"Near" (was: Re: Matthew 4:17 'near')
Joe A. Friberg
JoeFriberg at email.msn.com
Mon Dec 6 13:08:14 EST 1999
From: "Jonathan Robie" <jwrobie at mindspring.com>
Sent: Sunday, December 05, 1999 7:55 AM
> Jeffrey Gibson wrote (quoting Caird):
> >The clause HNGIKEN hH BASILEIA TON THEON taken by itself is ambiguous: it
> >can mean either "the Kingdom of God has arrived" or "the Kingdom of God
> >imminent". But the ambiguity arises because the concept of nearness,
> >spatial or temporal, involves in any language a varying degree of
> >distance, which cannot be indefinitely extended, but which may diminish
> >vanishing point.
> Let's explore this in English. I have read that "the new millenium is
> in many places, even though it has not yet arrived. The phrase "draw near"
> is ambiguous. If I say that the enemy troops have drawn near to us, the
> meaning is somewhat different than if I say that Steve Miller's wife has
> drawn near to him, implying different distances and different
> depending on the context. Even in the latter case, if Steve Miller's wife
> draws near to him in the park, it may mean that she walked up to him, but
> if she draws near to him in a more intimate setting, it may imply a
> different kind of nearness.
I would like to delineate two issues revolving around 'nearness':
1. distance in absolute/objective terms, as might be identified in a
detailed description of the state of affairs, relationships, and
2. distance in relative/subjective terms, as stated from the perspective of
the speaker/author, highlighting what are the significant contrasts to
him/her within the situational context.
Many theologians frequently like to ask the first question, but the language
of the preacher frequently focuses on the latter. The two different sets of
questions must be kept separate, not blurred.
Specifically, the term HGGIKA gives direct information on the relative
distance: the speaker's perspective is that the Kingdom is 'near', not
'here'. While someone else, given the same objective circmstances, might
want to say 'it is here', 'it has arrived', that is not the *perspective*
given in the text! By use of 'near', there is necessarily a still closer
position that has not yet been attained.
The question of absolute nearness (distance) of the Kingdom can only be
deduced as a derivative from the context, not from the term itself.
(Although there may also be absolute limits on the application of the lexeme
'near': in English, the smaller the absolute distance is, the more I prefer
the term 'close' rather than 'near'.)
In translation, the perspective of the speaker/author should be maintained;
it is not enough to convey accurately merely the objective state of affairs.
The following should be elements included in translating HGGIKA:
1. the Kingdom is NEAR, not HERE
2. the Kingdom has COME from AFAR
3. the Kingdom is ABOUT to impinge FURTHER on the PRESENT
4. there is an UNCERTAINTY regarding the absolute DISTANCE of the Kingdom
and the TIME at which it will impinge further
Caird is simply wrong that "has arrived" is a viable equivalent, because it
violates #1, and to a large extent, also #3 and 4. Caird is also wrong
about saying that the ambiguity arises solely from the application of the
concept 'near' to varying degrees of absolute distance (he makes the mistake
of blurring the distinction between objective and subjective distance). The
fuzziness is actually *built into* the whole conceptualization of 'near':
even when you know the order of magnitude of the distance by context (say,
outside the front door), the term 'near' still keeps you guessing.
Other possible translations:
"is at hand" leaves out #2; does #3 & 4 well (but may be archaic?)
"is immanent" hmm, seems to violate #1, leaves out #2
"has come near" strikes me as unusual English; not very strong on #3
"has approached" this looks pretty good to me. Any comments anyone??
Joe A. Friberg
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