Pressing on to Maturity
Hebrews 6:1a reads, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (ESV).
Or does it?
Without being alarmist about English translations of the Bible, I’d like to suggest that the common rendering of this verse is a bit off. (My Greek professor, Dr. Black, pointed this out to our class.)
It isn’t just the ESV that gets it wrong. Every other major English translation (HCSB, KJV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and NKJV) translates the Greek pherometha (φερώμεθα) as “let us go” or “let us press on.” The correct reading is, “let us be carried.” That’s a significant difference.
Phero is the root of pherometha, and the verb generally means “to carry, bear, or lead,” as in, “I carried the book to you,” “I come bearing sword,” or “I am leading this horse to water.”
So the first issue is: how do we get “go/press on” from “carry, bear, lead”? In context, we could understand pherometha to say, “. . . let us carry on to maturity,” which we might correctly translate, “let us go on to maturity.” So far, so good.
But pherometha is in the passive voice. My English teachers in middle school loved to rail against the passive voice. They constantly reminded us, “Don’t write, ‘The bagel was eaten by Jim.’ Write, ‘Jim ate the bagel.'”
Since pherometha is in the passive voice (present passive subjunctive first person plural, if you really want to know), it is inaccurate to translate it in the active voice, as in, “Let us carry.” Instead, it should be translated, “Let us be carried.”
Let’s compare the two translations, then. Most every English translation reads, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go/press on to maturity,” but the Greek is more accurately rendered, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and be carried on to maturity.”
I think that’s a fairly significant difference, don’t you? The question is whether we become mature by our own efforts, or whether we are carried on to maturity by the Spirit as a sailboat is borne along by the wind (another use of phero). Not only does the latter interpretation better reflect the Greek, it also seems more in line with the overarching gospel message.
For me, this means I can stop trying to be or at least seem mature and just focus on submitting to the Lord. Does it affect your understanding of Hebrews 6:1-2? Do you buy my argument?
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