Monday, April 11, 2016

Psalm 23, take 2

For Good Shepherd Sunday I've looked at Psalm 23.  Given people's emotional resonance with the Psalm, this passage does not call for one's "exegetical underwear."  That said, reading the actual Psalm presents more "earthy" image than the bucolic landscape scene the Psalm often conjures in our minds.  There is wet grass to be eaten, wine to be poured, death to be encountered and God's disciplining rod to be felt slamming into our side. To put it another way, God doesn't simply want to paint pictures, but truly revive our soul that we might return to his temple, time and time again, even in our everlasting life, made possible by the Good Shepherd.

Instead of key words, I offer a translation with commentary.

Verse 1:
"Yahweh shepherds me.  I do not lack."

The word "LORD" in Hebrew is Yahweh. This most of us know; I think two things are worth reflecting on here. First is that in English we always put the word "The" in front of the "LORD." In Hebrew it simply reads, "Yahweh is my shepherd." Second, we read the "LORD" with a certain complacency unimaginable to early readers of this.  The Hebrew reader replaces "Yahweh" and always says, "Adonai"

The word "Shepherd" is a verbal noun in Hebrew, that is, it is a participle (shepherding) that has been fixed into a noun. Thus, every time you read the word "Shepherd" in the OT, you are reading something much more akin to, "The one shepherding." If you notice the Vulgate and Septugint translation of this verse actually leave the word as a verb: "The Lord shepherds me."  Although telling people their favorite Psalm has been mistranslated is unlikely to be helpful, it is worth noting that God's work as a shepherd is an action!

The word for lack here,חסר, (kaser) is also used in Deuteronomy 2:7, when God says the people lacked nothing.   At this point the people were in the wilderness and had been for years.  A reminder that what God says we need is probably different from our own estimation.

The Greek (and Latin) add the word "nothing."  The Hebrew simply reads: "I am not wanting..."  The "nothing"; but I it implicit enough in the language that I do not consider this a translation foul!

Verse 2:
He makes me rest in meadows of lush grass; he leads me beside still waters.

I've translated this as "lush grass" and not "green pastures."  The word "green" as in "Green pastures" does not appear in the Hebrew.  The word is "grass." God is not simply giving us a pretty picture, but food!

The second half of this verse is often translated, "He leads me besides to still waters."  However poetic, this does not fully capture the idea.  The Hebrew here, מנחה (minukah), means "resting place." As Bible Work's TWOT dictionary says: "Basically the root nûaµ  (which means resting place) relates to absence of spatial activity and presence of security, as seen, e.g. in the ark which "rested" on Mount Ararat (Gen 8:4),"  The NET prefers the more active "refreshing" but I think the words, "still waters" captures the sense of rest that comes from utter trust.

Verse 3:
He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his glory.

The word "restore" is the reason I find Hebrew so wonderful but so frustrating. If you look at the word in English, you might have no clue that its root is שוב, which means to turn, even to repent. The sentence could read, "He turns my soul."  This is the verb used in the phrase, "Return to the Lord your God!"  Here God is returning our soul to him.

Soul, here נפש, (nephish) can mean a variety of things, but certainly not the idea of a wispy part of us that lives on after we die.  The Hebrew is trying to get at the core of our being; the NET tries to get at this by saying, "He restores my strength."  I think soul is fine, but you can see how the English ends up making this whole Psalm more "spiritual."

The word "name" as in "Name's sake" might be a little weak here. The word שם in Hebrew "Shem" means name, but in the sense of "reputation" or even "glory."

Verse 4:
Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

How does one translate "Valley of the shadow of death"?  I again defer to the TWOT dictionary, which is so helpful here: "It describes the darkness of eyelids tired from weeping (Job 16:16), the thick darkness present in a mine shaft (Job 28:3), the darkness of the abode of the dead (Job 10:21ff; Job 38:17), and the darkness prior to creation (Amos 5:8). Emotionally it describes the internal anguish of one who has rebelled against God (Psa 107:10-14; cf. Psa 44:19ff [H 20f]). Thus it is the strongest word in Hebrew for darkness." Shadow of darkness is probably too weak a translation, but the idea here is that it encompasses more than death.  The NRSV tries to get at this by writing, "Though I walk through the darkest valley" but really, for the average reader, "Valley of the Shadow of Death" gets at this...

The Hebrew here juxtaposes two words:  rod and comfort.   נחם (nakam, comfort) is a lovely word, but I'd like us to slow down and considering Bible Work's BDB definition of שבט (shebet), used here for "rod":  rod, staff, for smiting; for beating cummin ; as (inferior) weapon; fig. of  chastisement; national; individual. b. shaft, i.e. spear, dart. c. shepherd's implement, club; used in mustering or counting sheep.

Strange that this would be comforting!

Verse 5:
You prepare a table in the presence of those wishing me harm; you anoint my head with oil; my cup is full of wine

The phrase "in the presence of my enemies" delights the investigator!  It has the sense of "in front of my enemies."  I have read this Psalm many times but it never caught me that the table is not simply prepared privately amid trouble but literally, in the presence of enemies the person is having the table set!  Also the word for enemies is another verbal noun.  Much like shepherding, this word has an active connotation; the enemies are actively seeking your down-fall!

(heehee) The word here for "oil" is also "fat" and the word here for "overflow" is "saturate," so here we have a feast with saturated fats :-)  In fact, the Greek uses the word "made drunk."  There is something a bit almost vindictive about this verse:  "I am getting drunk thanks to you in front of those who hate me!"

Note:  The NET Bible has a long commentary on the word "anoint" and why the use "refresh" instead.  I will save that for the very hungry, but suffice to say, the Hebrew literally reads, "He fattened the oil on my head."

Verse 6:
Surely goodness and love will pursue me all my days and I will continue to return to the house of the Lord for all my days.

Sometimes translated, "faithfulness" חסד, kesed, means "love-in-constant-action-over-and-against-people's stupidity."  To avoid a mistranslation, translators often avoid "love" because that is such an emotional word.  However, it is more than faithfulness.  Also, that it is חסד means that the subject (or possessor) is God! 

"Follow" is too passive for רדפ.  It means pursue, like pursue enemies!

The Hebrew literally reads, "I will return in(to) the house of the Lord."  I like the image not simply of dwelling but of returning to the house of the Lord.  The verb is in a continuous tense, so the idea here is that just as God's goodness and love pursue the person, the person returns to God's temple.  Furthermore, the continuous nature of the verb allows us to imagine, in a way that is probably untenable to the Hebrew mind, always returning to the house of the Lord, even after death!  The literal translation probably leans more toward "all the days of my life" instead of "forever" but again, I think this continual tense of the verb allows us to imagine the idea of a forever returning to God's holy presence.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Luke 24:13-35

A very moving piece of Scripture.  You might argue it is the "ultimate" piece of Luke's Gospel, bringing together so many themes:  importance of hospitality, completion of OT salvation and vitality of worship to name a few.  This passage can often be seen as a "trump" card for the importance of Holy Communion because the disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  However, a few curiosities.  First, Jesus does not use the word eucharist here, which he does at the last supper.  Furthermore, the resurrected Christ shows up to the disciples not in the breaking of the bread, but in the proclamation of the Word as they tell each other Jesus is risen!  Finally, when Jesus first gives them the bread, it is not after the breaking but after the distribution that their eyes are opened.  They had to know that Jesus was for you in order to know Christ.  Ultimately though, this theological masterpiece cannot be used against communion, but I want to point out that for Luke, everything good and wonderful (including praise, the power of the Word and the importance of intimacy, even relationship with Christ and the community) is included!  To put it more eloquently:  This passage is about way more than breaking bread.  Likewise, Holy Communion is about more than breaking bread, it is about praising God in Glory, proclaming the death and resurrection of Jesus and finally, by the Holy Spirit, recognizing Christ did this for me and my brethren.

Key Words:
συν (preposition meaning "with"; but it can also be combined with verbs to slightly change their meaning; three such verbs appear in 24:14,15)  By using these words Luke plays on the sounds the words makes but also strongly suggests those on the road were together.

λυτρουσθαι ("redeem," present infinitive form of λυτρομαι, 24:21)  This verb means redeem in a the "ransom" sense of the word.  The Bible uses this word to talk about people redeeming property with payment.  People can also make a redemption payment to God to avoid punishment for their sins (see Number 35:31).  In Exodus, in fact, the people must pay a ransom to God to avoid a plague (30:12).

A few other points:
- Redemption can avoid punishment but not ultimate death:  Psalm 49:8-9 For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice that one should live on forever and never see the grave.  (NRSV)  The idea of redemption into eternal life seems a human impossibility. 

- God was not the only one from whom redemption could be sought.  For example, God redeems (same verb) the people from slavery in Egypt (2 Sam 7:23, Deut 13:5).  In this sense, God redeems from an agent hostile to God's will for the people.

- It is worth point out that Luke employs the idea in a different manner here than in Mark 10.  In Mark, Jesus is the redemption (the thing paid to do the redeeming, 10:45).  Based on the structure of this sentence in Luke, Jesus is the one doing the redeeming.  This small distinction raises great question for Christians:  Who was Jesus redeeming Israel from (Rome?); why was Jesus redeeming them?  What was the payment (his suffering?)?  Who did God possibly have to deal with?  But if you don't want to go there, keep it simple:  Jesus gave his life that you might be redeemed, namely, set free from sin and death.

Ultimately, I think any transactional sense of Jesus' work on the cross has clear biblical roots, but also real limits.  I wrote about this word extensively in a post on Mark 10.

δοξαν ("glory" accusative of δοξη, 24:26)  This word has many layers; originally meaning "opinion" it can also mean "splendor."  Yet in the NT, borrowing from the OT, it also means the amazing presence of God!  Luke uses this word at some key passages to point toward the glory related to the presence of God and his kingly splendor:  Glory of Christmas Angels (2:9/2:14); Devil's promise (4:6); Transfiguration (9:32); Palm Sunday (19:38); Second coming (9:26/21:27)

προσεποιησατο ("pretend" aorist of προσποιεω, 24:28)  So, can Jesus pretend?  Yes!!

μενω ("abide," used twice in 24:29)  Although a more essential word in the Gospel of John, this word still carries import here.  The disciples invite Jesus to abide with them.  Not in their heart, but at their table!

εγνωσθη ("know" aorist form of γινωσκω 24:35)  I point this verb out because Luke changes it from the earlier "recognize" (επιγινωσκω).  I cannot figure out why Luke draws this distinction, other than to say: If you know Jesus, you will recognize him; if you recognize him, you know.  To put it in familiar Lutheran terms:  To know Christ is to know his benefits.  When it comes to these words, I am not sure if I know the difference, even though I recognize it...

κλασει ("breaking" dative of κλασις 24:35; in a verb form κλασας 24:30; also sounds like the name Κλεοπας)  It is in the breaking of the bread that the disciples recognize Jesus; worth pointing out, however, is that it is also in the proclamation of Jesus resurrection (vs 35-36) that Jesus shows up.  Luke does not neglect a theology of the Word!  It is also worth pointing out that the first time they recognize Jesus, they do so, not in the breaking of the break, but while the bread is being distributed.  Based on the verb tenses you get:  Taking the bread he blessed it.  After he broke it he was distributing it.  And their eyes began to be opened (or became opened).  The point here is that breaking the bread may not be the only "magic" moment when Jesus shows up.  In other words (I know I am pushing it here), it was only when they heard the for you that the recognized Jesus.

ευλογησεν ("blessed" aorist form of ευλογεω in 24:30; comes into English as "eulogy")  Clearly Luke plays on the idea of communion (taking bread, giving thanks, breaking it and giving it to the disciples).  However, at the last supper Jesus gives thanks (ευχαριστω, 22:19).  Again, I recognize the difference, but not as sure why Luke has Jesus use a different verb.

καιομενη (present passive participle of καιω 24:32)  While God often makes things burn out of his anger, I think the best recollection for this verb is the burning bush -- it was not consumed, but the Word of God kindled it brightly!

Grammar review:  Negative questions
Greek shows questions with a ";" mark.  Some sentences can be very tricky because we miss this!
Also, in Greek, a question can have a negative.  Depending on the wording, the question expects either a no or yes answer.  The word order, if not inflection, reveals this information in English:
"You don't think that is a good idea, do you?" (Expects a no answer)
"Don't you want you some ice cream?"  (Expect a yes answer)
In Greek, the distinction is easier!  When they use "μη" they expect a no answer. When they use "ου" they expect yes.
So, for example, when Jesus asks the question, "Grapes are not gathered from throns, are they?" the Greek uses a μη (7:16, technically μητι). 
Again, if it has a "ου" it expects a "yes."  The only challenging part is that ου can show up as ουκ when it appears before a verb; also ουχι is a more intense form, like "REALLY PEOPLE, the answer must be yes..."

In this 24:26, Jesus asks the question about the necessity of his suffering:
ουχι ταυτα εδει παθειν τον χριστον και εισελειν εις την δοξαν αυτου;
Because the sentence (really a question!) begins with ουχι it expects a "yes" answer:
"REALLY PEOPLE, wasn't it necessary for the Christ to suffer this and then enter into his glory?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

John 20:19-29

In the RCL, this passage appears on Easter II (April 3, 2016)

Summary:  This is a rich enough story to preach on every year.  There are so many directions!  I am struck by a strange wrinkle in John's Greek that leaves Jesus with a new title:  "Jesus of locked doors."  The literal Greek offers one this translation possibility; the narrative certainly pushes us in this direction.  But this text is a gold mine of words and images to preach on!

Key Words:
λεγει ("speak", 20.19)  The verb here for "speak" is the present tense, which suggests repeated action: He continually was saying to them, "Peace be with you."

υμιν ("you all" in the dative, 20:19).  The Greek leaves out the word "is" in the sentence, simply declaring "Peace to you."  Hence, the Greek is a bit more ambiguous here as to whether Jesus is offering a blessing or making a statement: "Peace is with you" could work. All that the Greek has is "Peace to/for/with/by/in you."

θυρα ("gate", 20.19)  The word for "door" or "gate" here is θυρα; this word is used in other Gospels to talk about the entrance to Jesus tomb.  It can be hard to make cross-Gospel connections, so a bit simpler:  Jesus calls himself the θυρα, or the Gate in John's Gospel (10:1-9).  See also:
κεκλεισμενων ("locked", 20.26) The text literally reads: "The Jesus of locked doors/gates came stood into the middle of them." This is a very odd placement/case of the expression "locked doors/gates."  It may modify the circumstances under which Jesus came, but it might also modify Jesus.  In short, it could read "Jesus came while the doors were locked" or "Jesus of locked gates came." The earlier is the more likely translation, but John seems to suggest the latter through his narrative.

αποστελλω vs πιμπω ("send", 20.21) Jesus here will use different verbs for the father's sending and his sending of the disciples, αποστελλω vs πιμπω .  Don't read into this.  John just likes to use variety. See 8.29 and 17.18 for examples of Jesus using these verbs interchangeably.

ενεφυσησεν (aorist form of "breath-in", 20.22)  The verb "breath-in" is a rather rare verb in biblical Greek, appearing once in the NT and nine times in the OT Greek.  Significantly, in the OT it shows up in Genesis 2:7, when God breathes into the humans; in 1 Kings when Elijah revives a boy and also in Ezekiel 37, when God's Spirit breathes into the bones.  The disciples are coming alive!

αφεωνται & κεκρατηνται (perfect forms of αφηιμι & κρατω, meaning "forgive" and "hold", 20.23) The verb tenses of "forgiven" (αφεωνται) and "bound" (κεκρατηνται) are in the present for the disciple's actions, but in the perfect tense for the result -- the effect is lasting. Actually, the tense for forgive is in the aorist and the tense for bound is present.  This suggests that binding/retaining a sin takes energy -- we have to keep it up...I think this is true on an individual level, where retaining a sin takes energy as we hold a grudge. I think this also is true on a societal level, where calling something a sin and continuing to claim it as such takes energy too.

ου μη ("no-no", 20.25) The ου μη that Thomas uses is a strong future denial meaning "ou meh," as in "will never."

οκτω ("eight", 20.26) The number eight here is a reminder that Christians gather on the 8th day, the day after the (Jewish) Sabbath, the day of resurrection.  Baptismal fonts have eight sides...

απιστος ("unfaithful", 20.27)  Thomas never "doubts" as a verb. The word doubt is not used, but rather, unfaithful! Jesus says literally, "Do not be unfaithful but faithful."  Side note:  I've often wondered if Thomas struggled to believe the resurrection more emotionally than intellectually because he knew exactly what it meant if Jesus had been raised -- they would all have their lives totally changed...exactly what happened to Thomas, even traveling to India to proclaim Jesus is Risen!

Acts 1:1-11 (Acts 1:1-14)

Acts 1:1-14 is the Narrative Lectionary passage for April 3, 2016
Acts 1:1-11 is the RCL passage for the Ascension, sometimes then for Easter 7.

Really edgy sermon idea:  Acts 1 shows a united church that loves and prays together, but does not do any outreach.  It is "First Lutheran Church of Jerusalem", a small, tight-knit group that sings and worships with joy, fills committee spots and avoids outreach at all possible costs.

For those note quite as bold:
Acts 1:1 may just summarize all of the book.  In fact, one word, sometimes missed by the translators, may summarize all of acts:  "began."  Luke says that his Gospel is "all that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach."  Jesus' work is not complete; it must be continued by his disciples.  By the Spirit, they carry forth and do the greater things Jesus told us we would do if we believed in him.  Well, if 1:1 explains the whole book, 1:2 leaves us curious how this all works.  Luke says Jesus communicated things through the Holy Spirit.  Acts could just of easily been called the Acts of the Holy Spirit.  But how does the Holy Spirit work?  Acts wrestles with how the Holy Spirit worked to guide the early church in making decisions about the doings and teachings of Christ.

Key words:
Θεοφιλος  ("lover of God", 1:1)  Luke may have written this to a specific person name Theophilos.  Or he writes it to all of us who love God!

ηρχατο ("begin" aorist form of αρχω, in 1:1)  It is worth noting that Luke says that Jesus begins his doings and teachings.  The completion of Jesus ministry will be done through the disciples.  This one verb, may in fact, tell you everything you need to know about the book of Acts!

τε και ("and and" in verse 1).  BDAG suggests this combination means "connecting concepts, usually of the same kind."  Here it links the words ποειεν (doing) and διδασκειν (teaching).  A helpful reminder than the hands and head are connected in Luke's mind!

εξελεξατο ("choose" aorist form of εκλεγω, in 1:2; see also 1:24; 6:5 and 15:7;22;25)  Throughout the book of Acts, the disciples have to make choices.  The tricky thing is figuring out how the Holy Spirit will guide this process of choice.  In Acts 1:2 no indication is given for this.  In 1:24, lots are used; in 6:5, the Spirit works through community's approval of the leadership's suggestion concerning deacons; in chapter 15, the choice is made through collective debate.  The book of Acts is a powerful study in how decisions are made in the Spirit!

[gift]  This work appears in the NIV but not in the Greek in 1.4.  The word is promise:  Wait for the promise.

τω Ισραηλ ("to Isreal"; 1:6)  Jesus was teaching them about the Kingdom of God; they were concerned with the Kingdom which belongs to Israel.
μαρτυς ("to witness"; 1:8)  This word looks like "martyr"...because it means just that.  Jesus hear commands his disciples to be witnesses.   When Jesus used the word it had no implication of suffering.  However, the early Christians who were witnesses became "martyrs."  The definition of the word was changed by the heroic actions early Christians.  So, Jesus here is calling his disciples to be martyrs.  Ouch!

Samaria (1:8)  Jesus mission includes the "other side of the tracks."  This is a good way to think about the mission field:  your home town (Jerusalem and Judea), the "other" (Samaria") and the far away (the ends of the earth).

ομοθυμαδόν ("one mind" or "one passion" 1:14)  The people were united.  This is a beautiful scene of the early Christian community:  united in prayer and one might argue, doctrine.  The problem:  they did not do any outreach, but instead spent their time filling spots committees per historical expectations.  Unity does not mean preparation for mission!

Grammar/translation review:  Word order and Luke's grammatical mastery.
In Greek, word order is not essential for understanding the sentence; in English it is.  For example, "The boy hit the dog" and "The dog hit the boy" are two different ideas in English.  In Greek, the reader knows who did the action by the cases of the nouns, not their order in the sentence.  The nominative does the action; the accusative is the object of the action, regardless of which comes first.  This means that Greek (and to some extent Hebrew) can move words around for emphasis.  For example, Acts 1:2, is very convoluted if you just read the words:  until which day, after he taught the apostles whom he had chosen, he was ascended.  Permissible in English perhaps, but the sentence points out that good Greek can have words all over the place because the cases are governing their function, not word order.

In Acts 1:5 we have a very unusual split of some words:  εν πνευματι βαπτισθησεσθε αγιω 
Although the specific conjugation may be odd, (future passive 2nd person plural is fairly rare for verbs!), the words are pretty clear:  "In a spirit you will be baptized holy."  What is Luke doing?  Could holy be an adverb?  Unlikely. (Long grammar point: it would be in the accusative rather than dative).  Hmm... what to do?  Well, Luke earlier claims that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit.  (Let's use more clear Scripture to interpret less clear Scripture!)  So what could Luke possibly be doing here by putting Baptism in the middle of the Holy Spirit?  Well, duh, Luke is making the claim that the Holy Spirit and Baptism are bound up in each other!  To put it another way, Luke has stretched Greek language to show us that Baptism is in the Holy Spirit! 

This is something like, in my mind, when Handel has the tenor sing "The rough places plain," the word "rough" has small rapid changes; the note for "plain" is constant and smooth.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter (RCL and NL)

Here are links for Greek commentary on the resurrection accounts in all four Gospel
Matthew 28:1-10
Mark 16:1-8
Luke 24:1-12
John 20:1-18

A teaser from the posts on Luke 24:1-12
προς εαυτον ("to himself"; 24.12)  Most translators take the phrase, "to himself" to mean "to his possessions," namely, Peter's house (including BDAG).  Hence they translate it "Peter went to his house."  Yet, Peter does not necessarily go to his home. It literally says, "He went away to himself." This could just as naturally read, "He went away by himself." As the KJV puts it "wondered in himself."  Most translators likely base their translation on John 20:10, where it is more clear that the disciples went home.  But Luke's imagery is of Peter walking away by himself, pondering these events, likely without any real direction in his wanderings.
Luke's presentation of the Resurrection story gives us permission to struggle with the Good News.  It is so good, so amazing, that even the first disciples struggled with it.

A teaser from the posts on Matthew 28:1-10 and Mark 16:1-8:
εσταυρομενον ("crucified"; 6).  This word is also in the perfect, meaning an action happened in the past that still describes the state of affairs.  The angel declares that even though he is risen, Jesus is still in the state of being crucified.  You are seeking the crucified one; he is risen.  Jesus is alive but he still has the wounds in his hands.

My pastoral thought, reflecting on the Greek, is that the women have the courage and compassion to go to the tomb.  It can be easy to make Easter into a day when we criticize those who focus on the grave; who focus on grief.  I think as Christians we have the power to grieve because we have hope.  In short, we can say good-bye and miss them because we will see them again.

A teaser from the post on John 20:1-18:
μνημειον ("tomb", 20:1)  This word comes from the Greek for memory (like English "mnemonic" is something that helps you remember).  The complaint almost reads, "They have taken Jesus out of my memory!"  There is something to play with here, about memory and loved ones.  Jesus isn't just a memory; your loved ones aren't just a memory.  Jesus is alive!

Luke 24:1-12

The church normally reserves discussion about doubt for Easter II and the person of Thomas.  But as I read Luke this year, the disciples spiritual blindness and doubt really struck me.  Luke does a masterful scene of portraying the difficulty of that morning and the struggle for the early disciples to believe.  Rather than cast doubt on the resurrection this amplifies its true meaning:  Christ is raised amid the chaos of real life, with darkness, doubt and even despair, not in a fairy tale world where everybody gets it.

Key words:
βαθεως ("very early, or more literally, deep"; 24.1) The dawn is not simply described as early but as "Bathos" or deep. It is a deep dawn.

απορεισθαι ("at a loss"; 24.4)   The word for "at a loss" is related to the word for vision -- "apo-ora-oo" literally "away from sight."   They had lost their way, their vision, their sight.  It will take messengers from God to open their eyes.  In fact, it will take the Word of God to recall in their hearts the Good News.

τον ζωντα ("the living"; really "the living one"; 24.5)  Oddly enough, the translators are too literal here with the phrase "why are you searching for the living among the dead." The phrase "the living" is exactly what it says in Greek, word for word, but the grammar of the sentence dictates the translation:  "the one who is living" or "the living one."  Point A)  "The living among the dead" is more poetic.  When it comes to preaching, go for it!  Point B) It amplifies the confusion of the disciples.

ηπιστουν (disbelieving, from απιστεω; 24.11)  It is not only Thomas who doubts, but the whole crew!

θαυμαζω ("wonder"; "amaze"; 24.12) The word here is "thaumaz-oo" means "amaze" or "wonder" in Greek. You can even see the word "amaze" in it (even though does not give this as the etymology. Whatever.)  Anyway, the vast majority of the time Luke uses this verb, it means wonder, as in amaze. For example, when Zachariah writes, "His name is John (1:63)" or when Jesus sees a person's faith, he is amazed (7:9 Roman centurion). So it seems a bit odd that Peter, by the NIV and the NET, is left wondering and not being amazed. But perhaps a bit of a play on this is a helpful insight into all of us -- we are both wondering and amazed.

προς εαυτον ("to himself"; 24.12)  Most translators take the phrase, "to himself" to mean "to his possessions," namely, Peter's house (including BDAG).  Hence they translate it "Peter went to his house."  Yet, Peter does not necessarily go to his home. It literally says, "He went away to himself." This could just as naturally read, "He went away by himself." As the KJV puts it "wondered in himself."  Most translators likely base their translation on John 20:10, where it is more clear that the disciples went home.  But Luke's imagery is of Peter walking away by himself, pondering these events, likely without any real direction in his wanderings.

Some translation help (and perhaps a nugget for a sermon):

σαββατων 24.1 Grammar note: The Greek literally says, "On the first of the Sabbath." This means the first day after Sabbath (ie the first day of the week), which would be the 8th day, or Sunday. This is why we worship as Christians on the 8th day, the day after the Jewish sabbath. Also, Jesus will appear to Thomas 8 days later, reaffirming this 8th day connection! (In Luke's Gospel, Jesus was also transfigured on the 8th day)

ιδου 24.4 The word "suddenly" is actually an interjection -- "idou" (like the Hebrew henneh)

μνησθητε 24.6 The word here for "remember" is related to the word for "tomb" (both have the same root, which in English comes in as mnemonic.

αροματα 24.1 The word for spice is "aroma"

αποκεκυλισμενον 24.2 Grammar note: The word "rolled away" is a participle here. It is perfect passive. This is a helpful verb for understanding what the perfect in Greek means. The stone had undergone the action of being rolled away and its present state was a result of that action. Perhaps a sermon idea: Something has been permanently changed by the Resurrection. The tombstone is gone

αστραπτουση 24.4 The angles in the tomb are flashing; Jesus says the son of Man will be "flashing" in his coming. (17.24)...hmm...Perhaps Luke suggests that in the resurrection, the kingdom has come?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mark 13:24-37

This passage is for the Narrative Lectionary for March 13, 2016 (along with Mark 13:1-8)
It is also for Revised Common Lectionary for Advent 1, Year B

Summary:  Check your 2nd coming baggage at the ticket counter and preach the text!

For those preaching on those during Advent:  This passage is a great passage for a culture swamped with Christmas chores.  Our focus should not be on to-do lists that come and go, but on Jesus Christ and his Word!

Otherwise:  I also think you can play around with the word authority and derive the mission of the church from Mark's Gospel:  While we await the coming of Christ in an age of idolatry masked as piety, we are to pray and teach prayer; cast out unclean spirits and heal people; we are to spread the Good News of repentance and forgiveness.

Key words:
γρηγορειτε ("watch out". 13:34, 35 and 37)  This word comes into English as "Gregory".  To note:  in the very next chapter the disciples will not be able to stay awake...

θλιψις ("suffering", "distress" or "tribulation";  13:24 and also 13:19)  This is hard word to translate.  "Suffering" has all sorts of baggage, both in the Bible and in our culture.  "Tribulation" can mean a particular thing to certain people.  As Wikipedia helpfully summaries:

In the futurist view of Christian eschatology, the Tribulation is a relatively short period of time where anyone who chose not to follow God before the Rapture and was left behind (according to Pre-Tribulation doctrine, not Mid- or Post-Tribulation teaching) will experience worldwide hardships, disasters, famine, war, pain, and suffering, which will wipe out more than 75% of all life on the earth before the Second Coming takes place.

I would translate it "distress" here.  But I want to focus on why.  Normally I believe in "canonical" translation, that is, help people see connections within the larger context of Scripture.  However, suffering and tribulation are such buzzwords that they distract from the immediate point of Jesus:  There will be an age of false messiahs and prophets who will claim to be saviors.  The great distress is living in an age where people turn away from the true worship to idolatry, the worst kind, where people call it Jesus but it is not.

Power:  Three different manifestations here:
αι δυναμεις (25):  When this word (coming directly into English as "dynamite") is in the plural, it means miracles or deeds of power.  In this case, it is translated "the powers," a logical translation, but strange use of the word!

δυναμεως (26):  Here the word is an adverb meaning powerfully

εξουσιαν (34):  Here the word means authority.  The man in the passage has conferred authority on his people.  It is worth noting that in spite of the fact that the end is coming, Jesus has still given us authority to do works.  In chapter 6 of Mark's Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples authority.  In that case, they were called to cast out unclean spirits, heal, evangelize and preach repentance.  In chapter 11 you might also argue that Jesus gives his disciples authority to pray, to teach and to forgive.  If you put these together, you come up with the mission of the church in Mark's Gospel:
While we await the coming of Christ in an age of idolatry masked as piety, we are to pray and teach prayer; cast out unclean spirits and heal people; we are to spread the Good News of repentance and forgiveness.

Grammar note one:  Why learning future participles is a waste of time
The construction of 13.25 is so odd.  The word for fall here (from pimp-oo; πιμπω) is a present tense participle used with the the future tense of the "to be" verb. This construction (instead of a future participle) is a good lesson of why you should not waste any time learning future participles. They are so rare and even Greek speakers avoided them with other constructions, using the familiar English construction of:  "They will be falling"

Grammar note two:  Strong future denials
In 13.31 the promise of Jesus that his Words will never pass away is a ου μη construction, ie, a STRONG future denial. Also interesting is that this word (parercho-mai; παρερχομαι) appears in 2 Cor 5:17, Behold, Everything has passed away.  This could effectively be translated, "no way, never gonna happen."