April 10, 2011

For the past two years, I have been posting New Testament word studies nearly every week, to supplement the New Testament translation, The Pioneers’ New Testament, accompanying Translation Notes, and word study guides, all of which you can download from this site.
Now that the word study collection has reached 100 entries, I intend to take a break from that project, in order to index all the words that have been included, and make it easier for you to access the treatment of a particular word or concept without scrolling through the whole thing.  I intend to include an index of the Greek words treated, as well.
This may take a while, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find new material as regularly.

Meanwhile, please remember that your comments, suggestions, and requests for particular studies are still most welcome.  You can send them with the “comments” button on this page, and I will be checking it regularly.

Please also know that I constantly give thanks for each of you who has contributed to the readership total of more than 10,000 in these two years.  May we all help one another to greater faithfulness!

In the service of the King,

Word Study #100 — Servants, Workers, Citizens, Children, Sons

April 8, 2011

This is a challenging study to organize, primarily because traditional translators have been extremely inconsistent in their treatment of the text’s original vocabulary. Not only does each of these English terms represent multiple Greek words, but several of the Greek words have been artificially divided into multiple English concepts. I have chosen to confine this study primarily to those references in which the words are applied specifically to faithful followers of the Lord Jesus.

Of the nine Greek words traditionally translated “servant”, four, therapen, oiketes, misthios, and misthatos are never connected with serving God at all, but refer only to workers, either employed or enslaved, in household or agricultural service.
, people who simply do whatever needs to be done, has been treated in W.S.#40, and often, though not exclusively, applies to Kingdom service. Please refer to that earlier study.
Pais may refer either to a servant or a minor child, and there is no way to be certain which is intended. We will consider that among the other words relating to children.
Huperetes denotes more of an official position, rather like a deputy, officer, or assistant. It is used of the men in the high priest’s courtyard with Peter (Mt.26:58, Mk.14:54, 65), of John Mark’s serving as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas (Ac.13:5), an official at the synagogue (Lk.4:20), Jesus’ disciples (Jn.18:36, Lk.1:2), and Paul (Ac.26:16, I Cor.4:1), as well as 11x of government officials.
Doulos is by far the most frequently occurring term (120x). Classically, it always referred to slavery – either one born into bondage, a prisoner of war, or even a child sold by indigent parents. Slaves were wholly-owned possessions of their masters, although some held positions of great responsibility. It was not uncommon for a faithful slave to be set free, either by his master’s generosity, by earning and purchasing his freedom, or by being “redeemed” (W.S.#61) by another. Paul frequently used doulos to describe his own service to Jesus (Rom.1:1, Gal.1:10, Phil.1:1, Tit.1:1), as did James (1:1), Peter (II Pet.1:1), and Jude (1): service that they had freely chosen.
Insight into the “status” of slaves is available throughout the gospels – for example, in Mt.8:9, a servant does whatever he is told; Mt.10:24,25 – the relationship is likened to that of a student and a teacher; Mt.13:27,28 – the servants bring a problem to the master, and receive instructions for action; and you can find many others. I highly recommend this exercise! Start with Mt.24:45-50, Mk.13:34, Lk.15:22, and go on from there!
Paul makes an eloquent case in Rom.6:16-20 that a person is a servant/slave to whomever/whatever he chooses to obey, and urges (I Cor.7:22,23) that a definitive choice be made.
He speaks approvingly of others also as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ – Timothy, Epaphras, Tychicus – sometimes preferring the prefixed term, sundoulos – “fellow-servant/slave”.
It is interesting that on two occasions (Rev.19:10 and 22:9), the “messenger” – usually assumed to be a supernatural being of some sort – who delivered the revelation to John, flatly refused John’s “worship”, with the declaration, “sundoulos sou eimi” – (“I am your fellow-servant”)! Among faithful servants of the King, there are no superiors – none deserving of greater deference than all the rest – except the Sovereign himself!!!
And Jesus himself reminded his followers, shortly before his departure (Jn.15:15), “I no longer call you servants, but friends!” (See W.S.#22)

Ergates – workers – and sunergos – fellow-workers – frequently parallel doulos and sundoulos. Although conventionally applied to hired workers rather than slaves, in the Kingdom context they are used synonymously. Paul prefers the prefixed term here too, applying it to Timothy, Sysygos, Urbane, Priscilla and Aquila, Philemon, Archippus, Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke. As in other references to “work” (W.S.#39 and 99), notice that the “work” that occupies one’s attention can be positive or negative, and requires committed discernment.

We have noted above that under Roman law, a slave did have the possibility of gaining freedom. If this was granted before a magistrate and legally registered, he could even attain coveted Roman citizenship (Ac.22:28). Citizenship conferred considerable privilege. It was also granted to select allied cities (of which Tarsus was one – Ac.21:39) and their inhabitants, and could be inherited by birth, or earned by service to the state, as well as by purchase. A Roman citizen had legal rights (Ac.16:37-38, 22:25-26, 23:27, 25:16) not available to others.
But the New Testament proclaims a citizenship far beyond that offered by Rome (Please refer to W.S.# 4, 19, 20, 21, 149, and Citizens of the Kingdom. ) Politeia, politeuma,and politeuo, although variously translated in traditional versions, all refer to Kingdom citizenship conferred by faithfulness to the King, the Lord Jesus Christ. The scene of transformation described in Eph.2:12-19 is graphic – from alienated foreigners to “fellow citizens with the saints [God’s people]” – sumpolites – as is a similar reference in Col.1:13. As ransomed, free citizens, the faithful remain sundouloi to their King! This is explored in greater detail in Citizens of the Kingdom.

And that is not all! The faithful are designated not only citizens of the Kingdom, but members of the very family of the King (Mt.12:48-50).
Of the seven words rendered “child/children”, only three are applied to Kingdom citizens.
Brephos and nepios refer to babies or very small children. Paidion is a pre-pubescent child of either gender, held up as an example of unpretentious love (Mt.18:3,4), and used as a term of affection throughout his letters by the elder apostle, John. Pais, as noted above, may refer either to a child or a young servant, although David (Lk.1:61, Ac.4:25), Israel (Lk.1:54), and Jesus himself (Lk.2:42, Ac.4:27,30; Ac.3:13,26) are all designated as pais to God, but other people are not. Elsewhere, the term does not specify whether it refers to a child or a servant, and traditional translators use them randomly.
This leaves teknion, teknon,and huios. Teknion, the diminutive (affectionate) version of teknon, appears only nine times, seven of them in I John, as the elder lovingly addresses his younger brethren (2:1,12,28; 3:7,18; 4:4, 5:21).
Teknon, which does not specify gender, is used classically of any offspring, human or animal. It may include both sons huioi and daughters thugater, and need not refer to physical descent. Geographical provenance (Mt.23:37, Lk.13:34, 23:28) or philosophical or theological affinity may also be understood – “children of light” (Eph.5:8), “of wrath”(Eph.2:3), “of the devil” (I Jn.3:10), or “of God” (Jn.1:12, 11:52; Phil.2:15, I Jn.3:1,2) – all of which employ teknon, despite being translated “sons” by some translators in many passages. (You can find these sorted out in Young’s Concordance.)

Huios, on the other hand, specifically intends “sons”. Please refer to the essay, “The Task of a Translator” for more detail. Despite Paul’s single use of teknon in Rom.8:16,17, it is usually huios that carries the weight of “inheritance” (W.S.#79,80). John uses huios only of Jesus, except where he designates the faithful as “sons of light” in 12:46. Other writers use it prolifically – Mt.5:9, 5:45, 8:12; Lk.6:35, 20:36; Rom.9:26, Gal.3:27, I Thes.5:5 – of “sons of the Father, the Kingdom, the Highest, the living God” (all mis-translated as “children”), as well as Rom.8:14,19,29; Gal.4:6,7; Heb.2:10,12:5-8, and Rev.21:7, where the correct word, “sons”, was used.
The declaration of the privileged status called “sons of God” does not exclude faithful females, but confers upon them equally exalted status!
Gal.3:23-4:7 must be read as a unit, not cherry-picked for “verses”!

Servants – certainly! Workers – expected to be. Citizens – privileged to be! Beloved children – indeed! And “The whole creation is waiting with eager anticipation for the revealing of the sons of God!” (Rom.8:19)
May our gracious Elder Brother – and his faithful people – speed the day!

Word Study #99 — Labor, Payment, Recompense, Wages

April 2, 2011

In the former post (#98), we discovered that the New Testament usage of such terms as “gain”, “profit”, and “reward”, includes very few parallels to today’s common economic interpretations of those words. So are we to assume that we are offered no guidance for life in the “real world”, and therefore must adopt the financial value system of the culture in which we find ourselves? Only after subjecting them to careful scrutiny through the lens provided by the transformation (#97) of life toward the “image” (#15) of the Lord Jesus.

“Labor”, for example, representing kopos (n.) and kopiao (v.), may apply simply to “hard work, exertion” or “toil and trouble”, referring both to one’s secular employment (Mt.6:28, Lk.5:5, I Cor.3:8, 14; 4:12; II Tim.2:6) and to efforts on behalf of the Kingdom (Jn.4:38, I Cor.15:10,58; II Cor.6:5, 10:15, 11:23; I Thes.1:3, 3:5; Heb.6:10, Rv.2:2). See also “work” (W.S.#39), for references using ergazomai and ergates.
Note that Paul frequently takes great pains to point out that he has been careful to support his Kingdom work by his own manual labor (Ac.18:3, 20:34, I Cor.4:12, I Thes.2:9, 3:5), although he also commends those who have shared in contributing to his needs – the letter to Philippi is basically a “thank-you-note”.
Another recurring theme is Paul’s assessment of the Christian motivation for work: in order to share with those in need (Ac.20:35, II Cor.9:11, Eph.4:28), as well as to provide for one’s own necessities and to lead exemplary lives in society (I Thes.4:11). Nevertheless, he accompanies these instructions with a significant caveat: (I Tim.6:8) “Let’s be content with having food and clothing”, and goes on to warn of the dangers of excessive desires.

“Payment” and “wages”, interestingly, are both traditional translations of the same two words. Apodidomi, variously rendered “pay”(10x), “give” (10x), “reward” (6x), “sell”(3x), “deliver”(2x), “yield” (2x), and “repay, restore, perform, and recompense”(1x each), is listed classically as “to pay a debt, to render what is due, the yield of a crop, to give an account, to sell something for its worth, or to give or take a bribe”! It is used in both parables and examples of indebtedness (Mt.18:25,34; Lk.7:42, Mt.5:26, Lk.12:59), as well as being often translated “reward” (see W.S.#98).

Misthos, on the other hand, also referenced in #98, primarily carries the idea of “wages paid to a hired worker” in classical usage. Traditional translators rendered it this way in Jn.4:36, Mt.20:8, Lk.10:7, and Jas.5:4 – this last in criticism of employers who neglect or refuse promptly to pay a just wage – although those translators usually have chosen (often questionably) to render it “reward.” They have used the more accurate concept of “hiring” for the verb form in Mt.20:1,7, rendered the participle as “hired servants” in Lk.15:17,19 and Mk.1:20, and correctly applied it to Paul’s “rented house” in Ac.28:30.
If apodidomi intends “the payment of a debt”, and misthos intends “a deserved payment for work”, we may need to re-think the idea of “reward”, as noted at the end of #98. This is another of many concepts that need to be re-examined and clarified in the context of a faithfully studying brotherhood.

Another word, opsonion, further complicates the situation. Classically, “a salary paid in money, the pay of a policeman or soldier, an allowance paid to a victorious athlete, a student, or a family member; the wages of labor”, it occurs only four times in the New Testament. Two of these are straightforward: the instruction of John the Baptist to soldiers, “Be content with your pay” (Lk.3:14), and Paul’s question, “Does a soldier serve at his own expense?” (I Cor.9:7). The other two are more problematic. Despite his having repeatedly harped on the theme of his own self-support, (see kopiao above), and been effusive in his thanks to various churches for their generosity in contributing to his needs, Paul, in his argument in II Cor.11:8, writes, “I robbed other churches, taking wages (opsonion) for ministering to you all!” He is referring to the contribution received from Macedonia (Philippi) (11:9), which he acknowledged in his letter to them (Phil.4:14-19) as a gracious gift!
Similar ambiguity is seen in the statements, also in II Cor.11, as well as 2:17 and 12:13-15, and warnings about greed on the part of elders and teachers (I Tim.3:3,8; Tit.1:7,11) juxtaposed with admonitions (Gal..6:6, I Cor.9:1-15) to share in their support. This may suggest that both avenues of support are acceptable – neither exclusively – or perhaps allow latitude for different approaches in different situations.  It should be clear, however, that Kingdom work is never represented as a career or business!
The fourth appearance of opsonion? Romans 6:23. If you can figure that one out, in the context of the other uses of the word, please add your insight with the “comment” button! I’m sure Paul intends to contrast “wages” with “gift” – but that’s as far as I can go!

Finally, there remains the use of “recompense” – six different words, none of them frequent.
Four of them use prefixes altering the understanding of didomi (“to give”) : antapodoma (Lk.14:12 and Rom.11:9), antapodosis (Col.3:24), apodidomi (Rom.12:17), antapodidomi(Lk.14:14, Rom.11:35, 12:19; II Thes.1:6, Heb.10:30). One is a prefixed form of misthosantimisthia (Rom.1:27, II Cor.6:13), and one, misthapodosia, combines the two words (Heb.2:2, 10:35, 11:26). All refer simply to “repayment of what is owed or earned” (L/S), along a spectrum ranging from a simple social obligation (Lk.14:12), through reciprocal relationship (II Cor.6:13), all the way to divine vengeance (Rom.12:19, II Thes.1:6, Heb.10:30). Although the uses of misthapodosia in Hebrews – the only New Testament appearance of the word, were traditionally rendered “recompense of reward”, there is only that one single word in the text. Recurring as a refrain throughout, is the expectation of eventual justice, whether positive or negative from the perspective of the recipient.

So yes, the Kingdom does have an “economic policy”. It does speak to the ordinary concerns of daily needs, including responsible labor, just compensation, generosity of sharing, and avoidance of greed.
We will conclude this section with an examination of the people involved in the work of this Kingdom.