Sunday, November 27, 2011

1 Thessalonians 3:5, An Excerpt from an upcoming Study

Here is another excerpt from an upcoming study on 1 Thessalonians.  This is a rough draft.

1 Thessalonians 3:5

5 For this reason, when I was not able to bear it any longer, I sent in order to find out about your faith, lest in some way, the tempter had tempted you and our labor may have been in vain.

     5 Paul begins the last sentence with διὰ τοῦτο (For this reason) which is referring to “afflictions” that the Thessalonians were experiencing and why Paul wanted to really send Timothy.  Bruce, on the other hand, sees διὰ τοῦτο (For this reason) pointing forward as Paul wanted to know about the Thessalonians’ faith (Bruce, WBC, 63).  Both, in a sense, are probably correct as one thing always leads to another.  Paul then moves from the 3rd person to the 1st person by saying κἀγὼ μηκέτι στέγων (when I was not able to bear it any longer).  The phrase is somewhat of a repeat from verse 1 except Paul is now stating that he himself was the one who couldn’t stand not knowing what was going on with the Thessalonians.  Were they faithful?  Were they enduring?  Were they holding on to their faith while suffering afflictions from their own fellow-citizens?  Paul wanted to know so he sent Timothy in to find out!  Paul uses εἰς τὸ γνῶναι τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν (in order to know your faith).  The construction indicates that the action of sending Timothy back to Thessalonica would result in Paul understanding the Thessalonians’ faith.  He wanted to find out if they were still holding strong.
     Then Paul “lets the cat out of the bag” so to speak by saying μή πως ἐπείρασεν ὑμᾶς ὁ πειράζων (lest in some way, the tempter had tempted you).  The “tempter” of course being Satan.  Paul has already referred to Satan in 2:19, but here Paul was concerned that “the temper” may have been taking advantage of the situation where the Thessalonians, being persecuted, could have been vulnerable to go back to their idolatrous ways in order to escape the persecution.  If that had been the case, then the Apostles’ work would have been in vain or to no effect.  For if “the tempter” used the Thessalonians’ situation in order to turn them back to idolatry, then Paul and company truly had “labored in vain”.  Paul’s usage of καὶ εἰς κενὸν γένηται ὁ κόπος ἡμῶν (and our labor may have been in vain) comes from Isaiah 65:23a LXX:
23a οἱ δὲ ἐκλεκτοί μου οὐ κοπιάσουσιν εἰς κενὸν...
23a and my chosen ones will not labor in vain...
Although Isaiah 65:23a is positive, Paul places it in a negative context here (Fee, NICNT, 120).  Paul’s use of εἰς κενὸν (in vain) is found throughout his letters (1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 2:16; Galatians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 6:1).
     Although there is debate over such notions as one losing one’s place in God and thus losing one’s salvation, from this context, Paul certainly thought that it was possible (Fee, NICNT, 120), but there is a big difference between a person sinning because of one’s fallen nature and completely turning away from one’s faith.  The tempter’s (Satan’s) main concern for tempting is to not just get christians to commit some sins, but to get them to completely turn their back on their christian faith (Green, PNTC, 164-165).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Deuteronomy 22:5; Septuagint (LXX) Studies

The KJV renders Deuteronomy 22:5 as:  
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. 
The translators of the Septuagint/LXX translate the passage as:
Οὐκ ἔσται σκεύη ἀνδρὸς ἐπὶ γυναικί, οὐδὲ μὴ ἐνδύσηται ἀνὴρ στολὴν γυναικείαν, ὅτι βδέλυγμα κυρίῳ τῷ θεῷ σού ἐστιν πᾶς ποιῶν ταῦτα.
A man’s vessels shall not be on a woman, nether should a man put on a woman’s robe, because everyone doing these things is detestable to the LORD your God.
So what does “a man’s vessels” mean?  BDAG* (927-928) defines σκεῦος in three ways: 1. a material object used to meet some need in an occupation or other responsibility; a thing, object; 2. a container of any kind; vessel, jar, dish; 3. a human being exercising a function; instrument, vessel (figurative of course).
What is interesting to note is that σκεῦος is never used in the NT as “clothing”.
The Hebrew word behind σκεῦος is kheli which also means “vessel” or “weapon”.  It has been argued that kheli means “clothing” in Deuteronomy 22:5, but if that is the case, then why did the Jews who translated the Hebrew into Greek use the plural neuter form of σκεῦος which never means “a man’s clothing”?
One more interesting thing to note in this passage.  The Greek word behind “robe” in the 2nd part of the verse is στολή.  στολή means “a long, flowing robe”.  It is used some 9 times in the NT and more times to count in the LXX and is used in describing both men’s and women’s robes.  Therefore, this word was a well known word.  If the intent was to refer to kheli as “clothing”, then the translators of the LXX would have used something other than σκεῦος.  In the end, it probably is referring to military utensils and garb used in war.
To be fair, I will do more research of the use of σκεῦος in the LXX.  So, more to come.
* (BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition - Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Matthew 27:46-50 The Need for Studying Biblical Manuscripts

Matthew 27:46-50  
46 Now about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which is “My God, My God, why have you deserted me?”)  47 And some of the ones standing there after hearing this were saying, “This one is calling Elijah!”  48 And immediately, one of them ran and took a sponge filled with sour wine and put it on a staff and gave it to him to drink.  49 And the rest were saying, “Leave him alone!  Let us see if Elijah comes to deliver him.”  50 And Jesus, crying out again with a loud voice, released the spirit.
Matthew 27:46-50 is a very familiar passage that describes Jesus’ last moments before his death.  My scholar friend, Jim Leonard, brought this passage to my attention in a recent visit to the Center for New Testament Textual Studies on the Campus of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  While we were discussing Textual Criticism, he brought to my attention that there was a significant variant reading that occurs right before verse 50.  A scribe decided to insert a paraphrase from John 19:34.  The reading is ἄλλος δὲ λαβὼν λόγχην ἔνυξεν αὐτοῦ τὴν πλευράν, καὶ ἔξηλθεν ὕδωρ καὶ αἷμα (And another one taking a spear stabbed his side, and water and blood came out).  First of all, this variant reading is supported by some really good 4th and 5th century witnesses including Codex Sinaiticus which is the oldest complete Greek Bible.  Now at first glance, this seems to be just an attempt to make the passage conform with John 19:34, but in the process, the scribe makes it seem that it was the spear that killed Jesus and not the crucifixion!  The reading didn’t make as future scribes corrected it.  If this reading had stood, it would have presented us with a quite different outlook on the death of Jesus.  This is how the reading would have looked within the main passage:
49 And the rest were saying, “Leave him alone!  Let us see if Elijah comes to deliver him.”  And another one taking a spear stabbed his side, and water and blood came out.  50 And Jesus, crying out again with a loud voice, released the spirit.
The question now remains: Why would a scribe present such a reading as this in a place where it would seem that a spear was responsible for Jesus death?  We may never know for sure, but I can say this, The Center for New Testament Textual Studies is dedicated to studying Biblical Manuscripts.  If an answer can be found, they will find it!