The experts tell us that the key to holding the attention of an audience is variety. A monotone speaker puts most of us to sleep. A similar writing bores us with its monotony. The key to effective public speaking and to interesting writing is variation.

Paul certainly would have pleased the experts with his writing in 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9. He uses the Greek word charis (grace) in so many different ways in these two chapters that falling asleep would have been impossible for the alert reader/hearer. Paul’s rhetorical expertise is not so obvious in the English. A Greek reader, on the other hand, is forced to stop and ask, “How is he using that word this time?” This is a highly effective way to make a point—and to keep an audience on its toes.

The word charis occurs ten times in these two chapters. Here are the locations and the translation decisions made by the translators of three major English versions of the Bible:

Verse:                  KJV                           NIV                            NASB

8:1                             Grace                                  Grace                                  Grace

8:4                             Fellowship                          Privilege                            Favor

8:6                             Grace                                  Act of grace                       Gracious work

8:7                             Grace                                  Grace of giving                  Gracious work

8:9                             Grace                                  Grace                                  Grace

8:16                           Thanks [be to God]          I thank God                       Thanks [be to God]

8:19                           Grace                                  The offering                       Gracious work

9:8                             Grace                                  Grace                                  Grace

9:14                           Grace                                  Grace                                  Grace

9:15                           Thanks [be unto God]     Thanks [be to God]          Thanks [be to God]

Grace still means “unmerited favor.” It still refers to God forgiving human sin. But, as the above passage clearly demonstrates, the word has a much broader range of meaning as well.

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