Thursday, November 15, 2012

Other Blogs

All, please check out my other blogs.  I co-author these blogs with a dear friend of mine, Stephen Brown.

My musings on the Greek text of John's Gospel can be found here.

My local congregation has been doing a study on holiness in Paul's letters.  My Pauline blog can be found here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Philippians 1:27-30; Deliverance Gifts

27 Live only a life worthy of the Good News of the Anointed, so that whether I come and see you, or while being absent, I hear the things concerning you, that you stand firm in the one Spirit, with one mind, working together in the faith of the Good News 28 and not being intimidated in anything by those who oppose you.  This is a sign of destruction to them, but a sign of your deliverance. 29 Because it was gifted to you in the Anointed’s behalf, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer in his behalf, 30 having the same struggle, such as you see in me, and now you are hearing by me.

As Paul is writing this letter, he is in prison in Rome and will soon be executed.  He is suffering at the hands of those who oppose him.  He is hopeful that he will be able to see the Philippians again, but wants to encourage them to continue to stand firm in spite of suffering in the same way that he is.  The Philippians ability to stand is a true sign that the ones who oppose them will perish, and that the Philippians will be delivered!  Why?  Because it is a gift to have faith and to suffer!  

Let’s take a look at verse 29.  The main verb that Paul uses is χαρίζομαι which means : “to give freely as a favor, give graciously”.  This verb's cognate noun is χάρις which means “grace, favor”.  Another cognate noun would be χάρισμα which is a “grace-gift”.  A “grace-gift” is a gift that one receives as a direct result of God’s grace or favor on one’s life.  Here, two gifts are given as a true sign that the Philippians will be delivered from God’s wrath: 1. Believing/Faith is a gift and 2. Suffering is a gift.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Revisiting Deuteronomy 22:5; Septuagint (LXX) Studies

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.  Deuteronomy 22:5 LXX

In this earlier post, an argument was made that σκεύη (vessels) was used in the LXX as military equipment in Deuteronomy 22:5.  This blog will explore other ways that the LXX uses the word.  To shorten this, we will stay within the Torah as all five books of the Torah were translated at the same time.  BTW, the use of σκεῦος in the Torah is mostly used for the “vessels” of the Tabernacle or the Ark of the Covenant.  

Below is just a snap-shot of σκεῦος (skeu-os).  It's used many, many times in the Torah.

Genesis 24:53: σκεύη ἀργυρᾶ (silver vessels)
Exodus 35: σκεῦος χρυσοῦν (golden vessel)
Exodus 38:12: τὰ σκεύη τῆς τραπέζης (the vessels of the table)
Exodus 38:23: τὰ σκεύη τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου (the vessels of the alter)
Leviticus 6:21: σκεῦος ὀστράκινον (pottery vessels)
Leviticus 11:32: σκεύους ξυλίνου (wooden vessels)
Leviticus 13:52: σκεύει δερματίνῳ (leather vessel)
Numbers 3:8: τὰ σκεύη τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου (the vessels of the tent of the witness/“the tabernacle”)
Numbers 35:16: σκεύει σιδήρου (iron vessels)

Finally, Deuteronomy has the word only two times.  In 1:41 we have τὰ σκεύη τὰ πολεμικὰ (the war vessels), i.e. military gear.

And last but not least, Deuteronomy 22:5: σκεύη ἀνδρὸς (vessels of a man).  Kittle (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) refers to σκεῦος as possibly being clothing only in Deuteronomy 22:5, but if it is not used like this in any other place in the LXX, can this stand up?

Revisiting the Hebrew:

So, what does “vessels of a man” mean?  I’m no Hebrew scholar, but my dictionary of Hebrew words (The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament) says that kᵉlı̂, used here in Deuteronomy 22:5 means: “vessel, utensil”.  It goes on to describe how this word was used in the OT.  And guess what?  It was used the very same way as σκεῦος.  

Also, The Kohlenberger/Mounce Concise Hebrew–Aramaic Dictionary
of the Old Testament says the same thing:

“article, utensil, thing; a general term that can be used of any object. → armor; article; furnishing; instrument; object; thing; utensil; vessel.”

So, where does that leave us?  It is possible that σκεῦος could mean "clothing", but it is not used that way in any other place in the LXX, especially in the Torah and it is not used that way in the NT.  All of the evidence is against "clothing".

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Romans 12:3; More Word-plays

Romans 12:3

Ῥωμαίους 12·3 Λέγω γὰρ διὰ τῆς χάριτος τῆς δοθείσης μοι παντὶ τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν παρ᾿ ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν ἀλλὰ φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως.

3 For through the grace that was given to me, I say to each one of you to not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with the result that you think reasonably as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one of you.

In this verse, Paul creates a word-play with the Greek verb φρονέω which means “to think”.  Paul uses this verb twice in it’s natural form plus two more times in compound forms.  I will demonstrate that below with hyphens separating the compound verbs and the actual verbs underlined.  I will try to make the translation more literal in order to see the word play in English.

For through the grace that was given to me, I say to every one who are among you, to not think highly (ὑπερ-φρονεῖν) from what is necessary to think (φρονεῖν), but to think (φρονεῖν) with the result that to think reasonably (σω-φρονεῖν), to each one as God allotted a measure of faith.

The last two “to think” verbs are separated with εἰς τὸ.  In Greek, this expression used with an infinitive verb, indicated that Paul is looking for the proper results when one thinks.  That nuance has been provided in the above translation.  The translation my not be good English, but it tries to get the point across.

As far as the context is concerned, Paul goes on to say that each believer is part of the body of Christ and each one is important to the body and to each other.  Everyone has a certain grace-gift that must be exercised.  Romans 12:1-8 parallels with 1 Corinthians 12-14.  Here, it is a very general form.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jeremiah 20:9; More Septuagint Studies

As I was researching the “prophecy” passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, I decided to go to Jeremiah 20:9 in the LXX (Greek Translation of the OT) where Jeremiah decided to not prophesy anymore, but couldn’t bear it.  I made an amazing discovery!  The translators of the LXX often “interpreted” the Hebrew.  For instance, compare my translation of the Greek OT to a modern translation from Hebrew:

9 And I said, “I will never name the name of the Lord 
and I will never even speak on the basis of/in his name.”  
And it became like a kindled fire 
burning in my bones, 
and I have been weakened on both sides 
and I am not able to bear it. LXX (my translation)

9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. NIV11

Note the “interpretive” differences between the renderings.  During the time that the LXX was rendered, the Jews had stopped speaking God’s name “Yahweh” as they were afraid that they would speak the name in vain.  That idea is seen in this passage!  This Jewish thought carried on into NT times, which leads us to Paul’s incredible statement about Jesus in Philippians 2:6-11 in which we will look at the last 3 verses.  See my blog here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Turning the Rapture on its Head!

     13 Now we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, concerning the ones who are asleep, so that you won’t grieve as the rest who have no hope.  14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose up, in this way also God will bring, through Jesus, the ones who have fallen asleep with him.
     15 For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we, the ones who are living, the ones who are remaining, will certainly not precede the ones who have fallen asleep until the coming of the Lord; 16 because the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a command by the voice of the Archangel and by the trumpet of God, and the dead in the Anointed One will rise up first, 17 then we, the ones who are living, the ones who remain, will be seized at the same time with them in the clouds for the meeting of the Lord in the air, and thus we will be with the Lord always.  18 Therefore, comfort one another with these words. (My Translation)

This is perhaps one of the most read and anticipated passages in the NT.  It is also one of the most misinterpreted passages in the NT.  We are going to look at a couple of phrases, namely the end of verse 16 and verse 17.

Verse 16

The final phrase in this verse is καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστήσονται πρῶτον (and the dead in Christ/the Anointed One will rise up first).  The Greek verb here is ἀνίστημι and was also seen in verse 14 to refer to Jesus’ resurrection.  Most people believe that “the dead in Christ” actually rise up into the air first, but that’s not what happens.  The dead resurrect.  ἀνίστημι is the cognate verb of ἀνάστασις which means “resurrection”.  Perhaps better rendering would be “and the dead in Christ will resurrect first”.

Verse 17

After the dead are resurrected, they and the living are seized at the same time for the meeting of the Lord.  Most translations render εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου as “to meet the Lord”, but this is a prepositional phrase as opposed to an infinitive verb.  Therefore, the proper rendering of the prepositional phrase is “for the meeting of the Lord”.  ἀπάντησις is only used here and in two other places in the NT; Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15.  Matthew 25:6 describes the meeting of the bridegroom and the ten wise and the ten foolish virgins.  Acts 28:15, on the other hand, describes how the brothers and the sisters in the Roman Church went out to meet Paul in order to escort him into the city; ἦλθαν εἰς ἀπάντησιν (they came for the meeting). 

In the Greek world, εἰς ἀπάντησιν was a technical term “for a civic custom of antiquity whereby a public welcome was accorded by a city to important visitors” (Kittel, Volume I, 380-381).  Some scholars state that  there is no indication that Paul is using that meaning here.  But what is interesting is the fact that this phrase, εἰς ἀπάντησιν, is used in this technical way in both Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15.  In both passages, after the meeting, the both the bridegroom and Paul are escorted somewhere.  The Bridegroom is escorted to the wedding hall which Paul is escorted into Rome.  If Paul’s use of the phrase is the same, then that turns the idea of a “rapture” on its head as the living and the resurrected dead were to meet Jesus in the clouds and in the air in other to escort him back to earth!  As Leon Morris says “It seems that the Lord proceeds to the earth with his people (cf. 1 Cor. 6:2)” (Morris, TNTC, 91).

The final phrase is καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα (and thus we will be with the Lord always/at all times).  It should be noted that Paul doesn’t give us a geographical location (because it is inferred?) for where the living and the resurrected dead will be “with the Lord always”.  The main reason for this has to do with why Paul wrote the teaching to the Thessalonians in the first place; to encourage them about their dead brothers and sisters.  

With that said, perhaps we should look at the coming of Christ from the standpoint of the Thessalonians’ language and customs.  There is no doubt that they would have understood the technical term εἰς ἀπάντησιν (for the meeting) as is was used constantly in their time.  From my prospective, they would see this event as Jesus’ coming as he is, the King and the Lord.  They would also understand that “the meeting” was for them to escort him back to earth.  Therefore it is on earth where, “we will be with the Lord always”.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hebrews 6:1-3; Baptisms?

Hebrews 6:1-3
1 Therefore, leaving the primary message about the Anointed One, let us be carried on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith in God, 2 teaching of cleansing rites, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and the eternal judgment.  3 We will do this, if only God permits.
The entire context if from 5:11 - 6:12.  Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians and we should always keep that in mind.  Some of my commentary on this passage would be:
1. These Christians are being told that they are about to be taught some deep things (mature things) around their faith and they need to move on from the very basics that distinguishes Jewish Christians from Jews.  
2. “Dead Works” probably refers to the Jewish Law and how that “faith in God” from a Jewish prospective is now different from the “Christian faith in God”.  
3. “Teaching of Cleansing Rites (baptisms) probably refers to the difference between Jewish cleansing rites and Christian cleansing rites (baptism).  The Greek word βαπτισμός is only used 4 times in the NT.  It is used as “washing” in Mark 7:4 and later on in Hebrews 9:10.  The only time that it may actually refer to what we call “baptism” today is in Colossians 2:12.  With that said, we must assume that the Author of Hebrews is using the word here as he uses it in 9:10.  
4. The whole letter is an appeal to the Jewish Christians to not slip back into Judaism and to show that Faith in Jesus is superior to the Old Covenant.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2 Timothy 3:17; The of God Man

2 Timothy 3:14-17

14 But you remain in what you learned and feel confident, knowing from whom you have learned it, 15 and that from childhood, you have known the Sacred Writings, the things that are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, for rebuke, for improvement, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God should be fully qualified, for completing every good work.

It should be noted up front that 1 and 2 Timothy were PERSONAL letters written to Timothy for encouragement in his calling as an evangelist.  What is interesting is that we (Christians) tend to think that these letters where written to US, but they were written to Timothy, not us.  They were written for us so that we could learn from them.
Most comments about this passage in the Greek text revolve around what πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος (all Scripture is God-breathed), but I want to focus on the phrase ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος (the man/person of God).
The expression “the man of God” is scarce throughout the NT.  In fact, it is only used in the singular twice (1 Timothy 6:11 and 2 Timothy 3:17) and in the plural once (2 Peter 1:21).  Of the two singular expressions, 1 Timothy 6:11 refers to Timothy and it does not have the article.  Therefore technically, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ (O man of God) could not be rendered as “O THE man of God”.  The 2nd singular expression in 2 Timothy 3:17, on the other hand, has the article and can be rendered “the man of God”.  This expression could be directly to Timothy alone, but it also could be a general expression for all of “God’s people” which included Timothy.  Last but not least, the plural expression in 2 Peter 1:21 refers to OT prophets and is not articular.  Thus it is rendered as “men of God”.  Of these three, we want to focus on the articular expression found in 2 Timothy 3:17.
In the OT, this Hebraic expression was used mostly with Moses and the Prophets.
I have often expressed in my NT teaching that the phrase “the man of God” is not a NT expression.  Of course, I’m now corrected.  But I will stand by the concept that “the man of God” is not some expression that should be “graced” upon people by people.  In my lifetime, I have seen this expression used as a title given to preachers throughout Churches to elevate their status before the people.  Often, the adjective “great” is added to the title to prop up the person further in eyes of the congregation.  This somehow implies that “the man of God” stands above/over the rest of the congregation.  Of course that concept of separation between ministers and the people is foreign in the NT as all Christians are ministers in some way or the other.  Also, the concept of leaders and people being separated is also foreign to the NT text (1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:1-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).  Paul and the other letter writers ALWAYS address their letters to whole congregations/assemblies which included the leaders and not just to leaders.  The exception of course is for personal letters directed to Titus, Philemon, and here, Timothy.
With all of that said, Scripture has a way of “putting us all in our proper place”.  Thus, we have come to our Greek expression ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος (the man/person of God).
As I’ve stated above, this is the only time that the definite article is included with the expression in the NT.  This is due to the probable fact that this expression included all ministers/servers as a general expression.  This would have included Timothy, and not necessarily just Timothy.
As I’ve stated in many of my blogs, in Greek, if an author wants to express the importance of something, they place that word or phrase first.  So it is here.  If we render ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ ἄνθρωπος as indicated in word order, it would be translated as “the of God man/person”.  Of course that is not proper English, so we render it “the man/person of God” or “God’s man/person”.  What does all of this mean?  It means that no man/person is before God.  Paul drives that point home with Timothy just by his word order.  It is God who makes the man/person who he is.  Not the man/person himself, and certainly not other people.
So, if you want to have the title “the man/person of God”, make sure you and everyone else understands the title according to its proper place.  God is first, then man.  God is what makes you who you are.  You are not exalted above everyone else.  Everyone else outranks you as you are a server to everyone, including the lowest of the low.  We don’t have time to argue nor should we argue τίς μείζων (who is greatest?).
33 And they came to Capernaum.  And after coming in the house, he asked them, “Why were you discussing on the road?”  34 But they were keeping silent; for they had been arguing to one another on the road “who is greatest”.  35 And after sitting down, he summoned the twelve and says to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he will be last of all and a servant of all.”  36 And taking a child, he placed it in the middle of them and after embracing it, he said to them, 37 “Whoever may receive one such as a child on the basis of my name, receives me; and whoever may receive me, he doesn’t receive me, but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:33-37
“The man/person of God” is “the server of all”   That person is “the of God man”!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Paul’s Expression of Love

4 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t zealous, love doesn’t brag, it isn’t conceited, 5 it doesn’t act indecently, it doesn’t seek the things of itself, it isn’t provoked, it doesn’t keep count of wrongs, 6 it doesn’t rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices together with truth.  7 It covers all things, it has faith in all things, it hopes in all things, it endures all things.
Paul expresses what love is and what love is not in verbs.  It is the limitations of the English language that puts Paul’s Greek verbs as adjectives for “patience” and “kindness”.  In Greek, this whole passage is expressed in verbs, which is action!  How one expresses love is in one’s actions.  On the other hand, how one doesn’t express love is also in one’s actions.  It is not enough just to say “I love”.  We must express it in our actions to each other.
This passage builds on a common theme throughout Pauline letters.  That theme is to put other peoples’ interests above our own interests.  We are to follow Paul’s example of Jesus in Philippians 2:1-11.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

John 4:14; Forever!

14 But whoever may drink from the water which I will give to him, he will never thirst into the age, but the water which I will give to him will become in him a fountain of water welling up into eternal life.

14 ὃς δ᾿ ἂν πίῃ ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ, οὐ μὴ διψήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἀλλὰ τὸ ὕδωρ ὃ δώσω αὐτῷ γενήσεται ἐν αὐτῷ πηγὴ ὕδατος ἁλλομένου εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
Most translations do translate εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (into the age).  Among some of these are the KJV, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, ASV, and others.  The main reason for this is due to the οὐ μὴ (not not) that appears in the verse.  The double “nots” make the expression emphatic, thus “never” is how we would translate it.  Therefore, since “never” means “never” in English, we wouldn’t have to translation the even more emphatic “into the age” which is an idiom that means “forever”.
But for those who are purist in translating all the words, here goes:
But whoever may drink from the water which I will give to him, he will never thirst forever...
But whoever may drink from the water which I will give to him, he will never ever thirst....
But whoever may drink from the water which I will give to him, he will never thirst anymore...
But whoever may drink from the water which I will give to him, he will never thirst again...
But whoever may drink from the water which I will give to him, he will never thirst into eternity...
But whoever may drink from the water which I will give to him, he will never thirst into the age...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

John 1:3-4; Greek Sentence Issues

Everyone loves John 1:1-5, but there are issues with the sentence structure in the Greek.  While the NT was being written and copied, the text was written scriptura continua or "continuous script".  There were no spaces between words and very little punctuation.  A good example is from one of the oldest copies of John’s Gospel, P66.  The script of P66 looks like this:

Note that there were no verse numbers.  That was added hundreds of years later.  Our problem with this text occurs in verse 3 and verse 4 with ὃ γέγονεν (what has come into being).  It either goes with what precedes it in verse 3, or is the beginning of the next sentence.  Here are the two renderings.
1. All things came into being through him, and apart from him, not one thing came into being which has come into being.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
2. All things came into being through him, and apart from him, not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Which is correct?  Hmmmmm.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Holiness and Sanctification: Paul's use of ἁγιασμός

There are several words in Greek that mean both "holiness" and "sanctification".  One of those is ἁγιασμός (hagiasmos).  It's mostly used by Paul in his letters, but is also used in Hebrews 12:14 and 1 Peter 1:2.  Paul uses it in Romans 6:18; 22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; and 1 Timothy 2:15.  BDAG defines this as "personal dedication to the interests of the deity, holiness, consecration, sanctification; the use in a moral sense for a process or, more often, its result (the state of being made holy) is peculiar to our lit. (New Testament).”  So, depending on the context, ἁγιασμός either relates to the process that Christians go through during their lives, or the initial "setting apart" at conversion/infilling of the Holy Spirit.  I suppose we could assign either "holiness" or "sanctification" to the context.  Here is an example of how I translated 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8:
3 For this is God’s will, your sanctification, for you to abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to master his own vessel in holiness and honor, 5 not in lustful desires as the Gentiles do, who don’t know God; 6 not to overstep and to take advantage of his brother or sister in the task, because the Lord is the avenger concerning all of these things, just as we also spoke to you beforehand and declare solemnly.  7 For God didn’t call us in impurity, but in holiness.  8 For that very reason, the one who rejects this instruction does not reject man, but God who [also] has given his Holy Spirit into you.
In verse three, the context refers to the “process” and in verse 7, I interpreted the use as the initial experience.  Of course, others could interpret this differently.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yahweh = Adonai = Κύριος = Ἰησοῦς moment in 1 Thessalonians 4:15

Here is another Yahweh = Jesus moment in 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

For we say this to you by the word of the Lord....

Paul starts this passage by saying Τοῦτο γὰρ ὑμῖν λέγομεν ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου (For we say this to you by the word of the Lord).  The explanatory γὰρ (for) is used to tie together what has just been said in verse 14 with what follows.  ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου (by the word of the Lord) is common phrase throughout the LXX.  In fact, “the word of the Lord” appears more than 50 times in the LXX and the Hebrew that stands behind the Greek translation is always “the word of Yahweh” (Fee, PC, 45).  Here, as always with Paul, the Lord is Jesus as Paul exclusively uses κύριος (Lord) to refer to Jesus throughout his letters.

Another moment will appear in verse 16.  Check back in the future for that one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12; Excerpt (Rough Draft)

Here is another excerpt from the upcoming book that we (Stephen and I) hope to get published by the end of the year.  This is a rough draft.  Feedback is welcome!

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

Working with One’s Hands
     9 Now concerning brotherly and sisterly love, you don’t have a need for us to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.  10 For you also do it for all the brothers and sisters [who] are in the entire Macedonia.  Now we urge you, brothers and sisters, to abound more 11 and to endeavor to live a quiet life and to busy yourself with your own affairs and to work with your [own] hands even as we commanded you, 12 so that you should walk respectably with the ones outside and should not be dependent on anyone.
Technical Commentary
     Paul now moves into his next “correction”, but does so in a delicate manner.  Paul starts with a little praise for the Thessalonians before he moves into the “correction” passage.  The problem that we have here is that we don’t know exactly what was going on among the Thessalonians that leads to Paul’s “correction”.  What we know for sure is that some of the members of the church, most likely some of the men, were not working for a living and were living off of others in the Church.
     9 Paul starts this “correction” with a long Greek sentence that ends in the middle of verse 10.  He writes: Περὶ δὲ τῆς φιλαδελφίας (Now concerning brotherly and sisterly love).  Many translations have “brotherly love” here for φιλαδελφίας (philadelphias), but the word means in this context “love among the christian family”.  In fact, outside of the NT, φιλαδελφία was “love for blood brothers/sisters” (BDAG, 1055).  Paul is just extending his “family” language that he has used throughout this letter.  φιλαδελφία is also an example of “inclusive” language that was used in ancient times to refer to both brotherly and sisterly love (Wanamaker, NIGTC, 160), thus the above translation.  Another reason for the the use φιλαδελφία here is that Paul is setting up “how” he wants the Thessalonians to love each other and its not by depending on others in the church for their own needs (Fee, NICNT, 159).
     The very next line is a bit of a problem as it reads literally: οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε γράφειν ὑμῖν (you don’t have a need to write to you).  As one can guess, this has lead to many different translations as to what Paul really meant to say:
    • NIV11: “we do not need to write to you”
    • NRSV: “you do not need to have anyone write to you”
    • NET: “you have no need for anyone to write you”
    • ESV: “you have no need for anyone to write to you”
    • KJV: “ye need not that I write unto you”
We have simply supplied “for us” in the above translation.  
     Paul then adds the real reason as to why the Thessalonians should love each other.  It is because they are θεοδίδακτοί (taught by God).  θεοδίδακτος is unknown before this letter in the Roman world and may have been coined by Paul himself, but that can’t be confirmed (Fee, NICNT, 159-160) (Wanamaker, NIGTC, 160)!  Paul’s use of “taught by God” could either be an allusion to “Holy Spirit” teaching, that is teaching that was received by the Thessalonians by the Spirit when they received it, or teaching from the OT.  The latter may be more inline here as Paul could be alluding to Isaiah 54:13 and Leviticus 19:18.
Isaiah 54:13 LXX:
13 καὶ πάντας τοὺς υἱούς σου διδακτοὺς θεοῦ καὶ ἐν πολλῇ εἰρήνῃ τὰ τέκνα σου.
13 and all your sons will be taught by God, and your children will be in great peace.
Leviticus 19:18 LXX:
18 καὶ οὐκ ἐκδικᾶταί σου ἡ χείρ, καὶ οὐ μηνιεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς τοῦ λαοῦ σου καὶ ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν· ἐγώ εἰμι κύριος. 
18 And your hand will not avenge, and you will not hold a grudge against the sons of your people and you will love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
If Paul is assuming a “known knowledge” of the LXX among the Thessalonian Church, then he is appealing to teaching in which they already know from being around the local synagogue.  Therefore, as Fee states “Thus in the end the emphasis on their loving ‘each other’ lies not so much on their need to do so, but on the way they should do so” (Fee, NICNT, 160).  In other words, Paul is setting up his “correction” based upon the Thessalonians’ general knowledge of scripture.  He will soon drill down to the problem itself and use the idea of “loving each other” for the basis of the “correction”.
     Wanamaker brings up another valid point on Paul’s “coined” term θεοδίδακτος and its possible relation to Isaiah 54:13.  “Isaiah 54 is an OT eschatological text that looks forward to an age of salvation when the children of Zion will be taught by the Lord God, who will reign over them” (Wanamaker, NIGTC, 160).  It is possible that Paul linked this passage to the current “Christian” age were Christ had died and was resurrected ushering the “salvation” age.  As a result, the “new” people of God were now being taught by God in this “salvation age”.  Although this idea is a great one, we just can’t be sure if this is what Paul had in his mind when he wrote this passage.
     10a Paul ends the sentence with a little praise for the Thessalonians, but in how he does it is a bit surprising.  For he states καὶ γὰρ ποιεῖτε αὐτὸ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς [τοὺς] ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ (For you also do it for all the brothers and sisters [who] are in the entire Macedonia).  What they “do” is “love each other” as brothers and sisters.  Now exactly how they do this in all of Macedonia is simply not stated.  Based upon the fact the Thessalonica was a “free city” and a major trade city, it is possible that Paul is referring to visits to the city by other christians in the region and we know from 1:6-7 that the Thessalonians were examples “to all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia”.  Perhaps part of that example was the love that they showed for each of their brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus.
     10b After the “set-up”, Paul now moves into the “correction”, but almost by surprise!  In other words, after Paul’s setup, the correction that followed was sure the take some of the Thessalonians by surprise.  After such praise, the Thessalonians certainly didn’t expect what was coming in the “correction”.  Paul does so by writing a very long and complicated Greek sentence that ends with verse 12.
     Paul’s first clause is built upon the former “setup”.  Παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, περισσεύειν μᾶλλον (Now we urge you, brothers and sisters, to abound more).  What they were to abound in more was their love for each other, but as we will see, the offenders were “to abound more” in the way that they should love each other.  Therefore, the phrase is two-fold: 1. the Thessalonians that were not in need of the “correction” were to strive to love each other even more and 2. the Thessalonians who needed correction were to love each other in the proper way.  In other words, they had to change their actions in order to “love” correctly.
     11 Paul now strings together a series of verbs and statements that need exploration.  The first is φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν (to endeavor to live a quiet life) which consists of two infinitive verbs.  The first one, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι, is defined as “to have as one’s ambition, consider it an honor, aspire” (BDAG, 1059).  What the the Thessalonians are to aspire to do is ἡσυχάζειν (to live a quiet life).  Although the verb means to “relax from normal activity” and to “be quite”, in this context the idea is to “refrain from disturbing activity” (BDAG, 440).  Thus, Paul is still setting up the situation in order to “correct” and to display “how” the Thessalonians should love each other.  φιλοτιμέομαι also is closely related to φιλαδελφία (brotherly love) as it is compound verb based upon φίλος (beloved, friend) and τιμή (honor).  “The conduct of one member of the community affects the welfare of the whole community; the reputation of the community suffers if a few member gain notoriety as idle busybodies, instead of minding their own affairs” (Bruce, WBC, 91).
     It should also be noted that some commentators think that “to endeavor to live a quiet life” refers to political situations within the Thessalonian community as a whole and that the instruction here is for Church members to removed themselves from being involved in politics.  The problems with this idea is that it is not even alluded to in this text and and would seem to be complete foreign to the context.  For details into this idea, see Wanamaker, NIGTC, 162-163, and Green, PNTC, 210-211 as a build on the patronage practice.
     Paul now writes what is expected in living a “quite life”.  The “disturbing activity” involved here is described as καὶ πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια καὶ ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς [ἰδίαις] χερσὶν ὑμῶν (and to accomplish one’s own things and to work with your [own] hands).  The first phrase πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια (to accomplish one’s own things) is an idiom and has been translated as “to busy yourself with you own affairs”.  The idea of the idiom is to busy themselves with their own work so that they will not need to be dependent upon others in the Church (Fee, NICNT, 162).  The next passage builds upon the former “and to work with your [own] hands”.  The idea here is they should provide their own “living” and not rely on others for their day to day needs.  
     Now what is interesting here is that we don’t know the circumstances around “why” they were “to accomplish” their own things” or “to work with their own hands”.  Green offers a possible explanation as to what was going on in Thessalonica.  He puts forth the thought that certain people in the Church were participating in patronage.  The practice is as follows.  “Clients were attached to patrons of higher status and economic solvency, hoping to receive from them benefits such as food and representation, while they gave their patrons honor and augmented their statue in society by showing up for the morning greeting at their home and giving them public support.  The more clients a person would have, the more important he or she would appear to others” (Green, PNTC, 208).
     Another idea that has been put forth is that some of the Church had stopped working due to Jesus’ return was soon to occur.  As this idea may seem to be a good one, Paul in no way links this activity with his upcoming passage on the coming of the Lord.
     Paul concludes this part of the passage with καθὼς ὑμῖν παρηγγείλαμεν (just as we commanded you).  This implies that this was instruction that Paul, Silas, and Timothy gave to the Thessalonians while they were present with them.  That is not being reiterated here.
     12 The final clause of the sentence shows the result in which Paul is looking for in the Thessalonian who are in error.  The clause is in two parts.  The first of which is ἵνα περιπατῆτε εὐσχημόνως πρὸς τοὺς ἔξω (so that you should walk respectably with the ones outside).  At the forefront is how one should live their lives respectably.  εὐσχημόνως is defined as “to being proper in behavior, decentlybecomingly” (BDAD, 414).  What is interesting here is that Paul places the Thessalonians’ “living respectably” with the “outsiders”.  That is, people outside the believing Church.  The Christians in Thessalonica are to live in such a way as to present themselves as witnesses to outsiders and to not look foolish in their new-found faith.
     The last clause in the passage gets to the root of the problem and is the most important of the results in which Paul is seeking.  καὶ μηδενὸς χρείαν ἔχητε is translated above as “and (you) should not be dependent on anyone”.  A literal translation would be “and you should have a need of no one”.  In the end, no one among the Thessalonians should be living off other brothers and sisters in the Church.
     In summary, the errant Thessalonians should supply their own needs and not be dependent on others within the Church.  By living this way, they show proper love for each other and also live their lives as examples to those who are outside the Church.
Variant Readings
Verse 9: Instead of ἔχετε (you have), 06, 010, 012, 044, 0278, 1739, 1881 has ἔχομεν (we have).  Scribe(s) in later centuries tried to correct 01 from ἔχετε (you have) to ἔχομεν (we have) as well as correct 06 from ἔχομεν (we have) to ἔχετε (you have.
Verse 11: 03, 06, 010, 012, 044,0278, 1739, and 1881 omit ἰδίαις (one’s own).  01, 02, 33, and M have ἰδίαις.  The editors decided to place the word in brackets to indicate that they are not sure if ἰδίαις is original or not.  It makes no difference either way as χερσὶν ὑμῶν (your hands) implies “you own hands”.
Echoes of the Word
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
θεοδιδακτοι -taught by God, for the Holy Spirit leads us into truth.
     God writes his word on the heart of the believer.  The intent of that word begins to take shape on the soul of this creature of flesh, the image of God becomes clearer as that word has its way. The love of God poured out into these hearts is revealed in their love for one another.  We begin to take on a more perfect image of God, taking our place in the body of Christ.
     The Thessalonians are praised for their love and are encouraged to do more and more, just as the love of God is a continuous and growing stream that has no end. The fountain flows from his throne and is the river of life.  What we think of love and how we love changes as we understand and embrace the love of God.  When we were children we thought like children.  As we grew, we put away childish things.  The same applies to those who become children of God.  We put away worldly things.  It does not happen all at once, but it is a process that leads to maturity as we move toward final perfection.
     The object of this love is “all of God’s family”.  As brothers and sisters we are to love each other as brothers and sisters, for we are all born of the one Spirit.  God’s love is poured out on all that accept him and love him with obedience.  It is love that called us and it is love we are to hold out to others.  To God’s family our love takes the form of caring, comfort, help, and joy that comes from life in Christ.  To “outsiders” our love gives witness to that life and through that witness we express the offer of love that leads to salvation.
     Paul reminds us that we are to tend to our own affairs.  When Peter asked Jesus what was going to happen to John, Jesus essentially said it was none of his business.  Each one of us has a unique journey with God.  There are things we share in  common, but no two paths are exactly the same, just as fingerprints reveal our difference. 
     One of our highest duties is to be an example for others.  We bear witness to the Spirit when the fruit of the Spirit appears on the branches of our life.  It is by this fruit that we know and others can see Christ, and through our lives the Spirit calls out to those around us. Though we are still present in our mortal bodies which resist and battle the Spirit, we are called to be holy and separated to God, his own people.  Our walk should reflect a life transformed and being transformed by God’s love.  It is the provision and work of the Spirit that makes this possible.  Each one of us is a work in progress and progress is a journey.  That journey of progress takes place when we walk with God, and that walk leads to eternal life.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Matthew 28:1; Sabbaths/Weeks

I was asked by a friend a few days about to parse Matthew 28:1.  The topic was “How people added to the Word of God”.  My friend’s argument was that σάββατον (sabbath/week) should aways be translated as “sabbath”.  I told the person that since the word could mean either “sabbath” or “week”, then the context would determine which definition should be used.  She disagreed.  After the below work up, perhaps we both were correct.

28:1 Now after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the grave.
Here is my attempt to parse this verse.
Ὀψὲ is an improper preposition with the Genitive (BDAG, 746, number 3).  It was used in Greek as “a marker of time” such as “late”.  It was also used as “the period of time between sundown and darkness” (twilight).  Last of all, it was used as a “marker of a point of time subsequent to another point of time”, (after).  This last definition should be used here.  Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων (Now/and after the Sabbath).  The very next phrase will rule out this alternate translation: “Now late on the Sabbaths”.
The main verb of the sentence is ἦλθεν (came).  The phrase that is of interest to us is τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων (with the dawn on the first day of the week).  τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ is in the Dative and is being used as a marker in time when the women “came”.  It means “to become daylight, to shine forth, dawn” (BDAG, 386).  Thus “with the break of light”, “with the dawn”.
The last phrase is a prepositional phrase εἰς μίαν σαββάτων (into/in/on one of week/sabbath).  Here, μίαν (one) is “a marker of something”.  Here, the marker is “when” in the sabbath/week were the women at the grave.  Therefore, it means first.  It is also used this way in Luke 24:1, Mark 16:2, John 20:1, Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 16:2 (BDAG, 293).  
Now, with all of that said, it is true that σάββατον is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for “sabbath” and was used as such in the NT.  Early Christians maintained the use the “count down” to the sabbath, that is the days before the sabbath came.  It is in this sense where the word means “week” (Kittle, Volume VII, Page 32).  This is what is going on in these passages.  So, the 1st day of the sabbath is the first count before the sabbath, which is Sunday.  Therefore, it is either an idiom, or it really means “week” sometimes in the NT.  But even if we translate the passage in this way (on the first count of the sabbaths), we are still looking at the first day of a seven day week that ends on Saturday.  Let’s say that “it’s an idiom”; therefore, what is better?  Maintain the idiom, but then footnote it to describe that it means “the 1st day of the week” or just translate out the idiom where the English reader knows what day the passage is referring to?  
The answer of course is “both would be appropriate”.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

1 Thessalonians 4:3; "The" or "Every"?

How about a bit of Textual Criticism!  We will be looking at 1 Thessalonians 4:3 from Codex Sinaiticus*.  If we look carefully at the text, we will see a change.  The issue here is around ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας (you from sexual immorality).  If we look closely, Sinaiticus has the proper reading, but a scribe/copier “corrected” the original text by altering τῆς which in English is the equivalent to “the”.  The scribe/copier added a line to the tau (Τ) and erased part of the top of the tau to try to make it into a pi (Π).  Then the scribe added AC above the now formed Π and the latter HC to give the “corrected” reading.  Therefore, the new reading is απο πασης πορνειας (from every sexual immorality).  If you look at the last line, you can see the space that the T takes up.

*Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest, complete Greek Bible in the world.  It was produced in the 4th century.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Matthew 5:17-18, One Iota and One Horn

Matthew 5:17-18
17 Don’t think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets.  I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill (the law).  18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, one iota or one horn will never pass away from the law, until all things should happen.
Everyone has heard the phrase “not one iota” (ἰῶτα), but few know that the second part of the saying is the feminine Greek word κεραία for “horn”.  Of course, Jesus is referring to letters of the alphabet in this passage.  The “iota” referring to the “smallest letter” of the alphabet while the “horn” is referring to “hooks” on the letters of the alphabet.  Thus the KJV: “one jot or one tittle” and the NIV: “the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen”.
Just some fun facts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Excerpt from Study

How about another excerpt from the study of 1 Thessalonians?  As always, this is a rough draft.

Chapter 4
A Life Pleasing to God (Introduction)
1 As for the rest then, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that just as you received from us how to live and to please God, as you even live, that you may abound more.  2 For you know what instructions we gave to you through the Lord Jesus.
Technical Commentary
Paul now starts a series of instructions in order to supply “what is lacking” in the Thessalonians’ faith.  The “supplying what is lacking” starts here at 4:1, but goes through 5:11.  We will break this long passage up in order to examine the different thoughts.
1 Paul begins he transitional statement with Λοιπὸν οὖν (As for the rest then).  Λοιπὸν οὖν is not so easy to translate into a contemporary English phrase.  Although λοιπός is being used here as an adverb, its meaning as an adjective is “pertaining to that which remains over, esp. after action has been taken, left” (BDAG, 602).  Many translations translate it as “finally”, but as Fee points out (NICNT, 139), the letter is far from over.
What follows is an “asking” and an “urging” for the Christians in Thessalonica to live their lives and please God as they were instructed by the apostles to do.  What it interesting about what Paul asked and urged them to do is exactly what Paul says they are doing!  Therefore it becomes an apologetic and is not a new teaching, but the same as what they had previously been taught while Paul was in Thessalonica (Fee, NICNT, 141).
As expected, Paul uses ἀδελφοί (brothers and sisters) to start the passage, thus maintaining the family language used throughout the letter.  He then states ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ (we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus).  The first verb, ἐρωτῶμεν (we ask) carries the idea of a simple request (BDAG, 395).  Paul is keeping the letter “friendly” as the Thessalonians are doing so well.  But he still follows this verb with the next verb παρακαλοῦμεν (we urge), which he has already used in 2:12, 3:2, and 3:7.  The verb adds an additional force to what Paul is about to say.
Before Paul writes what receives the action of the two verbs, Paul writes that the Thessalonian received instruction on τὸ πῶς δεῖ ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν καὶ ἀρέσκειν θεῷ (how to live and to please God).  The literal translation is more like “how it is necessary for you to walk and to please God”.  Therefore the thrust of the clause not only reminds the Thessalonians that “the how” is necessary “to walk/live” and that is what pleases God, but also shows that living correctly is required (Wanamaker, NIGTC, 148-149).  Paul then states that the Thessalonians are indeed doing these things now with καθὼς καὶ περιπατεῖτε (as you even live).  The force of the latter phrase is more like (just as in fact you are living now).  There are a few things to summarize: 1. the “how” came from instructions that were giving to the Thessalonians from Paul, Silas, and Timothy; 2. this way of life pleases God; and 3. the Thessalonians are in fact “living” the way they should be in order to please God.  It is worthy to note here that the Thessalonians are to live and to please goes contra to their current pagan environment which was the reason for their persecution by their fellow-countrymen.
Now we finally get to the point that Paul and company “asks and urges” the Thessalonians to do: ἵνα περισσεύητε μᾶλλον (that you may abound more).  In other words, the more they live to please God, the more their faith builds and strengthens and that results in pleasing God even more.  Thus, their relationship with God grows (Fee, NICNT, 141).  The full force of the sentence is for the Thessalonians to continue to do the things that they are currently doing and this will allow them to grow their relationship with God.
2 Paul again reminds the Thessalonians that this is nothing new that Paul is writing to them and explains where the moral instruction really comes from: “through the Lord Jesus”.  Paul begins with explanatory word γὰρ (for) and οἴδατε (you know).  In doing so, Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that what he is about to say is something that they should already know.  What they should know is τίνας παραγγελίας ἐδώκαμεν ὑμῖν (what instructions we gave to you).  The word παραγγελίας (instructions) is defined by BDAG as “an announcement respecting something that must be done, order, command, precept, advice, exhortation” (BDAG, 760).  Therefore, the instructions giving were guidelines that the Thessalonians must follow in order to please God.
Finally, as stated above, Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the source of the instruction that is necessary to please God.  It is none other than the Lord Jesus himself who is the source that drives the apostles in the first place.