Monday, December 10, 2012

Anyone / everyone / each one - Colossians 4:6

There's an important difference between "anyone", "everyone" and "each one".

When I see a shop advertising "everything £1", I sometimes think of trying to get the entire contents of the store for only £1, because that's what they are offering. Likewise, when Paul says in Colossians 4:6

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV 1984)

what the passage clearly means is that somehow we are enabled to come up with a clever answer that will work on everyone. Except that isn't what the Greek says.

What the Greek says is literally translated as "how it is necessary for you to answer each one", and that is very different. That means that each individual is distinct, that some people will need one answer and others another and that God will equip us with wisdom as to how to answer each person well. That's what the passage really means.

The "every" is there in the Geneva and the KJV, but I don't know if it meant exactly the same there. Among modern translations, it's in the NIV (and the new NIV!), the NRSV and the Good News. The ESV, the NKJV, and the HCSB get it right though. But then, so did Wycliffe back in the 1300s!

4 comments:

Daniel Hill said...

Thanks for this post, Custard, but I don't agree, I am afraid. I don't agree that `everything is £1' (Poundland's slogan) means the same as `the sum total of the entire contents of the store is £1'. I think `everything is £1' means the same as `every (single, individual) thing is £1' or `each (single, individual) thing is £1' or, as we sometimes say for emphasis, `each and every (single, individual) thing is £1'. (Compare: `everyone is welcome' doesn't necessarily mean that one wants the entirety of the human race to attend simultaneously en masse.) Similarly, it seems to me that `know how to answer everyone' means the same as `know how to answer every (single, individual) person' and `know how to answer each (single, individual) person' and, as we might say for emphasis, `know how to answer each and every (single, individual) person'. It doesn't seem to me to mean `know the one single answer that will work on every person'.

Daniel Hill said...

Perhaps a better example to show that `every' and `each' mean the same might be this: `everybody has one brain containing two hemispheres'. This means the same as `every person has one brain containing two hemispheres' and `each person has one brain containing two hemispheres', and, as we might say for emphasis, `each and every person has one brain containing two hemispheres'. It definitely doesn't mean `the sum total of humanity, taken all together, has one brain containing two hemispheres'.

John Allister said...

OK - the semantic range of "every" and "each" overlap, and as you note "each and every" is sometimes an important emphasis and clarification.

My point is that the most natural sense of the two phrases is different. (Most natural to me anyway - I can look it up in Fowler's if that helps...)

Daniel Hill said...

I don't see any difference in the meaning of the two phrases myself. Fowler does not comment on the matter, I am afraid.