Thursday, May 24, 2007

Humor break

Okay, this is just funny.

Check out Seminary Professor Caught Inventing Fake Greek Words at Tom in the Box today.

Reminds me of a tape I heard once of a very famous pastor (you'd know him) speaking on Colossians 1:15. I remember his words clearly, though it was about thirty years ago.

In Colossians 1:15 (he told us all), when Paul calls Christ the "image of God," the apostle uses the word.... Here he hesitated, then more quickly said "iknon, which is our word for 'photograph.'"

To save you looking it up, I think he was trying to say εἰκὼν. But even beyond that — well, you count the things wrong with that statement.

UPDATE: you know, I should not have assumed that you all were familiar with Tom in the Box, or would read quite enough to tell the nature of the site, or that the title "Humor break" would be a for-sure clue. It's a Christian satire/parody site, a bit like the wonderful Scrappleface, but with longer articles. They're parody.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Colossians—False teachers?

One of my favorite books in Greek has long been Colossians. It's always been a joy to read, study, translate, preach.

In scores of commentaries and introductions, it is customary to hear over and over that Paul wrote this letter in part to respond to false teachers in Colosse. "Teachers," plural; never singular, that I've seen. In A. T. Robertson's day, it was taken for granted that the false teachers were Gnostics. Don Carson says that Edwin Yamauchi's case against pre-Christian Gnosticism has never really been overturned.

But my focus is much tighter than the disputed nature of the Colossian heresy. Compare the following.

First, from Galatians, another church beset with false teaching:
1:7 ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο, εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες ὑμᾶς καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

5:10 ἐγὼ πέποιθα εἰς ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ ὅτι οὐδὲν ἄλλο φρονήσετε· ὁ δὲ ταράσσων ὑμᾶς βαστάσει τὸ κρίμα, ὅστις ἐὰν ᾖ.

5:12 Ὄφελον καὶ ἀποκόψονται οἱ ἀναστατοῦντες ὑμᾶς.

Now, from Colossians:
2:4 Τοῦτο λέγω, ἵνα μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς παραλογίζηται ἐν πιθανολογίᾳ.

2:8 Βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν·

2:16-19 Μὴ οὖν τις ὑμᾶς κρινέτω ἐν βρώσει καὶ ἐν πόσει ἢ ἐν μέρει ἑορτῆς ἢ νεομηνίας ἢ σαββάτων· 17 ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 18 μηδεὶς ὑμᾶς καταβραβευέτω θέλων ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ καὶ θρησκείᾳ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἃ ἑόρακεν ἐμβατεύων, εἰκῇ φυσιούμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ νοὸς τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ, 19 καὶ οὐ κρατῶν τὴν κεφαλήν, ἐξ οὗ πᾶν τὸ σῶμα διὰ τῶν ἁφῶν καὶ συνδέσμων ἐπιχορηγούμενον καὶ συμβιβαζόμενον αὔξει τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ θεοῦ.

What do you notice?

What I've noticed for years is that, while Galatians regularly uses the plural to describe the false teachers, Colossians always and only describes him in the singular. (The use of the singular in Galatians 5:10b, amid the other plurals, underscores that not one of the false teachers will be excepted from God's judgment.)

So why is it always assumed that there were false teachers, plural? Paul only describes one. And all it takes is one charismatic, winsome, persuasive, dynamic individual. It only takes a little leaven, after all.

The moral: read closely, don't assume. Just because "everyone" has always said something, don't assume it's true.

Just one such dangerous false teacher warranted this focused and wondrous cautionary blast from the apostle's pen.

Very instructive to us today.

Monday, May 21, 2007

1 Peter 1:3-5—Look, Ma, no finite verbs!

Alert reader Bryan C. McWhite made an interesting observation in the comments on the 1 Peter 1:5 post. He observed that there's not a finite verb to be had for love nor money in 1 Peter 1:3-5.
Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν δι᾽ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν, 4 εἰς κληρονομίαν ἄφθαρτον καὶ ἀμίαντον καὶ ἀμάραντον, τετηρημένην ἐν οὐρανοῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς 5 τοὺς ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως εἰς σωτηρίαν ἑτοίμην ἀποκαλυφθῆναι ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ.
He asked if I had any thoughts, and I haven't. I did a fairly quick scan of grammars and commentaries, and found no light there, either.

Now, perhaps it is as simple as disputing the period at the end of verse 5, as verse 6 (beginning with ἐν ᾧ) certainly carries the thought on. It is certainly possible that the sentence stretches to verse 9. In that case, the first finite verb would be ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, in verse 6. If that's the case, however, does that reflect back on the exegesis of vv. 3-5?

The microphone is open to your thoughts as well.

Good catch, Bryan!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Keeping up your Greek

Our friend Matt Harmon posted some suggestions on keeping up Greek skills over the summer break. The same ideas would work simply in general.

Another I'd add would be always to follow along in Greek, in sermons and/or Bible studies.

Also, as you read the New Testament, assuming that you still read in English, keep your Greek New Testament handy. If you have the slightest curiosity about a word or construction, look it up in Greek.

Of course, your goal is the reverse — to do all your NT reading in Greek, and just occasionally look at English renderings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Piper: "Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker!"

For some convicting encouragement, read John Piper on Heinrich Bitzer, editor of the Hebrew and Greek devotional book Light on the Path.

(h-t didyktile)