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KJV

From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

NIV (and others)

From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

What does the original language literally say? (On), or (in) the body?

I'm not asking for an exegesis, I'm asking for a literal translation.

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  • 1
    In and on means the same thing.
    – Michael16
    Mar 22, 2023 at 6:19
  • I think Keenan's Question is wholly valid and Michael's Comment unlikely to be true, even if it had used 'mean' instead of 'means.' @Michael16 What do you think was the original language? In that tongue, where is it written that 'in' and 'on' mean the same? Mar 23, 2023 at 20:59
  • Robbie. In English they are interchangeable, and in all languages. Epi επί for on/over could be used as well. Oil over my body, church over this rock. Εν or επί doesn't make a significant difference. ECM shows 26 variants on εν in Gal 6.17 but doesn't show the variants. I'm sure they must contain επί. ntvmr.uni-muenster.de/ecm
    – Michael16
    Mar 24, 2023 at 4:38
  • Sorry but '… and in all languages' makes it clear you are not really comfortable with English. Can you say what your native language is, or why that might not matter? 51 versions of 'The Bible' showed me 40 variants on Galatians 6:17, with a few blanks. How is it even conceivable, let alone admissible that so many different versions are to be ignored while this, that or the other one somehow becomes accepted? Taking your own examples 'Oil over my body' does not work in English. You might use 'Oil my body' or 'Pour oil over my body' but English does not admit 'Oil over my body' Mar 25, 2023 at 21:55

5 Answers 5

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The Greek preposition ἐν is predominately translated into English as “in” but is indeed sometimes translated as “on”. The apostle Paul refers to στίγματα (lemma στίγμα), which refer to marks made on one’s body that indicated to whom one belonged (e.g., a slave-master or commander) or to what one was devoted (e.g., the service of a temple).

According to LSJ,1

enter image description here

Note that the marks are essentially tattooed or branded. Therefore, not only are they on the body, since they are visible on the skin, but they are also in the body, since the mark is made in the flesh.2

Either translation is acceptable given the understanding that the marks are visible on the surface of the skin and penetrate into the flesh underneath the surface of the skin.


Footnotes

        1 p. 1645, στίγμα, 1.
        2 cf. Lev. 19:28

References

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

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  • If you truly believe 'on the body' and 'in the flesh' are equivalent, would you mind using the plebian English alphabet? It's possible my lack of Greek puts me in a minority and even in SE Biblical Hermeneutics, how sure are you of that? Mar 23, 2023 at 21:05
  • @RobbieGoodwin—“If you truly believe 'on the body' and 'in the flesh' are equivalent”—that's not what I said. You ever seen a cattle branding? Where is the branding? Is it on the body or in the body? It's a combination of both. That's what is occurring in this context of the στίγμα, which is a branding. It is on the body, since it is visible to the naked eye. It is in the body, because the brand penetrates into the third layer of epidermis. Mar 24, 2023 at 2:10
  • Do you not see, what you said amounted to their being equivalent? Do you think many members might share that doubt? My suggestion is simply that you address the OQ and provide a literal translation, instead of an ambiguous comment. Does the original language literally say 'on' or 'in' the body, or is that you're not sure? Mar 24, 2023 at 21:54
  • @RobbieGoodwin—I did address the original question. I apologize if it is not simplistic enough for you. The original language literally says ἐν, since it was written in Koine Greek, not English. Mar 25, 2023 at 4:34
  • I suggest you did no such thing. You sidestepped the very useful Question with an irrelevant 'Answer.' Despite your contribution, the Question remains 'What does the original language literally say'? Mar 25, 2023 at 22:06
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The text in question, the second half of Gal 6:17 reads:

ἐγὼ γὰρ τὰ στίγματα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματί μου βαστάζω. = for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. [NASB]

We cannot be too precise here because these Greek prepositions have multiple meanings and can correctly be translated more than one way.

In this particular case, the Greek preposition, ἐν, can be (and is) correctly translated as "in, on, among" (Strong's). See also Thayer >> https://biblehub.com/greek/1722.htm . If Paul wanted to be more precise, he had more precise language available but obviously elected to say what he did.

Paul's remark here simply refers to bodily scars from beatings and other experiences. The Pulpit commentary note this:

I am one who bear branded on my body the flesh-marks of Jesus. The ἐγὼ is inserted with emphasis. Being such as he here describes himself, he had a claim upon his brethren to be spared unnecessary annoyance. The Greek word stigma here employed denotes a mark on the flesh, either by puncture, its proper sense, with a hot, sharp instrument, very often with hot needles (see Prudentius's lines quoted by Grotius in his note on the χάραγμα, mark, in Revelation 13:16), or more summarily by simply branding without puncture. It served sometimes as a mark of permanent ownership, as upon horses or cattle (Liddell and Scott, sub verb. στίζω). In respect to slaves, it was not considered humane to brand them, except for punishment, or as security in particular cases against running away. Hence στιγματίας, brandling, designated a scoundrel or a runaway slave; as Aristophanes, 'Lys.,' 331; 'Av.,' 760. Others besides slaves were sometimes branded in ignominious punishment: Aristophanes, 'Ran.,' 1507; Herod., 7:233.

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This almost touches on the very notion of the Eucharist and the body of Christ.

Either the difference between ‘in’ and ‘on’ matters a very great deal, or the Question should be valued on the difference. Which works for you?

Where could ‘I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus’ come from? Various Answers and Comments here suggest the Question is resolved by brand marks yet where has it been suggested anyone ‘… bore on his body the brand-marks of Jesus’… whether that meant literal iron-branding marks or not?

That the Greek preposition, ἐν, is correctly translated as ‘in, on, among’ suggests at best that the translator ignores the context. Could that be helpful?

If Paul had more precise language available, what exactly might he/that have said?

Can you say how anyone ‘obviously elected’ anything? How do you know he didn’t use those words simply for lack of further thought?

Who doubts Paul's bodily scars from beatings and other experiences should be on, not in, his body?

Doubtless Greek ‘stigma’ denotes a mark on the flesh… ‘More summarily’ adds what but confusion?

The Pulpit commentary seems much more tenuous. When you say ‘I am one who bear branded on my body…’ should that be ‘I bear…’ or ‘I am one who bears…’? That I never heard of anyone bearing ‘flesh-marks of Jesus’ matters little. What matters is that your translation was wrong, invalidating anything based upon it.

ἐγὼ is inserted with emphasis means what, in English? Unless you want to exclude all but scholars of Greek, please first at least present ἐγὼ in the Roman alphabet and then provide a clear translation, remembering that ἐν, means ‘in, on, among’ only by context.

How could it matter that being such as he here describes himself, he had a claim upon his brethren to be spared unnecessary annoyance… even if that was rendered in proper English?

You might claim that ‘proper English’ was a niggle and isn’t the real Question how close anything comes to the heart of Christianity in any language?

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If we are going to get nitpicky like this, then it would be opposed to Paul's theology to pay any attention to the outward appearance or any actually visible marks on the flesh. E.g. "now we know no man after the flesh" (2 Cor 5:16). Moreover, the marks of Christ refer to the marks of crucifixion. That is, this is a continuance of the theme "I am crucified with Christ" in Gal 2:20 or Romans 8:17 "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." or "bearing about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor 4:10). This does not refer to a visible outward stigmata, which Paul did not have. Paul was whipped, famously, but those are not "marks of Christ" and such outward marks were of little meaning to him. Especially when a dominant theme in his writings generally and Galatians specifically was the contrast between the inward death of the body that we bear versus the outward marks on the body such as circumcision -- the inward marks being superior to and obsoleting the outward marks. This is the theme of Galatians. It would then be ironic if Paul turned to any outward cutting as a proof of his own spiritual authority. The inward cutting of the body by the spirit is what mattered to him, and what he wanted to matter to the Galatians. It was the inward cutting that crucified him to the world and vice versa. It is in this sense that Paul said "I am crucified with Christ" -- and the coda to this is "I bear in my flesh the marks of Christ". That is the only "mark of Christ" that mattered to Paul, and as such, the more common interpretation of "in" is more appropriate in this context.

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As prevoius said by others, the original greek word could mean both "in" or "on".

As any linguist, in this kind of situation, you can look at the context for the semantics to determine the proper way to translate. In this particular word, you can use either word, since it does not alter the semantics of the text. But if you really want to be very strict about your translation, you can investigate further:

Since Paul gives his wound as a proof, then it is safe to say that it was visible (as any proof). Being visible mark, you can say that is "on" the body (even if the mark penetrates deep inside the body). "in" can suggest an internal wound - but this cannot be seen as a proof for others.

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  • The context doesnt support a visible mark as a brand; and since the preposition is "in", it maybe better understood as a spiritual mark, that he's referring to, which means he belong to Christ.
    – Michael16
    Mar 29, 2023 at 13:25

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