Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Matthew 28:1-10 (Easter)

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

Summary:  The angel tells the people "no longer be afraid."  This command concerning fear is in an on-going tense.  We should never be afraid any more!  Jesus has won.  I would offer a pastoral way to hear the command to no longer be afraid.  As Christians, we can no longer be afraid of grief.  Not that we will avoid grief, but that we do not have to fear visiting the tomb.  We can "go there" and mourn and even mourn with others.  The power of the resurrection is revealed as we let our hearts experience the sadness of our goodbyes.  Only one who knows they will say hello again can give a proper good-bye and miss a person!

All in all, what strikes me this year about Matthew's account of the resurrection is still how chaotic is seems.  I have always pictured Mark as the chaotic writer, but Matthew's account seems very unsettled.  It does not even seem to calm down once Jesus shows up.

Key Words:
ταφος ("grave," 28.1):  The translators get this word right.  I point it out because I find a pastoral nugget in this: Amid the midst of grief and sorrow, the women want to look at the grave.  In our culture, we are often taught, especially as Christians, to avoid the grave, to avoid reflecting on grief.  We are taught to live in joy of resurrection.  This is true, but I sense that in order to experience the power of resurrection, we must also go to the grave and be confronted by the power of death.  Furthermore, I think our encounter with the news of the resurrection, even of our loved ones, produces a mixture of fear and joy, echoing the emotions of the first disciples.

σεισμος ("earthquake," 28.2):  We've had this idea before in Matthew...during Palm Sunday the whole city shook with the cheers of the people!  Also, after the crucifixion, an earthquake caused the centurion to confess his faith.  Interestingly, σεισμος can also mean storm.  Jesus slept in the boat during the storm in Matthew 8:24; he emerges from the hull to calm the storm and disciples.  Likewise, Jesus will emerge from the tomb to calm this σεισμος, including the disciples.  Perhaps in both stories the disciples remain of little faith...
See also εσεισθησαν ("shake," aorist passive of σειω, 28.4)

φοβου ("fear," 28.4 as a verb in 28.5):  While Matthew's portrayal of the resurrection is perhaps not as stark as Mark's, Matthew still has fear!  Worth noting is that the imperative verb (do not be afraid) is in the present tense:  "Stop being afraid and keep not being afraid."  The resurrection means we have nothing to fear, truly, nothing to fear.

εσταυρωμενον ("crucify," passive perfect participle of σταυροω, 28.5):  The perfect tense in Greek implies that the action still results in a current state.  Jesus has been and still is in the state of crucifixion:  Resurrection did not negate crucifixion.  Jesus was and is eternally crucified!

ειπεν ("said" from λεγω, 28:6)  I would argue here that you could translate this verb as promise.  Why?  Well, for starters, we have a language problem.  Hebrew doesn't distinguish between "say" and "promise."  God and humans have the same verb for speech, and so the English authors translate God's speech as "promise" because what God says God will do, God does.  Admittedly, Greek does distinguish between the words.  BUT:  The authors of the Gospels never use the verb promise to describe Jesus' words, except the explicit promise of the Holy Spirit at the end of Luke's Gospel.  Functionally, when they writes Jesus "says" this means "promise" because what he says will happen.  So, I think you can go by the Old Testament/Hebrew rule:  Everyone speaks, but when Jesus speaks, you can translate it as promise...

αστραπη ("lightning," 28.3):  This word would be uninteresting to me except that it also appears in 24.27, "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."  Jesus also predicts earthquakes in the second coming (σεισμος in 24.7).  While Jesus has not returned a second time, lightning and earthquakes suggest a dawning of a new age in the resurrection.  As Jesus said,
"Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."  (16.28)"
The Son of Man has come in his Kingdom.

υπηντησαν ("meet," aorist of υπανταω, 28:9)  This word can mean meet, but it is also used in Matthew 8:28 (also in Acts 16:16) to mean confront or oppose.  This is an interesting idea of Jesus confronting them here!  It is also interesting that Jesus does better than his promise; he meets them long before Galilee!

χαιρετε ("rejoice," 28:9)  It means rejoice -- but it can be used as a greeting.  A few things to note.  First, in the LXX or New Testament, whenever it is used in the plural, it is a command, "Rejoice" and not a greeting.  I suggest that in Matthew 28, Jesus is actually saying "Rejoice!"  He is meeting women at the crossroads of fear and joy - he commands them to rejoice.  And what do they do?  They fall down and worship!  If you think this is too much of a stretch, you can note the profound difference in the scenes of greeting in the last chapters of Matthew's Gospel:
Matthew 26:49  Judas says, "Greetings (χαιρε), Rabbi."
Matthew 27:29  The solider mock him saying, "Hail (χαιρε), King of the Jews."

Grammar and translation:
There are two things you shouldn't waste time tying to learn in a dead language:  numbers and dates/times.  Why?  Because translators don't get these wrong!  For example, in 28:1 you have the phrase: εις μιαν σαββατων.  The literally means "the first of the sabbath."  Which means, as it turns out, on the first day after the sabbath (akin to Monday being the first day of the week).  It doesn't mean "the first thing on the Sabbath!)  Similarly, I would want to translate, οψε δε σαββατων as in "late on the Sabbath" but it really means, in this case, "after the Sabbath was over."  When it comes to time/dates, just trust the people that spend their lives translating.  There is nothing theological at stake; they just spent time learning the ancient idioms!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Matthew 21:1-11

This passage occurs for Palm Sunday, year A.
Summary:  When I first wrote this blog post, there had been a large earthquake in Japan; hence the word "εσεισθη" (shook, akin to seismic) caught my attention.  The events of Holy Week shake the city.  They still shake our world today, perhaps even causing a fair amount of disruption, if not sadly violence, in our world.  Call it good, call it bad, but the events of Holy Week make every person ask the haunting question:  "Who is this man?"

Key Words:
απεστειλεν ("sent" in 21:1 and 3; aorist form of αποστελλω)  This is a well known verb to Greek students.  I find the particular use interesting -- Jesus sends the disciples to get a donkey.  A reminder that often times, our "missional" or "apostolic" calling can be very mundane, but serve a tremendously amazing purpose.

συνεταξεν ("commanded" in 21:6; aorist form of συντασσω)  Ah, the "syntax" of discipleship.  This would mean obedience to particular commands.  Okay, its Holy Week.  I am not going on a diatribe, but it is worth noting, especially for us Lutherans, that the disciples display here the syntax of discipleship:  hearing specific tasks and doing them.  Or to put it another way, the proper syntax of discipleship is "hearing, being sent and then obeying..."

οχλος vs πολις ("crowd" in 21:8 and 11 and "city" in 21:10).  The events of Holy Week force each of us, whether disciple, distant follower or outsider, to confront the question facing the whole city:  "Who is this?"  Also, the same crowds that cheer him now will vote for his death...

ὠσαννα ("Hosanna" in 21:9).  Here is the "NET" commentary:  Hosanna, literally in Hebrew, "O Lord, save" in the quotation from Ps 118:25-26 was probably by this time a familiar liturgical expression of praise, on the order of "Hail to the king," although both the underlying Aramaic and Hebrew expressions meant "O Lord, save us." In words familiar to every Jew, the author is indicating that at this point every messianic expectation is now at the point of realization. It is clear from the words of the psalm shouted by the crowd that Jesus is being proclaimed as messianic king. See E. Lohse, TDNT 9:682-84.

εσεισθη  ("shake" in 21:10; aorist form of σειω)  This word comes into English as "seismic."  The events of Holy Week shake the city and their aftershocks still continue to reverberate around the world two millenia later.

Often times participles are stacked near other participles and verbs, which can make them seem more difficult to translate.  Here are two examples: 
21:1  λυσαντες αγαγετε μοι
The verbs (and pronoun!) should be fairly familiar:  "loose/free", "lead", "me"
Let's translate this rather methodically.  First, let's do the non-participle parts:
"[participle] lead to me"
Now, let's go back and add in the participle, in this case, some form of "free."  The first thing to do is NOT worry about person, gender or any of that, but simply stick the verb in with an "ing"
"Freeing, lead to me"
Okay, now we need to check out the tense and voice.  In this case it is active voice, so we don't have to fix anything.  Tense wise, it is aorist.  An aorist participle occurs before the other verb.  So, we get:
"Freed, lead to me"
Yuck.  Let's put this back in the "under the circumstances" machine:
Under the circumstances of having freed, lead to me."
What makes this hard is that you don't have an object.  Let's add one in for clarity:
"UtC of having freed the donkey, lead it to me."
Now we simplify:
"After you freed/untied the donkey, lead it to me."
Next one is 21:9
ευλογημενος Ὁ ερχομενος εν ονοματι κυριου
Again, translate what you know here:
"[participle] the [participle] in the name of the Lord.
[Technical point:  In Hebrew, you don't have articles in expressions like "name of the Lord"  It is just assumed that it is all definitive:  "the Name of the Lord."  The Greek translators just left them out but we ain't talking about any Lord, here, but YHWH!  Which leads always to the question of, how do you translate this name?  Simply LORD using all caps??]
In this case, the second participle: ερχομενος is a lot easier.  It is a substantive:  You simply put in the "The one(s) that/which do X" formula.  You get:  "The one who comes"  What makes this a little tricky is the "μεν" in the middle of the participle which might make you think this is passive, but no, this is simply a deponent verb! 
But the first one...ευλογημενος...tricky.
Stick in the word+ing
"blessing the one who comes in the name of the Lord."
Now we check tense and voice.  Voice is passive, so we have to reverse the language:  "Blessed be" or "blessed is."  The tense is perfect which means the action, having occurred in the past, still has an implication for today.
"Blessed and still is blessed the one who comes in the name of the Lord."