Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

1:1 This Greek sentence is a doosy because the first two real words are "hapax logomenon," meaning they appear only once in the Greek Bible. But beyond that, the grammer is pretty simple. One thing to note is that God spoke "through" the prophets is an odd translation (but probably right) of the preposition "en"

1:2 This sentence almost perfectly parallels the first in terms of structure: adverb of when, verb, indirect object (to whom as spoken), object of means. The only difference is that in 1:1 the sentence is a participle, indicating this action sets up the main event. In otherwords, grammatically, the sentence achieves what it says: The prophets set up the main event, the son.

1:3 Now we have a nugget of a word here, "apaugasma." The KJV translated this "brightness of God" and the RSV and NRSV have translated this as "reflection." The word is used one other time in the LXX in the book of Wisdom, where the word is set up in a pairing that suggests its meaning is reflection. However, the older Greek meaning of the word is that which gives light. Is Jesus the "sonshine" of God or the "mirror"?

1:3 Also, the next set of words are equally fascinating: image of his essence or "character" or his "hypostatis." Time to get out the Trinitarian books here! The word character comes from the word for an impression on a coin. I was thinking a bit that the impression on the coin reveals its worth. Perhaps this is what Jesus does for God?

1:3 "sustains all things by his powerful word," is more interesting in the Greek. It literally is "carries" or "bears" all things; the word for "word" here is not logos but "herma" as in "hermenuetic." Christ carries all things by Law and Gospel. ;-)

1:3 The Greek for "made purification/cleansing" is fascintating. The Greek is in the middle tense here! So you could write this "Jesus made himself the purification" for our sins.

1:4 With this sentence the limit of my Greek is reached. As far as I can tell, the sentence could also be read as, "in as much as he was great then angeles, he was given a name greater than theirs." Although the grammar in the sentence is tough, the one really confusing part is that the word for "become" can also mean "be";

1:4 Also worth noting is that the word given is from "inherit" which goes then back to 1:1. There he was given a share in all things; here he is given the name.

2:5 The word for "world" here is "oikoumeneh" (as in "in those days a decree went out to all the world...Luke 2:1). It refers to the civilized world...

2:6 Interestingly, the translators want to cover up the Greek (and underlying Hebrew, ZoCaR) for remember. To recall the OT, when God remembers, good things happen! Also, the word for care in the Greek is "episkopeh"; in Hebrew is it "PaQeD," which have two different senses. PaQeD does not necessarily mean simply good things. But the point here is that the underlying (Hebrew and) Greek verbs, althought they are read as cognitive verbs in English, are more like action verbs.

2:8 The word here for control/submission is "hypotasso"; common throughout the NT, esp in Paul (1 Cor 15:28!!) and Peter.

2:9 Great insight here from the NET translation. "geyomai" which means "to taste" might give the impression of a taste-test or sample, but means experience, even come to know!

2:10 The great word here is "pioneer"...but this is an odd translation for the word "archegon." It means more the first one, maybe like founder or prince. You could argue the sense of "leader." In short, pioneer is a great translation for an American audience because it captures our imagination, but the Greek probably has connotations of something a bit more powerful, like leader or prince. Maybe the "grand pioneer" would be better.

2:11 The translators again here struggle. The Greek says "those who are holy...of one father." The Greek simply reads, "of one" and the one could be neuter or masculine. Given the comment about brothers, the word Father there is probably the best way to go (which the NRSV does)

2:12 And now we return to the name game. Here Jesus is extolling our name, even though he has the name above all names??!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

James 3:13 - 4:3..8

3:13 One of the key words in this passage is "Wisdom," or in Greek "Sophia." Before getting to the meat of the word, we have a nice look at the genetive here. The end of this verse says, "in gentleness [genetive: wisdom]." The NET translates this "gentleness that wisdom brings." The NRSV gives "born of wisdom" and the NIV puts it as "from wisdom." This is one case where the later context (3:17) gives some help.

Also, another Greek note. In verse 13, we have the Greek phrase, "en hymin" which means, literally "in you" but is really "among you all." Often times the Bible translates this phrase as in "in you" (like in 1 John, the love of God in you) when it should be translated, as it is here, among you all.

3:14 The Greek subjunctive clause here strengthens James' point. He does not simply say, "If you have bitterness..."; he puts this a bit more strongly, "Since you have bitterness..." The resulting "mh" (negative clause) with a present indicative verb means that the action occuring (in this case, lying) is on-going. In other words, I would translate this, "You have bitter envy; stop lying!"

3:15 The word in 3:15 for "unspiritual" is an odd one -- psychicos, which clearly has its origins in the idea of the "soul." At some point, this word became the opposite of "pneuma..." The Latin translation of this word is animalis. I don't know what to make of this, but I thought it odd!

3:16 There is a great word in this verse: "akatastasis" which means disorder; in Acts 3:21, Jesus is said to be the apokatastasis!

3:17 The wisdom from above (again anwthen, used in John 3) is first holy. Well, let's just stick Jesus in there. The wisdom from above is first Christ. Then it is...

But getting back to the genitive in 3:13, we see that the proper (holy) widsom produces gentleness, not the other way around. So the earlier genitive is a genitive of origin/source: the gentleness from or begun in wisdom.

3:18 Here we have a great look at the dative. The expression is the substantive participle, "those who make peace." The question is, what is the role of this in the sentence? It is in the dative; no prepositions given. The "fruit/harvest of righteousness" is the subject; the verb is "sown"; "in peace" seems like an adverbial phrase for the verb. So, the part that everyone agrees on is "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace..." But what about the peacemakers? The NET takes this dative to mean location, as in "the fruit sown among those who make peace." The NRSV looks at the dative here as an indirect object, "for those who make peace." The NIV, on the otherhand, looks at the dative here as the object of means, "by those who make peace," and then takes the sentence and makes it active (Those who make peace sow..."

4:1 The words James uses to describe the situation have military overtones; conflicts is "polemos" (like modern polemics) and "machai" which means is akin to the word for sword (machaira).

4:1 The word for "cravings" is "hedone" as in "hedonism."

4:8 The Greek here is not set up as a conditional. Draw near to God and he will draw close to you not connected through any if-then clauses (and Greek has a million ways to do this). Given the relational langauge found elsewhere in this section, I wonder if you could look at this verse (and the previous verse) this way: Leave the devil; He is fleeing because of Christ. Go home to God; for he is also on the way.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mark 8:27-38

Over time I've worked on three posts related to this passage.
- First, a smattering of Greek tid-bits that will one day become a more coherent post
- Second, an investigation into the brilliance of Mark's Greek tenses
- Third, a Tour de Force (if I do say so myself) on Mark's Greek to highlight the nature our confession

This is the first!

Mark 8:27 The verb for "asking" here is "eperota-oo"; it's cousin word "erota-oo" is also very common. The verb can also mean inquire. It is in the imperfect tense, which means that Mark here is emphasizing Jesus repeated action of asking.

8:27 Mark also awkwardly words the phrase "Who do they say I am." [Technical note: the "I" is in the accusative because it is an infinitive clause where the subject is found in the accusative]. It literally reads, "Who me saying the people (hoi anthropoi) to be?" One could probably render this more fairly in English, "As for me, who are they saying that I am," Without reading too much into this, the point here is that Jesus is drawing attention to himself before the crowds."

So, the Greek probably sounded more like this: Jesus was repeatedly asking them, "As for me -- who are the people saying I am?"

8:28 [Another technical note: If you read the Greek in this verse, many of the words have their case changed, indicated their function in the phrases. It is a good exercise of grammer to figure out why each one is in the case that it is in, even though it adds little to the translation.]

8:29 Again, the verb for Jesus speaking is in the imperfect tense: Jesus kept asking them.

Jesus also emphasizes the "you"; in Greek, pronouns are implied in the verb conjugation, but Jesus says it anyway and says it first.

Here Jesus also switches the tenses -- the disciples, in vs. 28, respond in the aorist tense (other people said you are John the Baptist), whereas Jesus asks them, in the present tense, who they say he is, suggesting this is a question they have continually or will continually be asked.

So, the Greek probably sounded more like this: Jesus kept asking them, "And as for you, what about me? Who are you saying that I am?"

8:29 One final point -- the word here that Peter uses is "Christos" which means annointed. The Hebrew for anoint is "Messiah," so Jesus Christ could have just as easily been "Jesus Messiah."

8:30 Jesus rebukes him -- the word here for rebuke is "epitima-oo," from tima, meaning honor. The word epitima-oo originally meant to bestow honor or a price on someone. This would be an awesome dilemma here...but by the time of the NT, this word no long had the honor connotations, but instead simply meant rebuke.

8:30 The word "leg-oo" is not used for the fourth time this verse!

8:31 A little side note -- Mark says, "After three days..." Luke and Matthew say "on the third day..." Also, this verse is a good verse to study accusative infinitives as well as passive construction in the infinitive...

8:32 This phrase "spoke openly" is "parrasia"; it is the only time this word is used in any of the synoptics. Everything else might be riddles, but this isn't! Also, the "this" as in "He spoke openly about this," is "ton logon." Finally, the word for speak is again in the imperfect.

So the Greek probably sounded more like this: "With great openness he continued to say to them this message."

Peter will now do the rebuking...(same verb)...this verb is used three times in this passage (30, 32, 33)

Another verb comes into play now -- "began" (arch-oo); Jesus begins to teach; Peter begins to rebuke!

8:33 Jesus here literally says "go after me" (opis-oo mou); this is the same word that Jesus spoke to Peter back in verse 1, when he invited Jesus to come after him. Perhaps less of a rebuke and more of a call to discipleship -- come after me to the cross, Satan, to die and come after me Peter to the cross and there learn what it means to be my disciple!

8:34 The verb tenses are helpful here -- deny (aparneo-mai) and carry (air-oo) are in the aorist tense, but follow (akolouthe-oo) is in the present tense.

So, to the Greek it probably sounded like: "If any of you want to follow after me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and day-after-day follow me," (Okay day-after-day is a bit of a Lutheranism...)

8:35 To translate "apollu-mi" here as "lose" is perhaps one of the most watered down translations possible. The verb can mean lose but more likely means destroy (as in Herod wanted to destroy the child). Something more active is called for here than simply misplacing our life.

8:35 The word for life here is "psyche," showing that the "psyche" is not simply an intellectual thing, but the totality of our will and actions. Perhaps we could really shake up our listeners by saying, "If anyone wants to save their soul..."

8:37 The word here for "exchange" is "antallagma"; perhaps an illusion to Mark 10:45, where Jesus says he gives his life (psyche) as a ransom for many.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

James 2:1-17

James 2:1 The key word here is "partiality," which in Greek is literally "face-taker" (prosopon and lambano). Jesus is said to show no partiality. The NET changes the structure of the sentence by adding an "if" clause, which is neither in nor even implied in the Greek.

2:4 The word for "discern/judge" here is diakrin-oo, which is used by Paul in 1 Cor, admonishing us to discern the body! Another time when divisions arose in the community. Fascinating parallel between two such allegedly divergent writers.

2:7 I think the Greek here points toward a Baptismal rite: "The name which was called upon upon (epi) you." The verb here, epikale-oo" does not mean belong, but called upon or invoked (literally in Latin).

2:12 The NRSV nails it on the head again here. The NIV and NET insert the word "give" as in the "Law gives freedom." This is not the case. The law of freedom is going to judge is what it literally says.

2:14 The phrase "Can such faith save you?" is probably better translated, "Faith can save him, really??" My theological question here though is -- who is the "him." The antecedent is unclear. James seems to be making the point about your neighbor in need, which is what most of the section is about. The truth is that your faith without works will not save your neighbor from his or her hunger. The question here, I think, is not about being righteous before God but rather doing righteousness toward your neighbor.