(1) Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the
Semantics of Soteriological Terms. Cambridge
University Press, 1967. (Author) David Hill.
(2) From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the
Episcopacy in the Early Church. New York/Mahwah, N.J.:
Newman Press, 2001. (Author) Francis A. Sullivan.
Hill's main thesis is that biblical Greek (both LXX
and NT) changed the meaning of certain ancient Greek
terms or at least added a new meaning to these words.
Hill attempts to demonstrate this general thesis in
his well-documented work and does a fairly decent job,
it seems. One point that I find of interest in Hill's
study is his willingness to make words the proper
objects of semantic inquiry, "since the word is a
semantic marker, a pointer to a concept or field of
meaning which must be clarified and understood" (Hill,
p. 18). Nevertheless, he also stresses the
importance of taking both the "immediate context" and
the "historical context" of any given word or text
into consideration when performing exegesis or word
studies. In order to understand the terminology of the
GNT, one must also "deal with the meaning of their
[i.e., Greek words] Old Testament Hebrew equivalents"
Francis A. Sullivan's study should interest those who
wonder about apostolic succession or the development
of bishops in the ancient church. Was the transition
from apostles to bishops a deviant move or one
that was faithful to the original intentions of Christ
and his designated apostles? Sullivan, who is Roman
Catholic, looks at the issue quite fairly and makes
concessions that are surprising at times.
Whether one agrees with his conclusion or not, it
seems that Sullivan is a careful, erudite and fair
At one point in his study, Sullivan writes:
"As we have seen, the 'great commission' in Matthew
28:19-20 included the command to 'make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' Scholars
generally agree that the trinitarian formula reflects
a later development of baptismal liturgy. On the other
hand, it would be difficult to explain the importance
the New Testament attributes to baptism and its role
as a distinctive sign of Christian initiation if it
were not based on a command given by the risen Christ"
(Apostles to Bishops, p. 35).
In the context of his discussion, Sullivan is
examining the alleged primordiality of the Church's
so-called "sacramental ministry." But the point that I
want to draw attention to now, is what Sullivan says
about the "trinitarian formula" found in Mt 28:19-20.
Of course, I do not agree with this description of the
language found in the Matthean text, but what really
strikes me, however, is Sullivan's view that the
words found in Matthew 28:19-20 are based on
subsequent baptismal practices. I've noticed that
Protestant scholars also tend to believe that 28:19-20, as
it now appears in modern Bibles, is not an authentic
representation of words, which the "historical Jesus" might
have uttered. The words are sometimes not considered ipsissima
I've never been able to find solid textual evidence that discounts
the originality of the "Great Commission" contained at Matthew 28:19-20.
Yet there have been many who have doubted its genuineness or originality.
I have no problem with the text, as it now stands; maybe some reader has
researched this issue before.
Friday, January 08, 2016
Older Short Book Reviews on David Hill and Francis A. Sullivan--Biblical Semantics and Ecclesiology
Two more book recommendations include: