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Teaching, Rhetoric and the Middle Path

Douglas focuses on Spiritual Counselling. He has degrees in Psychology, Science and Humanities (and perhaps will add a PhD in the future).

Philosophical Nuggets Hidden in Bad Translations

This little nugget of gold is hidden in the original Greek text of the New Testament:

Wherever there is slavish heeding or yielding to others against or in favor of meats, fruits, the body or lusts, there is also - simultaneously - validation of fear or trembling. In the house or land of purposeful frankness, sincerity and open-heartedness, you all are the same as that abode; good, useful, honest and worthy.

Even in that translation, the material retains a poetic nature while otherwise sounding like a pair of contrasting philosophical dicta (an ancient rhetorical teaching technique). Similarly, the philosophical messages can be read at various levels, including the relatively subtle point of 'being in favor of what is good' rather than 'favoring or opposing things others say are worthy or unworthy'.

A portion of a work by Philip Galle (1537 – 1612) after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525 – 1569) - it is known as "Temperance".

A portion of a work by Philip Galle (1537 – 1612) after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525 – 1569) - it is known as "Temperance".

Temperance - Moderation by Another Name

The term 'temperance' is a synonym for 'moderation' - and in the case of the illustration shown above, it can be depicted artistically. In that case, it was associated with the following Latin text:

Videndum, ut nec voluptati dediti prodigiet luxuriosi appareamus, nec avara tenacitatisordidi aut obscuri existamus.

That, in turn, is traditionally interpreted - in English - to the following effect:

We must look to it that, in the devotion to sensual pleasures, we do not become wasteful and luxuriant, but also that we do not, because of miserly greed, live in filth and ignorance.

An alternate reading - keeping in mind that the subject of the illustration is 'temperance' or 'people that are temperate' rather than 'humans in general' - might be something like:

Observing and understanding, although not 'pleasure', 'satisfaction' or 'delight', are dedicated and devoted to our consumption, wastefulness and drives. Even if luxuriant and self-indulgent, we attend to and serve neither covetous and greedy tenacity that is sordid, mean or vile nor unintelligible, obscure, unknown, intricate, dark or shadowy creations, circumstances or appearances.

It seems like example of a great philosophical commentary hidden in plain sight by an educated artists that is fed up with religious nonsense - which is consistent with the reputation of Bruegel as a highly literate associate of Humanists. If so, the irony flows on many levels - just like the Biblical translation mentioned earlier.

A Chinese painted scroll known as "Star deities of the northern and central dippers" - it dates to the 15th Century.

A Chinese painted scroll known as "Star deities of the northern and central dippers" - it dates to the 15th Century.

Ignorant or Malicious Misdirection of Philosophical Commentaries

Such ignorant or malicious misdirection is not restricted to the West or Christianity - there are many examples that can be readily identified in other traditions. The name of the Chinese painting shown above) is one such example. It is known by the following description:

命北明

星斗景

君中泰

圖斗佚

軸本名

As noted previously, the traditional interpretation offered is "Star deities of the northern and central dippers". However, it can also be read as a philosophical commentary to the following effect:

Intelligent, sensible, informed and wise conditions and situations are good, excellent, peaceful, safe and stable. Being lost, indulgent and erroneous is reputed as failure and defeat. Time - even an instant - in the middle is correct and on target. Time - even an instant - is the foundation ... it is here and now. Life, existence, destiny, fate, luck, commands, descriptions, titles and names are countless - they are numerous and scattered everywhere. The venerable seek, plan and intend to promote messages that are apt.

A painting on silk depicting the death (nirvana) of Buddha - it dates to the 14th Century.

A painting on silk depicting the death (nirvana) of Buddha - it dates to the 14th Century.

Modern and Ancient Guidance Concerning the Middle Path

Many traditions speak about moderation (or the 'Middle Path'), including Buddhism (where it is known by the term 'madhyamāpratipada'). The Ancient Greek philosophers, too, referred to the 'Golden Mean' - the desirable between two extremes - and Cleobulus (c. 6th Century BCE) is attributed with the quote 'μέτρον ἄριστον' (which is traditional interpreted as 'moderation is best' [although 'duly proportionate or measured breakfast and lunch' may be more accurate ... and just as relevant]). In modern times, too, even commentators like George Monbiot (b. 1963; British environmental and political activist) have written about the concept. An example of such modern commentaries is provided in the following excerpt from Monbiot's article from 22 September 2021:

I mean the balance between competing values in which true radicalism is to be found: reason and warmth, empiricism and empathy, liberty and consideration. It is this balance that defends us from both co-option and extremism.

While we might seek simplicity, we need also to recognize that the human body, human society and the natural world are phenomenally complex, and cannot be easily understood. Life is messy. Bodily and spiritual sovereignty are illusions. There is no pure essence; we are all mudbloods.

Enlightenment of any kind is possible only through long and determined engagement with other people's findings and other people's ideas. Self-realization requires constant self-questioning. True freedom emerges from respect for other people.

The Title Page of an 1841 Edition of a publication including correspondence from Isaac Newton concerning the frauds he had identified in Biblical translations.

The Title Page of an 1841 Edition of a publication including correspondence from Isaac Newton concerning the frauds he had identified in Biblical translations.

Traditional Translations of the "New Testament" May Be Outrageously Misrepresentative

For those so interested, the original text of the quote that began this article likely read something like this:

"… οἱ δοῦλοι ὑπακούετε τοῖς κατὰ σάρκα κυρίοις μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου ἐν ἁπλότητιτῆς καρδίας ὑμῶν ὡς τῷ χρηστός".

If you happen to be wondering where it has been hiding all these years, it might be surprising to read that it is the basis of the 'slaves should cower before their masters as if they were being commanded by Christ himself' message arising from most English translations of Ephesians 6:5. One such example (from the King James Version) follows:

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.

Such a translation arises with the aid of the following morally and intellectually corrupt techniques: (i) ignoring 10% of the text; and (ii) deliberate word substitution (the term χρηστός is deleted and replacing with χριστός before the translation occurs).

Of course, upon reflection, duplicity and deceit appear to be habitual for some theologians (like many humans), as is hypocrisy when it suit them (again, like many humans) ... so it seems a bit par-for-the-course. Just the same, it is shameful in many ways, but at least Monbiot is probably not going to become a target for the same treatment by way of mistranslation (although people still may misrepresent him through ignorance or malice ... that is, after all, a thing some people do).

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