicus) in Hellenistic legal discourse (BDAG Greek-English Lexicon, 634). Louw and Nida suggest that Μεσίτης when used in the Pastoral Epistle, 1 Timothy (2:5) probably signifies: "a person who acts as a mediator in bringing about reconciliation," in other words, the term could mean: "mediator, one who reconciles" (40.6).


Duncan said...

JimSpace said...

1 Tim. 2:5 NET Bible:
For there is one God and one intermediary[7] between God and humanity, Christ Jesus.
[7] tn Traditionally this word (μεσίτης, mesith") is rendered “mediator,” but this conveys a wrong impression in contemporary English. Jesus was not a mediator, for example, who worked for compromise between opposing parties. Instead he was the only one able to go between man and God to enable them to have a relationship, but entirely on God’s terms.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Jim,

Okay, "mediator" might convey the wrong impression in today's English, but it's obviously not a mistranslation. One one hand, I think we could make the same claim about many (if not most) Greek words that we render into English: the translator is a traitor as the old saying goes. And it's also correct to note that Christ was not/is not a mediator in the sense that human arbitrators are. We don't negotiate with God or work our compromises when it comes to salvation or the new covenant, although ancient men and women of God did "bargain" with Jehovah in a sense. E.g., Abraham, Moses and Lot.

On the other hand, I sense that NET has smuggled in certain premises based on Trinitarian theology. Yes, Jesus was the only person fit to be the mediator/intermediary. But why? Yes, the relationship between God and those in the new covenant is on God's terms alone. However, we must ask whether it was necessary for Jesus to be God incarnate, in order for the new covenant to be concluded on God's terms.

Whatever the intention of NET here, I appreciate the thought. In the final analysis though, I don't believe NET overturns BDAG or Louw-Nida, et al. While BDAG and L-N do have mediator as part of the definition for mesiths, both sources expand on that initial meaning to avoid simply glossing the word in English.



Duncan said...

Just spotted an interesting NET translation of Job 33:23.

Edgar Foster said...

Interesting translation, but seems somewhat interpretive. However, I understand why.

Duncan said...

Also interesting contrast to LXX of job 33:23. άγγελοι θανατηφόροι.