The Wartburg Project

November 27th, 2016

28. Why does the EHV read “walk” where some other modern translations say “live”? What does it mean to “walk with God”?

The EHV preserves common biblical expressions and images. One example is a believer’s “walk with God.” Scripture states that “Enoch walked with God” in Genesis 5:22. Then it is repeated in Genesis 5:24. Genesis 6:9 informs the reader that “Noah walked with God.” Enoch and Noah were exemplary believers who lived with God in intimate fellowship by faith.

In explaining these passages, Martin Luther consulted Jude 14-15 to learn more about Enoch. Then Luther said, “Enoch was so equipped by the Holy Spirit that he might be a prophet of prophets and a saint of saints in that first world” (LW 1:344). Later, Luther wrote in the case of Noah that walking with God meant, “to carry on God’s business before the world, to occupy oneself with His Word, and to teach His worship” (LW 2:56).

The biblical expression of “walking with God” refers to intimate fellowship with God as a believer walks through life on the path set out by God. The image of walking through life on a path can be seen in the famous passage, “Your words are a lamp for my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is in the background of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it. How narrow is the gate, and how difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14).

Quite often in Scripture the term “walk” or “walk around” is used for a Christian’s life of faith and sanctification. It sometimes refers to how you conduct your life. There is a rather common expression in American English that goes something like this: “if you are going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” This idea of “walking” as a description for how you conduct yourself in life seems to have its origin in Scripture.

We often find the expression of “walking” in the epistles of the inspired apostle Paul. He was writing in tune with the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament. The EHV sees importance in preserving this biblical expression which appears dozens of times throughout the Bible.

You can find it in Jesus’ words, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Then in John 12:35, Jesus said, “The light will be with you just a little while longer. Keep on walking while you have the light, so that darkness does not overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.”

The apostle John was led by the Holy Spirit to continue this expression in his first epistle. “This is the message we heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light. In him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him but still walk in darkness, we are lying and do not put the truth into practice. But if we walk in the light, just as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5–7).

The inspired apostle Paul used this biblical expression of “walking” as much as anyone. A few examples follow. . .

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8). Some translations might say “Live as children of light,” but the Greek language had a term for “live” (zao) and the Greek word here is “walk” (peripateo). The EHV seeks to reveal this information to the English reader. It is not wrong to say that this expression means “live” or “conduct yourselves.” But that would eliminate the picture of “walking.” The biblical writers chose to use the picture of “walking” here, and the EHV joins other English Bible translations in trying to preserve this biblical expression.

A similar example can be seen in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Do you sense a connection all the way back to Enoch, who “walked with God”? The Holy Spirit could have moved the inspired apostle Paul to write the Greek term for “live” (zao), but it is the Greek term for “walk” (peripateo). This is useful information to an English reader.

There are many examples of this biblical expression of “walk” in the Bible. When you read through the EHV, we hope that revealing this expression in the text might open up new windows of insight for the Bible reader. Perhaps you will sense a connection to Genesis 5:22,24 and Psalm 119:105 in the back of your mind when you read words like these:

“Walk by the spirit, and you will not carry out what the sinful flesh desires” (Galatians 5:16)

“You are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than when I hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 3–4).

It is not surprising that this common biblical expression has made its way into English hymnody. The hymn “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” includes it in stanza three:

Only Jesus can impart
Comfort to a wounded heart:
Peace that flows from sin forgiv’n,
Joy that lifts the soul to heav’n,
Faith and hope to walk with God
In the way that Enoch trod.

— CW 385; also TLH 342