Friday, May 08, 2009

Hebrews 6:9: Future or Present?

This is a linguistic problem rather than text-critical problem. The text in Heb 6:9 reads:

Πεπείσμεθα δὲ περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀγαπητοί, τὰ κρείσσονα καὶ ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας, εἰ καὶ οὕτως λαλοῦμεν.

The NIV translates: "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accompany salvation."

The NIV, as most translations, follow the same interpretation of ἐχόμενα as in BDAG, s.v. ἔχω 11a: "to be closely associated" of proper situation or placement where the "to" of belonging and the "with" of association are expressed by genitive (in this case σωτηρίας), where Heb 6:9 is listed among the examples.

The Swedish Bible translation, B2000, on the other hand, reads in retranslation to English: "But concerning you, my beloved, I am, in spite of these words, confident of the better and that you are close to salvation."

Disregard the awkward style since this is a retranslation. The thing that interests me here is the interpretation of τὰ κρείσσονα καὶ ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας in a temporal (futuristic) sense as "the better things and coming (things) – salvation." Perhaps the focus on future salvation in 1:14; 10:25, etc. led the committee to this decision. However, salvation is also present to the author, e.g., 7:25.

The translation committee has apparently chosen to interpret ἐχόμενα according to BDAG s.v. ἔχω 11β, i.e., temporal, to be next, immediately following, hence "close," with σωτηρίας understood as an epexegetical genitive. I wonder whether this is possible, especially since there is no definite article with ἐχόμενα.

Perhaps it is needless to say that I will not follow the latter interpretation in the commentary I am working on.

Hebrews 10:39 offers an important parallell where the author, after a similar warning as in 6:4–8, associates the addressees with salvation, ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑποστολῆς εἰς ἀπώλειαν ἀλλὰ πίστεως εἰς περιποίησιν ψυχῆς.

Any insights and suggestions are welcome!


  1. "This is a linguistic problem, not a text-critical one"

    But to give textual criticism its due, what is the nature of the TR variant here, KREITTONA? Does it affect the translation any? What is its manuscript support?

  2. Tommy: "...a temporal (futuristic) sense as "the better things and coming (things) – salvation."

    From your description, it almost sounds as though the Swedish version assumes a conjectural ERCOMENA for ECOMENA.

  3. Maurice, check BDAG 11 beta for this rendering of ecw. But I don't think it works well here.

  4. Daniel, that variant is ortographic and does not affect translation.

  5. The OLD DEVIL, was created before ADAM.
    He never read any holly book to understand who, what and where the truly of god.