Word Study #138 — “Comfort?”

March 29, 2012

“They shall be comforted!”
Although Jesus’ statement in Mt.5:4 is a clear reference to mourning someone’s death (see previous post), his total sharing of our human condition is indisputable (Heb.2:14-18 and elsewhere).
Nevertheless, it is NOT in the Holy Spirit’s job description to wrap you in a warm fuzzy “blankie”, hand you a pacifier, and bestow a sympathetic pat on your head (“spiritual”, of course!) every time you stub your toe or get your feelings hurt!

Traditional translators have done us a great disservice by their choice to use “comfort / comforter” for the richly varied words, parakaleo (verb), paraklesis (corresponding noun), and parakletos (the person doing it). To be fair, the verb form is also rendered “beseech” and “exhort” – although unfortunately with no hint that these represent the same original word. The persistent notion of the “blankie” image, reinforced in traditional translations of the Beatitudes and Jesus’ final discourse in Jn.14, as well as several epistles, is neither accurate nor helpful. This, despite the fact that one of the worst aspects of any devastating loss is the despairing question, “What now???”. When the future looks like it has disappeared into a black hole, you don’t need a “blankie” – you need a direction! You need to “get a life”! And that is exactly what is promised in parakaleo – a life!

Even a cursory check of the lexicons reveals a much wider scope for parakaleo, and places the rendition of “comfort” near the bottom of the list. The primary intent, according to L/S, is “to call for or summon, especially summoning a friend for support at a trial.” This is followed by “to invite, to appeal, to exhort or encourage”, before (6th in the sequence) “to comfort or console.” “To demand or require, to beseech or entreat, and to relent, repent, or regret” finish out the list.
I encourage you to try out some of these alternatives in places where you are accustomed to reading “comfort”, remembering that any one of them would be an equally valid choice for parakaleo.

It was this exercise, many years ago, that led one student in a word study class to the suggestion quoted in W.S.#53 – one that I still find more attractive than most: the work of an excellent “coach”, who, being well-versed in the techniques and requirements of a game, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of his players, is able to encourage each one’s optimum performance for the sake of forming a winning team – sometimes with a hug, and sometimes with a kick in the pants! I think “coaching” stands a much better chance of bearing Kingdom fruit than does the pacifier and blankie approach!

It would be interesting to know how the traditional translators sorted parakaleo into their chosen categories.
“Beseech” was chosen 43x. In the gospels (15x), it refers uniformly to requests for healing – with the intriguing exception of Mt.8:31,34 and its parallel in Mk.5:10,12, of demons trying to negotiate a “lighter sentence” from Jesus!

In Paul’s epistles (11x), it involves his instructions to various groups. Notice that he appeals to them, he does not give orders. Five times he makes requests of particular individuals. Only once does he refer to his own prayer (II Cor.12:8), although 6x the translators chose to render the same word “pray” (Mt.26:53, Mk.5:17,18; Ac.16:9, 24:4, and 27:34).

In Acts, “beseech” was primarily used for invitations, as was “desire” (13:42, 16:15, 8:31, 9:38, 28:14). It was also used in court cases (25:2, 19:31, 16:39).
In Hebrews (13:19,22) it is a request for prayer, and in I Pet.2:11, an admonition to faithful living.

“Comfort” and “exhort” were chosen 23x each – although speakers of English would be unlikely to assume that those two could possibly represent the same idea! One would expect them rather to appear as opposites! But folks, both are presented to you as “translations” of parakaleo! The common thread could be a flavor of advocacy – maybe. If you can detect another, please suggest it!
There is another, rarely used word, paramutheomai, that conveys something closer to our standard impression of “comfort” – it describes the folks who came to “console” Mary and Martha in the loss of their brother (Jn.11:19,31), and the treatment of the weak and despairing advocated in I Thes.5:14. L/S offers words like “attempt to reassure, assuage, console, soften, palliate”, but also includes “encourage or exhort.” (You could, however, more readily find a “blankie” in paramutheomai than in parakaleo.) It is not a bad thing, it is just not primary or predominant, appearing only 4x in verb form and 2x a noun, in the entire NT.

The “comfort” of parakaleo is much more robust. It is “encouragement” that may even lead to a solution – or at least growth, maturity, or strengthening. Paul’s extended description of God’s “comfort” in the first chapter of II Cor., is not a “poor baby” type of sympathy, but a dynamic move toward reconciliation, as evidenced in the follow-up in chapter 7. Clearly, the transgressor referenced in chapter 2 was corrected, not coddled.

Another clue can be gained from the words associated with parakaleo: conveying encouraging information (Eph.6:22, Col.4:8), extreme stress on the part of the one doing the “comforting” (Col.2:2), instructions for faithful living (I Thes.2:11 – where paramutheomai is also used), strengthening in faithfulness (I Thes.3:2), edifying (I Thes.5:11), and being established (II Thes.2:17) in good efforts.

It is also significant that this is a mutual task in the brotherhood (I Thes.4:18, I Cor.14:31). Remember: although the New Testament writings were set down long before the “church” morphed into a hierarchical institution, English translations were not! Could that have had some bearing on the choice of “exhort” when the same word was used of Peter, Paul, Timothy, or Titus, but rendered “comfort” in other contexts?

“Exhortation” (still parakaleo, remember), includes many subjects: Ac.2:40 – urging people to join the Kingdom; Ac.14:22 – to continue in faithfulness; I Tim.6:2 and 2:15 – teaching; Tit.1:9 – convincing opponents, 2:6 – encouraging responsible living, and 2:15 – even occasional rebuke; and I Pet.5:1 – urging elders to take responsibility for younger members.

So what about the promise with which we began, of “comfort” for people who “mourn”?
In most cases, “encouragement” would be a much better word than either “exhortation” – which has acquired negative connotations – or “comfort” which has grown mushy. “Encouragement” holds out the possibility of support, or even of a solution! This applies even for the “ultimate” problem of death (I Thes.4:18), since Jesus has accomplished its definitive defeat!

Paul demonstrates that there is a difference between “comfort” and “encouragement” in I Cor.14:3, where he defines New Testament prophecy as including
– “edification” or building up – often instruction
paraklesin“exhortation, instruction, encouragement”
paramuthian – “comfort, reassurance, consolation”
and assigns all three to the responsibility of the entire brotherhood (14:31).

He also uses the latter pair together in I Thes.2;11, where he cites his own example of faithful “coaching”.
The goal, as always, (v.12), is that the Lord’s people be a credit to his Kingdom!

To that end,
“Let’s don’t neglect getting together … but keep on coaching each other, more and more, as you see the Day getting nearer!” (Heb.10:25)

Word Study #137 — Mourn, Mourning

March 27, 2012

This investigation is the result of a statement which appeared, and was expounded at length, in materials for a study group :
“Christ’s call for us to mourn together in the face of sin and suffering is a humble declaration of our own brokenness.”
Never having perceived such a “call”, I asked my usual question: “Did Jesus ever say that?”, and determined to find out. The answer is a resounding “NO!!!”
In fact, the English word “mourn” appears only ten times in the entire New Testament, and represents three different Greek words. (Contrast that with the seven words, and more than 70 appearances of “rejoice!” – W.S. #93)

Trench lists four words, only three of which are translated “mourn” in the NT.
Lupeomai, the most general, refers to any form of pain, grief or sorrow, and is the opposite of chaireo , “to rejoice.”
a stronger word, (L/S) is primarily a mourning for the dead, often, but not always, as a public event. It is often joined with klaiein, to cry.
, often joined with oduresthai, is “to bewail or make a dirge over the dead.” It may take the form of wailing or lamentation, or a poetic composition or song.
, derived from kopto, “to cut or smite”, referred to the dramatic beating of one’s head or breast in sign of grief. At times, it even involved the cutting of one’s body.

None of the gospel references to any of these words, or even related concepts, has anything whatever to do with one’s “sinfulness”. They are uniformly related to death: the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem (Mt.2:18), children “playing funeral” (Mt.11:17 and Lk.7:32), Jairus’ daughter (Lk.8:52); Jesus’ own impending death (Lk.23:27, Jn.16:20), or his disciples’ grief after his burial (Mk.16:10), as well as the Ac.8:2 account of Stephen’s death. The only exceptions are the occasion in Mt.24:30, where “the tribes of earth” are just plain terrified of the chaos that surrounds them, and Jesus’ response to the question of fasting (Mt.9:15) referring to a wedding party as an example for his disciples celebrating is presence among them. These are a bit of an anomaly but certainly without any accusations of “sinfulness”!

Consequently, the twisting of the reference to “mourning” in the “Beatitudes” to force any such implication is unwarranted, and wholly without precedent. Sadness at the loss – even temporarily – of a loved one is perfectly normal, not wrong or unfaithful. Even Jesus shared that (Jn.11:33).

There is another extremely crucial component here, which is almost always missed by readers of the English text, due to the inadequacy of our language (see the introduction to Pioneers New Testament). It is shared with all the rest of the Beatitudes, and indeed with most (not all) of the Sermon on the Mount: the subject of each statement is plural! “The poor”, “the mourners”, “the meek”, yes, all the way to “the persecuted”, are all treated in a group context! Not only these, but virtually all of even the normal but distressing vicissitudes of life are SO much more bearable when they are shared! In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that this may be why the “blessing” begins and ends with belonging to the Kingdom! This is the ultimate in sharing, and of life as it was intended to be lived!

In addition to the Gospel uses of “mourning”, there are four references in the epistles, quite different from one another, although they do deal more specifically with behavior than do those in the gospels.

In I Cor.5:2, Paul scolds that brotherhood for taking pride in their “acceptance / tolerance” of unacceptable behavior (How contemporary!) saying, in effect, that they should rather “mourn” (be ashamed) to have done so.

In II Cor.2:21, he speaks of his own distress at the departure of some of their members from faithfulness, and in II Cor.7:7, he commends the repentance and reformation of those who realized their error and changed their ways.

In Jas.4:9, we see a bit of a reprise of Lk.6:25. Both – Lk.6:24-26 and Jas.4:8-10 – are in a context of critiquing the arrogance of the wealthy and their disregard for the needy around them. These latter two, I suppose, are the only ones that could be imagined to focus on “sinfulness”, but both are quite specific, and not a general, undefined condition.

Of the remaining references, all are in the Revelation, and six of the seven occur in Rv.18:7,8,9, and 11. (The other, Rv.1:7, parallels Mt.24:30). The topic is the final fall of “Babylon”, the symbol of the economic system that has oppressed the “poor” and the “faithful” alike. The “mourners” are not those of Mt.5, who are proclaimed “blessed” or “privileged”, but rather those who had luxuriated in the excesses that Babylon’s merchants had supplied!

Don’t waste any sympathy there! The instructions to the faithful are in v.20: “Celebrate [rejoice] over her, heaven, God’s people, envoys [apostles], and prophets! God has passed judgment on her FOR YOU!” (Perhaps our response to such collapse reveals to which “camp” we belong!)

Rather than twisting Jesus’ words to condemn his earnest followers, calling them “spiritually bankrupt” and “broken”, we should take – and offer – encouragement (a better word for parakaleo than “comfort” – stay tuned for that one!) from Jesus’ recognition that mourning and sorrow will be a part of this life. He’s “been there, done that”, and so he knows and understands.

But he – and consequently we – know that that “mourning” is not the last chapter!
, we can look forward to his promise:
“He will dry every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist: neither will grief nor crying nor pain exist any longer. The former things are gone!
The one sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!” (Rv.21:4,5)

Until then, give thanks for the blessing that we wait – endure – yes, and even “mourn” – together.

Thanks be to God!

Word Study #136 — Submit, Subject

March 24, 2012

Like a great many of the words for which folks have requested a study, this one probably will not make any of the opposing “camps” (either the “keep women DOWN” or the “do your own thing” folks) very happy. But by now, you should know that this blog does not exist to provide you with weapons with which to clobber each other!

Please bear in mind ( and read the introduction to the King James Version if you don’t believe it), that the beloved “traditional version” was prepared at the behest of, and to reinforce the authority of, an absolute monarch, who was emphatically declaring his supremacy over the English church, and its departure from the domination of Rome! This just might have had some bearing upon the choices of “subject” and “submit” to translate hupotasso, although they are not at all the only – or even the primary – meanings of the word.

The classical uses of hupotasso are quite varied, including (L/S) “to place or arrange, to post in the shelter of (for protection), to draw up behind (as military reinforcement), to subdue or make subject, to be obedient or timid, to underlie or imply, to be associated with, to follow an idea, a person, or a series of numbers, and to be a minor premise in an argument”!
Take your pick! You can make a case for any of these.
Bauer adds, “to be attached or appended to a literary document”, and notes that any of these may be voluntary or involuntary when applied to people.
Thayer adds “to yield to admonition or advice.”

Before examining the varied occurrences of hupotasso, we will do well to consider the other words which were also translated “subject, subdue, submit”, and whose definitions are sufficiently specific, that we may safely assume that one of them would have been chosen, had that been the intention.

Doulagogeo, L/S “to enslave, (passive, to be enslaved), or to treat as a slave”, is used only once in the New Testament, in I Cor.9:27, where Paul speaks of forcibly subjecting his physical nature to his own will.

Enochos, L/S “legally liable, culpable, or held in bondage”, is treated in #128, since one of its more common translations is “guilty”. It is only once rendered “subject to bondage”, in Heb.2:15 – the result of the fear of death, on the part of those who have not yet realized that Jesus has eviscerated that threat.

Katagonizomai, L/S “to prevail against, to conquer, to contend against, to win by struggle” (and of course a passive form would convey being the victim of such struggle), also appears only once, in Heb.11:33, where some of the historical heroes of faithfulness are described as having “subdued kingdoms”.

Hupeiko, L/S “to withdraw, to depart, to retire from office in favor of another, to yield, give way, or concede”, likewise makes only a single appearance, in Heb.13:17, where the readers are admonished to “submit” to their civil rulers. Commentators have interpreted hegoumenois as if it referenced “church officials” (of which there were none at that time – but many at the time of translation!), but the word is universally used of governmental authorities. The error is probably attributable to a common misunderstanding of psuchon in the next phrase as “souls” instead of the more accurate “lives” (see W.S.#28).
All of these meanings may be ruled out for the uses of hupotasso, because those words were equally available to the writers, if that had been their intent.
Likewise, “obey/obedience” is better used for hupakouo or peitho (see #27, 39, 55, and 88) than for hupotasso.

The primary words suggested by L/S above, such ideas as orderly arrangement, protection, reinforcements, and association, are probably also primary among New Testament references concerning relationships among people. This is especially the case in the much (mis-)quoted passage in Eph.5, which begins with v.21, not 22. “Be subject [submissive, subjected] to each other, in the respect that has its source in Christ.” (The verb does not even occur in v.22.) Paul then proceeds to use the care and protection offered by the Lord to his church as the example for family relationships. That certainly does not suggest a demeaning role for anybody!

Such an overt, detailed context is not repeated in the other, similar passages, (Col.3:18, I Pet.3:1,5), although both are mitigated with instructions (in Col.) for loving care, or reasoning (in Pet.) advocating a contribution to the conversion of husbands!, that communicate anything but abject servitude!

Considerably more attention is devoted to the “subjection” of all creation, whether to futility (Rom.8:20) or to the Lord Jesus (I Cor.15:27-28, Eph.1:22, Heb.2:5,8; I Pet.3:22).
Admonitions to “submit” to civil authorities (Rom.13:1-5, Tit.3:1, I Pet.2:13) are of course themselves “subject” to the example of the apostles, and indeed of Jesus himself, who drew a firm line where official “submission”conflicted with their prior submission to God.
Submission to God is also advocated, in Heb.12:9, I Cor.15:28, Jas.4:7, Rom.10:3.

Although readers are urged to pay attention (and deference) to their elders, both in the church (I Cor.16:16, II Cor.9:13, I Pet.5:5) – notice, please, that Peter repeats Paul’s Eph.5 instructions that “All of you, be subject to one another” – and in the family (I Tim.3:4, Tit.2:5-9), as well as the Eph. and Col. passages already referenced, this is not absolute, as illustrated in the encounter between Paul and Peter reported in Gal.2:5.

Simple respect and responsibility are also included, as in the instructions for orderly participation in meetings of the brotherhood (I Cor.14:32, 34), and in Jesus’ childhood “submission” to his parents (Lk.2:54).

Even when the Lord gave his disciples unusual powers for a particular assignment, he warned (Lk.10:17,20) that this not be a cause for boasting or celebration, but reminded them instead to keep their focus on the Kingdom.

And this, in sum, is the optimum solution to all the disputes that arise concerning “submission” among the Lord’s people. Please notice that in none of these passages is anyone thundering at anyone else, “YOU MUST SUBMIT [BE SUBJECT] TO ME!!!”

When Kingdom people, as a cooperative venture, primarily seek the welfare of the Kingdom, each of us will subordinate our own interests (or “status”) to those of the brotherhood. In that atmosphere, the specifics can readily and amicably be worked out.

All honor and authority belongs to our King, and it is he to whom, ultimately, we all owe submission, in love.

Word Study #135 — Creation

March 19, 2012

Having just considered the gift – and the challenge – of the “new creation” that results from commitment to Jesus’ Kingdom, it seems appropriate to look at what the New Testament says about creation itself. Not nearly as much as do the pulpit-pounding advocates of “Creationism”, who claim to represent “the Biblical view”!

Ktisis, translated 6x “creation” and 11x “creature” – and also 1x “building” (Heb.9:11) and 1x “ordinance” (I Pet.2:13) – for reasons unknown – is not a common topic. Ktisma, also translated “creature”, appears 4x; ktistes, “creator”, only once (I Pet.4:19), although the participial form of ktizo is translated that way in Rom.1:25; and ktizo, the verb “to create” 12x, and once more translated as “make”.

I was surprised to find that historically, none of these words had referred to the origins of the world, the universe, or even of humans. The historian Herodotus used them to refer to the founding of a city or country, the organizing of a governing body, or the building of any sort of edifice. The verb form also included the production or invention of any object, or the perpetration of a noteworthy deed. References to the “creation” as it is popularly understood are found exclusively in the LXX and the New Testament.

Both Greek and Roman traditions did include “creation stories”, but with a different twist. Hesiod, a Greek epic poet, contemporary with or slightly after Homer (about 700 BC) , describes different “ages” of man – gold, silver, bronze, iron – during which people were becoming progressively (or perhaps one should say “regressively” !) more barbaric, and were destroyed and re-created repeatedly by the gods. Ovid, the Latin poet, in his Metamorphoses, (first century BC/AD), describes a primeval state of chaos, which the gods tried to organize, with little success. Neither of these writers makes any attempt to “start from scratch.”

In contrast, the New Testament contains several mentions of “the beginning of creation” (Mk.10:6, 13:19; II Pet.3:4), and even presents Jesus himself as “the beginning of creation” (Rv.3:14), and Paul goes even farther and represents him as the the very agent and purposeof creation (Eph.3:9. Col.1:16) – “all things were created by him and for him”! A similar statement in Rv.4:11 affirms, “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they exist, and were created!”

Notice, please, that the burden of these declarations has nothing whatever to do with today’s prevalent obsessions with “when” or “how” any of this happened. The whole focus is upon who is responsible, and why creation exists. We would do well to focus our own attention similarly!

Paul goes to great pains in Rom.1 and again in Rom.8 to make the point that in creation, God has provided ample evidence of his character and purpose; and the descent of people into the depravity and chaos that sounds very similar to the degradation in the Greek and Roman accounts was the result of people’s deliberate choice to ignore that revelation, and not anything relating to their “original” condition. Remember that “creation” and “creature” are derived from the same word – the choice of one or the other was made by the translators, not the authors. Ktisis refers to any created thing (including people), as well as to creation as a whole. Consequently, just as the contagion of depravity described in Romans 1 spread to the whole of creation, the hope revealed in Romans 8 – the expectation of deliverance into the glorious New Creation – is contagious as well!

No wonder “the whole creation is waiting with eager anticipation for the revealing of the sons of God!” (Rom.8:19). It is these to whom its care is entrusted, and in whom its hopes of fulfilling its original purpose – the pleasure of its creator (Rv.4:11) – can at last be realized. What a glorious prospect!

The New Creation has already begun “after the image” (Col.3:10) of its Creator – the image (W.S.#15) that had been so sadly defaced by the selfishness of its former heirs (Rom.1). Please also see chapter 3 of Citizens of the Kingdom.

The classic description is in II Cor.5:17, Interestingly, in the Greek text, there is no verb in the sentence. Kaine ktisis may, but need not, be a modifier for the pronoun tis – “ anyone, someone”. The statement may with equal validity be taken to mean “that person is a new creature” (in the sense of a created being), or to intend that for such a person, “creation is new”! Both are grammatically correct, and both are true.

Paul adds the observation in Eph.2:10 that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works [with a purpose for good deeds]”, which God also “prepared” for his people to do . No, this is not the “salvation by works” which seems to frighten some folks so badly. It is “salvation” for the purpose of accomplishing what the Creator (and Savior) intended all along! (W.S.#39). This is reinforced in Eph.4:24, where Paul asserts that we are “created according to God’s design, in justice (W.S.#3) and devotion to the truth” (W.S. #26).

James (1:18) calls the Lord’s people “the first-fruits of his creation” – the beginning of the harvest for which he started everything in the first place! We have kept him waiting a long time!

Some minor manuscripts of Mark even quote Jesus’ commission (Mk.16:15) as instructions to proclaim his “gospel” (#67) to “every creature” – every created thing (pase te ktisei)! This may even be a renewal of God’s original charge to his people to tend and care for all that he had created. (Gen.1:28). Paul may have understood it that way (Col.1:23).

It is also significant that, as Paul reminded Timothy (I Tim.4:4), “Everything that God created is good!”, and is to be received with thanksgiving (v.3). This despite the equally far-reaching affirmation in Heb.4:13, that no created thing is hidden from the eyes of God. There is absolutely NO New Testament justification for the common assumption that a person, or the physical creation, or the physical body, is inherently “evil”, “depraved”, or “sinful”! “Everything that God created is GOOD” – unless one chooses to use it wrongly, instead of as it was intended.

Finally, we should note Jesus’ crowning act of creation – Eph.2:15, also noted in Gal.6:15. It is the Lord Jesus himself who has taken people who represent the most opposite extremes imaginable, in their own thinking, and “created the two, in himself, into one new person, thus making peace.”

This is the true miracle of creation!

Thanks be to God!

Word Study #134 — “What’s New?”

March 12, 2012

From the many unexpected and sometimes shocking aspects of his earthly ministry, and the establishment of the New Covenant announced by the Lord Jesus at his last meal with the disciples before his betrayal, to his triumphant edict from the Throne quoted in Rev.21:5, “Look! I am making everything new!”, it had been obvious to anyone who was paying attention that something quite out-of-the-ordinary was happening whenever Jesus, or sometimes even his followers, appeared on the scene. This was a realization sometimes greeted with delight, and other times with dismay, depending upon the stock in the status-quo held by the observers/participants.

What I did not realize until beginning this study, was that the two Greek words in these accounts, which are both translated “new”, are not synonymous at all! At first I was skeptical of Trench’s assertion that neos, the lesser used of the two – only appearing 11 times – is merely a temporal observation, referring to a person or event younger or more recent than the others to which it is compared, whereas kainos, used 44 times, refers to the quality, kind, or condition of its object. However, the lexicons all bear out that contrast, with L/S offering “fresh, newly made or invented, innovative, without precedent” for kainos, and “youthful, young, or recent” for neos. Bauer concurs, listing “unusual, something not previously present, with implication that ‘old’ is obsolete; unknown, remarkable” for kainos, and “young, new, fresh” for neos. Thayer adds “superior to what it succeeds” and “previously non-existent” for kainos.

Examination of the New Testament uses of both words reveals that both are used in Jesus’ teaching about patching a garment and wine in wineskins, but neos describes the wine (“newly made”), and kainos the skins which had not been previously used, in all three synoptics.
The “new teaching [doctrine]” attributed to Jesus (Mk.1:27, or the “new ideas” discussed in the Areopagos Council (Ac. 17:19-21), both use kainos, as does the “new commandment” (Jn.13:34, I Jn.2:7-8, II Jn.5) which Jesus initiated. The related noun, kainotes, appearing only twice (Rom.6:4, 7:6) likewise refers to the total transformation of life expected of one who chooses to follow Christ.
This meshes well with repeated references to the “new creation” – uniformly kainos – that also describes the radically changed life of the committed (II Cor.5:17, Gal.6:15). Eph.2:15 is especially significant in this regard, representing Jesus as having deliberately “created” out of redeemed and reconciled Jew and Gentile, “one new (kainos) person”. Anthropos , the generic term for “man” — the species — may be taken as either “person” or “humanity”.

All of these carry the expectation of a life never seen before – probably never even imagined! – and not a temporal reference. The only place where neos appears in a similar context is Col.3:10 – and the “new life” in view was indeed temporally “new” to those folks, although Paul goes on to speak of their being “continually renewed” (anakainoumenon) – a present passive participle – as well.

Perhaps the most significant of all is the uniform (except for a single reference in Heb.12:24) use of kainos in both gospel and epistle references to the “new covenant”. In this regard, please also refer to the treatment of “covenant” in W.S.#79 and 80. We discovered in that study the fallacy of the assumption that a “covenant” could never be abrogated. It was always a two-way proposition: “If you will do this, then I will —-” A breach by either party consistently renderes a covenant of no effect.
Most relevant here is the matter of fact statement in Heb.8:13: “In saying ‘new’, he has made the first one ‘old’, and what has become old and been superseded is near to disappearing!” The writer goes on, in chapter 9, to re-cast the term diatheke, formerly rendered “covenant”, in the light of a legal will, and to explain that a will only takes effect upon the death of the testator. It has no necessary connection with the much-touted idea of “blood covenants”. In this way, it becomes patently clear that the “new covenant” is something entirely apart from the old system, and that forcing artificial parallels is of no value. Jesus has done something entirely new! “(He) also made us capable administrators of a new covenant [will], (whose source) is not a written (legal document), but the Spirit! For the legal document kills, but the Spirit makes alive!” (II Cor.3:6)

This may be one reason why the Lord Jesus himself, much earlier, had remarked (Mt.13:52), “Every scribe trained for the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasures (W.S.#131) both new things and old.” Only with the discernment of the Holy Spirit can his people accurately sort out which “new” and “old” things actually belong together!

A different word altogether, used only once, is employed in Heb.10:20, speaking of “the living way he (Jesus) recently made new for us, through the curtain”, giving his people access not only to “holy” places and things that had been forbidden under the “old way”, but even to God himself! Prosphotos refers to recent events: to newly-drawn water, or food that is fresh (not spoiled). Jesus has indeed “done a new thing!”

Kainos appears more frequently in the Revelation than in any other part of the New Testament. We had a foretaste in Peter’s reference to “a new heaven and a new earth” (II Pet.3:13), which is repeated in Rv.21:1. But when the Lord’s triumph is complete, the glorious announcement from the Throne is “Look! I am making everything new!”

New names (identities – see #24 ) have been given to the faithful (Rv.3:12).

The folks singing around the throne do so with a “new song” (Rv.5:9, 14:3) of praise to the glory and worthiness of the Lamb.

A “new Jerusalem” – the prepared Bride is introduced (Rv.3:12, 21:2)

The “new creation” is finally realized: and Paul’s announcement of hope in II Cor.5:17 has finally come to complete fulfillment:

So if anyone is in Christ, (he is) a new creation [or, creation is new!] Old things are gone! Look! Something new – kainos – innovative, unprecedented, and superior to all that has gone before – has happened!”

Thanks be to God!

Word Study #133 — Accept, Receive

March 5, 2012

I have long been troubled by the pervasiveness of insistence upon (or bragging about) people being coerced into “accepting the Lord.” I suppose this notion, which is never mentioned in the New Testament, is enhanced by the familiar pictures of Jesus standing forlornly outside a closed door, which has neither doorknob nor latch string, as if begging for admission. What a travesty upon the character of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings! The wonder of wonders is not that a mere human should be so arrogant as to claim to “accept” the Lord of Glory, but that the Lord himself, in his incredibly gracious kindness, should deign to “accept” such bumbling, stumbling creatures as ourselves, into his Kingdom – his family – even his very Body! “Acceptance” is the gracious welcome proffered by a superior toward an inferior supplicant – not the rote recitation required of a hapless victim who has succumbed to the “theological” arguments of a well-trained accuser!

Indeed, the word “accept” appears only six times in the most traditional of translations (KJV), and is used for four different Greek words, all of which appear many more times with other renderings, but never with our Lord as the direct object!
In Ac.24:3, Tertullus is referring to favors received from the Roman overlords; in II Cor.8:17 and 11:4, Paul refers to his readers’ acceptance of his message; in Lk.20:21 and Gal.2:6, the reference is to God’s refusal to play favorites; and in Heb.11:35 to people who refused to “accept” deliverance from persecution at the price of unfaithfulness.

The adjective, “acceptable”, appearing 11 times, and representing five different words, uniformly refers to people or behavior that God considers acceptable. Likewise, of similar words rendered “accepted” (7x), five refer to God’s acceptance, one to the failure of a prophet’s own people to listen to him (Lk.4:24), and one to Paul’s desire that his service be accepted in the spirit in which it is offered, by the brethren in Jerusalem (Rom.15:31). Most notable in this latter group is the much-neglected discovery announced by Peter as a result of his encounter with Cornelius (Ac.10:34,35) – “Then Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘In truth, I perceive that God does not play favorites, but in every nation, the one who respects him and does justice is received [accepted] by him!’”
Funny – it doesn’t say a word about reciting a litany about what an awful, “sinful” person he is! This must be another place where the “literal” crowd managed to hit the “delete” button and substitute their own formula!

It is certainly true that the verbs in question – apodechhomai, dechomai, prosdechomai, and lambano – are very common in both the New Testament and classical writings. In many cases, they seem nearly interchangeable. Apodechomai, used only once as “accept” appears five times translated “receive”; dechomai, 2x as “accept”, is rendered “receive” 52x, “suffer” 1x, and “take” 5x. Lambano is rendered 2x “accept”, 133 x “receive”, 104 x “take”, and scattered translations of “attain, bring, call, catch, have, and obtain.” Prosdechomai, which we noted in #124 and 125, “Wait”, and “Watch”, also includes “allow, look for, receive, take, and wait for.”
Their classical uses are also scattered, but one idea they all have in common is “receive”, in the sense of making someone welcome. This may apply to anyone, of any social status, be he compatriot or stranger. Jesus used it of the disciples he had commissioned (Mt.10:14, 40, 41; Mk.6:11, 9:47; Lk.9:5, 48, 10:8), and equated people’s reception of them with their welcome (or not) of him. Dechomai is also frequently used of the welcome accorded the gospel message in various places (II Cor.8:11; Ac.8:14, 17:11; I Thes.1:6, 2:13) as well as of its bearers (II Cor.7:15, Gal.4:14, Col.4:10). There is nothing liturgical, spooky, or “spiritual” about this: it is welcome, pure and simple.

Lambano was occasionally used, classically, of involuntary “possession”by a spirit or deity, but the other words were not. More frequently, lambano is used to emphasize that “grace” (Jn.1:16), “fullness” (Jn.1:16), “my (Jesus’) testimony” (Jn.3:11,32,33; 5;34,41), “honor” (Jn.5:44), and the Holy Spirit (Jn.7:39, 20:22; Ac.1:8, 2:38, 8:15, 17, 19; 10:47), among others, are gifts received from the gracious hand of the Lord, and not the achievement of human effort. Indeed, Paul asks pointedly (I Cor.4:7), “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you brag as if you didn’t?” This is in a paragraph sternly critical of status-tripping in the body of believers. Literally everything about a disciple’s life is a gracious gift from the Lord, to be received with thanksgiving and employed for the welfare of the brotherhood and the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Other classical uses of the various words should also be kept in mind, and may color some interpretations. For apodechomai, L/S lists: to accept advice from, to follow as a teacher, to admit to one’s presence, to approve or receive favorably, to be content or satisfied with, to recover or receive back something that was lost or stolen.
For dechomai, they list: to accept as legal tender, to exchange, to understand, to accept apology and forgive, to accept as an ally, to await the attack of an enemy, to welcome, to accept responsibility for, to approve.
For prosdechomai, to admit to one’s presence, to admit an argument, to be capable of, to undertake, to take liability upon oneself
For lambano, to grasp or seize, to take by violence, to exact punishment, to catch, to find out, to detect, to apprehend with the mind, to receive hospitably, to receive in marriage, to receive as produce or profit, to receive permission, to purchase.

This is enough of a sample to show that the variety is considerable.

Perhaps the most reliable key to the proper use of “accept” among those who seek for faithfulness, lies simply in its New Testament usage. The verb appears only six times, and never refers to requirements placed upon people. Our appropriate assignment concerns the adjective – used 18x – three times as often – to act and interact in a manner acceptable to God, and giving honor to the Lord Jesus. Take a cue from brother Paul, who wrote to the Roman brethren (Rom.1:1,2):

“I encourage you all, therefore, brothers, because of God’s compassion [mercy], to present your bodies, a living offering, set-apart, pleasing [acceptable*] to God: this is your logical worship. And do not (continue to) pattern yourselves by this age, but be completely changed,by the renewal of your mind, so that you all will recognize what God’s will is: what is good, and pleasing [acceptable*] and complete [perfect].”
*The word is euarestos, “pleasing, pleasant, acceptable, in good taste”.

A focus upon becoming “acceptable”, rather than forcing an artificial and unwarranted “acceptance” upon others, is much more likely to bear good fruit for the Kingdom!