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Present Continuous

A translator’s life must be full of headaches. How do you express the fulness of the source in a different language. The problem must be even worse for bible translators. No-one today is a native speaker of Koine Greek (the language the New Testament was written in) anymore than you can track down a native speaker of Old English and yet, compared to other things that are translated, like novels and business documents, far more people are relying on the chosen words as a guide for their lives.

One part of that Greek that I am aware of is the present continuous tense, which is used in the phrase often translated along the lines of “be filled with the spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). A few translations, such as the recent International Standard Version, attempt to make that more explicit: “keep on being filled with the Spirit”. Most, though, leave it as a tidbit for preachers to explain.

I have often heard it painted as “be filled, like a hose, not just like a bucket” – in other words, filled with a flowing stream rather than a static portion. However, I liked the way Vanessa described it in her talk today (goes live on Sunday – we film our Tuesday morning service to create our online Sunday service): “You wouldn’t water your garden only once for the summer”.

I know there are gardens designed to operate without watering, even in prolonged dry spells. RHS Hyde Hall has an excellent example of what can be done in pursuing that path. However, for most gardens – certainly for the tomatoes and other crops that are growing in my polytunnel – this is absolutely the case and the image is made powerful for me by the hours I’ve spent hauling water in to care for them. Life, including spiritual life, needs ongoing, present continuous nurture.

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