I was listening to an old sermon by David Jeremiah today in which he suggested that the original Greek of I Corinthians 2:15 would be read with a connotation of "surprise" which would be captured by a non-literal translation such as "baffles the world". This translation is supported by The Living Bible:

But the spiritual man has insight into everything, and that bothers and baffles the man of the world, who can’t understand him at all.

And Phillip's translation:

The spiritual man, on the other hand, has an insight into the meaning of everything, though his insight may baffle the man of the world.

Jon's answer to this previous question does an excellent joy of explaining the superiority of the NET's "yet he himself is understood by no one" over the traditional "yet he himself is judged by no man" and I debated whether it is really worth another question. I agree this translation makes more sense contextually and theologically, and eliminates the confusing nature of Paul's quote.

Still, I wonder if the "baffles" translation is better still given a functional equivalence translation philosophy. What evidence is there that Paul meant this passage to carry a "surprise" connotation?


I cannot see any. I'd also like to know why translators thought 'baffle' could be appropriate here. In a loose dynamic translation it's tempting to let it slide. But the same Greek word is used twice in that sentence the only difference being the active vs passive conjugation.

ἀνακρίνει verses ἀνακρίνεται (1Co 2:15 BGT)

I would translate it in the most literal sense "but the spiritual judges all things, yet of himself no one judges." Judge not in a soteriological sense of judgment but that of discernment like judging whether an action is righteous or foul. Translating to a different meaning of the same word in the same sentence is odd. The previous verse speaks of them viewing things as folly, or as Friberg's Analytical Greek Lexicon puts it; "what is considered foolish, intellectually weak, or irrational foolishness, nonsense"

This isn't baffling anyone in the sense of perplexing, bewildering, mysterious. It's "μωρία" or in transliterated English "moronic". Then verse 14 explains it is because they lack ability by not being spiritual themselves having rejected God. In their eyes they aren't confused. They see that this is clearly stupid unlike the implication of baffling that they are confused about it. Baffle just does not give the right intended meaning. Another word might, like "Though his insight will seem childish/moronic/silly to the man of the world."

The only possible use of baffle that would come close is if they mean it in the sense that it's so incredibly stupid to the world they don't believe someone would actually ascend to it's precepts and think it's bewildering in that light. That however adds a lot more to the text. The functional equivalent has license to do a thought for thought translation but it should not have the license to embellish the ideas. In the functional equivalent I would think it would be better to keep it in the context of discerning and non-discerning leaving it to the previous verse to give the reader context that these things are moronic to them. Just because something is translated in a functional equivalent text doesn't mean that a plain formal equivalent can't be used or convey the whole idea. Sometimes a word for word carries over the idea completely and needs no extra content.

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The NASB does a fine job at consistent literal translation. The word ἀνακρίνω anakrino, is translated as appraised. When one is indeed a spiritual person, who, other than God can really appraise, or judge.

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  • Welcome to Stack Exchange and thanks for your reply. I am glad you are here and hope to see more of your work in the future, so don't let the rest of my reply discourage you.... Unfortunately, you didn't actually answer my question. You are correct on the literal meaning, but as you probably realize words have a greater depth of meaning beyond their dictionary definition. (As an aside, I would suggest the NRSV has the most literal translations of the major recent Bible versions.) My question specifically asked about possible connotations for a "functional equivalence" translation. – ThaddeusB Aug 5 '15 at 3:28
  • In translation, there are two major philosophies - formal equivalence and functional equivalence. Formal equiv. means trying to translate word-for-word (i.e. "literal"), whereas functional equiv. means thought-for-thought translation (i.e. trying to best capture the author's original intent even if it means changing the words significantly). – ThaddeusB Aug 5 '15 at 3:31

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