Monday, September 26, 2016

Luke 17:5-10

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary Year C, most recently September 2016.

The passage before this (17:1-4) is about forgiveness. Jesus tells his disciples to forgive people over and over. This is where they protest and ask for more faith, or "pistis".  Forgiveness is hard! Faith in the Gospel of Luke is not simply "getting it" or even "getting it right" but the deep hunger for Jesus that motivates us, trees and even mountains to fall down at his feet.  If you are looking for a three point sermon on faith:  Faith draws us toward Jesus for forgiveness and healing; faith leads us away from Jesus in service; faith always reveals itself in humility, not in worldly greatness.

Key words:
πιστις (17:5; 17:6; "faith") The word faith has taken on many theological meanings. A few comments about how Luke uses it. First, the people that have faith are always outside the circle of pious Jews and even the disciples.  For example:  The bleeding woman (8:48), the Samaritan leper (17:19) and the Roman Centurion (7:9). Faith leads to healing but also forgiveness (5:20, 18:42). Above all, faith  leads people to move themselves toward Jesus. Faith is the motivation for people to move toward Jesus and for him to act. It is not an intellectual assent to propositions, but it is the deep, gnawing trust that moves people and moves mountains to fall at the knees of Jesus.

υμων (17:5; 17:6; "our")  This is great -- the disciples ask for THEIR faith, not just my faith.  Faith is a shared entity.

διακονει (17:8; to serve, minister or wait on tables). This verb is where we get the term deacon (or diaconal). It doesn't mean anything glorious, simply waiting on tables! Just a reminder though, Jesus finally says he is the one who serves us (Luke 12:37, 22:27).

αποστολοι (17:5; "apostles") Luke uses the term apostles far more than the other writers, even indicating that at the Lord's Supper (22:14) the apostles joined him. Perhaps this is because he writes Acts! I wonder if Luke helps us see that being a disciples of Jesus necessarily means being an apostle, being sent out into the world.  Furthermore, the disciples/apostles in the book of Acts will do amazing things through their faith.  Faith is the dynamic of moving toward Christ, seeking forgiveness and mercy and then being sent away from Christ, back into the world.

As a side note -- 17:1 begins by referring to the followers of Jesus as disciples/students (μαθητης).  They are referred to as apostles in 17:5 and then servants in 17:8.  Part of our calling is to learn and grow; part of our calling is to be sent; part of our calling is to serve others.

Grammar point: ει-αν clauses
When you see "εαν" this normally means there is a simple, "if (εαν) A, then B" However, if you see an ει-αν clause, this probably means that the conditions are false. This is the case in verse 6: If you had faith (which you don't), you would say (which you haven't). Great example of this construction is in John 11; "If (ει you had been here (which you weren't), my brother (αν) wouldn't have died (but he did)." 

Side note:  Another scholar I heard of argued that the ει was true, but that the αν statements built on each other.  Ie, Since you have faith, tell the mulberry bushes (which you didn't) to up root...and they would obey (which they didn't).  I don't think this is true, because John 4:10 and Matthew 24:43 have similar ει-αν-αν constructions.  In both cases it is translated condition A is false, so B and C didn't happen, not A is true, B didn't happen so C didn't happen (as this scholar argues in this case).

Sentence review:
(Warning, this sentence is complex because Luke intermixes the various components of each sentence; using Bible Works/lexicon to tell you the cases is probably essential)

BGT Luke 17:7 Τις δε εξ υμων δουλον εχων αροτριωντα η ποιμαινοντα, ος εισελθοντι εκ του αργου ερει αυτω ευθευς παρελθων αναπεσε?
NRS Luke 17:7 "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'?

Τις δε εξ υμων: Basically: Who of you? Notice the accent on the word tis leans forward? This means its a strong accent, which tells you it is a question word (who, which, what) and not an indefinite article (a, any, certain)

δουλον εχων: The verb εχων is a participle.  At this point, the sentence is not too bad. For your English eyes, you probably need to switch δουλον and εχων for word order.  Then you can just do the "quick sloppy circumstantial participle" translation which is where you just add "ing" to the verb. In this case, you get: "Which of you, having a slave"

αροτριωντα η ποιμαινοντα: Here is where the train wreck comes. You have another two participles. First step -- get vocab (so your brain can help you piece this together unconsciously): "plow" and "tend." Your brain probably can figure out that the slave is the one plowing and tending. How would you know for sure? Notice how these are both accusative participles? Therefore they do not refer to the subject (the one who has the slave) but the object (the slave). So the slave is under the circumstance of plowing and tending.

So, we have so far: "Which of you, having a slave, tending and plowing." Hmm...unclear in English, so we get: "Which of you, having a slave who tends and plows,"

ος εισελθοντι εκ του αργου ερει αυτω: This clause is awful because you go back and forth between subject and object. First off, your brain knows its a relative clause because you have this ος ("hos"). In fact, hos is the subject, so we need to find a normal verb to match this with. Turns out that εισελθοντι is not a normal verb, but a participle. The verb you need to find is ερει. This is a basic verb (lego, to speak) but tough to recognize in the future form. (Who will say).  So we know that someone is speaking. We also know, thanks to the αυτω in the dative, that someone is speaking to someone. So, who are the someones? Well, the verb "εισελθοντι" is a participle in the dative, linked with the word αυτω .  In this case it functions like an adjectival participle.  Kind of strange sucker, but basically, it works like this: The one who enters from the field (εκ του αργου) is the one to whom the words will be addressed. You can know this because it all is in the dative. So you translate this relative clause like this:
"he, who will say to him, the one coming in from the field"
"will say to the one (namely the slave) coming in from the field."
One final note -- the coming in precedes the speaking (the verb is in the aorist, which in the case of participles shows order in time of events), so to make it all clear:
"will say to the slave after he has come in from the field."

Put it together and you get
"Which of you, having a slave who tends and plows, will say to the him after he comes in from the field:"

ευθεως παρελθων αναπεσε? The  ευθεως means immediately...and the αναπεσε is a simple command: sit at the table.

So you have: "immediately παρελθων sit." You can translate the παρελθων (which can mean just about anything) a couple of ways. Really, it is not a key verb in the sentence; it functions more like another adverb: "immediately come over and sit." Or more politely, "Come here at once and sit!"

Monday, September 19, 2016

Luke 16:19-31 (Lazarus and the rich man)

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C.  It last occurred in September of 2016.
The story begs for a different ending, one where someone can go back and straighten out the sinners, in this case, the rich man's brothers. The story also begs for an ending because it ends in Hades with Abraham speaking a word of hopelessness. The idea though of resurrection from the dead sends us away from the story of Lazarus and to the story of Jesus. Ironically, Jesus will wear clothes of splendor; both as Herod mocks him (Luke 23:11) and finally as he comes, as the splendid morning star, who has overthrown death and hell (Rev 22.16). For me, I will emphasize that Christ has defeated death the chasm, but I don't think it would be fair to Jesus' words to let people off the hook when it comes to how we treat the poor!

This week I have some longer notes on hell which resolve little but give much to ponder...

Some words to note:

αδης (16.23; hell, hades; the α has a rough breathing mark meaning its "ha" ): This word appears throughout the New Testament. Some poking around is interesting here; it kind of makes me want to do a further discourse on what the Bible says about hell.   For more on hell, see my post on hell here.  A few levels here:

1) Luke doesn't mention the word very often, except in the context of punishment (see also 10.15).
2) The word and idea of Hades has its own meaning in the Greek mythological world. However, because the Septuagint translates Sheol so frequently as Hades, it is fair to look at Jesus comments in light of the OT.  Curiously, Matthew uses the word "geenna" instead of "Hades," but how Matthew use "geenna" and Luke use "Hades" seem the same. 
3) The Bible seems to shift/develop its thoughts on hell and resurrection.
3A) On one level, Sheol is simply the place of God's absence. Psalm 88:5 says God doesn't even remember those in Sheol. Psalm 113:25 and Isaiah 38:18 suggest the dead in Sheol cannot praise God. In this sense, Sheol simply means death as the end.
3B) On another level, however, the OT also envisions Sheol as a place of punishment: (Psalm 9:17; Proverbs 5:5). In this sense, Sheol means hell.
3C) On another level, Sheol seems not entirely absent of God or goodness: God can hear prayers from Sheol (Jonah 2.3) and still find us there (Psalm 139:8). In this sense, Sheol almost functions like purgatory.
4) Shoel and Hades become a personified force set against God in the Bible (Psalm 49:15; Matthew 16:18). At some points, it seems that God is in control of Sheol (Hos 13:14; 1 Sam 2:6). Regardless, Sheol/Hades finally loses: Rev 20.

To summarize all of this, the more you get into this stuff, the more of chasm you find yourself in. What is hell? Is it a judgment pit? It is a time of separation? In this parable, it is both. Is there rescue from it? This is the most haunting part of the parable. The rich man doesn't get out of hell.

I wonder, having heard some other interpretations on this parable, if the rich man does not get out because the sinner inside of him has not died yet! 

βασανος (16.23;28; torture; pain): This word origin is interesting: "a dark-coloured stone on which pure gold, when rubbed, leaves a peculiar mark." (Liddell-Scott)  In the NT, Matthew and Luke uses this word to imply more than simply testing, but also physical pain. One might be tempted to translate this word as "testing" here; that Hades was simply a place of testing for Lazarus, but the existence of fire in verse 24 suggests something more than simply mental anguish.

χασμα chasma (16.26; chasm): The word appears only once in the NT, but it should be familiar enough to English readers: chasm; a pit!

λαμπρως (16.19; splendidly): You will not find this word easily in concordances; that is because it is the adverb form of the adjective: "lampros" (omicron vs omega)

The word is akin to the word for "lamp" and means bright like the sun or stars. In the NT, Jesus will wear a lampros robe, but only before Herod.  Jesus will actually declare himself the morning star; the star portion here is literally "lampros." (Rev 22:16). James warns against people who wear such nice clothing thinking highly of themselves (James 2:2-3).

Sentence break-down:
BGT Luke 16:19  Ανθρωπος δε τις ην πλουσιος και ενεδιδυσκετο πορφυραν και βυσσον ευφραινομενος καθ' ημεραν λαμπρως
NRS Luke 16:19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

Ανθρωπος δε τις ην πλουσιος: "A certain man was rich." You can ignore the "de"; the "tis" is the "indefinite" article in Greek, ie "a, any, certain."  It is not before the word "man" as it should be in English, but you can tell they are linked because they are both nominative singular masculine.  But even if you didn't know that, if you see some "ti..." word not at the beginning of a sentence it almost always will function as an indefinite article, you just have to find which word it matches.  Perhaps you could poetically phrase this, "There once was a rich man."
Significance here:  Lazarus, the poor man, gets a name.  The rich does not.  This is the opposite of our world.

και ενεδιδυσκετο πορφυραν και βυσσον : Verb here is imperfect, emphasizing the continuous nature. I would translate this with an adverb: "he was ALWAYS dressed in purple and fine linen."  I saw this poetically translated as "He was used to dressing in purple..."   (Side note:  Purple was an expensive cloth and reserved only for the rich and noble).

ευφραινομενος: circumstantial participle (note: no "the" near by and no "to be" verb). Easy to translate: rejoicing

καθ' ημεραν: idiomatic for "every day"

λαμπρως: splendidly, like the sun; exceedingly luxurious.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Luke 16:1-13

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, most recently September 2016.

The Greek for this week does nothing to improve the harshness of the text. Quite the opposite! According to the Greek, the manager (literally the economist) is praised for being shrewd, but Jesus point blank calls him αδικια (adikia), which means unrighteous. Furthermore, the eternal homes of the wealthy are σκηνας "skenas" or tents, the word used for the tabernacle in Exodus or the tents on the mount of Transfiguration.  Finally, we are commended, not simply to use "worldly wealth" but actually -- "unrighteous mammon." What is going on!?!

In spite of the bizarre metaphor of the shrewd manager, I think this parable reflects a few consistent themes of the Bible relating to money and possessions: 

- All our money and possessions ultimately belong to God
- Money and possessions are scarce and so we are called to be good stewards -- good economists!
- Money and possessions can become a god, a god who cannot prevent death; a god who will only demand more.

I think what is unique is this:
- We are eternal beings; our life on earth is somehow connected to our life in heaven.  How we use our money has eternal consequences.  This is most challenging for me conceptually to consider the relationship between heaven and earth.  In terms of preaching, it makes me ask -- where is the grace in this passage?  Where is the cross and resurrection in the midst of this?  I feel like we must push this parable to its breaking point to get to the cross -- all of us worship money and none of us would have an eternal home without Christ. 

Key words:
Relating to heavenly things:

σκηνη (skenas, meaning "house", 16.9):   This word does not simply mean house.  The word literally means "tent" or really "tabernacle."  It is used in both the OT as the word for Tabernacle (think Exodus) and then in the NT when Peter wants to build tents during the transfiguration. People no longer lived in tents by the time of Jesus, so this term is clearly used to suggest something other-worldly. 

This is especially true when it is combined with αιωνιους, meaning eternal.  To give you a sense of the power of this word, consider 2 Corinthians 5:1 "For we know that if the earthly house (οικος) we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal (αιωνιους) in the heavens."  Humans does not make eternal things.  Only God does!

δεχομαι ("welcome" or "take" 16,4,6,7,9):  This word appears more in Luke then any other verb. Look where else it comes into play:
2:28 Simeon "receives" the baby Jesus
18.7 Children "receive" the kofG as a child
22.17 Jesus "took" the cup and gave thanks...
There is something central about welcoming in Luke's Gospel!  The reason I include this verb is because welcoming someone into an eternal tent is a beautiful and wonderful thing. 

Relating to earthly things:
οικονομος; οικονομια ("oikonomos" or "oikonomia", meaning "manager", 16:1,2,3,4; other cognates appear in this passage):  This word comes into English as "economics" or "economist." BDAG translates it as "estate manager" and "steward" or "treasurer."  In my first economics class as an undergrad, we learned that economics is about the allocation of scarce resources.  This person is shrewd with his scarce resources, that is for sure.

αδικια ("adikia " meaning "unrighteous", 16;8,9):  This word is often translates in this context as "dishonest" or "shrewd."  The word does not mean dishonest.  It means unrighteous or evil.  (Like in Genesis 6, God sees that the world is full of αδικια and decides to flood the whole thing).  δικαιος - the root word here - means righteous.  What is also striking is how Jesus uses this word specifically. 
οικονομος της αδικιας:  economist of unrighteousness

It if makes you feel better, the owner never praises the man for being dishonest, but does call him shrewd, φρονιμος (16.8)

εκλιπη (from εκλειπω, meaning "fail", 16:9)  I think the whole passage rises and falls on this verb.  The money always runs out.  As does living on this earth.

μαμωνας (mammon, meaning "wealth", 16.9,11,13):  The word used by Jesus toward the end of the passage is not simply possessions but "mammon."  This could possibly refer to an ancient Syrian deity of wealth.  This may or may not be the case, but it is certainly true that Jesus is personifying money here.  We have seen this in our lives where money becomes a thing to be loved, feared and trusted above all things. 

At one point Jesus refers to "μαμωνας της αδικιας":  mammon of unrighteousness.  I think that Jesus would maintain that all mammon is unrighteous.  But is all money unrighteous?

οφειλω (opheilo, meaning "debt", 16:5,7): This word can used in all sorts of beautiful ways (Lord's prayer, Matthew 6:12). Here it is more straight forward in its use. A reminder that this passage is very real; debt is as old as currency. For many in the Bible -- and today -- debt is also a massive problem. What if Jesus really meant cancel your literal debts each time we pray the Lord's prayer! That might be easier than forgiving others our sins. Now, you might say, wait, nobody owes me anything. Really? If you own business stocks or an investment accounts, somebody, somewhere, however indirectly, owes you something.
 Greek grammar concept:  Circumstantial participle.
The thing that causes most Greek readers to stumble is the circumstantial participle. While some are very tricky, probably 50% are very easy. Let's look at one. In verse 16.2 the sentence starts out with one:
Bible Works parses this as "verb participle aorist active nominative masculine singular"

Scary, right? Well, look, there is no "the" near by it, so its not an adjectival or substantive participle; there is no form of "is/was/to be" nearby, so its not supplementary. So its going to be circumstantial. Which means we need to figure out three things: What happened? Who did it? And how does this connect to the rest of the sentence?

What happened: Get the BW translation of the verb, or just pull it from your memory: phone...means hear. So, what happened, well, someone hears/got heard

Who did it? Well, your brain probably figured this one out already -- the rich man. But if you need help here, you need to break down what BW tells you into two buckets. First bucket is "aorist active." That relates to the action. The second bucket is "nominative mas...singular" which relates to who does the action. Who is the nominative, masculine, singular? Well, it is the single man subject of the sentence, who is, as your brain knew already, the rich man.

And how does this connect? Well, in this case you first got to put the verb in its tense. Which is here an aorist: "Heard" Now you add in the what and who + the phrase "under the circumstance"
"Under the circumstance of the rich man heard"...
Yuck. Make it English:
"After the rich man heard" or "When the rich man heard."

It sounds like a lot of work, but your brain probably pulled out "heard" and "rich man" right away. See how you do with the second word in 16.5.

Sentence break down:
εγνων τι ποιησω ινα οταν μετασταθω εκ της οικονομιας δεξωνται με εις τους οικους αυτων
NRS Luke 16:4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.'

εγνων: I know. Just looks funny. Simple verb.

τι ποιησω : Notice the direction of the accent on "ti" Indicates it is a question. The verb poihso can be either future or aorist subjunctive. In this, does not matter. What will vs. what shall I do.

ινα οταν: Double whammy of conjunctions. Both demand subjunctive verb: "In order that whenever..."

μετασταθω: Verb conjugated based on conjunctions

εκ της οικονομιας: ex takes genitive. Not sure what kind this here. genitive of separation?? Doesn't really matter: "Out of this administration."

δεξωνται με: Here the "me" is the object and not the subject. Question -- how does one know this? Why could, in this infinitive phrase, this been a question at all?  [Because in an infinitive phrase the subject is also in the accusative case]

εις τους οικους αυτων: 2nd week of Greek: Into his house.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Luke 15:1-10

This passage occurs in the RCL Year C.  Most recently September 2016
The key words in Luke 15 are "lost" and "found." They occur over and over. But a reader of English would know this. Perhaps something worth playing with for preaching:  Jesus includes three metaphors for lost and found and together they cover many situations that our parishioners experience.  Each in its own is a great passage, together they make an amazing trifecta.

A little ripple in the text, but hopefully a good insight. Having found her coin, the woman invites her female friends over. This is the only occurrence in the NT and OT of female friends (φιλας)! So while we (Lutheran) pastors delve into the mechanics of lost sinners repenting, let's not forget the fact that everyone in this passage, Jesus, the shepherd and the woman, call together their friends and rejoice!

Key words:
ευρισκω (15.4,5,6,7,8,9; "find") To remember this verb, remember Archimedes running through the city naked shouting "Eureka" when he realized how bouncy worked.

απολλυμι (15:4,6,8,9; "lost") This word has a range of meaning, from destroy to perish. Worth noting is that it is not the sheep who passively gets lost, but actually, the shepherd who loses the sheep!

Other words:
αμαρτωλος (15:1,2,7; "sinner") Luke uses this word quite a bit -- 18 times in fact. What is interesting is that this word is not really defined; the assumption is that people know who sinners are and what this means. The first explicit sinner in the Gospel is Peter (back in chapter 5), who confesses before Jesus.

καταλειπω (15.4; "leave behind"). Ironically, the first person to "kataleip-oo" everything for Jesus is a tax collector, Levi! (Luke 5:28)

χαιρω (15.5; "rejoicing"). This word is used more in the book of Luke than in another book in the Bible. Other writers don't shy away from it (although Mark uses it is measly two times). Luke though, time and time again, emphasizes worship and devotion.

φιλας (15.9; "female friends"). This is only time in the Bible that the word friend is used in the feminine.

Grammar focus: "syn"-verbs.
In Greek one can use the pronoun "syn" (meaning with) as a prefix. This passage has a number of such verbs: συνεσθιω "synesthi-oo" (15:2, eat together) and συγκαλεω "sygkale-oo" (15:6, call together"). You might ask, why "syg" instead of "syn" in "sygkale-oo." This is because the n-k sound morphs into an g-k sound. "n" is a very soft letter. For example, "con" means with and mean English words have this as a prefix: "connect" or "contact." But the "n" often changes or disappears: "communicate" or "cooperation."  One thing to notice is that in Greek, the writers can sometimes pack a powerful punch with "syn" verbs, such as in Romans 8:17.

Sentence break-down

Luke 15:4
Τις ανθρωπος εξ υμων εχων εκατον προβατα και απολεσας εξ αυτων εν ου καταλειπει τα ενενηκοντα εννεα εν τη ερημω και πορευεται επι το απολωλος εως ευρη αυτο;

"Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?

Τι΄ς ανθρωπος: The tis here is a question...You can tell because the accent is strong (okay, my English keyboard makes it hard to make this mark). You can also tell because the last mark of the sentence is a semicolon, indicating a question. This is really the only word in Greek where the accent type matters. If it were not a strong accent, the sentence would read: "any man of you." (Strong face forward; weak lean backwards!)

εξ υμων: The "of/from you" has a fancy genitive name but the translation is straight forward: "which among you"/"of you" (I believe this is called a partitive genitive)

εχων εκατον προβατα και: participle here...can you guess which type? Well, there is no "the" nearby, so probably not a substantive or adjectival. Also, no "to be" verbs nearby, probably not a supplementary. You guessed it: Circumstantial: "Under the circumstances of "having" sheep. To simplify: "having sheep"

απολεσας εξ αυτων εν: The circumstances have changed: "lost" a sheep :-( The "hen" meaning "one" is out of order for our English minds, so we read it as "of them one" but our brains should be able to reorder this: "one of them."

ου καταλειπει τα ενενηκοντα εννεα: a question that has a "ou" to start expects a "yes" for answer. I remember this alphabetically: "mh" expects "no"; "ou" expects "yes" (m-n-o-y). Do you know why the ninety has the "ta" in front of it? Email me and I will tell you!

εν τη ερημω: In the wilderness. Can you guess why this phrase is in the dative?

και πορευεται επι το απολωλος: Here we have a substantive participle: The one who is lost. It has a preposition (epi) before it; don't let this distract you. Substantive participles are easy to translate!

εως ευρη αυτο; Alas, they put this little diddy at the end. The εως , a conjunction, demands the subjunctive here, hence why eurisko looks so stinking weird!