Monday, October 31, 2016

Luke 6:20-31

This passage occurs in Revised Common Lectionary for All Saints Sunday in year C, most recently November 2016.
You don’t need Greek to catch the big picture here: Jesus is turning the world upside down and is, well, happy about it! What the Greek can help us with, but not necessarily solve, is the trickier issue of who are blessed, when they are blessed, and what this blessing looks like. For example, Jesus does not say in Greek, “Blessed are you who are poor” but rather he simply says, “Blessed are the poor.” Are we included in that? Does Jesus himself bless the poor in heaven? Does Jesus bless them now with good things, like his relational love? Or, are the poor blessed because the Kingdom of God belongs to the disciples, who will, in turn, bless the poor. Again, the Greek doesn’t change the radical nature of the passage but rather invites us into the rugged yet rejoicing terrain of Jesus’ thought.

First, a little warm up:
Something the translators missed in the first verse of this section (6:20):  Jesus did not simply look up, but he lifted his eyes into them. Luke begins this passage with emotional intensity!

Key Words:

μακάριος (‘blessed’ or ‘happy’: 6:20; 21; 22): The theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Spicq) gets at both striking points of this word and how it is used in the beatitudes. After a long summary of the Greek understanding of what it means to be blessed (pretty much what average Americans think), The Lexicon finally reviews Jesus' words: “It is impossible to insist too strongly on the meaning of this μακάριος …This is much more than contentment; it is an interior joy that becomes external, elation translated into shouts, songs, acclamations. …Secondly, the new faith implies a reversal of all human values; happiness is no longer attached to wealth, to having enough, to a good reputation, power, possessions of the goods of this world, but to poverty alone.”

πλουσίος (‘rich’; 6:24): Luke uses this word more times than the rest of the Gospels combined. Generally, Luke has a fairly negative attitude toward the rich, however, it would be unfair to say that Luke, or therefore Jesus, simply criticizes them. Zacchaeus, for example, is rich; Jesus comes to his house!

οὐρανος (‘heaven’: 6:23): It might be tempting to think of heaven as a “state of being” rather than a place. However, in Luke’s Gospel, heaven is not simply a relationship or a state of the world, but a place. Luke uses the word 35 times, almost exclusively to refer to the dwelling place of God, but in a very concrete way, namely, the space above us. The point of this is to say that Jesus, according to Luke, is not saying: Well, you will be poor but you will have me. Jesus is saying, you are suffering now but have a reward (μισθός) in heaven. But we will return to this point!

μισθός (‘wages’ or ‘reward’: 6:23 also 6:35). This word literally means pay, as in a worker receives his pay for a day’s work (Luke 10:7; Matthew 20:8).

Grammar review: Predicate adjectives and nouns

In Greek, as in Hebrew, a sentence can occasionally lack a verb. For example, Psalm 25:8, translated as, “Good and upright is the LORD,” simply reads in the Hebrew: Good-upright LORD. Admittedly, Hebrew always seems to be missing words the English reader longs for. However, here Hebrew is simply putting the adjectives (good and upright) in predicate form. This is how grammar people, whose addiction to Latin is scary, describe the placement of the word “brown” in: “The cow is brown” instead of “The brown cow.” The point is that the author is saying that the rest of the stuff in the sentence (like in Psalm 25: Good and upright) describes the subject (God). Because of the rules of Hebrew, you don’t have to use a verb when you do this. You let the reader do the work.

Greek does this less frequently (far less frequently) but on occasion it still happens. In verse 6:23 we have such a construction:ιδου γαρ ο μισθος υηων πολυς εν τω ουρανω
or literally “Behold for your wages great in heaven.” A predicate adjective, meaning, the phrase “great in heaven” describes the wages (even though we lack the verb "is" or "will" or any form of "to be").

So has our grammar helped us derive meaning? Well, maybe. The point is that the wages are great and are in heaven. We know then, the WHAT (great) and the WHERE (in heaven). The question then is WHEN do we get them! The sentence grammar suggests they are in existence now.  But do we have access to them?

Verse Analysis:
NSRV: Luke 6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Και αυτος επαρας τους οφθαλμους αυτου εις τους μαθητας αυτου ελεγεν Μακαριοι οι πτωχοι, οτι υμετερα εστιν η βασιλεια του θεου

First step is to divide and conquer. Here you have at least three parts based on punctuation alone:

1 Και αυτος επαρας τους οφθαλμους αυτου εις τους μαθητας αυτου ελεγεν
2 Μακαριοι οι πτωχοι,
3 οτι υμετερα εστιν η βασιλεια του θεου

1 Και αυτος επαρας τους οφθαλμους αυτου εις τους μαθητας αυτου ελεγεν

This sentence is a classic mid-level sentence. The first part of the sentence is a participle phrase around the participle (επαρας). You probably don’t recognize the verb. That is okay. Bible Works tells you it’s an aorist participle. You also know it’s a circumstantial participle (see some of my previous articles). Anyway, aorist circumstantial participles are rather easy to translate. You can simply make them into indicative: “lifted up.” Sure, you might get flowery and add some adverbs or clauses to connect it, but for first go, just make it an indicative (and past tense verb). So if we plug all the words in we literally get:

“and he lifted up the eyes of him in the disciples of him he saying.”

The only slightly tricky part is how one gets “of him” from αυτου. That you can look up on your own, but you can tell that this sentence, once you get rid of the hanging slider of a participle, is actually quite straight forward.

By now you’ve also figured out that the English translators have watered down this puppy. It should not simply read “he looked at them,” but “Jesus lifted his eyes toward them.” (You could even go with “into” them for εις, but probably best to stick with “toward.” Furthermore, the imperfect on the verb “speak” (λεγειν) means that he was continually speaking, perhaps even repeating himself. So, we drop the “και” and here we go:

Αfter he lifted his eyes toward them, he began speaking,”

2 Μακαριοι οι πτωχοι,

Blessed are the poor. The Bible does not say, “Blessed are you who are poor.” It simply says, “Blessed are the poor.” I prefer talking about people as individuals first and adjectives second (the people who are poor vs the poor).  But it brings up the question here -- is Jesus talking about the individuals who are poor or the whole group?

3 οτι υμετερα εστιν η βασιλεια του θεου

On the one level, this too is easy to translate. Just stick in the words:

“Because yours is the kingdom of God.”

However, not so fast. η βασιλεια του θεου: “Kingdom of God” is tricky. The genitive case has a lot of possibilities. In English this ambiguity is preserved because the word “of” is ambiguous too. A few examples of possible translations:

a) “Kingdom belonging to God” (The house of my family)

b) “Kingdom from God” (Sound of water drops)

c) “Kingdom done by God” (Singing of a choir)

d) “Kingdom for God” (Love of money)

e) “Kingdom consisting of God” (as in “bag of money)

Two translation possibilities:

First, the not-very-exciting-leave-well-enough-alone

“Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Second, the out there translation:

“Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom from God.”

In other words, the poor are blessed because we, who hear God’s Word, have the kingdom from God to give away to them!

Let’s put it all together:

After he lifted his eyes toward them, he began speaking, repeating, “Blessed are the poor, because yours, you who are listening, is the Kingdom which comes from God.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

John 8:31-36

This passage occurs on Reformation Sunday (last Sunday in October).
This passage lays out the fundamental convictions of the Reformation:  That the normal human condition is bondage to sin; that in Christ, through faith, we are freed and Christ abides in us.  Worth noting in the Greek is the word μενω which appears throughout the Gospel of John; justification is not here seen as simply forensic (ie, Jesus died for your sins) but as ushering in the new creation:  Jesus abiding in us.  Worth also considering is the household nature of δουλος, or slave; not simply the worker, but also the lower member of the family.

Key Words 
μενω: (8:31; 35, meaning “abide.”)  This word is translated here as “belongs” or “stays” which are probably fine, but the important thing to remember is that this word appears throughout the Gospel of John repeatedly; “abide in me…”  One might argue this concept of "abiding" is the most important in the Gospel.  Furthermore, when Jesus says, in this passage, that the "son abides forever" (vs. 35) this son-ship ultimately will include us, who are invited to also abide in the Father's house forever (basically, all of John 14 and 15).  

Some more theological commentary on verse 31 for Reformation:  The Reformation idea of "Justification" is often presented in "forensic" terms, i.e., a courtroom metaphor.  God is judge and in Jesus Christ we are declared innocent, regardless of the content of our deeds, which inevitably fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23).  While this metaphor has Scriptural warrant (see John 8:50) and preaching power, it also has its limits.  Both Paul (in Romans) and Jesus in John's Gospel move beyond simply forensic justification to new creation.  We are not simply declared free of our sins, but we are made new in Christ.  While other passages in John's Gospel delve more into this, in this passage in John's Gospel, we are "disciples" (vs 31) who receive a new status in the family (vs 35; see rest of John's Gospel). 

I realize I am stepping into a 500+ long inter-Lutheran argument about justification.  My point is to invite preachers to give at least a second thought to preaching only about forensic justification on Reformation Sunday, as if this is only what Paul, John and Luther taught.  Luther himself talks quite a bit about the new creation and when talking about justification, also describes it in terms of marriage or love between the believer and Christ.  As he writes in the Small Catechism:
"all order that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true." 

Some more grammar commentary on verse 31.
Vs. 31 is a conditional phrase.  Greek can set up conditional phrases in a variety of ways, often with ει or εαν.  They mean different things.
εαν is really the Greek word for “if."  If is the case we learn that "ει" means "if" when we memorize our first Greek words, but actually ει simply sets up a conditional sentence.  In other words ει can me "if" but also "since" or even "In fact, not in this case."  εαν leaves “the probability of activity expressed in the verb left open.” (BDAG).  In this case, abiding in Jesus' word may or may not happen.

δουλος: (8:34;35, meaning “slave”) Slavery provided the gas of the Greco-Roman economic engine. People became slaves through various means: captivity from war, kidnapping by slave hunters or debt. Slaves existed in all parts of the empire.

Slavery could be quite brutal, especially for slaves that engaged in mining. However, slaves often were attached to households and gained a certain amount of responsibility. Such slaves often helped raise the children (even educated them in manners), administer property, earn money and even sign legal contracts. Some slaves even owned other slaves. Even after manumission, the freed person would often pledge themselves to the former master or to a patron.

The slave was not simply the bottom of the macro social and economic structure, but the bottom of the micro social and economic structure, the household. This afforded some degree of comfort, security and even opportunity for advancement. However, there was nothing glorious about slavery. Regardless of their particular status in the house, the slave did the work that allowed the masters of the house to participate in civic life.
Side note, when the audience with Jesus says they have never been slaves, this is not true historically (see Exodus!); but it may be true theologically in that they never were slaves to God in they way they should have been.

ελευθερος:  (8:32;36, meaning “free”)  My sense of the Greek word for free is that it aligns itself with the idea of being unencumbered, not so much the freedom “for” as the freedom “from.”


Sentence breakdown:  John 8:35

The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.
Greek:  ο δε δουλος ου μενει εν τη οικια εις τον αιωνα, ο υιος μενει εις τον αιωνα
First step is to divide up the sentence into smaller parts:  divide at the comma!  
Second, look for the verb in the first part of the sentence.  In this case the verb is μενει.  You have to work a little hard because here you have the negative particle, “ου”.  So you have your verb: ου μενει which means “does not abide.” 
Then you look for your subject.  How to find a subject?  Look for nominative definite articles:  ο, το, η.  In this case, again, you have to take it one step further because you have the word δε in front of δουλος.  But now you have your subject (you can ignore “de” for now):  “ο δουλος” which means “the slave”
So now you have:  “The slave does not abide.”  The rest of the sentence until the comma are two prepositional phrases:  “εν τη οικια” and “εις τον αιωνα” which mean “in the house” and “into forever.”  Test yourself:  Why is the first example in the “dative” and the second example in the “accusative” case?

Do the same with the second half of the verse:  First, find the verb; then the subject (hint:  Look at the articles.)  Once you’ve done this, you can plow right through:  The son abides into forever.
When Greek doesn’t have participles or subjunctive phrases, it’s really a matter of finding the subject and verb; figuring out what the small words mean; conquering the prepositional phrases…and then presto, you’ve got English

Monday, October 17, 2016

Luke 18:9-14

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


This is a small passage, but loaded with meaning! A little thing worth pointing out: The worshipers go up to worship and come back down. A reminder that worship isn't just like every other experience. We come into the presence of the living God. Like the tax-collector in this passage and Isaiah before him, this demands our confession!

Key words:
αναβαινω (go up; 18:10) and καταβαινω (go down; 18:14); It is a small note, but it is interesting that the worshipers go up to worship and come down into their homes. Luke does not seem to use the language often (Jesus does go up into the mountain to pray in Luke 9:28) but this seems like something worth mentioning in our casual culture -- even the sinners must go up to worship.

τελονως (tax-collector; 18:10,11,13): The word tax-collector is used almost exclusively in the same breath as sinners. Tax-collectors (publicanus in Latin) were notorious for taking more than their fair share.

εξουθενεω (despise; 18:9): This word is not just reserved for tax-collectors, but Christians run into this problem...(See Rom. 14:3, 10; 1 Cor. 1:28; 6:4; 16:11; 2 Cor. 10:10)

δικαιοω (justify; 18:14): Lovely word for us Lutherans (and all Christians). A reminder, God justifies. Never used in the active sense correctly; by this I mean that in the Bible and in real life, we can try to justify ourselves, but finally, only God makes right. Even in James, when works do the making right, the person is still only passively justified! (See James 2:21-25). (There are times when the verb appears in the active voice; but this normally occurs when God speaking or the people asking for God to bring justice).

ιλασκομαι (have mercy on; Luke 14:13). A rare word in the NT; only mentioned as verb in Hebrews 2:17. This word and its cousins are always a matter of intense debate: How do we translate the concept of appease/expiate for sins? What does Paul means by this in Romans 3:25?? What is interesting here is that the person does not offer a sacrifice of bulls (see Deut 21.8) or any animal following Old Testament codes, but simply a broken and contrite heart, recalling Psalm 51

υψοω (exalt; 18:14) The word here, interestingly, is used in Luke 1:52; God promises to exalt the humble! (And again in Luke 14:11, an almost copy of 18:14). Luke uses this word in an adjective form (exalted) quite frequently to refer to God.

Grammar review: Substantive participles

These are the easiest participles to translate. You get definite article+participle.

Easy formula:

The one/ones who do X.

The only thing that can trip you up is that occasionally you will get other words around them and in between them like: "de" or "pas" (all).

So: o δε ακουσας (Luke 18:23) is simply
The one who listens.

Verse analysis:
Luke 18:14 λεγω υμιν κατεβη ουτος δεδικαιωμενος εις τον οικον αυτου παρ' εκεινον οτι πας ο υψων εαυτον ταπεινωθησεται, ο δε ταπεινων εαυτον υψωθησεται
NRS Luke 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

See also Luke 14:11 for the almost same sentence!
First step is to divide this sentence into three parts:

1) λεγω υμιν
2)  κατεβη ουτος δεδικαιωμενος εις τον οικον αυτου παρ' εκεινον
3) οτι πας ο υψων εαυτον ταπεινωθησεται, ο δε ταπεινων εαυτον υψωθησεται

How did I decide on this breakdown? Well, the comma and dot (semicolon essentially) suggest this. οτι (hoti) is a conjunction that also tells you as a reader that a new clause is starting

1) λεγω υμιν: Simple interjection -- I am saying to you.

2) κατεβη ουτος δεδικαιωμενος εις τον οικον αυτου παρ' εκεινον -- this is a big one, so let's break this down. Take the low hanging fruit first:

εις τον οικον αυτου: Into his house. εις takes the accusative case; αυτουis genitive to describe the relationship of the house to the man. Simply translate with "of" as in "into the house of him." Or more elegantly, "into his house"

παρ' εκεινον:
note:  I had translated this small phrase incorrectly.  Here are my revised comments:
The word "para" can mean "alongside of."  Some have then pushed this phrase (including NT scholar Amy Jill-Levine) to argue for the translation, "Justified, he went into his house along with the other one" arguing that the justification to which Jesus refers is given to both the pharisee and the publican.  I'd like to argue this is not the best translation, but rather "as opposed to the other one" as it is usually translated, is the preferred translation.

First, in terms of textual criticisms, there are a few different traditions in the manuscripts regarding this passage.  The other variants add in (or replace para with) η meaning "rather."  If you have a variety of manuscripts, it seems more logical, at least to me, that people would replace words with synonyms, than words that would signify an entirely different ending to the parable. 

Second, grammatically para in the accusative suggests a parallel position --  an "adjacent comparison of reference" in the words of my-becoming-friend Matthew Frost.  Any time you have para+accusative in the New Testament, para refers to someone living along a water body or it refers to something in opposition to something else.  I.e., comparison is the function of the preposition in the New Testament when used with the accusative.

Third, prepositions are hard to nail let's even say we agreed that the changes from παρα to η were cover-ups of the uncomfortable nature of the story...and that this should mean "along with."  At this point, para ekeinon appears after the prepositional phrase "into his house" and not "justified" suggesting that this phrase would be modifying with "into the house" or functioning as an adverb for the main verb (went down.)  In short, at best, you could argue that the man walked along with each other.  But this seems really counter intuitive to the story.

Fourth, the whole context -- the whole story -- is one of contrast.  It seems entirely out of character to sandwich a moment of cooperation and grace in a story of over exaggerated contrast with a conclusion that says the outcomes are different for these different groups of people (the humble and the exalted).

Now...can you talk about how the pharisee is justified by grace and that in the Kingdom of God, both walk along side each other.  Yes.   But this is not a grammatical possibility for this story, although theologically always a a possibility!

Okay, so now you've got: κατεβη ουτος δεδικαιωμενος into his house as opposed to the other one.

The κατεβη is the east part: Simple means he/she/it went down, which makes sense because you have "into his house" and also, earlier the Greek says they went up to worship (vs 9).

The ουτος is a bit trickier because you don't see it that much. It simply means this/that. If Jesus had used "autos" it would have simply read: "He went down" By using ουτος Jesus can say, "This very one" adding a bit of emphasis.

Now you've got: "This very one went down into his house from there." You can officially tackle the participle! Which in this case means "being made righteous," or "being justified." A circumstantial participle to boot...So he did all of this going down under the circumstance of being justified.

So, let's put this all together: "This very one, having been made righteous, went down into this house unlike the other one.

Now we come to the last part of the sentence:
3) οτι πας ο υψων εαυτον ταπεινωθησεται, ο δε ταπεινων εαυτον υψωθησεται

Basically you have a little parallel going here:

substantive participle+infinitive; substantive participle + infinitive

So you get, "all who do X, then Y; all who do Y, then X."

(See above for substantive participle translation)

All who exalt themselves will be humbled; all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

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

Summary:  I doubt many of us will preach on this passage, but I wanted to offer a look at a few quick things.  Ministry is hard.  But Christ is faithful.

Three words
αναλυσις (literally analysis, meaning "death", 4:6)  I find it telling that analysis literally means death in Greek.  Ultimately to analyze something is to break it the point where it may or not be living!  This is not a note suggesting that analysis is bad (this blog is devoted to analysis!), but it is reminder of how analysis can destroy the goodness, if not even life of something.

αγωνα (literally agona, meaning "struggle", 4:7)  I have fought the good fight sometimes makes it sound almost romantically Olympic.  The word for fight here comes into English as agony.  Throughout his letters, but certainly in this chapter, Paul points toward the loneliness and even persecution that comes from serving Christ.  This truly is a pastoral epistle, encouraging Timothy (and all of us) not to lose hope, even in the most difficult of times.

αγαπαω (agape, meaning "love", 4:8)  This is really fascinating -- Almost every translation uses the phrase - "those who have longed for his appearing."  Paul literally writes, "those who have loved his appearing."  The first question is -- which appearing is Paul referring to?  His first (incarnation) or his second (paraousia)?  The bulk of the time Paul uses this word, it refers to the 2nd coming.  However, in 2 Timothy 1:10 Paul uses this word (appearing -- επιφανεια) to refer to the 1st coming.   What is also interesting is that Paul uses the perfect tense here, suggesting a state of affairs created in the past that still is in effect to the present.  In that light, it seems that Paul is referring to a love that began in this first appearing and still maintains itself as a love for the 2nd appearing.  I'm not sure we could easily capture this sense in English:  "those who loved and continue to long for his appearing."

A Greek concept:  Perfect tense
Just about every verb in this section is in the perfect tense.  The perfect tense in Greek is fairly easy to identify because the Greek verb adds a repeated sound to the beginning of the verb and the endings usually have "k."  Hence:  τελεω becomes τετελεκα. 

They are really cool because we do not have the same concept in English.  The perfect suggests a completed action (like in English) but one that still has a present state of affairs.
For example, in Greek, the stone at the tomb has been rolled away .  All four of those words are in the one verb in Greek, parsed in the perfect tense!!  The point is that at some point, the stone was rolled away (past completed action) that still has a present impact -- the stone is not there!  In the case of Paul's letter, Paul has kept (perfect) the faith.  Paul did this in the past, but it has a present implication -- he still has faith!  The perfect tense in English draws attention to when the action happened (completed in the past).  The perfect tense in Greek draws attention to the connection between the past action and present state (like in the example above regarding love.)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Luke 18:1-8

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary Year C, most recently in October 2016
This parable does not simply commend us or even command us to pray; rather it humbles into prayer. The Greek used indicates Jesus told them this parable to make it necessary for them to pray. The particular construction and use of the word "necessity" do not suggest a teaching moment, but a transformation one, where people are humbled into prayer. What kind of God would compare himself to an unjust judge, who only gives in when brow-beaten? Furthermore, the particulars of the grammar -- the inclusion of the word "they" -- reveal this is not simply about the need for prayer in the abstract, but this parable is intended for us who hear it that we would pray.

The preaching task then is not simply to teach about prayer but fill the peoples hearts (and guts) with a hunger for prayer.  For those preaching with the Revised Common Lectionary, this passage is paired with Jacob wrestling with God, perhaps the example of God making it necessary for someone to pray.

Key Words
δει: (It is necessary; 18.1). The translations suggest Jesus used this parable to 'show' people they should pray. Actually, the word in Greek carries more force then should; It is used, for example, when Jesus says, "it is necessary for the son of man to die." Furthermore, the word "show" is never used. Luke (in the Greek) does not say this parable shows them why prayer is necessary but the parable makes prayer necessary! See below for more on the construction.

εκδικεω (revenge, 18.3;5) This word is hardly used in the NT; it does not simply mean justice, but really vengeance (as in Romans 12:10; Vengeance is mine.")

υπωτιαζω (wear out or beat; 18:5) This word does not simply mean annoy or wear down, but means to give a black eye. Paul talks in 1 Cor 9:27 about beating his body (and not punching the air).

μακροθυμια (delay, 18:7). This word does not really mean delay. It means be patient (as in love is patient, 1 Cor 13:4). It seems that the verse ought to be translated, "Will God not be patient?" This is really strange because patience is one of the key characteristics about God.  Jesus really seems to be pushing his point here.  In the abstract, God is patient, but in our prayer life God becomes something more immediate and involved.

Grammar point
See sentence review about articular infinitives. Read this and then try 18:5, the first five words. Hint: δια here means "because."
Also 18:4 is a great example of an "ει" clause where "ει" means "since" and not "if"

Sentence review
NRS Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
18:1 ελεγεν δε παραβολην αυτοις προς το δειν παντοτε προσευχεσθαι αυτους και μη εγκακειν

ελεγεν δε παραβολην αυτοις : "Then he was telling them a parable." The four words here are all learned in the first few weeks of Greek: λεγω, to speak; δε, and; παραβολη, parable; αυτος, he/she/it. However, you've got to work a bit to put then together. Let's start with "δε." You can ignore this, or add a "then/when/and" to connect this sentence to the previous one. The next word to look at is "παραβολην." Easy enough -- you just have to realize that in Greek, they rarely ever include an indefinite article (τις) and so you have to add "a" before the word.

"λεγω" is simply to speak, but because it is in the imperfect (parsing review: why not aorist or future?), you have to give a little bit of umph here: "Was continually telling...", something that reflects the on-going nature of the action. Finally you go to "αυτοις ." This is "he" in the plural dative. First, make it plural: "they" now dative: "to/with/for/through them." Put this all together and you get: Then he was telling them a parable.

προς το δειν παντοτε προσευχεσθαι αυτους: "so they would need to pray all the time." The παντοτε is the easy part; simply an adverb meaning always or at all times The tricky part is the "articular infinitive with preposition." In this case, "προς το δειν." Pros means toward; when used in an articular infinitive, it shows purpose or reason. The purpose of the parable then, is the necessity of prayer. The parable is not really "to show them it is necessary" but really, "so that they would need to pray."  More tricky here, the verb "dei" requires another verb (it is necessary to do something), which in this case is "pray" (προσευχεσθαι ). So you get: "for the reason of being necessary to pray." The αυτους is simply here an accusative form of autos, or "they." Because its part of an infinitive clause, it behaves not as an accusative, but as a nominative, namely, the subject. This might not seem like much, but by adding this word it moves it from "the necessity of prayer" to "the necessity of them praying."

και μη εγκακειν: "Not be discouraged." The μη is the Greek "no" for non-indicative moods. What does that mean? Well, if the sentence is "I do not go to the store" the 'no' in Greek would be "ουκ." However, if you have a command or an infinitive or a participle, you get "μη " In this case, the word discouraged is connected with the verb, "δει" or it is necessary. You know this because it is an infinitive and not an imperative (a command). So the parable is also for the purpose of them not losing heart.

Genesis 32:22-31

This passage is found in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 2 (Most recently Sept 27, 2015)
This passage is also found in the Revised Common Lectionary at points during Pentecost season., most recently October 2016.

Summary:  This passage is rich with names and their meanings.  But don't get distracted by all of this.  The main action is not in the words, but in the dirt!  God is getting down and dirty with Jacob, wrestling away.  God will stop at nothing to transform us [insert segue to cross], so that, quoting Luther, "I might be his own!"

Key words:
בד (pronounced "bad", meaning "alone", 32:24)  Jacob's being alone harkens back to the first case of man being alone in the Bible, namely the Garden of Eden (2:18).  A few contrasts and connections:
- Cause of loneliness:  Adam did not have a partner yet; Jacob has alienated his loved ones (his brother; his uncle)
- God meets dust:  In Genesis 2, God creates out of the dust; in Genesis 32, God "gets dusty" (see below)
- God blesses through creation:  In the Garden, God creates a woman; in Genesis 32, God creates a humble Jacob, ready to love, forgive, be forgiven.

אבק ("abaq", meaning to wrestle; literally dust, 32:24)  It is worth pointing out that the word for wrestle is related to the word for dust (they are the same spelling and root.)  To wrestle is literally to get dusty.  God gets down and dirty with Jacob to transform him.

יעקב ("Yakov" or "Jacob", 32:27)  The name Jacob means "he cheats" or "he steals."  I've read before that names had power in the ancient word; knowing the name gave one authority over another.  I still think this is true when I teach children.  Once I know there names, I can much more easily manage their behavior!  The point is that Jacob's revelation of his name was giving God power over him; but it also reveals humility because Jacob's name was a confession of sin.

שרית  (conjugated form of  שרה, "Sarah", meaning "strive", 32:28)  This is fascinating.  The root word of "Israel" (ישראל) is "Sarah" (שרה), which means strive/struggle.  Of all the patriarchs and people in the Bible, Israel has the name Sarah in it!!  As a side note, the full meaning of the word is hard to ascertain because it is not used that often in the Bible.  Sarah certainly embodies the striving and struggling as much as anyone in the OT.

As a curious side note, the first example of the name is "Israel" in recorded history is from 1200 BC Egypt:

יכל ("yacal", meaning "able", 32:28)  This is fascinating verb because it simply means "can" and "is able."  I think the translation of "prevail" is far too strong.  I think endure is much better translation.  I think it is worth pointing out that the only victory over God in life (again, I just "endure" as a better verb) is through submitting to God.

פניאל ("Peniel" meaning "face of God", 32:30)  What I would like to point out here is that most English translations leave this as Peniel.  The Greek (LXX) leaves it as "the place he saw God."  This brings up a great question about Old Testament translation -- when do we translate the meaning of names and places and when do we leave them as is?  (Do we expect people to read footnotes!)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Luke 17:11-19

This week has just about every key theological word: glory, salvation, Eucharist, healing, mercy. The word I want to draw you attention to, however, is "πιπτω," or fall. The man literally falls on his face to give God thanks. When was the last time you were not simply knocked to your knees, but you actually fell flat on your face in thanksgiving -- got so low to the ground you could smell the carpet??

I also spend some time throughout this blog reflecting on faith and healing, which have a fascinating relationship in this passage!

Key Words

αλλογενης (17:18, "foreigner"): This word is used only once in the NT. It literally means "other genes." That is the kind of God we have in Jesus Christ, one who welcomes ones with other genes; not other customs, but other genes!

πιπτω (17.16, "fell", "threw himself" or even "prostrated"):  The word here is not kneel, or pray but literally fall on his face. When was the last time you prayed with your face flat on the ground?  This is common in other religions, but I rarely see Christians do this (at least, in American contexts with which I am familiar).

λεπρος ('lepros', 17.12, "leper"): The Greek is interesting here in that the word 'leper' appears before the word for man (andros). The first thing we find out is not their humanness, but their disease. The NIV and NET cover up this fact their translations.  How often do we identify people by their disease and not their humanity!  Perhaps part of healing is the restoration of the primacy of our human identity!  To push is further, Christ's salvation means we are no longer called "fat" or "white" or "athletic" or "nerdy" but instead we are called "child of God."

ελεησον ('eleison', 17.13, "mercy"): The men today cry out, "Jesus have mercy" in the Greek, a chant we cry out weekly in our worship.

Some other words to notice:
ευχαριστω ('eucharistoo', 17.16, "give thanks"): Literally "Eucharist"; the man, from his knees, gives thanks to God!

δοχαζω ('doxazoo', 17.18 as noun; 17.15 as verb, "glory") Here it means give praise, but the word in Greek is doxe, as in doxology.  Orthodoxy is meant to ensure the glory is given to God!

σωζω ('sozo', 17.19, "save") The granddaddy of 'em all -- salvation -- appears in this sentence, a reminder that, as always, spiritual and physical healing are related.  When Jesus says that the man's faith saved him, we see very clearly that Luke is not suggesting "your belief in a set of propositional truths gave you keys to heaven."  What Jesus seems to be saying is more on long the lines: "your trust in my word and power motivated action from you that transformed your life in a way that have experienced the salvation of God."  For all good theologians, faith leads to action!  Salvation and healing are bigger than life-after-death.  (The only caveat from a Lutheran perspective is that even when faithful, sin mars our actions and certain our capacity to judge the actions and therefore faith of our neighbors).  This is not to argue against ever-lasting life, but rather to suggest that the salvation of God comes to us here and now.

ιαομαι ('iaomai', 17.15, "healed) This word comes into English in "psychiatry"

Grammar point: "Articular Infinitive"
Luke uses a whole bunch of articular infinitives. It is a construction we really don't have in English but it makes sense. 17.11 literally reads: "And it happened in the walking into Jerusalem." ' In the walking' is an articular infinitive with preposition. Which sounds complex but it means you have the following: preposition (in, with, for)+the+infinitive. In this case in+the+walking. To translate you need to figure out two things. First, who is doing the action. And second, what does the preposition mean. In this sentence, the subject of the infinitive phrase is not really given, but you can guess its Jesus and the disciples. (Reminder -- the subject of an infinitive is given in the accusative). Second, the preposition in this case, "en" signifies concurrent action. So... "And it happened in the walking into Jerusalem..." becomes "While they entered Jerusalem,"

See 17.14 to test yourself if you understand this.  In fact, 17:14 highlights that the being cleansed did not happen when they heard the word of Jesus (go to the priests) but when they left Jesus.  They were told to present themselves to the priests while they were unclean, either meaning that Jesus was giving them permission to be lepers in the temple or that they had faith in the certainty of their healing.  A fascinating debate -- either case would be a tremendous example of their faith!

Sentence breakdown:  Luke 17:16
NRSV He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
Greek  και επεσεν επι προσωπον παρα τους ποδας αυτου ευχαριστων αυτω και αυτος ην Σαμαριτης

και επεσεν : Easy way to start a sentence. Ignore the kai (for now at least) and then translate the verb, 3rd person singular aorist: "He fell"

επι προσωπον: Easy preposition: Upon (a) face.

παρα τους ποδας αυτου: Similarly an easy phrase to translate: "at the feet of him." Reminder: αυτου and its various forms, 95% of the time, refer to prepositions. They can mean "very" and "same" but this happens rarely.

So "he fell upon a face at his feet." The NRSV simplifies: He prostrated himself.  I like it, although some many not know what "prostrated" means.

ευχαριστων αυτω: Now the sentence gets a bit trickier. However, its still pretty straight forward (as far as circumstantial participles go!). To translate the preposition, let's plug it in:
step one: Determine what type -- circumstantial
step two: rough translation by adding "ing": "giving thanks"
step three: figure out who: "the leper"
step four: adjust tense and voice -- in this case, unnecessary.
step five: put it in the sentence: "He prostrated himself at the feet of Jesus, (the leper) giving thanks."
In this case, because neither the subject nor even the verb tense changes from sentence to participle, its plug and play!

και αυτος ην Σαμαριτης: And he was a Samaritan.

This sentence can be a good review of your pronouns!