"Through a glass darkly"

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SMiLe
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"Through a glass darkly"

Post by SMiLe » 17 Mar 2015, 13:15

It is hard to read posts on this site without coming across a reference here and there to 1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
It is obvious that this passage holds a lot of meaning for us and I am no exception. The more that I have thought about it though, the more I have realized that my personal interpretation of the scripture has evolved over time.

Originally, I thought of this phrase in a modern context of glass. Sort of like what it would be like looking through a piece of clear glass that has had a heavy window tint applied to it. I was viewing things in a dim and hazy way. I could make out what was on the other side, just not clearly.

At some point in time, I came across the explanation of the words taking into account an ancient context. The reference to glass is most likely a mirror (a looking glass if you will). Ancient mirrors were a hand polished piece of metal. If you have ever looked at your reflection in a piece of metal, like the doors to an elevator for example, you can sort of make out that the reflection is a person but the reason that you know it is actually you is because the reflection is following your movements, in other words, even harder to see clearly. Also, elsewhere in the bible, the word for darkly is used not to mean an absence of light like we use it now, but rather an enigma or a puzzle. So, in addition to Paul saying that we see a really poor image of things, he is also telling us that we are looking at a puzzle and may not see how all of the pieces fit together yet.

Recently, my thoughts on this scripture have begun to change yet again and I wonder if Paul was really telling us that we have no idea what things really look like "on the other side of the veil" (to use the church phrase)? Maybe he wasn't telling us that we can only glimpse a partial view of heaven. Maybe he was telling us that what we know of heaven is simply a reflection of us on this side. We are all finite creatures trying to describe the infinite and we simply can't convey the infinite in our capacities here. So, every time we try to describe the infinite, we put some sort of limitation upon it through our language and thus turn it into a reflection of ourselves in the finite realm. Because of these failings, we won't truly have the answers to the questions until after we move on from this finite existence.

So, that's where my musings have arrived at lately. My question to everyone else here is, what does the scripture mean to you?

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DarkJedi
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Re: "Through a glass darkly"

Post by DarkJedi » 17 Mar 2015, 13:32

Great analysis. I think I see through a glass darkly just as you describe. In fact, as my thoughts have evolved of late this scripture is why I can believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and why I can understand how our modern prophets see things, also. Their mirrors aren't better than ours, and we are all limited by human understanding and language and expression. I really do believe that at least some of the top leadership of the church get this.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Roy
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Re: "Through a glass darkly"

Post by Roy » 17 Mar 2015, 13:39

SMiLe wrote:Recently, my thoughts on this scripture have begun to change yet again and I wonder if Paul was really telling us that we have no idea what things really look like "on the other side of the veil" (to use the church phrase)? Maybe he wasn't telling us that we can only glimpse a partial view of heaven. Maybe he was telling us that what we know of heaven is simply a reflection of us on this side. We are all finite creatures trying to describe the infinite and we simply can't convey the infinite in our capacities here. So, every time we try to describe the infinite, we put some sort of limitation upon it through our language and thus turn it into a reflection of ourselves in the finite realm. Because of these failings, we won't truly have the answers to the questions until after we move on from this finite existence.
The best part about symbolism and metaphore is that things can take on meanings that are different then what the original author intended but are nevertheless true. I do not believe that this is what Paul intended but that doesn't stop me from finding truth in the metaphore. I very much agree that our religious perspectives (both personally and collectively) are heavily influenced by our experience.

Thank you for sharing this! :thumbup:
SMiLe wrote:So, in addition to Paul saying that we see a really poor image of things, he is also telling us that we are looking at a puzzle and may not see how all of the pieces fit together yet.
I have also benefited from comparing the differences between puzzles (with only one correct solution) and mozaics (with many possible combinations each bringing its own beauty and meaning).
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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LDS_Scoutmaster
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Re: "Through a glass darkly"

Post by LDS_Scoutmaster » 17 Mar 2015, 14:04

I see where you are going with that and it's an interesting concept. That scripture has helped me reconcile the anomalies and contradictions through prophecy, from ancient texts to modern prophets, and my own prophecy/inspiration.
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Curt Sunshine
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Re: "Through a glass darkly"

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Mar 2015, 14:57

As evidenced by my signature line, I love that passage (and the entire chapter) - and I enjoy perspectives on it that add multiple possibilities for interpretations that resonate with me. Yours certainly resonates with me - and I have used Roy's mosaic analogy more than once in talking with people at church.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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On Own Now
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Re: "Through a glass darkly"

Post by On Own Now » 18 Mar 2015, 06:39

The Greek word translated as "darkly" or "dimly", in other translations, is ainigmati (enigma), which, as you pointed out, also carries the meaning of "a riddle". The scripture in 1 Corinthians is the only occurrence of the word in the NT.

'Mirror' is the proper translation of the thing we are looking into. I will point out that in ancient times, nobody knew what they truly looked like. An individual could only see a reflection... a mirror image... and a poor quality one at that. When you look at a photograph of yourself, you see yourself as you really are, which is different from the way you see yourself in a mirror. But back then, they could NEVER see themselves in that way. Other people could see them as they really appeared, but they could only see the dark, blurry, and distorted mirror image; an imperfect representation of the reality of themselves.

For reference, here are some translations:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. --KJV
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. --NRSV
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. -- NIV
For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. -- NET
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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
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"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
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