neither angels nor demons…

…will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is a fundamental truth, and, this verse, Romans 8:38-39, as translated in the NIV, makes perfect sense. Neither that which is of heaven, nor that which is of hell, may separate us from Christ Jesus.

The NIV translation also illustrates the Jewish concept of our two natures, always at war within us: our yetzer hara, or bad instincts, fighting against our yetzer hatov, which, according to Jewish tradition, lies dormant until we attain our thirteenth year and become bar mitzvah.

Bar mitzvah meaning, literally, “son of commandment,” but commonly understood to mean “son of the covenant” with God. A Jewish adult, in other words, in full communion with the believing Jewish community. Likewise, we who know Christ as Lord are sons of the New Covenant, and, in a parallel with the fight between evil and good within us, are able to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

So the NIV translation would seem to be right on the mark. Unfortunately, it also does not appear to be what Paul actually wrote. A better literal translation, the English Standard Version, has this for Romans 8:38-39:

38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The King James version has something similar, “…nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers…” So, did the translators of the NIV believe that “rulers” was synonymous with “devils?” Not exactly.

The concept that I would accept is that “rulers” and “principalities” are other ways of saying the snares and delusions of this world. The world that is Satan’s province, in other words. Jesus told us that “My kingdom is not of this world.” It logically follows then, that that which is evil may, indeed, be found in the rulers and principalities of the here and now. The NIV “thought for thought” is, therefore, a better translation in this instance — if one seeks to underlying meaning.

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