Friday, August 1, 2014

Read Greek Psalms in a Year

For all my friends who are interested in the Septuagint (LXX), I've created a "Reading Group" on Facebook to read the Psalms in Greek in a year. This was inspired from the "Greek Isaiah in a Year" reading group. It is open to any who want to join. We will start on January 1, 2015. It will be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

1 John 3:7-10; Can Christians NOT sin?

I know it’s been a long time since I posted something, but I’ve been very busy.  

Those who read modern translations of the Bible will just about have no need of this blog as modern translations do a pretty good job with this passage.  But for those who don’t, here is some help with what can be seen as a difficult passage from 1 John.

3:7 Children, let no one lead you astray.  The one who continually performs righteousness is just, just as that one (Jesus) is just.  8 The one who continually sins is from the devil, because from the beginning, the devil continually sins.  The Son of God was revealed (incarnated) for this so that he may loose (destroy) the works of the devil.  9 Everyone who has been born from God doesn’t continually sin, because his (Jesus’) seed continually remains in him, and he is not able to sin, because he has been born from God.  10 In this it is evident who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are.  Everyone who doesn’t continually perform righteousness and doesn’t continually love his brother (and sister) is not from God. (My Translation)

The difficultly of the passage can be explained by the aspect of Greek verbs or participles in the present tense.  Although it may be strange in English, I’ve added “continually” to the main present tense verbs.  That should shed some light on the passage.  Present tense verbs carry a continual aspect.  For verse 9 in particular, some modern translations will say something like: “Everyone who has been born from God doesn't keep on sinning”, or “doesn’t continue to sin…” “…because his seed keeps on remaining in him, and he is not able to sin, because he/she has been born from God.”

So, the aspect of the verbs tells the story.  It is the continual or habitual sinning that John is addressing.  Note in verse 8 where John uses the present tense to describe the devil continually sinning from the beginning of his existence.  That really drives the point home.  

John can’t be saying that christians don’t ever sin because that would go against what he says at the beginning of the letter in 1:8-10:

8 If we say that we don’t have sin, we lead ourselves astray and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we say that we have not sinned, we have made him a liar, and his word (message) is not in us. (My Translation)

…and also in 2:1:

2:1 My little children, I write these things to you so that you won’t sin.  Even if someone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus the Anointed the just, 2 and he himself is the sin-offering concerning our sins, but not for ours only, but concerning the whole world. (My Translation)

So, I hope that clears up some of this.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

John 4:46-54; The Royal Official: Did he believe or not?

46 Then he again went to Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine.
Now there was a certain royal official whose son was sick in Capernaum.  47 After hearing that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.  48 Then, Jesus said to him, “If you don’t see (plural) signs and wonders, you (plural) will never believe.”  49 The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  50 Jesus said to him, “Go, your son is living.”  The man believed the word that Jesus had spoken to him, and he left.  51 While he was already going down, his slaves met him, telling him that his child is living.  52 Then, he inquired from them the time that his son got better.  So, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at 1:00pm.”  53 Then, the father realized that that was the time when Jesus said to him, “Your son is living.”  He himself and his whole household believed54 This again was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.  John 4:46-54

This is one of the greatest stories in the New Testament.  We have a royal official who had heard about Jesus and needed him to heal his young son who was dying with fever.  What I want to focus on is when did this royal official really believe in Jesus.  Did he believe based on what Jesus told him, or did he believe after his son was healed?  In this text, it seems like “both”!

As you can see from my translation, I’ve underlined and put in italics “believed”.  Both verbs are used in the Aorist tense in Greek.  The Aorist tense has an undefined aspect.  In other words, this tense doesn’t offer the time or duration of the action of the verb.  

With that said, there are types of emphasis with verbs in the Aorist tense:

  1. Ingressive
  2. Effective
  3. Constative

“Ingressive” describes the beginning of an action.  “Effective” describes the end of an action.  Last, but not least, “Constative” describes an action as a whole.

In this text, we may have the royal official at the beginning of his believing action in verse 50 (Ingressive Aorist).  If that is true, then verse 53 probably shows the royal official’s “believing action” after his son was healed (Effective Aorist).  In other words, he began believing in Jesus based on what Jesus said to him (and probably based on what he had heard from others), but he REALLY came to believe in Jesus after his son was healed.  Interpretations will differ, but there is no doubt that Greek verb tenses can help in our interpretation of the NT.

On a side note, John loved to incorporate word-plays in his Gospel.  This passage offers a good one.  In verse 49, John uses τὸ παιδίον (to paidion) for “child”, but in verse 51, he uses ὁ παῖς (ho pais) for “child”.  All of the NT authors did this as it was “catchy” for illiterate folks to hear.  It would have helped those folks to remember what had been read out to them.