Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Matthew 3:1-12

This passage occurs in the Advent season of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year A).
 
Summary: The great fun of this passage is that everything is happening all at once and then over and over again.  First, John commands the people to repent, but tells them to do this repeatedly.  Then, people are continually getting baptized while at the same time continually confessing.  The order of baptism-confession-repentance is not entirely clear.  Well, actually, it is clear:  They all happen at once.  Over and over again.  Does this mean baptism happens again and again?  I think the baptism of fire does happen again and again, even if the ritual only happens once in our lives.  What is not in question is that baptism, at least for John, is connected with repentance.

Key Words:

μετανοιετε ("repent"; 3:2).  This verb is in the present tense.  This is significant because it implies that the action ought to be on-going.  In other words, the action of repentance is not a one time event, but a life-time one.  Interestingly, this is the verse that begins the 95 thesis.  When Luther read a similar passage in Greek, he saw that the Latin had removed this continuous aspect of the Greek and said, "Hey!"  "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent" he willed that the whole life is one of repentance." 

βαπτισμα ("baptism"; 3:7).  Originally, this word did not have religious meaning.  It simply meant to dip.  For your enjoyment, here are the Liddell-Scott hellenestic meanings of the word.  Wow!

I. trans. to dip in water
2. to dip in poison
3. to dip in dye, to dye
4. to draw water
II. intransitive the ship dipped, sank

Try preaching that:  Baptism as a dip in poison; as a dip in dye; as a drawing of water from God; as finally, a sinking ship!

πνευμα ("spirit"; 3:11).  The word can mean "breath" as well.  What is worth noting, especially as we begin the year of readings from Matthew's Gospel, that the Holy Spirit plays an integral role in Matthew's Gospel.  It is not fair to simply say Luke is about the Spirit...In Matthew he is there too, connected with the birth of Jesus (1:18) and the command to make disciples (20:18). 

This word also shows up in this week's Isaiah text (11:2).  The "Spirit of the Lord" is upon me.  The NRSV, always trying to avoid the Trinity in the OT, makes it "spirit of the Lord."  Everyone else, of course, gets it right and makes it "Spirit of the Lord" if not "Lord's Spirit."

Grammar point: 
Greek and Hebrew punctuation.  Well, they're ain't much!  Especially in the earlier manuscripts when things were all capitals (in Greek).  Anyway, there is some and Mark does a little slight of hand here:
"A voice cries in the wilderness:  "Prepare the way of the Lord."  The Hebrew more accurately reads:
"A voice cries, "In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord."  Ie, get ready to go back from exile on the road through the wilderness.  Mark and Matthew take the verse and give it new meaning!  A reminder of the freedom that the Spirit gives us to interpret the Word for our context.  Or maybe a warning too!

Verse Translation:
Matthew 3:6 και εβαπτιζοντο εν τω Ιορδανη ποταμω υπ αυτου εξομολογομενοι τας ἀμαρτιας αυτων

Sometimes, before you divide and conquer, just try reading the sentence by sticking in vocab you know and see where you get. When it comes to this verse, if you know a bit of Greek, you should be able to get: 

And baptize in the Jordan under/by/of him ?? the sins of them

Let's save that nasty participle and look at the first half of the sentence (ie, now divide)

και εβαπτιζοντο εν τω Ιορδανη ποταμω υπ αυτου

The key to translation here is to recognize that baptize is a passive voice verb.  This allows you to make sense of "υπ αυτου" which is how Greek tells you who did the action in passive voice:

"And baptized in the river Jordan by him." 

Now we nail down our verb a bit more:  imperfect, 3rd person:

"And they were continuously being baptized in the river Jordan by him."

So, now onto:  εξομολογομενοι τας ἀμαρτιας αυτων

 τας ἀμαρτιας αυτων should be clear:  Their sins or the sins of them.

However, the participle is a mess here.  It turns out it means "confess"  It is a middle present participle.  Hmm...middle means you can translate it as active.
So:  "confessing their sins."

What is the connection of this clause to the rest of the clause?  Well, the participle is a circumstantial participle...but what circumstances?  Well, the key here is the tense.  It is present tense.  That means the action is on-going.  However, the main verb is in the imperfect.  So does this mean the baptizing happened before the confessing?  No!  The present tense of the participle means that this action happens at the SAME time as the main verb.  In other words, the people did not baptize and then confess; or vice verse.  What is means is that while they were being baptized, they simultaneously were confessing.  So we get:

"And they were continuously being baptized in the river Jordan by him, while they were confessing their sins."

In the wilderness of life, our baptism and confession...and repentance are all related.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Luke 23:33-43

This passage occurs on Christ the King Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C).
 
Summary
There is an ambiguity in the Greek this week.  Do those mocking Jesus disbelieve he is king or, knowing this, misunderstand what this means?  I think the world has often suffered, not simply because we deny Jesus' his title, but because we misunderstand what it means for him to be king.  This passage offers great contrasts between Jesus' rule (or even economy) and that of Rome (and the world):  Jesus willingness to die and forgive.  A smaller detail also offers a large contrast:  Jesus earlier had commanded his disciples to divide the bread during communion; here the soldiers divide his garments.  The world divides the spoils; Jesus shares the wealth. 

Key Words
σταυρόω (23:33; 'crucify')  As scholar Martin Hengel writes, “Death on the cross was the penalty for slaves, as everyone knew; as such it symbolized extreme humiliation, shame and torture.”  People wear crosses around the necks and jewelry today.  Not so in Jesus' day.

διαμερίζω  (23:34; see also 22:17, "divide")  The soldiers divide Jesus garments by lot.  Interesting, a scene early in the passion Jesus has the disciples divides the bread.  Quite a contrast between the kingdom of Rome and the Kingdom of Jesus!

χριστος (23:35,39, "Christ" or "Anointed.")  This word is from the Hebrew: "Messiah," which means anointed.  Worth pointing out is that Jesus has been called the Christ before.  First, by angels (2:11), then by Peter (4:41) and perhaps one could argue, by the penitent thief.

σωσάτω εαυτόν (23:25, 37 and 39, "Save yourself")  This is clear in the English, but worth pointing out.  Three times Jesus is commanded to save himself (or "save yourself).  Jesus was tempted three times in the wilderness.  At the end he is tempted three times as well.  This reveals the real purpose of the original temptations -- to avoid Jesus dying on the cross.  The kings of this world save themselves.  Jesus saves others.  (It also brings up an interesting question:  Could Jesus have saved himself at that point?  I believe the questions suggest he could of, but until the end, suffered willingly).

βασιλεύς (23:38; "King")  As BDAG puts it, "one who rules as possessor of the highest office in a political realm."  This doesn't mean mayor.  King.  In Athens, he had charge of the public worship and the conduct of criminal processes.

Grammar Review:  εἰ
Once again we come to the lovely word "εἰ."  This can mean "if" or "since."  The correct translation depends on context but especially on the mood of the verb.  If the verb is in the subjunctive, "εἰ" should most likely be translated "if."  If the verb is in the indicative mode, then "εἰ" should be translated as "since."  In this particular passage, the verbs are indicative, so perhaps we should go with "Since you are the son of God."  Perhaps it makes little difference, but the translation begs a question:  Are the passers-by, the soldiers and even the thief wrong about him being the son of God; or are they wrong about what it means to be the son of God.  If you translate εἰ as "if" then you are arguing they don't know that he is the son of God.  If you translate εἰ as "since" then you are arguing that they know he is the son of God, they just don't have a clue what this means for the world.  I think the later translation probably makes us more uncomfortable and hence why we go with the grammatically incorrect (or at least less correct) "If you are the son of God..."

Sentence Translation. 23:33
καὶ ὀτι ἠλθον ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον τὸν καλούμενον Κρανίον, ἐκει ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτὸν καὶ τοὺς κακούργους, ὀν μὲν εκ δεξιων, ὀν δὲ εξ ἀριστερων

(NRSV) When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

I picked this sentence because its not that hard in the Greek, but you need to know a trick or two to get through it.

First task, as always is to divide the sentence in to smaller pieces.  Use the commas:
1) καὶ ὀτε ἠλθον ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον τὸν καλούμενον  Κρανίον
2)  ἐκει ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτὸν καὶ τοὺς κακούργους
3)  ὀν μὲν εκ δεξιων
4)  ὀν δὲ εξ ἀριστερων

Looking at section 1: First, look for a verb.  Ah!  Notice the nice verb: ἠλθον.  This normal, nice looking aorist verb tells you two things -- one, you have a relatively straight-forward part of the sentence here and two, the subject of your sentence is I or they.  Remember, Greek can bury the subject in the verb.

Fill in what you know:  "And when they upon the place the "something-ugly" Kranion."

The "something ugly" is an adjective participle.  Easy to translate; easy to recognize.  Notice the pattern:  the +noun+ the + participle:  τὸν τόπον τὸν καλούμενον

The formula is "the noun who/which does the verb of the participle."
Or in this case, "The place which calls Kranion."
You also need to recognize (perhaps again through software) that it is a passive participle.  You should be able to figure this out on your own...know how?  Hint:  μεν
So you fix for the passive voice:
"The place which is called Kranion."  Kranion, or Cranion, means skull.  So we fix this up:
The place which is called "Skull"

"And then they came to the place which is called "Skull"

2)  ἐκει ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτὸν καὶ τοὺς κακούργους

Again, find the verb.  Notice again, its a nice verb:  ἐσταύρωσαν   Long, but not too bad...classic aorist.  Adds an "ε" in the beginning and "σ" toward the end.  Also tells you the subject:  "They"

So another basic sentence with a little twist:  "Here they cruficified him and the-something or other"

Here we have the "substantive" participle.  Easiest in the book to translate.  Formula is:  "the+participle" and transaltes, "The one/ones who/which verb"  In this case:  "The ones who do bad things."

So we put it all back together:  "Here they cruficified him and the others who did bad things."

3) ὀν μὲν εκ δεξιων

4) ὀν δὲ εξ ἀριστερων

A little hint:  μὲν and  δὲ is a parallel structure hint:  "on the one hand...and on the other." 

To translate ὀν you should put in "who."  "who on the one hand of his left, who on the other hand of his left."
In fact, since ὀν is accusative, this should be"  "whom on one hand..."  But this is all too confusing and we let the words we've heard most of our life suffice:  "one on his left and the other on his right."

Two questions for you:  why is ὀν in the accusative?   (Because the sentence is describing the two bad guys.  The bad guys were in the accusative and so the writer is letting you know he is still talking about them by keeping things in the same case.)

And why is it εξ instead of εκ before ἀριστερων?  Because the Greeks like a harder sound before words that begin with vowels.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Luke 21:5-19

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary in Year C, most recently November 2019.
 
Summary:  The translators do a good job in this passage of not "covering up" the intensity of Jesus words.  As I played around in the Greek, I found a number of odd parallels between this passage and the resurrection account in Luke 24.  First, both this story and the resurrection story are haunting.  Here Jesus warns the people not to be terrified (πτοέω).  When his disciples encounter Jesus after the resurrection, they will be terrified.  Next, Jesus warns of the listeners they will be betrayed (παραδίδωμι); after the resurrection, the disciples will hear the angels announce that it was necessary for Jesus to be betrayed.  Finally, Jesus tells them about their future witness (μαρτύριον); after the resurrection, Jesus will send them out to be his witnesses to the world. 

These are loose parallels, I admit.  The basic point of the passage is that witnessing to Christ is connected with our suffering and finally, our own resurrection.  I would argue, both from the text and theologically, however, that witnessing to Christ finally is grounded in the suffering and resurrection of Jesus.

Theological curve ball, completely unrelated to the Greek:  This week Jesus promises to give words; in Mark's account, the Holy Spirit will give the words!

Key Words:
μαρτύριον ('witness'; 21:13; see also 24:48)  Originally this word simply meant "testimony."  Because so many Christians gave their life as a martyr, however, the word eventually came to mean one who would die for a cause; ie, their willingness to die became their witness.  Jesus, after the resurrection will say, "You will be my witnesses." (Again in Acts 1:8)

πτοέω ('terrified'; 21.9; 24.37)  This word means terrified; the only other appearance of this word in the New Testament is used in Luke 24 to describe the reaction of the disciples to the risen Christ, who they believe is a ghost.

παραδίδωμι ('hand over'; 21.12; 16)  A very common word in the NT (roughly 100 times!)  Jesus ministry in the Gospel of Mark, for example, begins with the handing over (or betrayal) of John the Baptist.  Interesting to point out here is that this word will also appear in the resurrection accounts -- from the angels and then from Cleopas.
- Oddly enough, sometimes handing things over can be good -- Paul, for example, says he is simply handing over the words of institution (11:23) and the core kyrgma (15:3).

ὐπομονή ('endurance'; 21.19)  Although rare in the Gospels, the epistles in the NT are filled with calls for endurance!  6x in Romans; 7x in Revelation.  The word means to endure and is often connected with suffering.  See Romans 5:3:  "Suffering produces endurance (NRSV)"

κτάομαι ('acquire'; 21.19)  This word appears rather infrequently in the NT.  One example is from Acts, where an official mentions he acquired his citizenship for a large amount of money (22.28).  This word does not mean hold but means acquire.

Grammar Review:  Non-necessity of an implied subject (its easier than it sounds)
In Greek, because you conjugate the verb based on who is the subject, you don't always need to list the subject.  For instance:  "λεγω" tells you both the action (speaking) and the subject (I).  Normally, in fact, Greek doesn't explicitly say the subject, but the reader/listener figures it out from the conjugated verb. 
Sometimes though Greek will leave in the non-necessary subject for emphasis.  This is true in a particular expression:  "I am" or "εγω ειμι."  This particular expression is often used as a name of God -- the one who is!  A handful of times Jesus will use this in the Gospels, most pointedly in John.  In this particular passage, Jesus says that many will come and that "I am," using two words, the subject and verb.  Again, the subject is unnecessary.  So why the emphasis?  First, because anyone declaring they are the messiah would probably want to emphasize the fact that they were indeed the Messiah.  Secondly, someone could employ this construction to indicate, in short hand, that they are God.

What is really worth pointing out is that only once will Jesus use these words for himself in the Gospel of Luke.  After the resurrection he stands in the midst of his disciples and say, "εγω ειμι."  (24.39)  A reminder that its not only in John that Jesus uses such expressions!

Sentence Translation: 21:9
οταν δε ακουσητε πολεμους και ακαταστατιας, μη πτοηθητε; δει γαρ ταυτα γενεσθαι προτον, αλλ ουκ ευθεως το τελος

First step, as always, is to break down the sentence into smaller parts.  Let the punctuation help you here.
1) οταν δε ακουσητε πολεμους και ακαταστατιας
2) , μη πτοηθητε;
3)  δει γαρ ταυτα γενεσθαι προτον
4) , αλλ ουκ ευθεως το τελος

Now you've got four fragments, each of which is really translatable
1) οταν δε ακουσητε πολεμους και ακαταστατιας

First step to translating a clause is to figure out its subject-verb.  Here this is ακουσητε , which is conjugated (thanks Bible Works) for a 2nd person plural.  But you knew that anyway, right ;-) 

The basic of the sentence is then:  You hear

- Do you know yet why the verb is in the subjunctive mood?

πολεμους και ακαταστατιας is the object:  wars and destruction.  Its in the accusative case telling you its the object of the action.  So in proto-english:
You hear wars and destruction
You gotta add in the "of" because in English the verb "hear" needs this
You hear of wars and destruction


Now lets go back (skip the de) and figure out this conjunction οταν.  Actually, pretty straight-forward again.  It means "when" or "whenever."  It also demands the subjunctive mood of the verb. 

Clause 1:  "Whenever you hear of wars and destruction."
2) , μη πτοηθητε;

Translation:  Do not be terrified.  Worth noting here.  Simple aorist subjunctive regarding a future event/action we are not to engage in ;-)  Normally in the Bible, the words "do not fear" are in the present (and not aorist) tense, suggesting that the person who hears them is currently fearing.  The aorist subjunctive doesn't assume the person currently engages in such actions!

Clause 2:  Do not be (or perhaps even become) terrified.

3) δει γαρ ταυτα γενεσθαι προτον

When you see a dei clause, look for a verb in the infinitive.  In this case - γενεσθαι.  So we know that the basic translation of this passage will be :  "It is necessary to happen/be/occur."  Once you know you are in an infinitive clause, then find your subject, which will be in the accusative case. 

Agh!  There are two things in the accustative:  ταυτα and προτον.  Well, it turns out that Greek likes to stick neuter accustative adjectives in there as adverbs -- προτον (first) in this case.  So you get "It is necessary for these (things) to happen first."  But even if you didn't know about first functioning as an adverb, "It is necessary for first to happen this" doesn't work.  Add back in the "gar" and you get:

Clause 3 "For it is necessary for these things to happen first."

4) , αλλ ουκ ευθεως το τελος

"But not immediately the end."  If we recall from last week, sometimes Greek drops the "to be" verb.  So we can get:  "But the end is not immediately."  Or perhaps better: "But the end will not happen immediately."  It is not so hard to conceptually figure out what the Greek means, but its kind of awkward English.

Clause 4:  "But the end will not happen immediately."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Luke 18:9-14

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, most recently October 2019.

Note:  In 2019, this passage occurs on the same Sunday as Reformation Sunday (traditionally commemorated the last Sunday in October).  Many choose to preach that Sunday on the 'classic' Reformation texts, including John 8. However, I offer the Reformation themes of justification, forgiveness, atonement, sinner-saint, law and Gospel are all present here!

Summary:

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.  I've read more recently that tax-collectors though lived a terrible life in that they were always under fire from above to collect more; the people hated and despised them.  In short, they were lonely folks.

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).

κτωμαι (κταομαι; 18:12):  The word here means to earn.  The person is attributing their success to themselves!

ιλασκομαι (have mercy on; Luke 18:13). 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.  This person is appealing to the mercy of God without any other mediator than his own confession.  Which Jesus declares acceptable.

This would then bring up the preacher's dilemma.  How can we help people arrive at a point of having a broken and contrite heart, a point of recognizing their deep and utter need for God?  This requires preaching the Law!  However, this must be done with skill so that it does not simply remain an objective criteria for a good sermon (did you preach the law?) but becomes the internal monologue of the hearer (I have fallen short).  However, this must move finally toward the Gospel and the person must still have space and be in a place to hear the good news.  In short, preaching a sermon in which the sinner is put to death and the new creation arises is not as easy as it sounds...the more one tries it, in fact, the more one realizes that it is a work of the Spirit and not our own!

τω αμαρτωλω (sinner, 18:13)  The word here for sinner includes the article:  THE sinner.  He is not just a sinner, but THE sinner!

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 down...so 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.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Luke 18:1-8

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary Year C, most recently in October 2019
 
Summary
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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Luke 17:11-19

This passage is found in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, most recently October 13, 2019.
 
Summary:
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!  (Okay, we know that all humans share like 99.9% of the same genes, but the point is that Jesus cares for those who have a different "genesis" than we do).

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!  One might even argue that in this case, it was the action resulting from the faith which produced the healing.  I am not sure I want to go there, but at the very least, we see that the life-saving trust praised in the New Testament 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.

- Another possibility is to consider that the real healing did not involve leprosy, but restored relationship with Jesus, which only one participated in.  I am not sure that I buy this either, but hey, this blog is about asking questions and not providing all the answers, right? :-)

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!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Luke 12:13-21

This passage occurs in the RCL Year C, most recently in August 4, 2019.
 
Summary:  I am intrigued by the fact that Jesus does not make a distinction between "needs" and "wants."  So much of my Christian and cultural upbringing taught me to distinguish between "need" and "want."  God gives us what we need; not necessarily what we want; we can keep what we need and given to charity the things we "only" want.  I wonder if it is time for us to explode this distinction and say God gives us all we have; all we have is a gift to be shared!  All possessions, at some deep level, are simply wants.  All we truly need is God, a God who provides us with daily bread and who gives us his eternal Kingdom.

If you are preaching this after Luke 11:1-13 (the Lord's prayer and praying; the RCL's previous week's Gospel passage), this passage becomes a great way to build on what we mean by daily bread and "yours is the Kingdom"!

Key words:

οχλου (genitive of οχλος, "ochlos", meaning "crowd", 12:13)  It is someone in the crowd who calls to him;  The word here for crowd is οχλος, a fairly common word in the NT. It refers to the uneducated  mass of citizens; Jesus is among "the people."

κληρονομια(ν) ("kleronomia", meaning "inheritance", 12:13)  Breaking down this word explains the trouble people had and continue to have with it. The word is literally "portion-law."  κλερος means portion (or lot, as in cast lots); νομος means law (the ending has an "a" because it is a feminine word, but this doesn't change the fact that its root it still νομος).  An inheritance is meant to be a gift, a blessing to future generations.  Due to sin, we cannot leave a gift a gift, but we have to "protect" it with laws until the point where it no longer becomes gift.  It is interesting too that the people want to make Jesus, the savior, into a law-giver.  Again, due to sin, we cannot embrace a gift, but must install law!

πλεονεξια ("pleonexia", meaning "greed" or "coveting", 12:15)  Jesus warns them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed."  The word here for "greed" is πλεονεξια.  This word, whenever it appears in the NT, has a negative connotation, most often used in laundry lists of obvious sins.   Most interesting, however, is the connection that Colossians 3:5 (the RCL's NT reading for this week) provides.  Paul writes that coveting, πλεονεξια is, in essence, idolatry.  Wow!  Greed as idolatry is in itself a great sermon (Walter Bruggeman gave a fantastic sermon on this at Luther Seminary in 2008).  One tidbit he shared is that as Paul connects coveting/greed and idolatry, he connects the last commandment (do not covet) to the first (one God; no idols).

υπαρχοντων (genitive participle of υπαρχω, meaning "possessions", 12:15)  Jesus warns of an excess of possessions.  It is worth reminding ourselves that the word for possessions, υπαρχοντων, does not simply mean toys or things.  It includes: means, resources, the things which one can claim for existence. In fact, the word is a substantive participle, literally meaning "the things that exist to him."
Two examples of where this word shows up:
Luke 8:3  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
Luke 19:8  Zacchaeus says to Jesus:  Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor.

In other words, Jesus here is not distinguishing between needs and wants.  Perhaps this is really helpful for as American Christians who are told we can have what we need, but not what we want.  Our tendency is to greatly exaggerate what we need!  Jesus here points out that our only need is God and God alone.

αναπαυου (command form of αναπαυω, meaning "rest"; 12:19)  We are a world hungry for relaxation -- stress relief from our anxieties.  The word for relax here is αναπαυω.  This word is used in Matthew 11:28, when Jesus promises us rest (Come to me all you who are weary and heaven laden for I will give you rest."  The parable asks us a haunting question:  Where do we seek our solace?  Where do we seek out rest?  Possessions inevitably require maintenance, rules and effort...and do not bring us the profound solace we had hoped for.

*** A little addendum on Luke 12:22-34)
τρεφει (feed; 12:24), αμφιεζει (clothe; 12:28)  I put these two verbs together.  They appear in these verses:
Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds (τρεφει) them.
 Luke 12:28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe (αμφιεζει) you
In both of these cases, the verb is in the present tense, indicating an on-going action.  God will continually feed and clothe us.  This is not a one-time action to start the human story in motion, but a continuous creator!

προστεθησεται (future passive form of προστιθημι, meaning "add", 12:31)  What is significant here is that this verb is in the passive voice, meaning that the subject (us) is not the agent (the one doing the work.)  If these things are to be added, it is not because of us, but because of God.  If you did not catch that God has agency, not us, in the next verse Jesus says that the Father gives us the Kingdom.

Two little grammar notes:
12:16 "A certain rich man..."   The literal translation of the clause is: "of a man certain rich produced good crops the field." The fact that the first three words - man, certain, rich - are all in same case shows they are related.

12:17/12:18   The verb ποιησω appears in both 12:17 and 12:18.  Even though both spellings are the same, it is conjugated (and therefore translated) differently.  The first time it is translated as an aorist subjunctive: "What shall I do?" In the other it is future indicative: "This I will do." Context determines the correct translation

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Genesis 18:20-32

This passage appears in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C (recently on July 28, 2019)

Summary:  There is a lot of great material in this passage to consider regarding prayer, especially as it is paired with Jesus teaching the Lord's Prayer to the disciples in Luke's Gospel.  But I want to look at the question:  What is the sin of Sodom?



חטאת (meaning "sin", 18:19)  The sins of Sodom are "grave" (כבך meaning "to be heavy") in Hebrew).  There are a lot of potential sins in the Bible.  So what are the sins of Sodom?  

It is often assumed that Sodom was punished for its sexual sins, specifically homosexual lust.  The book of Jude in the New Testament supports this:
- "Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire."  Jude 1:7 


This possibility runs into some difficulty, namely, that the story involving sex comes after God has heard the outcry against Sodom; furthermore, the story involving sex involves gang rape of two men (actually angels) visiting Lot's home and then Lot offering his virgin daughters in their place.  In addition, one must consider the culture's overwhelming value of hospitality, as displayed by Abraham earlier in chapter 18.  Sodom represents total moral depravity; there are multiple moral failures in the gang-rape scene, well beyond sex. 

In fact, in 2 Peter, Sodom (and Gomorrah) get mentioned as THE example of ungodly behavior:
 "by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly." (2 Peter 2:6)  The writer associates this ungodliness with sexual misconduct in that God:  "rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless" (2 Peter 2:7).  However, the writer/Peter concludes this section by concluding that they "They have hearts trained in greed." (2 Peter 2:14)*  It seems that for Peter, sex is a problem, but not THE problem.  Again, sexual sin goes hand in hand with other sins.

Furthermore, God declares in Genesis 18.19 that he has known/chosen/singled out Abraham so that Abraham may do "righteousness" and "justice" (צדקה and משפת).  These two concepts will be paired again and again in the Old Testament (Psalm 33.5; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 56:1, Amos 6:12).  It is fair to wonder if the problem in Sodom is about basic righteousness.

We do not have much evidence in Genesis prior to chapter 18 of what is happening in Sodom.  However, the prophet Ezekiel gives voice to the Lord's judgment against them:  "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.   They were haughty and did detestable things before me."  (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

To put it another way, the sexual sins of Sodom are not the problem in themselves, rather they are manifestation of a culture in which people put themselves first, objectify others, and justify their greed.  Sound familiar?  I've read a number of commentators who want to ignore the sexual sins, totally focusing on hospitality, likely as a reaction of those who use this passage in sexuality debates.  I think as a whole, the American church struggles with sexual sins, either obsessing over them or ignoring them.  Perhaps this story reminds us that yes, sexual immorality is a concern to God, but it likely arises alongside of other problems.

Most haunting may not be what happens to Sodom, but the words of judgment that God has in Ezekiel.  Especially when heard with the words of Peter, as he concludes his argument:  "They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them."  (2 Peter 2:19) 


Admittedly, Peter is referencing the story of Sodom and other passages within a section in which he is critiquing the behavior of members of his church who have gone astray.  It might be difficult to ascertain when Peter is offering commentary on the Biblical characters versus his piers.  That all said, the overall impression Peter gives is that there is sexual sin, but this is more a manifestation of others sins, rather than the problem in itself.



Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Luke 10:38-42

This passage occurs in the RCL, Year C.  It occurred most recently in summer 2016.

Summary:  This passage is a powerful contrast to the previous passage of the Good Samaritan.  The work of the church (or of Christian individuals) cannot be service to neighbor alone but also worship of Christ.  Perhaps the two are more connected than we think though.  Jesus commends the rich lawyer to show mercy.  In this passage Mary is praised for attentive listening.  Maybe in our culture of sound bites and tweets, active listening is one of the most powerful displays of mercy we can give someone.

Key words (and use of language):
For Martha:
υπεδεξατο (from υποδεξομαι, "hypodexato", meaning receive; 10:38).  The Liddell-Scott offers a tremendous number of variations on the meaning of this word.  It literally means, "to receive beneath the surface."
It also means, among other variants:
A)  to receive into one's house, receive hospitably.
B)  to give ear to, hearken to
C)  to take in charge as a nurse
D)  of a woman, to conceive

I commend this list (truncated) because all of these are good things.  They are powerful ways to think about hospitality to strangers or ways in which we can "receive beneath the surface."  Martha seems on the right track!

διακονια(ν) ("diakonia", meaning "service", 10:40).  The word diakonia means originally "table service" but came in the Christian tradition to mean acts of ministry.  Long-complicated development of this word that is still debated today.  Regardless, to describe oneself as doing diakonia on behalf of Jesus is a very good thing, something in fact, every Christian is called to in their baptism.

So what's the problem?
επιστασα  (from εφιστημι, ephistemi, meaning "stand over", 10:40)  Mary gets so frustrated she goes over to Jesus and is literally looking down on him (and her sister).  We can get so busy doing the work of the Lord that we lose sight of the Lord and develop an unjustified sense of our own importance.

Imperfect tense:  The words to describe Martha's worries: περισπαω (40), μεριμνας (41) and θορυβαζη (41) are all imperfect/present tense verbs, suggesting an on-going action.  She was consumed and continually worried.  All this said, I have a lot of compassion for Martha.  In my family (both of origin and current) people put a lot of effort into welcoming our guests.  It is hard for me to hear Martha criticized.

For Mary:
παρακαθεσθεισα (from παρακαθεζομαι, meaning "sit along side of"; 10:39)  Mary seats herself along side of Jesus, giving him attention.  How often do we have people simply sit alongside of us, without any agenda but to focus on us?

ηκουεν (ακουω meaning "listen"; 10:39) She listens.  In fact, the verb ακουεν is in the imperfect tense, showing this is an on-going action.  As I wrote earlier, I think this is profound.  She listened.  In our culture that wants to blog, livestream and tweet, she actually took time to listen.  Not for one or two sentences, but for a long time.  Maybe she loved it.  I am sure she did.  (Most times when I actually listen and truly give someone my focus, I love it too!) 

Note -- This past year I went to Tanzania.  I was quite struck by how much of the day is spent procuring food, water and fire (for cooking and heating).  It is worth pointing out that in all likelihood, Mary listened to Jesus for hours!!  Imagine listening to anyone for hours!

The worship of Jesus is ultimate.  I am not trying to refute the basic meaning of the story.  I wonder though, if here on Earth, in this time and cultural space, listening may be a profound way to love our neighbor.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Acts 16:9-16

This passage occurs in the RCL Easter Season, Year C, most recently May 26, 2019.

Summary:  Two things caught my attention about this passage.  First, a woman wins an argument with Paul :-)  Second, Lydia has so much in her life going right for her.  Yet she is not content.  Often we assume that people need to hit rock bottom for the Christian Gospel to make an impact.  In Lydia's case, clearly something about her life was incomplete, even if she was not lamenting her life or commiting awful sins.  I wonder if this is a helpful angle for reaching the consumerists out there -- no, you are not awful, evil and hell-bent people, but deep down something is missing; the world of selling and consuming doesn't add up.

παρακαλων ("encourage" (participle form), 16:9)  It is interesting that the man "encourages" them to come to Macedonia.  You could call him an advocate for Macedonia.  In fact, the word for Spirit in John's Gospel (and the appointed text for this week) is παρακλητος, the noun form of this verb.

συμβιβαζων ("proving, pulling together, knit" (participle form), 16:10)  I find this is great verb for how we understanding the work of the Spirit -- we pull pieces together to build of picture, a map, of what the Spirit calls us to do.  When this word is used in Colossians it means "knit together."  We pull at pieces -- visions, stirrings of the hearts and basic facts -- to figure out the will of the Spirit.

κολωνια ("colony", 16:12)  This word does not really feature in the interpretation of this passage, but it speaks to how we can understand Paul's letter to the Philippians:  http://www.zionsjonestown.com/paul/philippi/home.htm  See here for more info.

πορφυροπωλις ("dealer in purple cloth", 16:14) Lydia, unlike the jailer, does not encounter the Gospel at a time of weakness, but of relative strength.  She is a rich merchant who sails the seven sees.  She is at worship.  Yet something isn't right; she hungers for something more.

Sad side note:  Purple cloth was ruined because of over harvesting of the snails that produced the dye.  It is believed those particular snails are actually extinct.

διηνοιξεν ("open", 16:14)  This word can simply mean "open" but it can also mean "open" in a more metaphorical way.  See the word dianetics and Scientology!!

ο οικος αυτης  ("the house of hers", 16:15)  This verse is often used as justification (or permission) for infant Baptism.  No changes here, but I think the translators over-translate here.  They translate it "She and her house."  It should read, "Her house was baptized."  First, the word "she" is missing.  The only thing in the nominative is "the house."  It seems unlikely "she" is implied in the verb because the verb baptize is in the singular, which would not match "she and her house."  Furthermore, the word "de" appears, which suggests a change in subject; "Lydia" was the subject in the previous sentence suggesting a new subject.  She was baptized; my point is simply that her house was not baptized as an afterthought, but that the act was done all together.

If I lost you, I think I might of lost myself with this last point.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

John 21:1-19

This passage appears in the revised common lectionary, year C, the 3rd Sunday of Easter.

Summary:
The passage describes beautifully the Christian's experience before God:  We are drawn out of our every day life, called into an encounter with the Risen Lord.  Jesus forgives us, restores us fellowship and sends us out to care for others.  In short, we are called back into the world, in service.

Key words:
συροντες  (συρω, meaning "drag", 21:8) and
ειλκυσεν (ελκω, meaning "draw" or "drag", 21:6 and 11)
Both of these words indicate that the disciples had to work to bring in their haul.  Serving Jesus and working in ministry are hard work!  (See note below on ειλκυσεν)


παιδια (meaning "child", 21.5) Paidia means "child" not "friend" as the NIV has it.  Jesus refers to the disciples as children.

ιχθυς (meaning "fish,"; 21:6, 8 and 11)  Just a friendly reminder that the fish became an early Christian symbol, as the letters formed an Anagram:  Jesus (I) Christ (X) God's (Th) Son (U) Savior (S).

εβαλεν (βαλλω) (meaning "cast" or "throw"; 21.7)  The word for "cast" nets is "βαλλω" which is used for both the nets and for Peter "casting" himself into the see.   Interestingly in 18:10 and 18:11, when Peter draw (ειλκυσεν) his sword and then was told to put it away (βαλε).  This is a great reminder about how this passage reveals the transformation at work in Peter.  He was casting away swords he had drawn; now he is drawing the fish-filled nets he has cast.

ανθρακαι(ν) (meaning "coal", 21.9)  Jesus is cooking over "anthrakia" which means "coals" (ie anthracite coal).  When Peter earlier denied Jesus, it was over a coal fire (the only two times this word appears in Scripture).  How often does God do this, where God takes the very place, location, thing, relationship, addiction, sin, fear and transform this into an instrument of God's healing.

εσχιθη (σχιζω, meaning "tear", 21.11)  The net is not torn (schiz-oo). Interesting that John concludes with the net not being schismed; in Mark's Gospel, the Passion ends with the curtain being torn! Different metaphors, for sure, but something about the nature of Jesus in both is nicely caught with this subtle difference.  The church will grow and grow, into a full harvest, but it will not schism.  Sadly the church has schismed, a reminder that we are already called to mend the nets of Christianity.
Distinctions:
There are three interactions between Jesus and Peter.  The big point is that just as Peter denied Jesus three times, he professes his love three times.  However, linguistically, these three interactions are distinct.

φιλεω vs αγαπαω ("love")  What to say on the various words for that Peter and Jesus use?  Some feel this is a big deal (Peter responds to the question of do you love (apage) me by saying that he "philos" Jesus.  I don't think that John makes much of the dinstinction; he uses them interchangably. If anything, the ambiguity of "philo" and "agape" points toward the intimate (and therefore mutuable and vulnerable) and transcendent (unconditional and permenant) love of Jesus toward and with his disciples.

προβατα αρνιον ("sheep").  The flock includes "lambs" and "sheep", new/young and old/mature!

ποιμενα βοσκε ("tend") Feed/tend vs shepherd.  Feed and tending VS shepherding.  We are called to feed people (teaching ministry) and shepherd them (pastoral ministry).  Both of these verbs are in the present tense, suggesting this is an on-going action!

Fun with Greek
present tense:  Most of the verbs in sections 1-12 are in the aorist tense.  Except for the proclamation:  "He is the Lord" as well as the sentence "Jesus is coming, taking the bread and giving it them" suggesting this is an on-going task of the disciples.

αριστησατε (αρισταω; 21:12, 15)  This word means to break the fast with a meal.  I only highlight it because it has a clear English cognate:  artisan!  Jesus serves an artisan meal :-)

μη (21.5) Jesus asks a "meh" question which expects a "no" answer. (ou questions expect a yes answer. How can one remember this? Alphabet. m-n; o-y)

153:  There are so many theories about this number.  Some of them involve grammatica, where letters have numbers and therefore words have a number value.  MANY theories have been put forward about what this number may mean:  The whole variety of fish in the world and therefore the breadth of the Gospel "catch"; the number 153 is a triangle number, the sum of the numbers 1-17...  Anchor Bible commentary surprisingly goes into various ways people have looked at this.