I want to ramble a bit on the Lectionary and then pose a question I hope our readers can answer. I have not done this in a while (for the last times I can recall, see here and here), but I have started serving as a lector again, and this leads me to read the text much more closely than usual. I was a lector this past Sunday (July 8), and I was assigned the second reading: 2 Cor 12:7-10. As soon as I started to prepare the reading, I was thrown by the first line:
Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
“Elated?” I thought to myself, “that does not sound right.” So I went off and checked another version. I use an evangelical website (Biblegateway.com) that links to a bunch of different translations. The NIV is my default version there. It has a somewhat different word order, but the key word here is “conceited”:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
“Conceited” sounded right, but to make sure, I turned to the New Jerusalem Bible, which has been my favorite translation for 20+ years:
Wherefore, so that I should not get above myself, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to batter me and prevent me from getting above myself.
So now we have “get above myself” which sounds much more like “conceited” than “elated.” So I started flipping through other versions. Turning to the venerable Revised Standard Version, I found almost exactly the same translation as in the Lectionary:
And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.
Again, “elated.” But the King James Version, from which the RSV is descended, has “exalted”:
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.
My curiosity was piqued: what is going on? Young’s literal translation gives some clue as to what the Textus Receptus says and here again the word is “exalted overmuch”:
and that by the exceeding greatness of the revelations I might not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of the Adversary, that he might buffet me, that I might not be exalted overmuch.
At this point I had to figure out what was going on in the original Greek. Turning to another evangelical site I use (The Blue Letter Bible), I looked up the Greek text. The underlying Greek word is “ὑπεραίρω”, or in Latin characters, “hyperairō“. Using the handy links, I learned that Strong’s Concordance defines this word by
to raise oneself over, i.e. (figuratively) to become haughty:—exalt self, be exalted above measure.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives much the same meaning:
to lift oneself up, be exalted, be haughty.
Now both of these reference works are from the nineteenth century, so it is possible that our understanding of Greek has developed sufficiently that the underlying word translated as “exalted” could more naturally be rendered “elated”. But I could not find a modern biblical concordance online, and I do not speak classical Greek, so I cannot use a professional tool like the online version of the Liddell-Scott Greek dictionary. (Alas, my son Francisco the classicist has avoided taking Greek in favor of more Latin.)
So I am sharing this in the hopes that one of our readers can answer my question: what is going on in the Lectionary (presumably from the NAB) and the RSV that this word gets translated as “elated”? To me it does not really seem to fit in the context, though while poking around I found one blogger who did interpret the passage using “elated” over “exalted” (as well as list a couple more translations that use “elated”). I am aware that the NAB has been criticized for adopting readings with dubious textual support, but the RSV is generally considered to be a very good translation (and “elated” survived into the the NRSV). So, what is going on here?