doctrinal implications of misparsing


I recently discovered that I have, once again, failed to correctly parse something in my native language. It's the hymn "There is a Green Hill Far Away". In it, the third verse reads:

There was no other good enough enough to pay the price of sin
He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in

I have always understood this to mean something along the lines that even Jesus could not cover our sins but merely create the tools that we needed in order to work out our own salvation (I believe in nothing if not salvation by work. Really hard work.) Apparently, the majority of people disagree with me and frankly think I'm a bit touched to read it this way. They see it to mean that Jesus was the only one good enough to have wrought what he did. One more proof that English, while native to me, does not always think like I do.

My reading makes so much more sense, though, doctrinally, doesn't it? I mean, we don't believe in salvation by grace alone, which the standard reading seems to imply. So I did a bit of poking around. The solution lies in the fact that, barring postmortal acceptance, Cecil Frances Alexander is no Mormon. She (that's right, a woman named Cecil!) was a British Protestant who wrote songs for her Sunday School class. So, she's all about sola gratia.

I appreciated this quote from Karen Lynn Davidson's Our Latter-day Hymns:

Mrs. Alexander did not ever travel in the Holy Land. Those who have been to Judea will have noted the absence of anything like the "green hill" of the hymn's first line; such hills are more typical of Mrs. Alexander's native Ireland. But the doctrinal truths of the hymn are more important than its correlation with geographical reality.

Right. No need to be accurate or anything. It's not like the Bible is the inerrant word or God for her. Oh, wait. Sola scriptura. Oh well. A for effort.

I think I'll just stick to my parsing though. It reminds me of the just how far I'll fall short of salvation.


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