Invisible Wordplay in Hebrews 12
The last verse of the second reading in the Roman Catholic lectionary this weekend caught my attention, because the wording (from the NABre, Heb 12:5-7, 11-13) seemed so odd:
So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.
Disjointed? What an odd word to use there. Do people’s lame wrists and knees become dis-jointed if they are not strengthened by exercise? I’m imagining dislocated shoulders here; can wrists and knees become dislocated? What an odd image to use in a reading that is mostly about discipline, trials, and training.
So of course I went off to compare translations. The NKJV does say dislocated; NIV disabled; several translations say “put out of joint”, and several say “turned aside” or “out of the way”.
What does the Greek say, though? Ektrepo, ἐκτρέπω, which looks like it means out-something, or out-of-something. It’s G1624 in Strong’s lexicon, with a root word of G5157, trope, τροπή, which means “turning”.
It seems this is a word with both a literal medical meaning of dislocated, and a figurative meaning of being turned out or turned aside. What a perfectly apt word choice in a passage that is using the metaphor of physical training for spiritual discipline. It resonates with and sheds new light on the gospel passage that follows, Luke 13:22-30, in which those who have not practiced spiritual discipline are, indeed, turned aside by the master of the house, turned out from the kingdom of God.