Word Study #130 — Wisdom, Wise

January 31, 2012

If you are trying to follow a “train of thought” here, the “departure station” was the reference in the previous post, where Paul asserts that in Jesus (Col.2:3), “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”! We have already dealt with “knowledge” (#29), and since the words are often used together, it is reasonable to assume that they are connected, but not synonymous. (The astute observation of our son’s late father-in-law was, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is having enough sense not to put one in a fruit salad!”)

In exploring “wisdom”, though, we are faced with another dilemma: two Greek words, sometimes interchangeably and sometimes identically translated as “wise” and “prudent”. Scholars with much higher credentials than mine have tried and failed to make a neat distinction between sophos and phronimos. L/S leans heavily toward practicality for phronimos, but also retains that flavor in more than half of the listings for sophos. Trench insists that only sophos has a moral component, and is used only with respect to God or to good men – but that simply is not true (see Rom.1:22, I Cor. 1:3, II Cor.1:12, Col.2:23, Jas.3:15,17). Bauer’s approach is more balanced, including both natural worldly wisdom and that which comes only from God in the treatment of sophos, and relegating phronimos primarily, although not exclusively, to matters of judgment or opinion.
Both words, to a degree at least, appear to be subject to one’s conscious choice, as well as being a native, gifted, or learned ability.
Plato and Aristotle used both words: the former for flights of philosophical fantasy as well as carefully reasoned argument, and the latter of scientific or mathematical understanding!

So perhaps we may also be forgiven for our occasional confusion!
Primarily because of the contexts in which they occur, I usually use words like “sensible” or “reasonable” for phronimos, and reserve “wise” for sophos, but I would not insist upon either choice.

Words related to phronimos (used 18x), phronesis (2x), phronimoteros (1x), and phronimos (the adverb – 1x) appear much less frequently than sophia (51x) / sophos (21x) / sophizo (2x) / sophoteron (1x). The older term, “prudent” fits well for most of the former group, as they refer to people behaving sensibly, from the world’s standpoint, in their situations (Lk.16:8 – 2x, Mt. 7:24, 24:45, 25:2-9 – 4x – , Lk.12:42). Please note, that simply using “good judgment” is nowhere represented as “wrong”. “Worldly wisdom” is only criticized when it is valued above that which comes from God, or contradicts Kingdom principles, as in the warnings recorded in Rom.11:25, 12:16; I Cor.4:10, II Cor.11:19. Indeed, using one’s best judgment is recommended in Mt.10:16, Lk.1:17, I Cor.10:15, and Eph.1:8.

The uses of sophia / sophos, on the other hand, require some sorting. L/S lists “cleverness or skill in a craft or art, skill in matters of common life, sound judgment, practical wisdom, learning, speculative wisdom, natural philosophy”, and notes that only among the Jews was it considered an attribute of God. This is not really surprising, if one considers the antics ascribed to the Greek and Roman deities. Both Paul (I Tim.1:17, Rom.16:7) and Jude (25) actually use the phrase, “the only wise God”. Might they have had exactly that contrast in mind?

Paul is careful to distinguish, in the first three chapters of I Corinthians, between “the wisdom of the world” and “the wisdom of God” – but he uses sophia /sophos for both. James also makes a clear distinction in Jas.3:13-17, offering a reliable standard by which the “real thing” may be recognized.
When the Ephesian and Colossian churches were under assault by advocates of mystical Eastern cults which claimed a superior, esoteric “wisdom”, Paul reminded them (Eph.1:8, 1:17, 3:10; Col.1:9, 1:28, 2:3, 2:23, 3:16) that disciples have already been made partakers of the very wisdom of God himself – “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” in the Lord Jesus Christ – and consequently have no need of anything “beyond” that (Col.3:16) “Christ’s word must continually reside among you all, richly, in all wisdom, as you keep teaching and admonishing each other”!

The wisdom required for that assignment is plainly and overtly recognized as the gift of God. Jesus had promised it for times of trial (Lk.21:15). It was listed right up there with the Holy Spirit among the qualifications sought for the first deacons (Ac.6:3), and heavily relied upon by Stephen (Ac.6:10), Paul (Rom.2:6,7; I Pet.3:15), and James 1:5.
A “word of wisdom” is listed among the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church in I Cor.12:8, paired with a “word of knowledge” – the combination being a necessary component of faithful discipleship (#51). Someone has said, “knowing what needs doing, AND what to do about it”. “Walking in wisdom” (Eph.5:15, Col.4:5), likewise, is essential for faithful witness (#18).
Even Jesus himself, as a child, “increased in wisdom” as he matured (Mt.13:54, Mk.6:2, Lk.2:40,52), but for us “ordinary mortals”, it seems primarily to be the result of gracious revelation (Mk.11:25, 23:35; Rom.16:19, Eph.1:8, 1:17, Col.1:9).

A few other words are rarely rendered “wise”: suniemi (once — II Cor.10:12 —  “wise” and 24x “understanding”), sunetos (only used 4x, and invariably rendered “prudent” – Mt.11:25, Lk.10:27, Ac.13:17, I Cor.1:19), and magos (rendered 4x “wise men” in Mt.2, and 2x “sorcerer” in Ac.8 and 13). This latter word is Persian, and referred to astrologer-priests.

By way of contrast, several of the words appear with the negative prefix, “a-”, and are rendered “unwise, foolish, without understanding”: asophos (Eph.5:15), anoetos (Rom.1:14,Gal.3:1,3; I Tim.6:9, Tit.3:3), asunetos (Rom.1:21, 10:19; Mt.15:16, Rom.1:31), and aphron (Rom.2:20, Eph.5:7, I Pet.2:15). The contexts of most of these give the impression that the ignorance in each case was a matter of choice, unlike moros, which seems to be a condition that can be remedied.

Perhaps Paul’s (Eph.5:17) admonition, “be not unwise, but understand what the Lord’s will (#12) is,” the gracious invitation of James (1:5) to simply ask when we lack the wisdom for faithful living, and Paul’s reminders (Col.3:16 and I Tim.1:17) of the Word (#66) as the vehicle for communicating and sharing that wisdom, provide the best summary for those of us who are serious about learning faithfulness.

“Oh, the depth of God’s wealth and wisdom and knowledge! How (far) beyond searching are his judgments, and beyond comprehension his ways! For who knew the Lord’s mind? Or who became his advisor? Or who gave anything before to him, that it should be repaid to him? Because everything has its source, existence, and goal in him! Glory to him forever!” (Rom.11:33-36, PNT)

Word Study #129 — “Hidden things”, Secrets, Darkness

January 26, 2012

This study is an outgrowth of the former post. When I ran across the only reference for aischune that was not translated “shame”, but rather “dishonesty” (II Cor.4:2), where Paul asserts, “we have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty”, I thought this required attention. I have long advocated for the total avoidance of “hidden things” or secrecy of any kind in a Christian brotherhood, so the connection of “hidden things” with “shame” or “dishonesty” seemed quite relevant to these efforts. Of course, with careful study, one frequently learns that nothing is as simple as he would like it to be. This was no exception.

Both “hidden” and “secret” are traditional translations of the same words, with very few, seldom-appearing exceptions. Almost all (8 out of 12 words) are some variant of the verb krupto: primarily kruptos (noun, adjective, and adverb forms), another adverb kruphe, and the prefixed forms apokrupto / apokruphos, perikrupto, and egkrupto. L/S lists roughly the same usage for all of them: “to hide with a notion of protection, to hide oneself, to cover or bury, to conceal or keep secret, to engage in intrigue, to connive”, or in the adjectival forms, “hidden, secret, disguised, underhanded, hard to understand, obscure.”

Similar variety is also represented in New Testament usage. There are things and people that are “hidden” for protection (Mt.7:24, 13:44; Jn.7:10, 8:59, 12:36,19:38; Col.3:3). Some refer simply to ordinary privacy (Mt.1:18, 24:26, 26:26; I Pet.3:4). Some things are “hidden”, waiting for the proper time to be “revealed” (Mt.11:25, Lk.10:21, Eph.3:9, Col.1:26, 2:3; Mt.13:35, Rom.16:25). Some are rather ambiguous as to whether the “hiding” is a positive or a negative thing (Mt.10:26, Mk.4:22, Lk.12:2, 8:17, 8:27, 9:45, 18:34; Mt.5:14, Lk.1:24, Mt.13:33, Lk.13:21). And some are indeed nefarious, and strictly warned-against (Mt.25:18, 25:25; Rom.2:16, I Cor.4:5, II Cor.4:2, Eph.5:12, Rv.6:15,16).

Another perspective of interest is “who is hiding (or trying to hide) what, from whom, and why?” Jesus’ admonition in Mt.6:4, 6, 18, for example,is  an encouragement to keep one’s faithfulness private between the disciple and the Father, whose “seeing in secret” is loving affirmation, quite in contrast to the warning expressed by the same word in Rom.2:16 or I Cor.4:5. Whether or not we welcome the time when “the secrets of all hearts will be revealed” simply depends upon what is in our hearts!
Also interestingly, there is no overt suggestion that “things hidden from the beginning of the world” (Eph.3:9, Col.1:26, Mt.13:35, Rom.16:25) were deliberately concealed by the hand of God: only that they are exclusively and deliberately revealed (note the context of the above references), by his will and timing, and under his instructions.
The only people from whom the message of the Kingdom is deliberately withheld (II Cor.4:3, Lk.19:42, Mt.11:25, Lk.10:21) are those who have rejected the call of the King, in whom alone are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3). It is he, also, in whom the very lives of those who trust him are “hidden” by the protective hand of God (Col.3:3), after having already chosen to begin the promised Kingdom life.

Lanthano / lathra (L/S – “to escape notice, unseen, secretly, privately, imperceptibly”, but also “treacherously, by stealth”) in the New Testament usually refers to privacy (Jn.11:28, Mt.1:19, 2:7; Ac.16:7), with only the latter two references bearing any underhanded flavor. The verb form carries a tone of attempted avoidance (Mt.7:24, Lk.8:47), but in a protective sense.

Aphanes (an adverb formed by adding the negative prefix “a” to the stem of phaneros, translated “manifest”, referring to any sort of revelation (Lk.8:17, Mk.4:22, I Cor.3:13, 14:25; Eph.5:13), is only used a single time, in Heb.4:13, and, like the citations in Mt.6 above, whether it is a threat or a promise depends upon whose side one has chosen to join!

 It is in the matter of “choosing sides” that the concept of “darkness” is thrown into the mix. All but 4 of the 59 references use some form of skotia / skotos (L/S – “darkness, blindness, obscurity, gloom, uncertainty, deceit, ignorance, death”). Occasionally it refers simply to the onset of evening (Jn.6:17, 20:1), the eclipse at the time of Jesus’ death (Mt.27:45, Mk.15:33, Lk.23:44), or the eventual destination of those who actively oppose the Lord, his people, and his ways (II Pet.2:4, 17; Jude 6, 13; Heb.12:18, Mt.8:12, 22:13, 25:30). A few times the implication appears to be privacy (Mt.10:27, Lk.12:13).
But most of the time, it is a description of intellectual or spiritual ignorance, whether as a result of opposing the Lord (Rom.1:21, 11:10; Eph.4:8, Mt.8:12, 22:13, 25:30, II Pet.2:17), or simply not having heard of his ways (Mt.4:16, Lk.1:79, Ac.26:18, Rom.2:19).
Darkness is also represented as the realm of overt evil (Lk.22:15, Jn. 3:19, Eph.5:8, 11,12; 6:12; I Thes.5:4,5), from which the faithful are urged to make a definitive break (I Pet.2:9, Col.1:13, Eph.5:11, II Cor.6:14, Rom.13:12, Mt.6:23, Lk.11:35).
John seems to draw the battle lines with the greatest clarity, both in his gospel (1:5, 8:12, 12:35,46) and in his first letter (I Jn.1:5,6; 2;8,9,11). Please refer also to study #75, “Light”, by way of contrast.

The key to the connection with “secrecy” lies in Jn.3:19-21: “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. Everyone who practices wickedness hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But the one who is doing [acting in] the truth, comes to the light, in order that his deeds may be revealed, that they were performed in [for] God.”
Paul harmonizes very well with this tune in the paragraph that contains the reference with which we began: II Cor.4:1-6.

While it may be necessary in hostile environments for faithful brethren to operate quietly with respect to the darkness that surrounds, and sometimes threatens them (Mt.7:24, Jn.7:10, 8:59, 12:36), within a faithful brotherhood, there is no such need!
“Renouncing the shameful, hidden things” (II Cor.4:2), and “things hidden in darkness” (I Cor.4:5), we may take our places in complete, trusting mutuality as the Body of our Lord Jesus!
“Once, you all were darkness, but now you are light, in the Lord! Behave as children of light!” (Eph.5:8)

Word Study #128 — “Guilt and Shame”

January 21, 2012

I am just plain fed-up!

Whether it’s the “creeds” and “confessions” of liturgical groups, or the “praise songs”, “old hymns”, or pious-sounding, flowery prayers of groups that consider themselves less formal, the ubiquitous requirement to wallow in self-deprecation about “all my guilt and shame” is so blatantly opposed, not only to Jesus’ teaching, but to his entire life and interaction with people, that I often feel like walking out! Or at least, carrying a protest sign:


Please show me one single place where he did!

Neither noun — neither “guilt” nor “shame” – appears a single time in the entire New Testament, in connection with earnest followers of Jesus! In fact, “guilt”, in any context, is completely absent.
This subject has been addressed previously in the postings on repentance (#6), forgiveness of sins (#7), and “humility” (#14), but I think we need to look at these two words individually. They are symptoms of a pervasive disease, that is potentially fatal to the genuine message of Jesus, not to mention the welfare of his people.

The concept of “guilt” is not totally absent from New Testament writings. Twice, Jesus uses anaitios (L/S – guiltless, without fault or blame), once of himself (Mt.12:7) and once of priests performing their legitimate sabbath duties (Mt.12:5).
There are three words traditionally translated “guilty”. Hupodikos (L/S – a legal term, referring to trial and conviction), is used only in Rom.3:19, making the point that whether Jew or Gentile, the whole world has ignored God’s instructions. Opheilo (L/S – referring primarily to monetary debt, legal obligation, or duty) was only once rendered “guilty” (Mt.23:18), regarding one’s obligation incurred by oath. Its other translations are “ought,must, should” 18x, “debt” 5x, and “duty” 4x.
Enochos (L/S – legal liability or a court sentence), is translated “danger” 5x (Mt.5:21,22 – 4 uses – and Mk.3:29), 1x “subject” (Heb.2:15), and 4x “guilty” (Mt.26:66 and Mk.14:64 regarding the verdict at Jesus’ mock trial; James’ indictment – 2:10 – of people picking and choosing only parts of the law to observe; and I Cor.11:27.) This last is the only one that could conceivably be applied to “believers” – and it is directed toward those who are doing active damage to the function of the Body.

It is difficult to sort out the “shame / ashamed” words.
Aischunomai (5x), epaischuneo (11x), and kataischuneo (12x) (L/S – to dishonor, disfigure or tarnish; to disdain, to be ashamed (and consequently not do something), to be ashamed of having done something; to feel shame, or to cause another to do so) are exclusively rendered “ashamed” in the New Testament, except for two instances where for some reason, “confounded” was used (I Cor.1:27, I Pet.2:6), and two (I Cor.11:4,5) where “dishonor” was chosen. The only reference to a committed person being “ashamed” is with reference (Rom.6:21) to his former life. But Paul immediately follows that remark with v.22, “But now that you have been set free —” and paints a picture of sharp contrast.

Many references are admonitions to not be ashamed when persecuted or put-down (I Pet.4:6, II Tim.1:8, 12, 16; Heb.12:12, Phil.1:20); nor of the Gospel itself (Rom.1:16, 9:3, 10:11); of Jesus (Mk.8:38, Lk.9:26), or of each other (II Cor.7:14, 9:4), and to take care that God / Jesus have no reason to be ashamed of us (Heb.2:11, 11:16).
There are statements that opponents were – or ought to be – ashamed (Lk.13:17, I Pet.3:16, Tit.2:8), and that brethren who are in error should be corrected, in order that they may be restored (I Cor.4:14, 6:5, 15:34; II Cor.10:8, II Thes.3;14), but none implying continuing “shame” on the part of faithful followers.

The other words are somewhat harder to pin down.
Aischune , the noun form of “shame”, only appearing 6x, is likewise never applied to the faithful. The one reference to Jesus, (Heb.12:2), says that he “endured the cross, despising the shame” (NOT “assuming” or “bearing” it!) The verb is kataphroneo, (L/S – “to look down upon, to be disdainful of, to think contemptuously of, to disregard, or neglect!”) This looks more to me like triumph and complete superiority than the much-touted “submission”! Where did the notion of his “bearing” or “becoming” shame come from? Certainly not the New Testament!
Paul (II Cor.4:2, Phil.3:9), Jude (13), and John (Rv.3:18) all speak of the “shame” of the disobedient, and Luke (14:9) describes the embarrassment of an egotistical guest. Notice the translation in II Cor.4:2 is “dishonesty”. That bears further study. Is requiring people to “confess” “shame” without any reason, really urging them to dishonesty?

Entrepomai, used 9x, represents a historical alteration of meaning. L/S lists “to command respect, to hesitate or feel misgivings, to reverence or feel regard for,” and only later “to feel shame or fear.” In Mt.21:37, Mk.12:6,Lk.20:13, and Heb.12:9, “reverence” was chosen; in Lk.18:2,4 , “regard”; and only 3x, I Cor.4:14, II Thes.3:14, Tit.2:8, “ashamed.” I will welcome your thoughts on how these choices might have been made. They are all valid translations of the word…..
Other words for dishonorable behavior are used more rarely: aschemosune (2x), atimia, atimao (negative forms of timao, to honor) 8x, entrope (2x), making little or no reference to its effect, or the perception of the actors. It is interesting that the only two uses of paradeigmatizo are Mt.1:19 of Joseph’s reluctance to embarrass Mary publicly, and Heb.6:6, the charge that those who turn away, put Jesus himself to public shame. (If you have downloaded the PNT, please add that in brackets to the end of the verse! I will correct it in the next version.)

 So, where does all this leave us?

Very simply: seek to live in such a way that we will have nothing of which to be ashamed,
that we will not make the Lord ashamed of us,
and that none of us will cause shame to other brethren.

But scrap the platitudes about “guilt and shame”!!!

If you belong to Jesus, YOU ARE NOT “FULL OF GUILT AND SHAME”!
It does NOT make you “holier”, more appreciative, or more faithful, to wallow around “confessing”or singing songs, bemoaning some artificial construct of “guilt and shame”!

And for Jesus’ sake – (please note that I am using that phrase as Paul did, and not as a profanity!) – quit assuming that that sort of behavior is “praising the Lord”!!!

Praise him rather for setting you FREE from all that, to follow him!

Word Study #127 — Tear, Divide, Split, Break, Open

January 19, 2012

This study started at church, too:  with the question, “Is the word about heaven being ‘torn open’ in Mark 1:10 the same as what happened to the temple veil when Jesus died (Mt.27:5, Mk.15:38, Lk.23:45)?”  A quick check confirmed that it is.

I was surprised to discover that schizo, (L/S – to separate or divide, physically or intellectually; to split wood, to have differing opinions, to shatter, tear, or cut) appears only ten times in the New Testament.  Four of these are cited above.  Five times, it is translated “rend” – the three above regarding the temple, and again in the Mt.27 reference speaking of rocks shattered by the earthquake, and the guards’ decision (Jn.19:24) not to tear apart Jesus’ robe.  Twice, it is rendered “divide” – Ac.14:4 and 23:7, of divided opinions in the crowds;  once “make a rent” (Lk.5:36) of a new patch on old fabric; once (Jn.21:11) when the fish-net was not broken; and once “open”, in the Mt.1:10 with which we began.
The noun, schisma (L/S – “a tear in a a garment, a division of opinion, plowing, or cloven hoofs”) occurs only eight times.  It is translated “division” 5x – Jn.7:43, 9:16, 10:19; I Cor.1:10, 11:18 – all referring to divisions of opinion among people; “rent” twice – Mt.9:16,  Mk.2:21 – which are parallel to Luke’s use of the verb (5:36) above; and “schism” once – I Cor.12:25 – regarding divisions in the Body.

Schizo / schisma seems to share the more drastic end of a spectrum of words describing breaking or dividing, with regnumi (5 uses) and its prefixed form, diarregnumi (also 5 uses).  Both are listed by L/S as “burst, break, rend, or shatter”, and in passive form, “to be wrecked, broken, torn, or disjointed.”

They also refer to the dramatic tearing of clothing (Mt.26:65, Mk.14:63, Ac.14:14), the bursting of wineskins by the fermentation process (Mk.2:22,Lk.5:37), the destructive activity of evil spirits (Lk.8:29, Mk.9:18, 9:42)  or pigs (Mt.7:6), as well as Luke’s account of a broken fish net (Lk.5:6).

The idea of “division” is usually less dramatic, and much more frequently represented by merizo (14x) or diamerizo (12x).  L/S lists “to divide, to distribute,or separate” groups of people, objects, ideas, or animals.  This may involve simple sharing of goods and/or responsibilities (Mk.6:41, Lk.12:13, Ac.2:3, II Cor.10:13, Heb.7:2), but also with a more hostile slant, a “house divided against itself” (Mt.12:25,26;  Mk.3:24,26), or serious divisions in the church (I Cor.1:13).

Aphorizo (L/S “to mark off boundaries, to separate species, to determine or define”) shares much of this sense (Mt.13:49, 25:32, Lk.6:22,19:9, Rom.1:1, II Cor.6:17, Gal.1:15), or “to set apart for office” (Ac.13:2), but can also have the sense, also noted in L/S, of “to banish, or set apart for rejection (Gal.2:12).

Dichostasia (L/S “dissension, sedition”), appearing only 3x (Rom.16:17, I Cor.3:3, Gal.5:20), seems to include only the negative aspects of division.

I had previously assumed that Mark’s use of schizo in his account of Jesus’ baptism was just the effusive vocabulary of an excited young man, which is evident in so much of his writing.
Matthew and Luke say simply that “heaven was opened”, and John reports the descent of the dove, but does not mention “heaven” at all.
, the word used in Mt.3:16 and Lk.3:21, is a very ordinary word,  used of opening doors (literal and figurative), prisons,  eyes, mouths, treasures, and also of visions (Ac.7:56, 10:11, and frequently in the Revelation).  It appears 70 times in the New Testament, sometimes referring to miracles, but only part of the time.

 Looking at all of these word uses, however, leads me to suppose that Mark is really much more insightful that he usually gets credit for.  Maybe more so than all the rest!

Consider:  these are Mark’s only uses of schizo.  Might he not have intended that we make a connection?  Might the “heavens” have been “split open”, not so much to let the dove / Spirit out, but to allow people to see IN?
The Gospel accounts vary as to who saw what.  The Matthew passage is  not conclusive with respect to  the reference of “he”.  Jesus and John have both just been named.  The “voice” saying “this is my Son” would give the impression that it is being addressed to John.

Mark, however, (1:11) quotes “You are my Son” – obviously addressed to Jesus.  Luke follows Mark.  John does not connect the vision with the baptism at all, but he bears clear testimony to what he saw, and its correspondence to what God had told him previously.
No one reports whether the crowd saw or heard anything.  With the testimony equally divided, I think it is safe to say that at least Jesus and John saw and heard what had happened, and possibly others.

Now fast-forward to the scene in the temple at the time of Jesus’ death, which must surely have caused enormous consternation.  Remember, that huge, thick curtain was designed to prevent people from seeing or entering “the place where God dwelt”.  (Please refer to Citizens of the Kingdom, chapter 8).
But Jesus had spent the last three years trying to show the Father to anyone who was willing to look!(Jn.14:9).
His death, and subsequent destruction of both death, its power, and the one who controlled it (Heb.2:4), also destroyed the last vestiges of any validity for any pretense of the separation of people from their God!  The veil was deliberately destroyed so that those who had so long been excluded could not only see in, but also enter in to the very presence of the One we worship!
The writer to the Hebrews also notes that the temple / tabernacle was “a representation of the heavenly things” (Heb.9:23,24), but  Jesus has transported his people to the “real thing”!

In both the cases, the dramatic splitting open of the curtain and of heaven itself is not the work of any earthly power.  Jesus’ ministry of restoration is gloriously bookended by two displays of the gracious hand of God, crashing through aeons of separation and tearing them to shreds, in his mighty, amazing gesture of welcome – not only to his Son, but to his people!

Thanks be to God

Word Study #126 — “Are you Ready?”

January 15, 2012

From billboards to bumper stickers, novels, movies, songs, and sermons, we are bombarded with the (usually designed to be threatening) question: “Are you ready to meet God?” or “Jesus is coming: are you ready?”
Laying aside for the moment the most egregious error in such a message – which is failing (or refusing) to recognize that the word of the Lord’s coming is NOT a threat, but a promise, greatly to be anticipated – let us rather consider just what it is to be “ready”. Please review studies 124 and 125 as we undertake this one.

Different aspects of “readiness” – for many different occasions – are represented in the New Testament by three different “families” of words, which, although quite distinct in their implications, are seldom distinguished by English translators. See if you can suggest alternate words that would convey the differences.

Interestingly, only one of these, hetoimazo, hetoimos, is ever used in connection with the Lord’s return, although a second, kataskeuazo, appears four times regarding John’s preparations for Jesus’ first appearance.

I have chosen to pass over the four instances where mello, a versatile word used for anything that is “about to happen”, is translated “ready” (Lk.7:2, Ac.20:7, Rv.3:2, 12:4), because there is no idea of preparation involved. The reference is simply temporal: the more common translations are “shall” (25x), “should” (19x), and other indications of the immediate future.

Likewise, prothumia / prothumos was classically used of willingness or eagerness to do something, and in the New Testament, four times with respect to the relief offering collected by the Gentile churches for the Judean famine (II Cor.8:11,12; 8:19, 9:2), once (Ac.17:11) of the eagerness with which the Bereans received Paul’s message, once of Paul’s desire to preach in Rome (Rom.1:15), and twice as Jesus warns his disciples that although their “spirit is [ready] willing” (Mt.26:41, Mk.14:38), their human nature is not. Prothumia speaks of desire and enthusiasm, but lacks practical substance.

Paraskeuazo , appearing only 4x, leans a bit more heavily upon practicality regarding the offering (II Cor.9:2,3), and also refers to preparations for battle (I Cor.14:8), or simply the preparation of a meal (Ac.10:10). The noun form, paraskeue (Mt.27:62, Mk.15:42, Lk.23:54, Jn.19:14,31,42) refers exclusively to the Jewish Day of Preparation before the Passover Sabbath.
Kataskeuazo, referenced earlier, more often used in the sense of building: a house (Heb.3:3,4), the tabernacle (Heb.9:2,6), or Noah’s ark (Heb.11:7, I Pet.3:20), is also used in prophecy, by Gabriel (Lk.1:17) and both John the Baptist and Jesus quoting Isaiah (Mt.11:10, Mk.1:2, Lk.7:27). Both words are classically used of producing, preparing, or procuring something, or making preparations; but both are also used of fraudulent legal manipulations, to influence a court or “pack” a jury! I have not detected this aspect in any of the New Testament references, although I am sure that it happened – case in point, Ac.23:12-16, describing one of the plots against Paul (with the use of hetoimos).

The most common, and most versatile, of the words referring to “readiness” is hetoimos(17x), hetoimazo (29x). Liddell/Scott notes virtually any kind of preparation, whether for a meal, warfare, or any other event; to have cash-in-hand for payment of an obligation; the feasibility of a task; a promise made good; or lack of hesitation. New Testament uses include preparations identical with those in which paraskeuazo is used: preparing the way / people for Jesus’ arrival (Mt.3:3, Mk.1:3, 14:12; Lk.1:17, 3:4), and later, preparing the Passover meal (Mt.26:17,19; Mk.14:15,16; Lk.22;8,12,13), and the discussion (more frequently using prothumia) of the relief offering (II Cor.9:5).
Commander Lysias’ orders to assemble a military escort for Paul (Ac.23:23), and preparation for battles – which, please note, did NOT take place – (Rv.9:7, 15; 16:12); Paul’s request to Philemon for a guest room (Phm.22), and the women’s preparation of embalming spices (Lk.23:56, 24:1), as well as ordinary preparation of meals or lodging (Lk.9:52, 14:17; 17:8, Mk.14:15; Mt.22:4), all employ forms of hetimazo.

The adverb, hetoimos, expresses Paul’s acceptance of whatever fate awaits him in Jerusalem (Ac.21:13), as well as his deliberate travel plans (Ac.21:13), and Peter’s assessment of the Lord’s readiness to exercise judgment (I Pet.4:5). Earlier, Peter had used the adjective hetoimos in boasting of his loyalty to Jesus (Lk.22:33). Six times, the reference is to God himself doing the preparing: Mt.20:23 – arranging positions in the final kingdom; Lk.2:31 – the working out of the deliverance planned for all people; I Cor.2:9 – the unimaginably glorious inheritance prepared “for them that love him”; Heb.11:16 – the city, whose builder and maker is God; Rv.12:6 – refuge from persecution for the “woman” (the church?), and I Pet.1:5 – “the deliverance [salvation] that is prepared to be revealed in the last time”; and twice (Jn.14:2,3) Jesus speaks of “preparing a place” for his disciples.
Paul urges both Titus (3:1) and Timothy (II Tim.2:21) that they, and those they teach, be “ready / prepared for every good work”, and Peter (I Pet.3:15) advocates constant readiness to respond to questioners who are puzzled by “the hope that is in / among you”.

Only in a few parables does Jesus connect “readiness” with his return.
The parable about the feast (Mt.22:1-13 and Lk.14:16-24) uses the “ready” words only with respect to the preparations made by the host. It is their rude behavior that excludes the invited guests.
The judgment scene in Mt.25:31-46 refers to “the kingdom prepared” for those who have acted mercifully, and “the fire prepared” (not for people) for “the devil and his messengers”. Again, people are not charged with making the preparations.

In contrast, the story of the girls awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom (some manuscripts say “the bride”) places the responsibility squarely upon the guests. The ones who were welcomed were the ones who had been careful to keep their lamps working! (A reflection of Mt.5:14-16?)
Most significant of all is Jesus’ teaching in Mt.24:42-51 and Luke 12:35-48. The Master has been out of town, leaving his servants to tend to his affairs, and entrusting some with the responsibility to care for the others. Those whom the Master finds faithfully fulfilling their assigned duties are commended, and rewarded – not with starry crowns, but with greater responsibility! Notice that the one incurring the most severe punishment is the servant “in charge”, who abused those entrusted to his care! (Lk.12:45,46 and Mt.24:46-49), and treated his assignment as one of privilege, rather than responsibility.
Luke adds (47,48) the observation that the Master’s expectations (and reaction) are commensurate with the degree to which the servants were aware of his wishes.

Please note that nothing at all is said about what anyone “thought” or “believed”, or to what sort of doctrine, dogma, or creed he subscribed! (Refer also to W.S.#10).

Jesus does indeed encourage his people to “be ready” for his coming (Mt.24:44, Lk.12:40,47). It behooves us therefore, to check with him regarding what that “readiness” entails!

As long as you are busy following the Master’s instructions, YOU ARE READY!

Go out to meet him in unmitigated JOY!

Word Study #125 — “Watch!”

January 11, 2012

Here is another example of a word with multiple meanings and implications which have been distinguished poorly, if at all, in most English translations. Representing eight different Greek words, whose primary meanings range from guarding a prisoner through the simple measuring of time and ordinary sleeplessness to sobriety and diligent faithfulness, by the use of the single English term “watch” seems careless at best. “Utterly irresponsible” might be a better analysis.

Most of the words, seldom used, can be sorted rather easily. Koustodia, transliterated from the Latin custodia, a Roman military assignment, is used in the New Testament only of the guards assigned to Jesus’ crucifixion (Mt.27:65,66; 28:11).
Agrupnia, simple lack of sleep, appears only in II Cor.6:5 and 11:27, as Paul describes the trials of his life, although the verb form, agrupneo, is three times (out of 4) connected with deliberate, careful faithfulness and prayer (Mk.13:33, Lk.21:36, Eph.6:18), or, in Heb.13:17, serious responsibility for other members of the Body.
Tereo (translated only 2x “watch” (Mt.27:36,54) – vs. 57x “keep”, in the sense of careful observance – and its prefixed form, paratereo (5x) – Mt.3:2, Lk.6:7, 14:1; 20:20; Ac.9:24 – refer simply to observation: “watching” to see what was going to happen, or, in the latter case, to apprehend Paul.
This leaves three, however, that require more detailed attention.

Phulake, for example, and its related words phulax and phulasso, had quite a variety of classical uses, by far most of which, at least in the noun form, referred to a prison (35x), or to the guards – phulax – (KJV “keepers”) assigned to administer them (Ac.5:23, 12:6, 19).
But as early as the third century BC writings of Herodotus, phulake was also applied to a period of time, originally a period of guard duty. In Roman times, the night was divided into four “watches”. Earlier jurisdictions had used three or five such segments. This use is seen in Mt.14:25, 24:43; Mk.6:48, Lk.12:38.
Liddell/Scott also lists the idea of guarding with a view to protection, as in the case of the shepherds in Lk.2:8, or the more common use as a bodyguard.

The verb form, phulasso, is never traditionally rendered “watch” in its 30 New Testament appearances. It is primarily translated “keep” (21x), and refers, parallel to the most common use of tereo, to “keeping” the law, the word of God, or any people, things, or principles committed to one’s trust. It is also used of taking precautions, or admonitions to “beware” (Lk.12:25, II Tim.4:15, II Pet.3:17, I Jn.5:21), and of God’s protection of his people (II Thes.3:3, II Tim.1:12,14; Jude 24).

Nepho, originally used only in the present (continual, progressive) tense, is traditionally rendered “watch” twice, and “be sober” three times. Earlier writers used it consistently as the opposite of methuo “to be drunk”, often as total abstinence. Later, it referred to self-control of any sort, or being sober and wary. One might paraphrase, “take things/life seriously!” The sense can readily be discerned from the words with which it is paired:
I Thes.5:6 – “Let us watch (gregoreo) and be sober (nepho)” (PNT – “Let’s don’t be sleeping like the rest, but be alert and sober.”)
I Thes.5:8 – “Let us, who are of the day, be sober, clothed in a breast plate of faithfulness and love”
II Tim.4:5 – “Be sober in everything ….Fulfill your assignment!”
I Pet.1:13 – “Be sober [alert]; set your hope [confidence] completely on the grace being brought to you”
I Pet.4:7 – “Be sensible (sophronesate) and calm [sober] (nepho) for the purpose of prayer”
I Pet.5:8 – “Be careful [sober] (nephate), be watchful (gregoresate)”

Do you notice the pairing with forms of gregoreo? This brings us to the last, and most common, of the words traditionally translated “watch.”(I Pet.5:8, referenced above).
Gregoreo is simply defined, lexically, as “to be fully awake”, but its New Testament usage is much richer than that. It was traditionally translated “be awake” – I Thes.5:10, “whether we wake or sleep”, (referring to physical life or death), and “be vigilant” (I Pet.5:8, referenced above) once each, and 20x “watch.”

Of these, four (Mt.26:38, 40; Mk.14;34,37) are from scenes in the Garden where Jesus asks for companionship in his lonely prayer.
Nine are admonitions to faithful preparation for Jesus’ / a master’s arrival (Mt.24:42, 25:13; Mk.13:34,35,37; Lk.12:37, I Thes.5:6, Rv.16:15) – more on that in the next study.
Seven are combined with instructions for persistent prayer to buttress one’s own faithfulness and avoid being deceived or turned away (Mt.24:43, Mk.14:38, Lk.12:39, Ac.20:31, I Cor.16:13, Col.4:2, Rv.3:2,3).
In each of the latter two groups, the idea is much more heavily skewed toward alertness than simple physical wakefulness.

Interestingly, although the concepts are closely connected, especially in the parables quoted in Mt.24, Mk.13, and Lk.12, the actual words for “waiting” and “watching” do not appear together, except in hymns and sermons! Combining the two ideas, unfortunately, too often leads to equating them, and therefore to unwarranted passivity in the understanding of both.

While a degree of passivity may be present in many of the “waiting” passages (see previous post), “watching” is most decidedly active, not passive.
Agrupneo, phulasso, nepho, and especially gregoreo, all require deliberate effort, whether in prayer or overt action.

“Watching” is NOT a spectator sport!

Neither is it a lonely, individualistic pursuit. Notice that every one of the imperatives is plural.
May we learn to wait – and watch – together – in determined faithfulness!

2011 in review

January 2, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.