Lost in Translation

I will confess that sometimes when reading scripture, I find some of the expressions the translators have chosen for certain things a bit hard to understand.

One such example is in Romans 1:16, Paul’s famous manifesto:

He says (ESV)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew and also to the Greek [often translated as gentile]

I have the original Greek of this (and verse 17) written on cue card which I intend to put on my desk at work (below). The ESV is pretty much a word-for-word translation (although, we need to be careful that translation doesn’t always work like this). However, I continue struggle with the phrase “it is the power of God for salvation”. I can see that Paul is getting at the idea that the Gospel is the means God uses to bring salvation, but I can’t get my head around the exact meaning of the phrase, probably because I’m not used to the word “power” (greek δύναμις- the word is also translated as “ability” or “means” elsewhere in the NT, but pretty much every major translation puts it as “power” here) being used in such a way in English.

Does the “it” refer to the gospel itself, or is it a kind of generic “it” (such as “it is raining”)? If it does, what does this phrase mean exactly?

It might be obvious, but I can’t really see it.  Maybe I should have just listened during GCSE English!

2013-03-10 13.18.26

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