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.)