Friday, March 23, 2007

Hebrews 9:12—Eureka! (Except not)

One Greek verb which most English-speakers unknowingly know is eureka, the first person singular perfect active indicative of εὑρίσκω, I find; thus, "I have found (it)."

This is the sense in which the verb is used most often in the GNT, as in John 1:41, εὑρήκαμεν τὸν Μεσσίαν.

However, back in Attic Greek (so BAGD tells us) the middle form of εὑρίσκω was used in the sense of obtaining, securing something. They document various uses of the active in this sense in the NT, but Hebrews 9:12 is the only use of the middle:
οὐδὲ δι᾽ αἵματος τράγων καὶ μόσχων διὰ δὲ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος εἰσῆλθεν ἐφάπαξ εἰς τὰ ἅγια αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος.
Robertson, both in his Grammar and Word Pictures, suggests that the middle emphasizes that the Lord Jesus accomplished this Himself, by His own efforts and deeds. It at least serves another example of where bare use of an interlinear or a short lexicon would be dangerous. If the writer is saying anything, it certainly is not that Jesus "happened upon" eternal redemption, according to one common use of the verb in the active.

Also notice the verse as a whole. It is beyond the scope of one post to develop, and is a glorious theme to preach, but the author never tires of finding ways to show the vast superiority of Jesus' work to that of the Old Covenant types and shadows. This verse is densely packed with such language. Consider:
  1. The contrast with the Old: οὐδὲ δι᾽ αἵματος τράγων καὶ μόσχων
  2. The heart of the New: διὰ δὲ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος εἰσῆλθεν ἐφάπαξ εἰς τὰ ἅγια αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος
But further focus on the way its superiority is highlighted:
  1. Infinitely superior offering: διὰ δὲ τοῦ ἰδίου αἵματος (this is further developed in the verses immediately following)
  2. Superior tabernacle (by inference): εἰσῆλθεν ...εἰς τὰ ἅγια
  3. Superior outcome: εἰσῆλθεν ἐφάπαξ εἰς τὰ ἅγια αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος
Yet again, consider how the outcome is shown to be superior:
  1. It only took one sacrifice: ἐφάπαξ
  2. It obtained eternal redemption, not redemption in need of periodic renewals: αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν
  3. It was obtained by one person, and Him of infinitely superior worth: εὑράμενος
As I've said, Romans is a great and deep theological treatise. But Hebrews is no Chick tract.


Michael said...

Would it make that much of a difference to say in John 1:41, Εὐρήσαμεν τὸν Μεσσίαν instead of Εὐρήκαμεν τὸν Μεσσίαν? Why use the perfect tense when the aorist tense would of been good enough in my opinion? I just don't get it or is John trying to tell us something by the use of the perfect tense in verses 41 and 45? Sorry for the dumb question but I had to ask.

DJP said...

I don't think it's a dumb question at all. I'd say it's because their discovery is viewed with finality as the culmination of centuries of looking. He doesn't speak of it simply as an event (aorist), but as a settled realization (perfect).