17 July 2016
Here's a picture of the agenda of recent naturalization of 191 new Americans. Ethiopians took the prize at this ceremony for the most new citizens but folks from another 49 countries also passed the test and took the oath.
As fine as all these folks may be, we made the trek to Our Nation's Capital for only one of them, son-in-law Attilo Arcari.
We have known Attilio for seven years, over five of them as the husband of our daughter Lisa.
Attilio is a fine husband, an excellent cook, and a leading expert in the field of corrosion. (Paying closer attention to his father-in-law's political advice may perhaps be one of the few areas that have room for improvement.)
I also learned something in preparing for the post-naturalization party. In contemporary English translations of the Philippians 3.20, the Greek word πολίτευμα (politeuma) is translated as citizenship:
20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
The Italian translation of these verses, however, uses patria, not the more technical cittadinanza:
20La nostra patria invece è nei cieli e di là aspettiamo come salvatore il Signore Gesù Cristo, 21il quale trasfigurerà il nostro misero corpo per conformarlo al suo corpo glorioso, in virtù del potere che ha di sottomettere a sé tutte le cose.
Which is interesting because in the Vulgate, Jerome used conversatio, which found its way in the Authorized (King James) Version as follows:
20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
What does any this mean? While I’m not sure about Jerome or the translators of the AV, I suspect that the difference between contemporary English and Italian may have to do with a difference in perception of one’s relationship to his native country. Americans generally think of their connection with the United States as primarily consisting of legal rights and liberties. Not as much Italians whose relative ethnic homogeneity leads first to the idea of fatherland.
Which understanding best gets at Paul’s use of politeuma? Certainly neither is wrong. In the immediate context of his audience in the city of Philippi, a Roman military colony directly related to Rome, the idea of legal citizenship makes good sense. Yet a Christian’s relationship to heaven is more than one of legal status. After all, no legal citizenship in an earthly country can lead to the transformation of one’s body; only an organic (albeit Spiritual) relationship can change who and what we are. In other words, only connection to a new Father(land) can change our real identity.