for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you”; behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”; 2 Corinthians 6:2
The – Is it once upon a time or is it as an appropriate time? If you read the translations in the NASB or the NIV or the NKJV, you might think that there is a single, acceptable time when God acts on behalf of His children. That’s certainly what it looks like with the definite article “the” in front of those critical words. The only problem is that there in no definite article in the Greek or the Hebrew texts. So, how did it get there?
We might ask why anyone would add the definite article when the text clearly says, “an acceptable time” and “a day of salvation.” The answer is a bit obscure but important. In our preoccupation with the evangelical end-game of heaven, we continually stress the issue of final destiny. We put a great deal of emphasis on the stamped-ticket theology, making sure that the opportunity to board the train to glory doesn’t pass by. How much stronger is that clarion call when it is accompanied by a verse that gives you exactly one chance at the golden ring! If you don’t ask for forgiveness right now, you might die and go to hell. So get on your knees, sinner. You never know what might happen to you tomorrow.
But what happens when we read the text as it is written? What happens when we see that both Paul and Isaiah are not talking about a one-chance opportunity but rather about God’s ceaseless pursuit to restore relationship with Him. If the verse reads, “At an opportune time (kairos) I listened to you, and on a day of salvation (deliverance and rescue) I helped you,” we see that God is at work over and over and over, bringing about kairos moments when He presents us with His glory and His reinforcements. Now the emphasis shifts from the frenzy of ticket-punching to the unfailing pursuit of the Hound of Heaven.
Of course, that does not mean we can delay repentance. None of us controls tomorrow. The urgency of decision is still paramount. Resistance leads to hard-heartedness and hard-heartedness is a step toward judgment. I must respond to God’s pursuit if I want to enjoy the life I was meant to have and enter into a relationship I was meant to enjoy. But the emphasis of this verse shifts from me to God. This is a theological proclamation of His unyielding love, not a threat that I might miss the train. It’s such a subtle change. We would hardly notice the difference if we didn’t compare the text in the original languages. But it’s still a change. It makes a difference. Frankly, it exposes a great problem with our contemporary translations. They all come with theological bias. If you read them at face value, you will be gently persuaded toward a particular theological point of view. Unfortunately, this means that you and I have to do our homework. It’s no longer possible to just rely on your favorite version. Tiny changes creep into your thinking and all that it takes are tiny changes to remove you from the Word of God.
Today you discovered that reading the Bible isn’t as easy as you thought. That’s OK. If you are ready to do the work, you will know the truth. That’s what you want, right?
Topical Index: Translation