49 The sprinkling of hearts. Heb.10:22
Many years ago the gardener of my son-in-law came to him with a proud announcement.
“I discovered the essence of electrical appliances.”
“I discovered what makes it work; sort of the ‘lifeblood’ of electrical appliances.”
Yes, what is it?”
It’s smoke, sir.”
“Yes, once it leaves the appliance, it just dies. We just have to get the smoke back into the lawnmower and it will work again, for sure!”
Now what do you do when the “essence” is left or taken out of a clause of Scripture? Should you just accept it, or should you rectify the version you use?
This is exactly what happened in some versions in Hebrews 10:22.
Most versions of the Bible, both old and modern, have a direct translation of the Greek in Heb.10:22: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water …”
Yet some very old versions did not translate the Greek word (rherantismenoi) but rather the meaning of the expression “having one’s heart sprinkled”. Examples are the Geneva Bible of 1587 (…our hearts being pure from an euill conscience …) and the Dutch Staten Vertaling of 1637 (…onze harten gereinigd zijnde van het kwaad geweten…)
But we also find this important aspect lacking in a few modern versions.
(BBE :”Let us go in with true hearts, in certain faith, having our hearts made free from the sense of sin and our bodies washed with clean water:”
(CEV): “So let’s come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let’s keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water.
(GNB): “So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water.
Literally the Greek says: “Our hearts sprinkled of a guilty conscience.”
One might ask why “sprinkling” should be regarded as the “essence” of this clause. Where does it point to?
There are two possibilities.
1. It could refer to the ancient Hebrew cleansing rituals i.e. in Numbers 19:1-10 where the blood of a heifer had to be sprinkled in the direction of the Tabernacle. Of course this ritual had been fulfilled in Christ, and the “sprinkling” would refer to the blood of Jesus.
2. The second possibility, as is proposed by Otto Michel ( Der Brief an die Hebräer, p.346) is that it points to Ezekiel 36:25 that had been fulfilled in baptism. This links perfectly with the second part of the verse: “…our bodies washed with pure water …” Michel sees the possibility that in this verse, we might even have to do with a baptism formula. Baptism does not only cleanse our outside (Heb.9:9) but especially our inner being, the heart as seat of our conscience.
No matter how one would interpret this verse, “sprinkling” is the essence of how we are cleared of an evil conscience. If it is left out, an important aspect of our faith is ignored.
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