Wednesday, February 28, 2007

John 4:23—God seeks those already worshiping Him?

This is my first "Huh—look at that" post.

When I preached through John about twenty years ago, this passage stumped me. Oh, the EVV are clear enough:
ESV But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

CSB But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him.

NAS "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

NET But a time is coming– and now is here– when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers.

NKJ "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

NIV Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

All are pretty plain in saying that the Father seeks people who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Standing alone, you could lean the verse Calvinist (yayy), or Arminian or worse (booo).

The trouble is the Greek text.
ἀλλὰ ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν, ὅτε οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσιν τῷ πατρὶ ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ· καὶ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν.
The ESV's "the Father is seeking such people to worship him" renders τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν. "To worship" represents a (in itself) straightforward articular present participle. Other considerations aside, we'd more probably render it something like this: "for indeed the Father seeks such as these who worship Him." The worship, then, is either antecedent to, or concurrent with, the Father's seeking activity.

This is borne out in parallel uses of ζητέω and an articular present participle:
Ecclesiastes 3:15 τὸ γενόμενον ἤδη ἐστίν καὶ ὅσα τοῦ γίνεσθαι ἤδη γέγονεν καὶ ὁ θεὸς ζητήσει τὸν διωκόμενον

Matthew 18:12 Τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ; ἐὰν γένηταί τινι ἀνθρώπῳ ἑκατὸν πρόβατα καὶ πλανηθῇ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν, οὐχὶ ἀφήσει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον;

Luke 24:5 ἐμφόβων δὲ γενομένων αὐτῶν καὶ κλινουσῶν τὰ πρόσωπα εἰς τὴν γῆν εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτάς· τί ζητεῖτε τὸν ζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν·
In each, the condition precedes the seeking. In none of them is it the design of the seeking.

At the time, I ransacked every book I had. I've since looked in more recent books (including Wallace). No one seems troubled by the construction; or they are, and that's why they don't comment.

So what is Jesus saying? Are there those who, as He speaks, are worshiping the Father in spirit and truth already, and the Father is seeking them? Or is it some sort of pregnant construction that warrants the insertion of "as" or "to be," leaving open the thought that they aren't thus worshiping Him at present, but the Father will bring them to that point by sovereign grace?

When I expounded it, having found no help in my resources, I took it in the sense that there is in true worship a mutual seeking. We seek after God, and He seeks after us (Psalm 145:18; Proverbs 15:8, 29, etc.). Bringing in the rest of the Bible, I'm constrained to confess that this would never happen apart from the prior, monergistic grace of God (Romans 3:11-12).

But that still leaves this passage, and I admit I've no confidence in my understanding of it. It's yet another (to me) large question that it is as if the commentators have agreed that they'll all pass over it in silence.

So, I appeal to the Ἑλληνιστὶ γινώσκεις; brain-trust. What do you-all make of it?

(If you're a lost beginner, hang in there; I have posts coming just for you.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ooh, wide-margin NA27! (Plus funny story, no extra charge)

Matt Harmon gives a heads-up about a wide-margin Nestle-Aland 27 on the market. (Also, there will be a wide-margin BHS.) Pretty cool.

This reminds me of my beloved wide-margin NA25. It came in a blue, cloth-texture hardcover edition. I took it to a binder in Glendale, and had it bound in brown leather.

It was a pretty tough NT. I took it with me on trips, hiking, sightseeing—everywhere.

When I lived in Buena Park, sometimes I would cross the street to a Carl's in the morning. I'd take my Greek NT, get some coffee, and just read before my roommate got up.

Once I did this, then came home. After a few moments, I realized my NT was missing. So I raced back to the Carl's to see if they'd found it.

When the young man came up to take my order, I said, "I was in here earlier. Did someone find a brown, leather-bound Greek New Testament."

His look of utter incomprehension was eloquent. In addition—how to say this delicately?—I do not think English was his native language.

So I repeated very deliberately, "A brown, leather-bound Greek New Testament."

Helpfully, he asked, "A wallet?"

I suppose if I'd been a better Christian, I'd've told him that it contained more riches than any wallet ever did. But, small person that I am, I wanted to say, "No. Here's how that would have sounded: 'a wal-let.' But here's what I said: 'br-r-r-o-o-o-o-w-wn-n-n, lea-ther-boun-n-n-d'...."

Thankfully we were both rescued by a manager who retrieved the lost item.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Third thoughts about Matthew 28:19—a command, or not?

In what is popularly called the Great Commission, our Lord says:
πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος.... (Matthew 28:19)
Probably the KJV is still the most familiar rendering: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

A number of facets of this translation cry out for comment, but I will focus only on one: "Go ye therefore, and teach." Clearly to the English reader's eye, there are two commands here: (1) go, and (2) teach. On the first of these rest countless missionary conferences and sermons.

But when you start learning Greek, you notice that the verbal form of πορευθέντες is not imperative at all. It is an aorist participle. The imperative aorist would have been πορεύθητι. So you think, "Hm. Jesus assumes the going, and solely commands the making of disciples. There is only one command, one commission. The commission isn't to go, but to disciple."

The bare grammatical observation, of course, this is true. The inference, not so much. While I have taught it that way in years past, I've come to have third thoughts about the verse.

NOTE: this will illustrate the fact that there is no substitute for reading Greek. Wooden reference to lexicons and/or parsing tools—let alone interlinears—would not tell you what we're about to see together.

Repeated readings of Matthew in Greek highlighted a facet of Matthew's style of writing. The man loved his aorist participles. In making my own rough translation, I was constantly saying, "Having X," or "after doing X." In fact, Matthew used this exact construction many times, with the semantic force not of "after doing X, do Y," but simply of "do X and Y."

For instance, take Matthew 2:20, where the angel tells Joseph ἐγερθεὶς παράλαβε τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ πορεύου εἰς γῆν Ἰσραήλ· Now, is he saying, "I don't care when or even whether you get up; but when you get around to rolling out of bed, what I really want you to do is..."? Or is he not saying "get up, and go!"

Or again, in Matthew 21:2 the Lord says of the donkey, λύσαντες ἀγάγετέ μοι. Is this, "Whenever you get around to untying the donkey, here's what I want you to do"? Or is it not "Untie him, and lead him to Me"?

Check out a couple more:
Matthew 22:13 τότε ὁ βασιλεὺς εἶπεν τοῖς διακόνοις· δήσαντες αὐτοῦ πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ἐκβάλετε αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον· ἐκεῖ ἔσται ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων.

Matthew 28:7 καὶ ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἰδοὺ προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε· ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν.
Now, what I wish to stress for your edification and exhortation is that I noticed this all simply by reading Matthew in Greek, over and over again, for years. I didn't get it from studying grammars (though I have done, and we all should do). If a dim bulb like me can notice such a thing, so can you.

Now, having noticed this, I check and note that Dan Wallace comments on the same phenomenon, referring to this as an "attendant circumstance participle" (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 640). Wallace explains:
The attendant circumstance participle is used to communicate an action that, in some sense, is coordinate with the finite verb. In this respect it is not dependent, for it is translated like a verb. Yet it is still dependent semanti­cally, because it cannot exist without the main verb. It is translated as a finite verb connected to the main verb by and. The participle then, in effect, “piggy-backs” on the mood of the main verb. This usage is relatively com­mon, but widely misunderstood.
Use tools, use grammars. But there is no substitute for tolle, lege.

And now... you know that!

Friday, February 23, 2007

"'Ere, what's all this, then?" (blog mission statement)

Turns out I have more to say than two blogs can contain... or so I imagine.

This, however, is the most narrowly focused of my three blogs. Here's what I'm doing.

My cred
I have been studying Greek basically daily for the last ~34 years. Not interlinears, not just commentaries or concordances, but the Greek New Testament itself. I've read the whole Greek New Testament many times, and individual books and chapters many dozens of times.

Though seminary-educated, I will not write as an academic. Rather, I write as a lover of God's Word, as He originally gave it in Hebrew and Greek. You don't love and read and study and translate and write about and preach something that long without noticing and learning a few things.

This blog is about sharing some of what I've learned, along with my enthusiasm and love for God's original Word.

My aim
I really don't have time to do another blog featuring only studied, edited, re-edited, and re-re-edited posts. So these posts will vary in content. Here's the range of what I plan:
  • "Ooh, look at that cool syntax"
  • "Neat wordplay. Too bad it's impossible to translate!"
  • "Every English translation messes this up"
  • "This will preach!"
  • "Nobody ever explains or even seems to notice this. Here's what I think"
  • "This is strange; what does it mean?"
  • "This is usually translated X; I wonder whether it should be Z"
  • "Here's a cool thing about this word"
  • "Preachers often mess this up. If only they used their Greek!"
I hope that what I write will encourage and inspire every Greek student who visits. If you too have been reading Greek for a long time, I hope it will give you some fresh takes, maybe give you a friendly nudge towards being sure to notice and savor what you read.

If you're a pastor who left his Greek in seminary, I hope this will nudge you towards repentance, rethinking, and re-prioritizing. You, sir, are a professor of ancient Greek and Hebrew literature. You must know the languages if you are to teach the literature as a voice, rather than an echo.

Either way, they say enthusiasm is catching. I mean to share mine—and I want you to catch it!

My audience
I am only writing this for people who can read Greek, whether pastors or not. That doesn't at all mean that non-Greekers are unwelcome! It just means I'll be aiming at those who already know (or are starting to know, or re-commencing to know) Greek. So I really won't be explaining it for those who don't.

Being a pastor at heart (though not by employment, at the moment), I am likely to slant what I write towards preaching, teaching, communicating. But if you are learning the Greek New Testament, wherever you are in your studies, you will find something of profit in at least some of the posts to come.

And just pardon one more word. There is no substitute for learning Greek. Interlinears, commentaries, concordances—none of these things teach you the Greek New Testament any more than looking up a few words in Webster's means that you understand any given English sentence.

Your part, should you choose to accept it
There are a few things that you can do, if you would:
  • Invite your pastor (or your fellow-pastors) to visit this page
  • Announce it, and link to it on your blog or web page
  • Email the URL to your maybe-interested friends
  • Comment, contribute (—you can see that this has already been going on in the comment threads, below)
  • If you're a Greeker, and want to, email me your own Greek observations. Maybe they'll make The Big Time!
That's it. I have a ton to share, in my head and in my notes. Should be fun.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Acts 28:24—μὲν...δὲ

Paul had a golden opportunity to preach Christ to some Jews who had not yet been hardened and prejudiced against their Messiah (vv. 21-22). So he preached Christ to them, from the Law and the Prophets (v. 23), which is to say from the whole Bible. And then we read this:
καὶ οἱ μὲν ἐπείθοντο τοῖς λεγομένοις, οἱ δὲ ἠπίστουν·
Two things are of interest to me, Greekly speaking.
  1. Early on we all learn and chuckle at μὲν...δὲ in Greek: "on the one hand, on the other hand." Here it is, live and in person. It's quite an instructive occurrence, too. Like you, I would have given a lot to be in this study. To hear a learned Rabbi, steeped in Scripture from his mother's breast, who actually believes it all and thus believes in Messiah Jesus, opening up the Scripture and showing Christ—what a wonderful experience that would have been. Surely Paul. did it better than we would!

    Yet in spite of that, his teaching provoked not one reaction, but two. That is, the exact same high-quality exposition provoked two diametrically-opposed responses. On the one hand, some were persuaded; but on the other, some disbelieved. Here the marvel of personal responsibility, and sovereign grace (Romans 9:18).

  2. Note the imperfects (ἐπείθοντο...ἠπίστουν) This was a process. As he spoke, two things went on. Some were persuaded, and came to faith. Others kept exercising disbelief.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Acts 28:23—twofold division of OT

We read this in Acts 28:23—
Ταξάμενοι δὲ αὐτῷ ἡμέραν ἦλθον πρὸς αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν ξενίαν πλείονες οἷς ἐξετίθετο διαμαρτυρόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, πείθων τε αὐτοὺς περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἀπό τε τοῦ νόμου Μωϋσέως καὶ τῶν προφητῶν, ἀπὸ πρωῒ ἕως ἑσπέρας.
It's traditional to see the OT as having had three divisions in Jesus' day: Law, Prophets, Writings. Here, we see two divisions. In Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures, R. Laird Harris makes the case (convincingly, I think) that the OT was more characteristically seen under two divisions.

Notice τε twice. The first time it looks as if it coordinates the two ways in which Paul ἐξετίθετο, namely διαμαρτυρόμενος and πείθων.

The second time, we have τε...καὶ (both...and), coordinating the two divisions of the OT, and thus indicating the whole OT as Paul's range of texts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Acts 27:23—cool syntax

I have been reading through Acts. Hear how Paul expresses himself to the men on the ship, in Acts 27:23:
παρέστη γάρ μοι ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τοῦ θεοῦ, οὗ εἰμι [ἐγώ] ᾧ καὶ λατρεύω, ἄγγελος
That is, "For there stood by me on this night of God—whose I am and whom I serve—an angel!" The word-order seems to heighten the suspense.

Some scribes must have felt this awkward; I notice that the Byzantine "straightens" it out:
Παρέστη γάρ μοι ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἄγγελος τοῦ θεοῦ, οὗ εἰμι, ᾧ καὶ λατρεύω,
UBS4 doesn't even note the variance, and Metzger's commentary doesn't even discuss it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Learning Greek: part one

I started reading Greek within months of my conversion. When the Lord saved me (which you can read about here and here), my career plans were in shambles. A pastor told me he felt I was gifted to be a pastor myself, and he invited me to start studying in the school he was about to start.

This answered to the deepest desires of my heart—but there was a problem. Greek.

I had never been a disciplined student. The teachers had always told my parents I had great potential, but it was unrealized. The reason for that was simple: I just really didn't care. I didn't care about my grades, I didn't care about the subjects in school. School didn't so much bore me as appall me, as a terrible interruption of my activities.

So I had developed no discipline, none whatever. I could read with fascination if interested, but could not make myself stick to anything.

Now everything changed with my conversion. Here was something I desperately wanted to learn—the Bible. But really studying it would take concentration, focus, discipline. And particularly, I knew that to be a pastor, I had to learn Greek.

Aside: I had no idea that so many pastors shrugged off Greek and Hebrew studies, felt them unnecessary and irrelevant, felt they could authoritatively teach a book that they were completely unable to read except in translation. Thank GOD for that ignorance. Would that more shared it.

So here was me, and there was the object of my desire, and in between was an obstacle: total lack of focus and discipline. What to do?

More, later.