Saturday, March 01, 2008

If I Were Paul's English Teacher

In general I would never think that I could teach Paul a thing, let alone two...but since in fact he didn't speak English, I guess I could presume to teach him something there, though I don't profess to know English as officially as a certified English teacher. Often in reading his writings, I think back to school days and the red notations that would come back on my papers, and I dream of how I would dare to "correct" Paul, whose manner of writing would appall (forgive the awful nature of using this word here) his teachers...if he had the same teachers I had. I am in fact thankful he did not. Still, it's a little fun to poke a little Paul. And of course, I'm probably making mistakes or messing up the proper terminology, but it gives an idea of what I would expect to come back at me if I'd submitted this writing at school. For your benefit, I've toned it down from the crimson red to a rustier color, because the red was really overwhelming, as probably most school kids find it to be as well.
Since we are studying Ephesians at church, and I have been reading it to such a point of familiarity, I most readily draw examples from this short and wonderful book. Now, Paul has the advantage over me hands-down in that I know no Greek, the language of New Testament writings. Okay, so here we go, in Ephesians 1:10: "Paul, expand on this 'all things.' You use it various times in this letter, and yet you don't clarify what you mean. This is too general." I gather that in Ephesians Chapter 1:3-14 exists the longest sentence in the Bible, at least in the Greek (it got translated out in the English). I have to admit I'd have never known this if I wasn't told; I guess in reality a teacher reading the English wouldn't take such issue when it's hidden in the original language, but we'll pretend for this one that she--er, I--correct this important gaffe since it is very prevalent in his writings. "Paul, you have a bad habit of using run-on sentences, as you have done here. No one wants to read these; they get confusing. Please separate this into at least 7 smaller, more manageable sentences, and do this to all the many remaining run-on sentences in your work." Chapter 2:1: "Many of your sentences start with the word 'and', 'therefore,' 'for,' 'but,' 'so.' Please don't start a sentence with a conjunction. Also, if you are going to use 'according to' at the start of two of the segments, use it for all three since it applies to all of them; be consistent!" At 3:1: "You didn't finish this sentence. You got so excited about your subject that you digressed. Please finish the thought before you go on--and you wrote about something in brief? Where?" At 3:4: "You tell your readers to refer to another place where you have written, and yet you leave no footnote reference telling your readers where they can find this. This can only frustrate and mystify your readers." And at the end: "Paul, this has some high and weighty content in it, but your writing just doesn't do it justice. I'm afraid you're going to have to repeat this class if you hope to make a mark in the world."
I think you get my drift. If you are in high school and find that you have a lot of red marks on your writings, take heart. It may be the sign of good things to come, and I suspect God will be able to use you well as you submit to His least as well as you submit to those of your school teachers.

When we read the book of Ephesians together, my son Tim always stops us when we reach "But God..." and because our pastor was using this as something of an emphasis in his sermon series, he says, "As Pastor Ken would say, 'But God...' " in a dramatic fashion, and he chuckles a little bit, and we go on. Then when we read how Paul has written briefly, he chuckles again and says, "As Pastor Ken would say, 'In brief? Ha!'" So I have to admit that I didn't think up that "in brief" part on my own. I do enjoy my son's little fun-making aspect, and when it's my turn to read, I have learned to pause at those points and just let him do his little thing.

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