Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Discovery about Ephesians 1:4-6 — real, or imagined?

Hi gang! Long time, no Greek.

I'm preaching through Ephesians, which is to say I'm racking my brains in the exegesis of the Greek text. Most recently Ephesians 1:4 has been punishing me. Looking for patterns to help in exegesis, I think I may have struck on something. Tell me what you think.

If that's a legitimate parallel, it's actually very helpful both in exegesis and translation.

For instance, it adds weight to the suggestion that "selected in him" in v. 4 is elliptical for "selected us to be in Him." It affirms that "before the foundation of a world" is meant to highlight the sovereign-grace nature of the election ("according to the kind intent of His will"). It affirms that being "holy and without blemish before Him" is a matter of gracious standing, not behavior ("to the praise of the glory of His grace with which He graced us"). And it further suggests that "in love" in v. 4 — a notoriously difficult exegetical call — modifies "holy and blameless," not in the sense of our holiness and blamelessness being a loving holiness and blamelessness, but rather in the sense that this holy, blameless standing is a manifestation of God's love in Christ.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Greek alphabet song: now with MORE COWBELL!

Pretty funny. It also uses the tune I've used to teach the alphabet:

(I would quibble about American pronunciation of the a's [as in bad rather than father] just a tad.)

h-t Andy Naselli

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Free Greek course online

A number have asked me for ways to learn Greek. Check out this audio, animated, online Greek course from Professor Ted Hildebrandt of Gordon College (h-t S. C. Saunders).

(I haven't gone through it yet; let me know what you think.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The BAGD book of jokes?

Okay, maybe not quite; but I was reading in Luke 18, and saw BAGD's note on verse 5:
διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον τὴν χήραν ταύτην ἐκδικήσω αὐτήν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑπωπιάζῃ με.
Particularly, the entry on ὑπωπιάζω. To wit:
ὑπωπιάζω (on the v.l. ὑποπιάζειν s. W-S. §5, 19 note, end; Mlt-H. 75) (‘strike under the eye, give a black eye to’ Aristot., Rhet. 3, 11, 15, 1413a, 20; TestSol 2:4 D [ὑποπ.]; Plut., Mor. 921f; Diog. L. 6, 89)

1. to blacken an eye, give a black eye, strike in the face lit. τινά someone, of a woman who is driven to desperation and who the judge in the story thinks might in the end express herself physically ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑπωπιάζῃ με so that she might not finally come and blacken my eye Lk 18:5. Hyperbole is stock-in-trade of popular storytelling. Some prefer to understand ὑπ. in this pass. in sense

2. to bring someone to submission by constant annoyance, wear down, fig. ext. of 1 (s. L-S-J-M s.v. II, NRSV, REB, et al.). In this interp. ὑπ. in Lk 18:5 has its meaning determined by εἰς τέλος. But in such case the denouement lacks punch, for the judge has already been worn down and wants nothing added to the κόπος that he has already endured. A more appropriate rendering for a fig. sense would be browbeat.—JDerrett, NTS 18, ’71/72, 178-91 (esp. 189-91): a fig. expr. (common throughout Asia), blacken my face = slander, besmirch underlies ὑπ. here.
"Lacks punch." Oh, dear.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Judean syntax (Jude 1:20-21)

Here's one for you:
ὑμεῖς δέ ἀγαπητοί ἐποικοδομοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς τῇ ἁγιωτάτῃ ὑμῶν πίστει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ προσευχόμενοι 21 ἑαυτοὺς ἐν ἀγάπῃ θεοῦ τηρήσατε προσδεχόμενοι τὸ ἔλεος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον
I mean to update and pretty up this post later, when I have access to my tools. But here's the deal:
  1. You see that Jude has one finite verb (specifically one imperative), surrounded by three participles.
  2. Me, I dismiss out of hand renderings that reduce all the participles to imperatives.
  3. So what we have is one finite verb anchoring three participles. I've been surprised, though, not to find more syntactical comment on the relationship of the whole.
  4. The dominant idea is keep yourselves in the love of God.
  5. I take it that the first two participles indicate means: "by building yourselves up and praying"
  6. If you accept that, is the third also modal? If not, what?
Refinements, disagreements, discussion?

Have at it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

C. F. D. Moule (1908-2007)

Professor Dan Wallace has given a very personal reflection on the passing of NT and Greek scholar Charles Francis Digby Moule (pronounced mole). Wallace also provides links to other articles on the man.

I remember when I was first learning Greek, it was impressed on me that knowing the Greek New Testament was far more than a matter of doing word-studies. It involved a grasp of syntax, and of the idioms used. (This is why interlinears are, at best, pointless.)

So I was delighted to stumble across Moule's Idiom-book of New Testament Greek. I bought it, and have used it often ever since.

But an even more delightful discovery (according to the tincture of Scots blood in me) was a discovery one year as I visited my beloved town of Bishop, California. I had learned that sometimes one can find treasures in used book stores or thrift shops. There are few finds for a lot of looking, but sometimes they're really golden.

In this case, I found a copy of C. F. D. Moule's Cambridge commentary on the Greek text of Colossians...

...for ten cents!

Now, there's been inflation since, but that was still an outrageously good deal at the time.

Now, we could chat about other aspects of Wallace's recollections. Moule seems like a genuinely charming man, and he certainly was a very solid scholar. But he did not confess the Trinity? It seems like we have a soft spot for Europeans scholars — like we're so grateful if they're even in the ballpark, so they get a "pass" on what we would call "heresy" if it were Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Colossians 1:1—the will of God

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφὸς — Colossians 1:1

Paul often refers his apostleship to the will of God. To wit:
1 Corinthians 1:1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς
2 Corinthians 1:1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφὸς τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ,
Ephesians 1:1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ] καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,
2 Timothy 1:1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ κατ᾽ ἐπαγγελίαν ζωῆς τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ
I may discuss this more fully if we get to v. 9, but it's my settled conviction that Scripture teaches only two aspects to the will of God, and not three.

By the range of expressions referring to God's will, Scripture only means God's sovereign will, which it is His responsibility to affect (i.e. Ephesians 1:11), or His revealed will, which it is our responsibility to fulfill (i.e. Romans 2:18). There is no third will of God referring to neither certainly decreed events, nor inerrantly and specially revealed directions, but to subjective, erring, and personal perceptions.

Having said that, I don't argue that it is always easy to tell which of the two is in mind.

In this case, however, while both elements are present, it is the former that is probably foremost in Paul's mind. Think of Galatians 1:1 — Παῦλος ἀπόστολος οὐκ ἀπ᾽ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ δι᾽ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν. Here, the stress is clearly on God's sovereign will and activity. Thus also the effectual call to be an apostle, in Romans 1:1's κλητὸς ἀπόστολος.

Now, necessarily, an apostle did receive direct and special revelation of God's will (cf. Galatians 1:11-12) . That was the nature of the office. But the phrase itself here probably means that God made Paul an apostle by sovereign appointment; the fact that it involved a special revelation is incidental to the phrase here, though essential to the office itself.

What the apostle clearly didn't mean was that, one day, in his quiet time with God, he felt a still, small voice, subtly urging him towards seeking apostleship. That isn't the way it happened. Paul didn't merely "feel moved" to be an apostle. God sovereignly willed Paul to be an apostle, so he was.

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)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

1 Peter 1:5—God's notion of "eternal security"

τοὺς ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως εἰς σωτηρίαν ἑτοίμην ἀποκαλυφθῆναι ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ.
This is taken by Arminians to indicate that we keep ourselves by our faith. If we disbelieve, we are lost.

The emphasis on the crucial nature of faith is clearly based in the text. Any teaching that makes faith non-essential is clearly not apostolic, and thus not Biblical. But the Biblical question Calvinists always pose is, "And where does a spiritually dead, God-hating rebel / dependent saint get that faith, and persevering grace?"

Peter gives the answer here. The Greek text makes it fairly clear (at least to me) that the ideas of keeping and believing are not to be divorced. It isn't as if God keeps us a little (or a lot) by His power, and we keep ourselves a little (or a lot) by our faith.

Rather, we are characterized (τοὺς) as those who are "by-the-power-of-God-kept-through-faith-unto-salvation."

Must we believe? Yes. How do we believe? By the power of God. It is how God keeps us by His power: through faith.

Thus, properly viewed, preserving and persevering faith no less than saving faith is part of the "all things" that God gives us as a result of Christ's work on the Cross (Romans 8:32; cf. Acts 11:18; 13:48; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 1:29).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

1 Peter 1:2—the saving work of the Trinity

κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη.
I connect κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρὸς with ἐκλεκτοῖς in v. 1, and understand foreknowledge as God's active, distinguishing love set on persons, not his passive awareness of events. So sovereign election is in line with (κατὰ) the Father's distinguishing love.

Note then that this sovereign-grace election is in connection with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος), setting the elect apart from the mass of humanity to God's ownership and service.

This sanctification has a twofold effect or result (εἰς 2X), the first of which is ὑπακοὴν. This ὑπακοή refers to listening-from-under, listening submissively and responsively. I don't think the object of the submission is expressed, but can be inferred from the other two uses in 1 Peter, both of which are in this chapter:

1:14 ὡς τέκνα ὑπακοῆς μὴ συσχηματιζόμενοι ταῖς πρότερον ἐν τῇ ἀγνοίᾳ ὑμῶν ἐπιθυμίαις
1:22 Τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν ἡγνικότες ἐν τῇ ὑπακοῇ τῆς ἀληθείας εἰς φιλαδελφίαν ἀνυπόκριτον, ἐκ [καθαρᾶς] καρδίας ἀλλήλους ἀγαπήσατε ἐκτενῶς

It is submission to the Gospel, which is to say saving faith. See similar uses of the noun also in Peter's man Paul, in Romans 1:5; 16:26. See also the similar uses of the verb ὑπακούω in Acts 6:7; Romans 6:17; 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9. It isn't the obedience that should characterize the Christian life that is in view, but the submission to the Gospel that begins and characterizes the Christian life.

The second effect of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. This is an obvious allusion to OT sacrifical imagery. I take it that this means the personal application of the benefits of Christ's redemption, purchased on the Cross by the shedding of His blood.


In eternity past the Father sets His distinguishing love on us in sovereign election
This involves the Spirit setting us apart to God, with two results:
—The first is our submission to the Gospel
—The second is God applying Christ's blood to us personally

Glorious passage.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

1 Peter 1:3-6—study in prepositions

I've long been struck by Peter's love for (and deft use of) prepositional phrases. Do you notice them, simply reading through 1:3-6?
3 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. 6 ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον [ἐστὶν] λυπηθέντες ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς,
Now go t hrough it again, isolating the prepositional phrases after the introductory thought:
3 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.
6 ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον [ἐστὶν] λυπηθέντες
ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς,
I count thirteen prepositional phrases in four verses. They show the motive for sovereign regeneration, its outcome (in two swoops), its means, that from which Christ was raised, where our inheritance is kept and for whom, by what means and agency we are under guard and towards what end, at what time, what this provokes in us, and the circumstances amid which we rejoice.

Rich for reflection, and quite preachable!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Mark 16:6—single word freighted with immense meaning

The ladies came to the tomb early that morning, with a deeply-flawed plan.

While the menfolk cowered in their houses, despondent and shattered, the ladies came with spices, to anoint the dead body of Jesus. Their faith wasn't much better, but the boldness speaks well of them.

However, they seemed to have had no plan for what to do about the stone. They'd seen it rolled to, and they knew it would be a problem. But they had no solution. They ask each other, τίς ἀποκυλίσει ἡμῖν τὸν λίθον ἐκ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου; (v. 6). It is a good question, from their perspective, and they have no answer.

Thank God, none was needed!

The angel they meet bears a message, in fitting with his title. He says,
μὴ ἐκθαμβεῖσθε· Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον· ἠγέρθη, οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε· ἴδε ὁ τόπος ὅπου ἔθηκαν αὐτόν.
The perfect participle catches the eye. The angel doesn't say ἐσταυρώθη, He was crucified (aorist). Nor does he use an aorist participle. Rather, it is Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον—Jesus the Nazarene the having-been-crucified one. For all time, this would describe Him: He is the one who has been crucified, an event with eternal significance.

But after that five-word appellative, the angel offers but one: ἠγέρθη.

Did one word ever carry so much meaning? Jesus the Nazarene had been crucified, but ἠγέρθη. The word is aorist, referring to an event of history. It is in the passive voice, for He was raised by the Father. In raising Him, the Father attests His entire message and ministry, seals Jesus' claim to Deity, signals His acceptance of Christ's sacrifice for His people.

Further, it is necessarily a bodily resurrection. Who is it who ἠγέρθη? It is Ἰησοῦν τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον. And who or what was crucified? It was His body. If He was crucified bodily, and He now ἠγέρθη, then He must have been raised the same way: bodily.

This is the meaning of Resurrection Day ("Easter"): ἠγέρθη.

Friday, April 6, 2007

1 Peter 1:1-2—Trinitarian writing

Sometimes anti-Trinitarians have raised the objection that the doctrine of the Trinity is never found in the Bible. If by that one means that the word "Trinity" does not appear, there will be no answering denial. But the doctrine of the Trinity is found, in my view, throughout both Old and New Testaments, providing more than enough building material for the rich Trinitarian theology that the godly have developed through the millennia.

While no formal announcement can be found, it is clear that the thinking of the apostles was so thoroughly Trinitarian that it fairly bubbled up in their wording, almost no matter what they wrote.
Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς Πόντου, Γαλατίας, Καππαδοκίας, Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας, 2 κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος εἰς ὑπακοὴν καὶ ῥαντισμὸν αἵματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη πληθυνθείη.
There it is in verse two: Father, Spirit, Son. Once one begins to notice this, he discovers it unconsciously all throughout the apostles' writings, and many times in one breath, just as here (cf. Ephesians 2:18—ὅτι δι᾽ αὐτοῦ [sc. through Christ] ἔχομεν τὴν προσαγωγὴν οἱ ἀμφότεροι ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα).

Thursday, April 5, 2007

1 Peter — opening thoughts

As a literary artist, the writer to the Hebrews would be hard to beat. Luke is a wonderful writer; Paul's art (imho) is in his content more than his style. But the writer of 1 Peter is no piker.

Attentive readers' ears will prick up when I say "the writer of 1 Peter" instead of "Peter." The mind behind 1 Peter is Peter; I do find the amanuensis-hypothesis attractive, however. It comes from the note in 5:12—
Διὰ Σιλουανοῦ ὑμῖν τοῦ πιστοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, ὡς λογίζομαι, δι᾽ ὀλίγων ἔγραψα παρακαλῶν καὶ ἐπιμαρτυρῶν ταύτην εἶναι ἀληθῆ χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς ἣν στῆτε.
The Διὰ Σιλουανοῦ has been suggested to indicate that Peter used Silvanus as an amanuensis, to write down his thoughts, which he then reviewed and approved. At the risk of anachronism, I've been "amanuensis" to many, as has my friend Phil Johnson. My boss will give me something, I'll look it over, make reams of changes, he'll look my changes over, accept some, reject some, and out it goes.

The most fun I had as an amanuensis was when our nutcase Senatrix Barbara Boxer (—or was she just a nutcase Representative at the time? not sure) said some inane thing. That doesn't narrow it down much; pretty much every time she speaks, she says some inane thing.

But I digress.

This was years ago, and Boxer was (as liberals do) speaking for all women and saying that all women embrace abortion.

My wife, however, is a woman, and she does not embrace abortion. But she's also a very busy woman, and though she expresses herself wonderfully, doesn't love to write. So she commissioned me to write a letter to the editor, for our local newspaper. I did so with great glee. Some of the greatest writing fun I've had was writing words to this effect: "As a woman, I am deeply offended at Barbara Boxer's implication that all women's greatest value is the freedom to kill inconvenient or imperfect children...."

What I was doing was writing what I knew my wife thought, best as I could. As I recall, she read it, said, "Yep, that's it exactly," and off it went in her name.

So the liberal critics denied 1 Peter to Peter, since it was too polished.

Then it was said that 2 Peter couldn't be Petrine... because its Greek is too rough!

Read both through in Greek, and the stylistic differences are undeniable. Nothing, however, requires trashing the authority of the Word as to authorship.

It is interesting, though. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:15-16 that he is familiar with the letters of the apostle Paul. From that testimony in Second Peter, it's interesting to note this similarity in First Peter:
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,

Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ,
Those are 1:3 of 1 Peter and Ephesians, respectively. (Peter packs in other themes — sovereign mercy and regeneration connected to Christ's resurrection — that Paul develops in Ephesians 1 and 2, as well.) It might be fun to find other parallels, and speculate as to Peter's familiarity with Paul's letters.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Hebrews 13:8—bang! No verb; plus....

Hebrews 13:8 is a deservedly well-known verse: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever" (NAS). The original text has no verb.
Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐχθὲς καὶ σήμερον ὁ αὐτὸς καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας.
"Jesus Christ: yesterday and today the same—and forever."
It is one of those verses that we know in isolation, yet it was not given as a single unit.

In expressing this thought, the skilled author glances backwards at verse 7— Μνημονεύετε τῶν ἡγουμένων ὑμῶν, οἵτινες ἐλάλησαν ὑμῖν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, ὧν ἀναθεωροῦντες τὴν ἔκβασιν τῆς ἀναστροφῆς μιμεῖσθε τὴν πίστιν. These (presumably deceased) leaders who spoke the word of God, preached Jesus to them. Jesus has not changed; Jesus will never change. The Jesus they preached yesterday is the Jesus who lives today, and the Jesus who will reign unto the ages to come.

His thought also carries forwards to verse 9—Διδαχαῖς ποικίλαις καὶ ξέναις μὴ παραφέρεσθε· καλὸν γὰρ χάριτι βεβαιοῦσθαι τὴν καρδίαν, οὐ βρώμασιν ἐν οἷς οὐκ ὠφελήθησαν οἱ περιπατοῦντες. Why should they not allow themselves to be carried away with various and foreign teachings? Because the truth will not change, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today—and forever.

There's a good deal of truth in Spurgeon's remark: "Rest assured that there is nothing new in theology except that which is false; and that the facts of theology are today what they were eighteen hundred years ago."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hebrews 13:5—not, not, not

Greekers who love the Lord, love this verse—and for good reason.
Ἀφιλάργυρος ὁ τρόπος, ἀρκούμενοι τοῖς παροῦσιν. αὐτὸς γὰρ εἴρηκεν· οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ οὐδ᾽ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω,
The context is an encouragement to godly contentment. The reason that our lifestyle should not be that of silver-lovers is given as the impossibility of the Lord's abandoning us.

First you note the emphatic introduction. The simple verb εἴρηκεν is strengthened by the αὐτὸς. It is He, no less than He and none other than He, who has said this. Also, the verb is in the perfect tense: εἴρηκεν. He has gone on record, He has made a statement, the statement stands.

But then notice the piling up of negatives. First there are two (οὐ μή), and then there are three (οὐδ᾽ οὐ μή). Not, not, nor not not.

But I learn from Wallace that even the tense strengthens the negation, as these emphatic denials are paired with subjunctives. Hear him from p. 468:
One might think that the negative with the subjunctive could not be as strong as the negative with the indicative. However, while ouv + the indica­tive denies a certainty, ouv mh, + the subjunctive denies a potentiality. The negative is not weaker; rather, the affirmation that is being negatived is less firm with the subjunctive. ouv mh, rules out even the idea as being a possibil­ity....
So perhaps a "dynamic" rendering, a paraphrase, would be: : "for He Himself has said, 'There is no conceivable way I will leave you, nor is there any conceivable way I will abandon you.'"

At any rate, it is a wonderful promise, and is well captured in the wonderful hymn How Firm a Foundation:
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
All praise and glory to our faithful, self-committed, oath-keeping God.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hebrews 10:24—consider what, or who?

This passages is very frequently mistranslated.

First, look at the Greek: καὶ κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης καὶ καλῶν ἔργων....

Then consider (pun unintended) the following, and ask yourself, "What's wrong with this picture?"
AMP And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities,

ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

GWN We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things.

ISV And let us continue to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

MOF and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds

NAB We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.

NAS and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

NAU and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

NET And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works,

NIV And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

NLT Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

NRS And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,

RSV and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hebrews 10:22-25—three heads of "let us"

Years ago, I noticed something about the structure of this passage:
22 προσερχώμεθα μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ· 23 κατέχωμεν τὴν ὁμολογίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἀκλινῆ, πιστὸς γὰρ ὁ ἐπαγγειλάμενος, 24 καὶ κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης καὶ καλῶν ἔργων, 25 μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν, καθὼς ἔθος τισίν, ἀλλὰ παρακαλοῦντες, καὶ τοσούτῳ μᾶλλον ὅσῳ βλέπετε ἐγγίζουσαν τὴν ἡμέραν.
Do you see it? There are three cohortatives in this passage (first person plural subjunctives, all present tense). In English, we use the phrase "let us." Hence, "Three Heads of 'Let Us.'"

See how I develop this, if you like, in this sermon [update: link's bad, trying to find out why; sorry.]

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hebrews 10—study in contrasts

I can't think of an author who more abundantly rewards close attention to his choice of words, nor who uses them more deftly and deliberately and vividly.

Throughout his letter, he contrasts the person and work of Christ with various good persons and institutions — angels, Moses, Aaronic priesthood, Mosaic covenant. Here in chapter 10, he is focusing on the whole ritual surrounding the sacrifices offered by the Aaronic priesthood. Focus on the first verse of chapter 10, and see how many ways he finds to contrast its limited and temporary effects with the perfect and final sacrifice of Christ, in one verse:
Σκιὰν γὰρ ἔχων ὁ νόμος τῶν μελλόντων ἀγαθῶν
οὐκ αὐτὴν τὴν εἰκόνα τῶν πραγμάτων
κατ᾽ ἐνιαυτὸν
ταῖς αὐταῖς θυσίαις
ἃς προσφέρουσιν
εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς
οὐδέποτε δύναται
τοὺς προσερχομένους τελειῶσαι·
Then focus on vv. 11-13—
Καὶ πᾶς μὲν ἱερεὺς ἕστηκεν καθ᾽ ἡμέραν λειτουργῶν καὶ τὰς αὐτὰς πολλάκις προσφέρων θυσίας, αἵτινες οὐδέποτε δύνανται περιελεῖν ἁμαρτίας, 12 οὗτος δὲ μίαν ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν προσενέγκας θυσίαν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ, 13 τὸ λοιπὸν ἐκδεχόμενος ἕως τεθῶσιν οἱ ἐχθροὶ αὐτοῦ ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ. 14 μιᾷ γὰρ προσφορᾷ τετελείωκεν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους.
The passage is a marvel. See how he pounds his point again and again, just in v. 11. It isn't some priests, it's πᾶς ἱερεὺς. Every priest ἕστηκεν, for he can can never sit, for his work is never finished. The work is carried on not just occasionally, but καθ᾽ ἡμέραν. It wasn't a single event, but it was ongoing (λειτουργῶν, προσφέρων—present participles). Nor does he try different measures, but offers τὰς αὐτὰς. Nor can he ever do it once and be done with it, but must offer them πολλάκις.

Why is that? Because these sacrifices are the very ones (αἵτινες) that not only don't take away sins, but are incapable of (δύνανται) taking away sins; and that not only on occasion, but regularly (present tense); and that not only at one time, but not at any time (οὐδέποτε).

You could make a column, then, and contrast each of these points with what he then asserts about Christ's sacrifice. He was a different Person (οὗτος); His sacrifice wasn't πολλάκις, but μίαν; its effect wasn't temporary and partial but εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς; He did not continue to stand making this sacrifice, but ἐκάθισεν; His seat was not on a chair in an earthly tabernacle, but ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ.

And all that is why, while centuries of Mosaic sacrifices οὐδέποτε δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους τελειῶσαι (v. 1), by starkest contrast the one sacrifice of Jesus τετελείωκεν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους (v. 14).

This is one of those passages that, to me, is difficult to preach, because one despairs ever of communicating the grandeur of the author's teaching. He has said it so eloquently, emphatically, and concisely. Our danger is that we will either blunt it and bury it beneath a flood of words, or fail ever to scale the peak and capture the lofty truth he communicates.

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.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hebrews 6:4-6—what?! No finite verb?

[Sorry this is out of sequence]

Hebrews 6:4-6 is one of the Bible's interpretive hotbeds, certainly. The issues of perseverance and security are all over this passage. As a thoroughly convinced Calvinist, I'll admit openly it's one of the ones that demands a strong response. And, simply as a Christian, I think it's one of the scariest passages in the Bible, no matter what your theological position.

In fact, I'll say this dogmatically: if you don't find this to be a scary passage, you're not reading it right.

Having said that, on this read-through I was struck by one particular grammatical phenomenon. Look at the passage as a whole:
Αδύνατον γὰρ τοὺς ἅπαξ φωτισθέντας, γευσαμένους τε τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς ἐπουρανίου καὶ μετόχους γενηθέντας πνεύματος ἁγίου 5 καὶ καλὸν γευσαμένους θεοῦ ῥῆμα δυνάμεις τε μέλλοντος αἰῶνος 6 καὶ παραπεσόντας, πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν, ἀνασταυροῦντας ἑαυτοῖς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ παραδειγματίζοντας.
What's missing?

No doubt the title has already clued you in. There isn't a finite verb to be had for love nor money in the whole thing. Look it over. I count thirty-nine words: one 2X4-board-on-the-forehead adjective (Αδύνατον), followed by one, two, three, four, five aorist accusative participles, then a present infinite... and then two more accusative participles, for good measure — though these are present-tense.

There actually is a sixth participle amid that first string, μέλλοντος; but it usually functions pretty much as an adjective, in my reading. Yet it does make for a grand total of seven participles (of which four are aorists) and one infinitive, and zero finite verbs.

Would a finite verb have made exegesis easier?

Hm; probably depends on the verb, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hebrews 7:25—able to save....

No matter how you slice it, Hebrews 7:25 makes a glorious assertion about the Lord Jesus. On the basis of His eternal life and (therefore) untransferrable priesthood,
ὅθεν καὶ σῴζειν εἰς τὸ παντελὲς δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τῷ θεῷ, πάντοτε ζῶν εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν.
This phrase, εἰς τὸ παντελὲς, stands out. How to render it? The familiar KJV "to the uttermost" is one option, and it is retained by ASV, ESV and NKJ. The CSB has "always"; in fact, oddly, it uses the word twice in this verse, once for our phrase and once for πάντοτε. NAS has "forever," NET has "completely," as does NIV. Phillips (no relation) has "fully and completely."

The phrase occurs exactly in one other verse in the Greek Bible. It is Luke 13:11, speaking of the woman whom Satan had crippled:
καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ πνεῦμα ἔχουσα ἀσθενείας ἔτη δεκαοκτὼ καὶ ἦν συγκύπτουσα καὶ μὴ δυναμένη ἀνακύψαι εἰς τὸ παντελές.
Here, the meaning clearly is not "forever." "Completely" or "fully" would work. But the phrase could have the nuance of "forever." When a Greek phrase is ambiguous, I like to try to find an English phrase that retains the ambiguity. Would not "all the way" keep that ambiguity?

But that still leaves us in a bind, since the syntax which is so elegant in Greek simply does not come across to English with equal elegance: "...whence also He is able to save, all the way, those who draw near to God through Him, as He always lives to make intercession for them."

What a wonderful and reassuring depiction of our Lord's priesthood and work. His salvation does not stop partway, any more than His life will stop partway, nor will His priestly intercession for His own (cf. John 17:9) stop partway. As my pastor well says, if any part of the process were left to us, that is the part we'd botch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hebrews 7:11—perfection

In my reading, I crossed Hebrews 7:11.
Εἰ μὲν οὖν τελείωσις διὰ τῆς Λευιτικῆς ἱερωσύνης ἦν, ὁ λαὸς γὰρ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῆς νενομοθέτηται, τίς ἔτι χρεία κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ ἕτερον ἀνίστασθαι ἱερέα καὶ οὐ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Ἀαρὼν λέγεσθαι;
Note the stress on τελείωσις, and the fact that the Levitical priesthood cannot deliver it. It occurred to me that the use of terms with the τελ- element in Hebrews is very prominent. Consider this list:
  • 2: 10 ἔπρεπεν γὰρ αὐτῷ, δι᾽ ὃν τὰ πάντα καὶ δι᾽ οὗ τὰ πάντα, πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν διὰ παθημάτων τελειῶσαι.
  • 3:14 μέτοχοι γὰρ τοῦ Χριστοῦ γεγόναμεν, ἐάνπερ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν-
  • 5:9 καὶ τελειωθεὶς ἐγένετο πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου,
  • 5:14 τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή, τῶν διὰ τὴν ἕξιν τὰ αἰσθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα ἐχόντων πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ.
  • 6:1 Διὸ ἀφέντες τὸν τῆς ἀρχῆς τοῦ Χριστοῦ λόγον ἐπὶ τὴν τελειότητα φερώμεθα, μὴ πάλιν θεμέλιον καταβαλλόμενοι μετανοίας ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων καὶ πίστεως ἐπὶ θεόν,
  • 6:8 ἐκφέρουσα δὲ ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους, ἀδόκιμος καὶ κατάρας ἐγγύς, ἧς τὸ τέλος εἰς καῦσιν.
  • 6:11 ἐπιθυμοῦμεν δὲ ἕκαστον ὑμῶν τὴν αὐτὴν ἐνδείκνυσθαι σπουδὴν πρὸς τὴν πληροφορίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἄχρι τέλους,
  • 7:3 ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος, μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων, ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ, μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές.
  • 7:11 Εἰ μὲν οὖν τελείωσις διὰ τῆς Λευιτικῆς ἱερωσύνης ἦν, ὁ λαὸς γὰρ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῆς νενομοθέτηται, τίς ἔτι χρεία κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ ἕτερον ἀνίστασθαι ἱερέα καὶ οὐ κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Ἀαρὼν λέγεσθαι;
  • 7:19 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐτελείωσεν ὁ νόμος- ἐπεισαγωγὴ δὲ κρείττονος ἐλπίδος δι᾽ ἧς ἐγγίζομεν τῷ θεῷ.
  • 7:25 ὅθεν καὶ σῴζειν εἰς τὸ παντελὲς δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τῷ θεῷ, πάντοτε ζῶν εἰς τὸ ἐντυγχάνειν ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν.
  • 7:28 ὁ νόμος γὰρ ἀνθρώπους καθίστησιν ἀρχιερεῖς ἔχοντας ἀσθένειαν, ὁ λόγος δὲ τῆς ὁρκωμοσίας τῆς μετὰ τὸν νόμον υἱὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωμένον.
  • 8:5 οἵτινες ὑποδείγματι καὶ σκιᾷ λατρεύουσιν τῶν ἐπουρανίων, καθὼς κεχρημάτισται Μωϋσῆς μέλλων ἐπιτελεῖν τὴν σκηνήν· ὅρα γάρ φησιν, ποιήσεις πάντα κατὰ τὸν τύπον τὸν δειχθέντα σοι ἐν τῷ ὄρει·
  • 8:8 μεμφόμενος γὰρ αὐτοὺς λέγει· ἰδοὺ ἡμέραι ἔρχονται, λέγει κύριος, καὶ συντελέσω ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰούδα διαθήκην καινήν,
  • 9:6 Τούτων δὲ οὕτως κατεσκευασμένων εἰς μὲν τὴν πρώτην σκηνὴν διὰ παντὸς εἰσίασιν οἱ ἱερεῖς τὰς λατρείας ἐπιτελοῦντες,
  • 9:9 ἥτις παραβολὴ εἰς τὸν καιρὸν τὸν ἐνεστηκότα, καθ᾽ ἣν δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίαι προσφέρονται μὴ δυνάμεναι κατὰ συνείδησιν τελειῶσαι τὸν λατρεύοντα,
  • 9:11 Χριστὸς δὲ παραγενόμενος ἀρχιερεὺς τῶν γενομένων ἀγαθῶν διὰ τῆς μείζονος καὶ τελειοτέρας σκηνῆς οὐ χειροποιήτου, τοῦτ᾽ ἔστιν οὐ ταύτης τῆς κτίσεως,
  • 9:26 ἐπεὶ ἔδει αὐτὸν πολλάκις παθεῖν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου· νυνὶ δὲ ἅπαξ ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς ἀθέτησιν [τῆς] ἁμαρτίας διὰ τῆς θυσίας αὐτοῦ πεφανέρωται.
  • 10:1 Σκιὰν γὰρ ἔχων ὁ νόμος τῶν μελλόντων ἀγαθῶν, οὐκ αὐτὴν τὴν εἰκόνα τῶν πραγμάτων, κατ᾽ ἐνιαυτὸν ταῖς αὐταῖς θυσίαις ἃς προσφέρουσιν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς οὐδέποτε δύναται τοὺς προσερχομένους τελειῶσαι·
  • 10:14 μιᾷ γὰρ προσφορᾷ τετελείωκεν εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς τοὺς ἁγιαζομένους.
  • 11:22 Πίστει Ἰωσὴφ τελευτῶν περὶ τῆς ἐξόδου τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραὴλ ἐμνημόνευσεν καὶ περὶ τῶν ὀστέων αὐτοῦ ἐνετείλατο.
  • 11:40 τοῦ θεοῦ περὶ ἡμῶν κρεῖττόν τι προβλεψαμένου, ἵνα μὴ χωρὶς ἡμῶν τελειωθῶσιν.
  • 12:2 ἀφορῶντες εἰς τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν, ὃς ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς ὑπέμεινεν σταυρὸν αἰσχύνης καταφρονήσας ἐν δεξιᾷ τε τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ κεκάθικεν.
  • 12:23 καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων καὶ πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένων
  • 13:17 Πείθεσθε τοῖς ἡγουμένοις ὑμῶν καὶ ὑπείκετε, αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀγρυπνοῦσιν ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν ὡς λόγον ἀποδώσοντες, ἵνα μετὰ χαρᾶς τοῦτο ποιῶσιν καὶ μὴ στενάζοντες· ἀλυσιτελὲς γὰρ ὑμῖν τοῦτο.
A writer's vocabulary is a window into his thinking. Any analysis of this very careful writer's thought should deal with his frequent dipping from the τελ-well.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hebrews 7:3—a few observations

Today's note is a brief one, and focuses on Hebrews 7:3—
ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος, μήτε ἀρχὴν ἡμερῶν μήτε ζωῆς τέλος ἔχων, ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ, μένει ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸ διηνεκές.
First, note the staccato opening: three alpha-privatives, no conjunctions: ἀπάτωρ ἀμήτωρ ἀγενεαλόγητος.

Then note the suspended present participle ("neither beginning of days nor of life an end having"), followed immediately by a perfect passive participle (ἔχων, ἀφωμοιωμένος), then the point: Christ remains a priest for perpetuity.

One last note, and this an interpretive/theological one: if Melchizedek was ἀφωμοιωμένος δὲ τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ, then he wasn't likely himself ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, was he? That is, one is not made like what one is. This should effectively rule out the suppositions one occasionally hears that Melchizedek was a pre-incarnational Christophany. The Son of God is not made like the Son of God.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hebrews 5:8—breathtaking word on Christ's pedagogy

This may be the only verse in the Bible that, without fail, literally makes me stop and catch my breath on every reading. It is Hebrews 5:8.
καίπερ ὢν υἱός, ἔμαθεν ἀφ᾽ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν,
It is a marvel on so many levels. I remember the first time a friend brought it to bear on me personally. I was going through a very difficult time a couple of decades ago, with a badly broken heart. He quoted me this verse. It took my breath away then, and has ever since. Let's just consider a few of its marvels together.
  1. Doctrinally—where to begin? If one has a word from the great Spurgeon, that's usually the best place, so let's do: "God had one Son without sin, but not a single child without the rod" (CHS, Morning and Evening, 5/31 AM, though on 2 Samuel 15:23). Obviously the Son's "learning" is not like ours, teaching a contrary to a rebel. But submission was something the incarnate Logos learned, and He learned it not in a bucolic school on a lovely afternoon. He learned it through suffering.
  2. Practically—if the sinless Son learned submission thus, how could we born rebels expect to learn it less painfully? He was like us in every regard, except as to sin nature. Christ's nature did not chafe against the yoke, His heart did not most naturally rise up in rebellion against God. He did not walk according to the spirit of the age, working in the sons of disobedience. He was unlike us in all those things...and still suffering was the school in which He learned τὴν ὑπακοήν.
  3. Grammatically—there is so much. There is the anarthrous (no definite article) phrase καίπερ ὢν υἱός. It stresses not so much who He was, as what He was. Not so much that He was The Son, but that Son is what He was. He wasn't a slave, He wasn't a reconciled enemy; He was no less than Son. But Son though He was, suffering was his alma mater in the matter of submission. Then there is the assonance. Read the phrase aloud: ἔμαθεν ἀφ᾽ ὧν ἔπαθεν. What an artist this author is! Then there is what I'll un-academically call the syntactic suspense. The author does not write, ἔμαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν ἀφ᾽ ὧν ἔπαθεν. Rather, it is ἔμαθεν ἀφ᾽ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν. "Son though He was, He learned from the things He suffered"— learned what? The wickedness of sin? The brokenness of the world? The rough providences of God? No. "Submission." And this is held in suspense until the last, syntactically. As if to say, "Son though He was, He learned from the things He suffered—submission!"
One parting thought, if I may. A man who didn't know a word of Greek could open up some wonderful thoughts from this verse. But do you see, everything we just reflected on lies under the surface of the English text. The best analogy I've thought of is this: a man with a great translation is like someone with a really good black and white TV. You see what's going on, you follow the story fine.

Ah, but if you really want to see things as they are, and pick up shadings and depth you might otherwise miss, you need color.

The analogy isn't exact, of course. But this text well illustrates its point.

(That said, I say again that I really hope folks are point this site out to pastors!)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hebrews 4:15—our sympathetic High Priest

I remember when the Greek of this verse first hit me. I had taken my Greek NT with me in my backpack, and had gone on a hike in the foothills of Glendale, CA, back in the 1970's. I just wanted to be alone, to read, reflect, and pray.

And then I read this:
οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν ἀρχιερέα μὴ δυνάμενον συμπαθῆσαι ταῖς ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν, πεπειρασμένον δὲ κατὰ πάντα καθ᾽ ὁμοιότητα χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας.
That word, συμπαθῆσαι, struck home to me. It's phrased in the negative, "We do not have such a high priest as cannot" -- emphatically denying that He is such as cannot συμπαθῆσαι, and thus emphatically affirming that He can and does συμπαθῆσαι.

But that word, συμπαθῆσαι. When I read it, I said aloud, "Wow."

It means that He can feel with, He can feel pain with, He can be touched with the painfulness of our weaknesses. He is not a bloodless, dispassionate Force or Principle (such as my cult, recently abandoned in repentance, had taught). He is not an expressionless, alabaster statue in the heavens. Even now, at God's right hand, serving as our High Priest, He knows from within Himself the pains our weaknesses cause.

And the reason given for this ability is both His humanity (further brought out in 5:1ff.), and His having endured trials and temptations of His own: πεπειρασμένον δὲ κατὰ πάντα καθ᾽ ὁμοιότητα. Perfect passive participle, He is now one who has been put through every category of temptation in similarity (to our own).

But there is one all-important point of disconnection with us: χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας.

His temptations were thus all the worse than ours, contrary to what our first impression might be. Dr. Robert Thomas first helped me understand this, at Talbot. The Devil tempts us, ratchets up his temptation-machine to a 1, 1.5, 1.75 -- and we bail, we fail.

But with the Son of God, the temptation is brought to a 1, a 2, a 3... nothing. Then 4, 6, 8, and finally the greatest force he can bring to bear, a 10 -- still nothing. No yielding. Temptation far stronger and more intense than any we endure, but no failing. What a Savior.

I can't imagine putting it better nor more tersely than Spurgeon:
"God had one Son without sin; but he has no son without temptation" (Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, 2/9 pm)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hebrews 4:12—experimental rendering

Here is where the blog owner sits on the board over the tank of water, hands out baseballs to the public, and simply invites them to throw.

First, The Greek:
Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐνεργὴς καὶ τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον καὶ διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, καὶ κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας·
Now, the very-literal DPUV (Dan Phillips Unauthorized Version):
For the word of God is living, and effective, and sharper beyond every two-edged sword; and is penetrating up to the partition of soul and of spirit, of both joints and of marrows, and is discriminating [or critical] of the emotions and inner thoughts of the heart;....
This would be a more "dynamic" rendering:
For the word of God is living and effective, and far sharper than any double-edged sword; and it penetrates to the point of splitting soul and spirit, as well as joints and ligaments; and it is able to critique the very innermost stirrings and thoughts of the heart.
All right, have at it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hebrews 3:16-18—τίνες, τίσιν, τίσιν

Today's note is a brief one.

In 13:22, the writer describes his own letter as a "word of exhortation."
Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἀνέχεσθε τοῦ λόγου τῆς παρακλήσεως, καὶ γὰρ διὰ βραχέων ἐπέστειλα ὑμῖν.

Many have noted sermonic elements in Hebrews. This rather stands out in Hebrews 3:16-18, where the writer asks his readers three very pointed questions, that serve to bring home the portion of Scripture he'd just been using as a warning:
16 τίνες γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν; ἀλλ᾽ οὐ πάντες οἱ ἐξελθόντες ἐξ Αἰγύπτου διὰ Μωϋσέως;
17 τίσιν δὲ προσώχθισεν τεσσεράκοντα ἔτη; οὐχὶ τοῖς ἁμαρτήσασιν, ὧν τὰ κῶλα ἔπεσεν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ;
18 τίσιν δὲ ὤμοσεν μὴ εἰσελεύσεσθαι εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ εἰ μὴ τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν;
Thus he stirs up his hearers' attention and involves them in the text. Preachers should never preach for their own amusement, nor simply to discuss a topic. The Word should always have impact; we should always preach before God, to our audience.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hebrews 3:14—past and present in salvation

While Romans is perhaps the most theologically celebrated book in the New Testament, Hebrews is no small potatoes. Honest Calvinists (like me! Hi, everyone!) will admit that some of the more challenging passages relating to the Biblical doctrine of Christ's keeping the saints are to be found in Hebrews.

This passage, I think, puts the matter rather deftly. An explicit warning begins with verse 12:
12 Βλέπετε, ἀδελφοί, μήποτε ἔσται ἔν τινι ὑμῶν καρδία πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας ἐν τῷ ἀποστῆναι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ζῶντος, 13 ἀλλὰ παρακαλεῖτε ἑαυτοὺς καθ᾽ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν, ἄχρις οὗ τὸ σήμερον καλεῖται, ἵνα μὴ σκληρυνθῇ τις ἐξ ὑμῶν ἀπάτῃ τῆς ἁμαρτίας- 14 μέτοχοι γὰρ τοῦ Χριστοῦ γεγόναμεν, ἐάνπερ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν-...
Well, there it is, the danger of unbelief and apostasy, and put in so many words (ἀποστῆναι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ζῶντος-v. 12). The writer is both warning his readers, and enlisting their participation in the "one another" ministry of broadcasting this caution throughout the assembly.

But note well the exact wording of verse 14. The writer does not say, "If we hold fast to our confidence, we shall become partakers." Nor does he say, "We have become partakers of Christ, if we have made a confession of confidence." Nor, "We shall remain partakers of Christ, if we hold fast." Nor even, "We have become partakers of Christ, if we have held fast our confidence."

Rather, he says, μέτοχοι γὰρ τοῦ Χριστοῦ γεγόναμεν, ἐάνπερ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς ὑποστάσεως μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν κατάσχωμεν. The grammar is "We have become X, if we do Y." The first is a first person plural perfect deponent verb, and indicates that "we" have come into a state of being. At some point in the past, this happened, and the effects remain — ἐάνπερ. If what? If we hold fast to the original confidence we placed in Christ, the conviction we came to hold about Him (put as a simple aorist subjunctive).

The wording is interesting, and translation knotty; but my sole focus here is the syntax, and its significance. The writer is saying that present activity reveals past transformation. Perseverance reveals a past work of sovereign grace—and it alone reveals that fact. Not a remembered profession of faith; but enduring possession. Continuance is the test, and proof, of reality.

In this way, the passage is reminiscent of 1 John 5:1—Πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς, ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται. "Everyone who currently, now believes that Jesus is the Son of God has, at a point in the past, been begotten by God."

As regeneration precedes and causes saving faith, so being made a partaker (or partner) of Christ precedes and causes endurance.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Hebrews 2:7-8—three asyndeta

For reading, exegesis, and exposition, the Greek language is rich in conjunctions. One day I'm sure I'll have occasion to gripe bitterly about the practice of dropping conjunctions in translation. Sure, it can make for "smoother" English reading; but sometimes I think the conjunction is exegetically significant (Matthew 17:1 always leaps to mind in this connection).

So it is always notable when a writer tersely drops conjunctions altogether, and fires off a staccato series of statements, assertions, or exhortations.

Our passage is an example today. Such a clause is called an asyndeton; the plural is asyndeta. There are three asyndeta in Hebrews 2:7-8. I can make the reading more arresting, the points blunter or more emphatic.

I think they're best seen in this case by removing verse numbers and breaking them up on separate lines. I number the asyndeta, thus:
διεμαρτύρατο δέ πού τις λέγων·
τί ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος ὅτι μιμνῄσκῃ αὐτοῦ, ἢ υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ὅτι ἐπισκέπτῃ αὐτόν;
1. ἠλάττωσας αὐτὸν βραχύ τι παρ᾽ ἀγγέλους,
2. δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφάνωσας αὐτόν,
3. πάντα ὑπέταξας ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν αὐτοῦ.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Hebrews 2:3—three prepositional phrases

Next, let's take a quick look at Hebrews 2:3. It's nestled within the wonderful (and instructive) 2:1-4. Here the author asks:
πῶς ἡμεῖς ἐκφευξόμεθα τηλικαύτης ἀμελήσαντες σωτηρίας, ἥτις ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη
He specifies the σωτηρία he is talking about as τηλικαύτη, then refers to its origin. Its origin reinforces its greatness, because it was first spoken (ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα λαλεῖσθαι) by the Lord. But he does not say so quite that simply. The author's way is both terser and more elegant at the same time.

Note the three prepositional phrases he employs, bang-bang-bang. This great salvation was:
  1. First spoken διὰ τοῦ κυρίου
  2. Then confirmed ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων
  3. εἰς ἡμᾶς
Note too how the author brackets the prepositional phrases within two verbs or verbal phrases, so that the pre-phrases are given (as I say) bang-bang-bang: ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη.

Over-woodenly, it would be something like this: "how shall we escape, after disregarding salvation so great as this, which having first been spoken by the Lord, unto us by those who heard was confirmed."

Monday, March 5, 2007

Hebrews 1:3-4—tenses and participles

Now note Hebrews 1:3-4.
ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, 4 τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων ὅσῳ διαφορώτερον παρ᾽ αὐτοὺς κεκληρονόμηκεν ὄνομα.
First, the participles: the sequence is present, present, aorist, aorist. Two states viewed as ongoing: (1) Christ's being the radiance of God's glory and the impress of His being, and (2) His carrying the universe by His powerful word. Two actions (or states) viewed as past: (1) the accomplishment of purification of sins, and (2) being better than the angels.

The contrast matters to the writer. What Christ was as to His essence is timeless and ongoing (cf. 13:8), and this gives meaning to His eternal Person and His historical work.

But this purification of sins was an historical event, done once for all (cf. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10), never to be repeated.

Then note the two finite verbs in verse four: ἐκάθισεν, whose importance I discussed in the previous post; and κεκληρονόμηκεν.

It isn't often that a man's thought and eloquence are as well-matched as they are in this man. One thinks of Spurgeon... and very few others.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Hebrews 1:1-4—masterful start to a breathtaking epistle

In the history of literature, many books are rightly famed for their masterful opening lines. Hebrews should rank among the very best. Consider:
Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι ὁ θεὸς λαλήσας τοῖς πατράσιν ἐν τοῖς προφήταις 2 ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ, ὃν ἔθηκεν κληρονόμον πάντων, δι᾽ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας· 3 ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, 4 τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων ὅσῳ διαφορώτερον παρ᾽ αὐτοὺς κεκληρονόμηκεν ὄνομα.
This post won't be much more than a gushy admiration for the inspired writer's style in constructing one of the commanding openings of all time. If the writer is anyone named in Scripture, the description we have of Apollos as Ἰουδαῖος ...Ἀλεξανδρεὺς τῷ γένει, ἀνὴρ λόγιος (Acts 18:24) surely fits. Whoever he was, God found in him a man whose providential gifts, elevated by the Spirit's inspiration, were equal to very lofty themes.

Note how the writer starts with three adverbs (Πολυμερῶς, πολυτρόπως, πάλαι) followed by an aorist participle (λαλήσας), and does not bring out a finite verb until what is our second verse (ἐλάλησεν). A literal translation makes for difficult English, and many versions smooth it out—thus losing (in my opinion) the intended impact.

If the writer had meant to say "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets" (NLT), or "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways" (TNIV), he could have done so. But he chose not to, and his choice (again, in my view) should be reflected in the translation. To go in the other direction suggests to the English reader that the writer is making two independent statements: God spoke in this way; now God spoke in another way.

Surely it will be argued that we have to adopt some such convention, even as the more literal versions do (ESV: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets"), but I demur. The author's emphasis is not equally divided between the two assertions. His emphasis is on God's speaking to us Son-wise (ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ). Everything is subordinated to that pivotal event.

And this same could be said for the book as a whole. This is the writer's argument: all was preparation for Christ. Everything is overshadowed by Christ. Master-wordsmith that he was, he sets this all up for us in the opening words.

So he says "In many portions and in many manners of old God having spoken to the fathers in the prophets, at the last of these days He spoke to us in the Son." That's very rough English, and indeed it might be another case where it's best to translate it one way, and then explain it. A preacher could say,
"The way the writer phrases himself, his great emphasis is on God's word in Christ. Everything else is subordinated to that. How has God spoken in Christ? He has done so, having spoken at many times over a space of millennia, and in many manners by vision and symbol, in years gone by. After these epochs of gradual and multiform accumulative revelation, God has spoken in a final and definitive manner. This climactic revelation is not partial, it is not under many guises, and it is not solely mediated. It is direct, and it is final. The former is backdrop to the latter. God spoke to us in one who was—not merely an angel, nor prophet, nor a symbol, nor a type, but—a Son."
All my readers know that we could go on and on about the marvels of this passage. I'll just note one more facet to bolster my argument that it sets the stage for the whole book. It's that note in v. 3—καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς. This alludes to Psalm 110, which some have said (justifiably) is the background text for the entire book. The verb καθίζω occurs in three other pivotal passages (8:1; 10:12; 12:2). It marks Christ off from all others. Angels are not invited to sit at God's right hand; priests could never sit, because their work was never done.

Only Christ is God's "right-hand Man," only Christ accomplished perfect and eternal atonement, and so only Christ ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς. It is the magnificence of this Christ that these magnificent opening words serve to spotlight. One can only gaze and marvel—and then try, with our vastly inferior gifts, to convey to others the wonders that are unveiled here.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Getting started in Greek

I promised a post for folks who may be a bit daunted by advanced syntactical discussions. Here it is.

Teachers counsel different approaches to starting the study of Greek. Go through a grammar, learn vocabulary, etc. All of that makes sense. My own approach was different.

The Lord saved me when I was a senior in high school. I had been a completely undisciplined student. If a subject interested me, I applied myself... a bit. If it didn't, or if it was hard, I didn't.

My conversion ruined every career plan I had, and slapped my aimless worldview around, so everything was a-jumble. I knew I was filled with a burning desire to know the Word, do the Word, communicate the Word to others. I wanted my life to count for the glory of God.

A pastor I knew told me he believed I was gifted to become a pastor myself, and invited me to join the training school he was starting. I was overwhelmed. It made perfect sense of my desires -- but there was that whole study thing. The thought of hard, continuous, disciplined study was very daunting.

And particularly, I knew I'd have to master Greek. He stressed that. It made sense to me. After all, how could I teach a book written in Hebrew and Greek, without knowing Hebrew and Greek?

So I decided to get a head start. I got a Machen grammar, as this would be our text. From it, months before school started, I learned the alphabet—just the alphabet. How to write it and say it, how to read and say words written in Greek.

Then I went to our public library, and found the Greek section. It had a Greek New Testament. I sat down with it, figured out how to find passages I knew, and read them.

This was over thirty-three years ago, and I still remember it vividly. I strained to say those words. I think I even broke out in a sweat, it was so hard to begin with. But there, in John 1:1, was that word λόγος. I recognized it from other words like logic, and I think I'd heard the pastor talk about it. Then there was that word θεὸς. I knew that! It was like in theology! This was exciting. Before too long, I'd read my first whole verse, in Greek.

I kept that up as Greek classes approached, looking up favorite verses, picking out Greek word-equivalents. I continued the same practice as I began Greek. I followed along in my Greek NT during sermons. It made Greek alive and exciting to me. I picked things out that translations didn't quite communicate -- tenses, numbers, prepositional phrases. The more I learned, the more I saw. The rewards increased as my knowledge deepened.

And so, when I've taught Hebrew and Greek, I've encouraged my students to do exactly that. Don't wait until you've had a year of the language to start looking at the testaments. Get the alphabet down cold, and start looking at the original texts now. You'll start noticing things early-on. The study will start rewarding you, right from the beginning.

That taste will help keep you going when you get to irregular verbs, hapaxes, and prepositions with scores of possible meanings (did someone say ἐπὶ?).

This also gives me the opportunity to stress one more time the importance of learning the alphabet. I encountered the greatest resistance to this in teaching Hebrew, because its alphabet is so much stranger to English readers than Greek is. Too many students treat the Hebrew alphabet as if it's a series of coded symbols. They only learn it well enough to find them in BDB, not well enough to read them. This guarantees failure.

If you're starting, start with mastering the alphabet, and reading the actual Greek NT aloud. It isn't essential that you understand it at first; it is essential that you get your brain used to it. Then the rest will come much more easily.

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.