Monday, September 27, 2021

Using New Testament Greek (David A. Black)-Part XIII

This is my last post concerning D.A. Black's short work, Using New Testament Greek. Here are the final steps for exegesis, but remember, these really constitute the start of hard exegetical work rather than the end:

6. Determine the structure (understand the flow of the argument and major ideas)
7. Look for any significant rhetorical features (literary devices)
8. Observe how the author made use of sources (any editorial features the document contains)
9. Determine the key thought of your passage (sum up the main idea in one sentence)
10. Develop a homiletical outline or talk (make application of the text)

A) In conclusion, I would say that one could apply these steps by tracking the flow of an argument in the biblical text. For instance, try to determine the structure of Philippians 2:1-30. Where are the textual breaks? How would you divide that section of verses up into paragraphs?

B) Next, what literary devices are used in Philippians 2:1-30? How do the rhetorical features contribute to the writer's overall argument? Paul A. Holloway writes in the Hermeneia commentary on Philippians:

The four short clauses in 2:1 are a clear instance of rhetorical amplification. Paul’s aim is not to produce a list of finely nuanced reasons for action but to create pathos, which he does by painting in very broad strokes: “consolation . . . comfort . . . love . . . fellowship . . . deep affection and compassion.”
C) Is there any reason to believe that Paul employs older sources in Philippians 2:1-11? Many commentators insist that the apostle reworked a primal hymn in his discussion about the kenosis of Christ. What features of those verses might lead one to conclude older hymnic material underlies the current textual version? This matter is highly contentious.

D) How would you sum up Philippians 2:13? What is the main point of the passage?

E) Finally, how would you apply what you study or exegete? At this point, one of Jehovah's Witnesses would work up his/her study into a talk or meeting part. Black concentrates more on homiletic outlines but the principle can be applied to other projects.

I hope my discussion of Black's book has yielded some positive results; may it help you to exegete more efficiently and study more carefully.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Verses Where the Crown of Life Is Mentioned (Greek)

These verses either mention the crown of life or deal with it somehow.

1 Corinthians 9:25-πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος πάντα ἐγκρατεύεται, ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἵνα φθαρτὸν στέφανον λάβωσιν, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄφθαρτον.

2 Timothy 4:8-λοιπὸν ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος, ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι ὁ κύριος ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοὶ ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ.

James 1:12-Μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν, ὅτι δόκιμος γενόμενος λήμψεται τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς, ὃν ἐπηγγείλατο τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν.

1 Peter 5:4-καὶ φανερωθέντος τοῦ ἀρχιποίμενος κομιεῖσθε τὸν ἀμαράντινον τῆς δόξης στέφανον.

Revelation 2:10-μὴ φοβοῦ ἃ μέλλεις πάσχειν. ἰδοὺ μέλλει βάλλειν ὁ διάβολος ἐξ ὑμῶν εἰς φυλακὴν ἵνα πειρασθῆτε, καὶ ἔχητε θλίψιν ἡμερῶν δέκα. γίνου πιστὸς ἄχρι θανάτου, καὶ δώσω σοι τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς.

Revelation 3:11-ἔρχομαι ταχύ· κράτει ὃ ἔχεις, ἵνα μηδεὶς λάβῃ τὸν στέφανόν σου.

Revelation 4:4, 10-καὶ κυκλόθεν τοῦ θρόνου θρόνοι εἴκοσι τέσσαρες, καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς θρόνους εἴκοσι τέσσαρας πρεσβυτέρους καθημένους περιβεβλημένους ἱματίοις λευκοῖς, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτῶν στεφάνους χρυσοῦς.

πεσοῦνται οἱ εἴκοσι τέσσαρες πρεσβύτεροι ἐνώπιον τοῦ καθημένου ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου, καὶ προσκυνήσουσιν τῷ ζῶντι εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, καὶ βαλοῦσιν τοὺς στεφάνους αὐτῶν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου, λέγοντες

What is the background of this language? What will it entail when Christians receive it? What are the antecedents for this usage?


Commentators are wont to read
τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς as a genitive of apposition (i.e., the crown, that is, life). The "crown" likely represents a certain type of life, and it's probably rooted in the Greek games although some see military allusions if memory serves me correctly.

James Ropes refers to the epexegetical genitive for 1 Peter 5:4; I take exception to some of his remarks about the crown of life. For example, that it has nothing to do with ruling. Maybe the idea is not explicit or the focus of James 1:12, but other references do convey the idea of ruling. Paul even wrote to Timothy about ruling as kings.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Allomorphs, Allophones, and Ancient Languages

An allomorph is "one of a set of forms that a morpheme may take in different contexts" (Merriam-Webster).

The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar offers a more extensive treatment, defining allomorph as "An alternant of a *morpheme (1); any form in which a (meaningful) morpheme is actually realized. (Also called morphemic variant.)" See page 21.

Linguists customarily define morphemes as minimal units of meaning. Zero allomorphy occurs in words like "sheep" which retains the same morphological form even when pluralized and with the form "two fish" rather than "two fishes." See The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar, page 21, for irregular allomorphs.

Examples of allomorphs: the past tense participial morpheme -ed (e.g., hunted, fished, buzzed); the international phonetic alphabet (IPA) represents three different sounds for this morpheme in each word or suffix (i.e., hunted, fished, buzzed). Therefore, each time that the suffix -ed occurs in these cases, the phonemic sound is different.

An allophone is "one of two or more variants of the same phoneme" (M-W).

Examples: plow, clap, clear, play (the phoneme here is /l/). When /l/ follows 'p' or 'r,' it is "devoiced," but in blue, gleam and leaf, it is voiced: one linguist states that the allophonic variation of /l/ usually is predictable. The /p/ in pin and spin is another example of an allophone: one is aspirated whereas the other is not, so they're in complementary distribution (CD).

SIL defines CD this way: "Complementary distribution is the mutually exclusive relationship between two phonetically similar segments. It exists when one segment occurs in an environment where the other segment never occurs. The words, pat and stop are two other examples of how the allophone /p/ occurs when aspirated or unaspirated. Another factor in the pronunciation of /p/ is positional variation."


What are some examples of allomorphs and allophones from ancient languages?

The Hebrew Bible and Allomorphs: David Tsumura (Creation and Destruction) points to the word ed (Genesis 2:5-6), which arose from eres to water adama: this term only appears in Genesis and Job 36:27 where either ed or the allomorph edo occurs (Tsumura, page 85). Translators have variously rendered ed as "spring," "fountain," "(rain-)cloud," "vapor" or "mist."

Tsumura's discussion is worth consulting; it is thorough and informative but our main concern here is allomorphs and allophones. I will make one more thought about Genesis 2:5-6. Regarding ed in the Hebrew scriptures, the NET Bible prefers the rendering "springs"--it appeals to the cognate term edu in Akkadian and employed in Babylonian texts which "refers to subterranean springs or waterways." NET reckons that this usage best fits the Genesis context. NWT 2013 opts for the translation "mist."

In The Lord Has Saved Me: A Study of the Psalm of Hezekiah, Michael L. Barre brings another example of Hebrew allomorphy to our attention. On page 165, he cites
1QIsaa (the Isaiah Scroll aka the Great Isaiah Scroll)--the passage contains the reading mr ly< m<wdh. Barre explains that the last word is an allomorph of me·<od. The Targum of Isaiah supports this reading since it has mr ly sgy, which is translated "it is very bitter for me." For the textual issues surrounding this word, see Barre, 166. Compare Isaiah 38:15 and its employment of mar.


Friday, September 24, 2021

Galatians 3:28 (οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ)

This post was written before the advent of BDAG but I've edited it some. Galatians 3:28-οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην, οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ· πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστὲ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

1) BAGD says that ἄρσεν is used to strongly emphasize the sex of the referent (cf. Rom. 1:27). This could be a possibility in Gal. 3:28. Also the LXX has καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον κατ᾽ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς, so there may be no significance as regards the change of usage in Gal. 3:28. Plato, Aristotle, Philo and Josephus also have a similar construction in their writings.

(2) Timothy George says that there is significance in the change to καὶ. Evidently Paul is extracting his phraseology from Gen. 1:27 (LXX); he could be saying that the relationship between male and female differs from that of the first two binary oppositions. Man and woman need each other in a way that Jew and Greek or master and slave do not.

(3) Conversely, Richard Longenecker writes that the change in Gal. 3:28 implies no real change in meaning. Based on the LXX and the classical literature, he could have a point.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Lexicons You Need for NT Greek Study and Why

I've listed some of the most important Greek-English lexica below. To make this blog entry a little less labor-intensive, I will only discuss some of the reasons why these works are helpful. Notice that I don't mention Vine's Expository Dictionary or Thayer's because these works are outdated: and my list only includes classical, patristic or NT sources but see the "honorable mentions." I will list the abbreviation for each lexicon, then its full citation.

1. BDAG-Danker, Frederick W., Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

2. Louw-Nida-Louw, J. P., and Eugene A. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988.

3. LSJ-Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott, and Henry Stuart Jones. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

4. Cambridge Greek Lexicon-Diggle, James (editor in chief). The Cambridge Greek Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

5. BrillDAG-Montanari, Franco, et al. The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

6. PGL (Lampe)-Lampe, Geoffrey W. H., ed. Patristic Greek Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon, 1961.

7. MM-Moulton, James Hope, and George Milligan. The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914.

8. TLNT (Spicq)-Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament. Translated and edited by James D. Ernest. 3 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

9. TLG Database- (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae)

10. TDNT-Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–1976.

11. NIDNTTE-Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. 2nd ed. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

12. Abbott-Smith-Abbott-Smith, G. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. New York: Scribner, 1922.

Honorable Mention-Lust, Johan, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. Rev. ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2003.

Muraoka, Takamitsu. A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. Leuven: Peeters, 2009.

My Comments: Scholars consider BDAG to be the standard Greek-English lexicon for GNT studies. One advantage is that it's more up to date compared to the older lexica and BDAG greatly improves the definitions for each Greek word. No lexicon is perfect but this lexicon is fairly reliable and covers a range of data.  One website states about BDAG: "This is the undisputed number-one lexicon for the Greek of the New Testament."


A Professor of the NT makes these remarks concerning BDAG: "The standard dictionary of New Testament Greek used by advanced students and scholars. If you buy one dictionary, this should be it. Just make sure you get the 3rd edition (published in 2000). It’s a major leap forward from earlier editions. The key problem with most cheap or free Greek dictionaries is that they were first written before the discovery and analysis of papyrus libraries in the 20th century that transformed our understanding of the non-literary Hellenistic Greek that we find in early Jewish and Christian writings. BDAG has thoroughly digested those insights, and the 3rd edition also draws on some newer insights from linguistics. A must-have if you’re serious. This covers not only the NT but also the writings of the Greek church fathers."


He comments on many of the lexica I have listed above.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Using New Testament Greek (David A. Black)-Part XII

This post deals with five steps for exegesis outlined by David Black. In the final post for this series, I will concern myself with five more steps. But to make this exercise more facile, I will pick one scripture to use as a model text for how exegesis might be done, and that scripture is Philippians 4:13. At the end of this post, sources for further reading on New Testament exegesis will be listed; for now, we're only focusing on the basics of exegesis (drawing meaning from the scriptural text). D.A. Black lists these five steps but I've added some of my own wording for them:

1. Survey the historical context (historical setting)
2. Observe the larger literary context (the macrostructure or entire book)
3. Resolve any significant textual issues
4. Determine the meaning of any crucial words (do a word study on important terms in the text)
5. Analyze the syntax. Ask which syntactical features directly contribute to the exegesis of your chosen text.

1) For Philippians 4:13, the historical context would involve identifying the writer of the verse (the Apostle Paul), the recipients of the letter/epistle (Christians in Philippi), the approximate time of writing, the relationship that Paul had with the Philippians and his purpose for writing. You might also find out what ancient Philippi was like; how did the city come into existence and what were its socioeconomic conditions like?

2) Black spurs exegetes to analyze texts above the sentence level: one should exegete at the paragraph level, but prior to doing this work, determine the GNT book's genre. In this case, Philippians is an epistle, so one finds expository and hortatory portions in Paul's correspondence to this ecclesia. Knowing a document's genre is crucial for the exegete, but this is only a start. Exegeting a passage like Philippians 4:13 equally requires that one read the entire book of Philippians to get an overview of the macrostructure; along the way, look for transitional words that indicate the start of new sections in the letter--words like therefore, finally, so, thus, hence, consequently, moreover, furthermore, for, and because of this. See Philippians 4:1, 8, 15 for examples.

3) Textual variants are often important when exegeting texts; at other times, they don't matter a great deal. The standard work to consult textual issues is Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary although it's not the only place one can seek out information for variants. I would urge cation when it comes to textual criticism. Establishing the probable reading of a text is difficult and requires special training: do not simply look up what someone else says about a text and let matters rest there. You might find yourself in a figurative minefield.

As for Philippians 4:13, our model text for this entry, the NET Bible offers this commentary:

tc Although some excellent witnesses lack explicit reference to the one strengthening Paul (so א* A B D* I 33 1739 lat co Cl), the majority of witnesses (א2 D2 [F G] Ψ 075 1175 1241 1505 1881 2464 M al sy Hier) add Χριστῷ (Christō) here (thus, “through Christ who strengthens me”). But this kind of reading is patently secondary, and is a predictable variant. Further, the shorter reading is much harder, for it leaves the agent unspecified.

 4) What are the crucial words in Philippians 4:13? A few terms in the verse might deserve a word study: one question is the scope or application of πάντα. Whichever sources you use to do a word study, try to find out what the word means in a particular context. In the case of Philippians, we might ask how Paul employs terms in other writings. Additionally, what does the immediate literary context suggest about the meaning of key words in the text? Black warns that some fallacies to avoid are etymologizing and illegitimate totality transfer, an expression made famous by James Barr. Another good practice would be to consult the major Greek-English lexica (BDAG and Louw-Nida), check a good concordance, and use NIDNTTE.

5) Syntax refers to word order or to the grammatical and semantic relationships that words bear to one another. Black advises the exegete to analyze the syntax that impinges upon your exegesis. Questions that could be asked: Does the Greek article appear in the verse or paragraph I'm reading? What is the tense/aspect and form of the verbs I encounter? What about the nominal or pronominal cases? What is the word, phrase, and clause order of the text? I will list suggestions for works about syntax below, and the next post will discuss five more steps for GNT exegesis.

Works for Further Reading

Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2003. Print.

Reed, Jeffrey T. A Discourse Analysis of Philippians: Method and Rhetoric in the Debate Over Literary Integrity. Sheffield, Eng: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997. Print.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschsaft, 2016. Print.

Silva, Moisés (editor). New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2014. Five Volumes. Print.

Brooks, James A, and Carlton L. Winbery. Syntax of New Testament Greek. Washington, D.C: University Press of America, 1988. Print.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Using New Testament Greek (David A. Black)-Part XI

In Using New Testament Greek, Black next moves to tradition criticism: it's an umbrella term that encompasses several categorical subsets. Tradition criticism endeavors to locate or identify the sources behind our current texts; it seeks to track the historical path that texts took to arrive in their present form. The first type of tradition criticism I'll discuss is source criticism, then the discussion will transition to form criticism before trying to explain redaction criticism.

Black reports that source criticism arose between 1863-1924: Julius Wellhausen was one of the main players but other preceded him. Nevertheless, as the name implies, source criticism tries to determine which sources the biblical writers used to compose the Pentateuch or in the case of the GNT, the Synoptic Gospels or other parts of the Christian scriptures.

A famous way of explaining the putative sources behind the Synoptics is to say that Mark was written first (Markan Priority), then both Matthew and Luke employed Mark as a source along with Quelle (a hypothetical source purportedly containing Jesus sayings). One illustration that has been given is a student using sources to write a research paper or a journalist employing sources for a story.

If this view is tenable, then GNT writings should reflect some type of literary dependency; in fact, source critics argue this is just what one finds in the Synoptics. While John's Gospel is supposed to be over ninety percent unique, Matthew allegedly reduplicates practically all of Mark's Gospel and Luke contains roughly eighty-eight percent of Mark's content (Daniel Wallace). However, the inverse is not true for the other Gospels' relationship to Mark whose Gospel reduplicates relatively little of the others. 

GNT scholars are inclined to view Matthew and Luke as expansions of Mark: twenty percent of Matthew does not appear in either Mark or Luke, but two hundred verses in both Luke and Matthew are similar to one another like the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6:20-26; Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4): this parallel material is often identified with the hypothetical Q source.

Conversely, David Black says one cannot ignore the originality of each Gospel. They are so original that it's difficult to tell which Gospel was written first. Yet the strength of literary dependency theories is that they purportedly explain more about how one Synoptic Gospel relates to another than alternative constructs.

On the other hand, form criticism (Formgeschichte) claims that one can identify oral sources by means of occurrent parables, sayings, miracles, and pronouncement stories that appear in the Synoptic Gospels, that is, the so-called Gattungen that ostensibly existed between 30-50 CE (Black); another name for Gattungen is "pericopes." This type of analysis originated between WWI and WWII, beginning with Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) and later shaped by Martin Dibelius (1883-1947) and Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976).

Reconstructing how the accounts of Jesus' life might have existed in oral form seems to involve a good deal of speculation or reading behind the text. That is why Paul Anderson has been particularly good at demonstrating the limitations of Bultmannian form-critical constructs. Rudolf Bultmann is apparently Anderson's primary target when he critiques form criticism within the context of GJohn; furthermore, Anderson wrote an introduction for Bultmann's Johannine commentary which offers constructive feedback on the latter's work.

Another preoccupation of Formgeschichte is analyzing the possible Sitz im Leben of early Jesus pericopes. In other words, how were these pericopes used in the early ecclesia? How did they function? For example, Black suggests that the account in Mark 7:24-30 may have been remembered in the oral tradition because it communicated a lesson about Jesus' treatment of those outside Judaism. This could have been the account's Sitz im Leben (life situation).

Black thus concludes: "Form criticism, then, though extremely subjective at times, can both clarify the process responsible for the remembering and recording of the text and can lead to a greater appreciation of the text’s life in the experience of the early church."

A final consideration in this entry is redaction criticism; this form of tradition criticism is the latest one to arise and it emerged at the end of WWII. "Redaction" means that the Synoptic writers supposedly  did more than compile prior Gattungen: redaction criticism would contend that the Gospel writers edited preexisting material--they allegedly selected, arranged, and presented things from their theological point of view. Black gives the example in Mark 1:13 about Mark being the only Synoptic writer to mention "wild beasts" during Jesus' temptation. Why did Mark include this detail whereas others did not? What about the slave of the high priest whose ear was cut off by Peter? Only Luke records Jesus healing the man's ear. Why is this detail only in Luke? Redaction critics would say that Mark or Luke added these details to get across a certain point.

I am not trying to defend any forms of tradition criticism, much less redaction Geschichte, but scholars routinely wield these methods. So it is good to know what they all entail. In my two concluding two posts on Black's book, I will discuss some ways that one can do exegesis with Hebrew or Greek biblical texts.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Bart Ehrman and the Book of Revelation (Brief Remarks)

I base these responses on a recent video by Ehrman shared here: these are short replies, not researched considerations:

1) Bart claims that Revelation is strange and bizarre. The book is different no doubt, but strange can sometimes exist in the beholder's eyes. I'm not in the habit of letting atheists or agnostics shape my belief system or how I think about Bible books. Personally, I love Revelation although I'm not evangelical. It helps to understand the book's genre, which admittedly can be challenging, and what the writer is trying to accomplish under the guidance of holy spirit.

2) Bart says that the book of Revelation does not reveal "our future." He has a point about the way many evangelicals understand Revelation and the unlikely scenarios they bandy about, which they read into Revelation, but it's debatable at best to claim that Revelation is not about "our future."

3) So did John expect that Revelation 19-22 would be fulfilled in his time? I find that highly implausible: these chapters of Revelation deal with the end time, when God deals a blow to evil and brings about the new heavens and new earth. Even in the second Petrine letter, the writer indicates that Christians remain in expectation of a new heavens and new earth. It was not yet a reality in the first century. I'm not trying to read John's mind but I find a preterist reading of Revelation 19-22 one of the most implausible things about that line of thinking.

4) There are some "hard sayings" in Revelation; evil is dealt a blow and the blood rises up to the horse's bridle. However, the divine war is not simply about vindictiveness. Call it "vengeance" if you like, but let's clearly and precisely define what we mean by vengeance within a biblical/GNT context. This is about Christ warring righteously: Bart may not like what the book says, but let's at least get the story straight and precisify our terms.

See also

5) Lastly, I refuse to buy into Marcionite constructions of God whereby the God of the Hebrew Bible is sharply distinguished from the New Testament deity. Malachi 3:6 reports that YHWH changes not and Exodus 34:6-7 shows the balance of divine attributes that Jews and Christians might expect.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Jehovah Takes Care of the Poor Ones (Modified Talk)

Poor ones who serve Jehovah never have reason to be anxious because Jehovah sustained poor ones in ancient Israel and he continues to uphold his poor servants today (Malachi 3:6). In what ways does God help the poor among his servants today? One way that Jehovah shows consideration for his poor servants is by teaching them to have a balanced view of money. If we turn to Luke 12:15, notice how Jesus said we should view money. 

After reading: did you notice the warning that Jesus gave? "guard against every sort of greed" 

Money can be a form of protection (Ecclesiastes 7:12); however, it makes a good servant, but a poor master. We can preserve a balanced view of money by avoiding greediness and materialism. As Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:8, "So, having food and clothing, we will be content with these things."

A second way in which Jehovah helps his poor servants is mentioned at Job 34:19 (Read).

Jehovah has taught the poor to have respect for themselves, even if they are poor. He is not partial, so God does not favor the rich over the poor (Acts 10:34-35). Is this not a comforting thought for servants of Jehovah, who have limited means? The poor and the rich are both creations of Jehovah, yes, both are the work of his hands.
Next, Jehovah teaches the poor to work hard and avoid harmful habits like smoking, overdrinking or illicit drug use (2 Corinthians 7:1).
These practices can waste valuable resources and damage our health. Yet what does God's Word teach about such practices? Read or discuss Proverbs 20:1 about drunkenness and overdrinking.

Proverbs 14:23 stresses the importance of hard work. Many people today feel that hard work is not for them: they refuse to do anything they consider to be menial or too lowly for them; for a contrast, see Ephesians 4:28.

Another way that Jehovah helps the poor is by bringing them into a loving brotherhood. Read and apply John 13:35.

1 John 3:17-18 stresses the need to help our brothers and sisters in need: we can offer practical assistance like supplying food and help with clothing. Love in deed and truth, not just in word (with the tongue). The love we show for the poor is an expression of Jehovah's love and concern for his poor servants (Proverbs 19:17). He will repay our kindness.

A final benefit to the poor is that Jehovah gives them hope. If time permits, read and apply Isaiah 65:21-23.

No matter how desperate our situation may become, we do not need to be anxious. (Isa 30:15; Philippians 4:6-7) Jehovah will care for our material needs as long as we keep on seeking first his Kingdom (Mt 6:31-33).

Show video and ask questions.

If time permits, highlight some of the pictures.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Using New Testament Greek (David A. Black)-Part X

What is rhetorical criticism and how can it be used in GNT exegesis?

Black writes: "Rhetorical analysis is essentially an attempt to clarify our understanding of the biblical text through a study of its literary techniques. Ancient authors often employed these techniques in order to assist readers to understand the message of the text or to persuade them of the truth of the presentation. As the art of reading a text, rhetorical analysis involves close attention to the scope of a given passage (its beginning and end), the discovery of figures of speech (e.g., simile and metaphor), the observation of compositional techniques (e.g., parallelism and chiasmus), and judgments about the relationship of form to meaning. Hence the interpreter should always allow for the possibility that the rhetorical dimension of the text will bear directly on exegetical questions."

Hence, one can see that rhetorical criticism (analysis) covers much ground: there are many ways that one could examine the Bible from a rhetorical perspective. First, I will consider tropes, also known as figures of speech or rhetorical devices.

Paul utilizes a trope in 1 Thessalonians 4:17: ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁρπαγησόμεθα ἐν νεφέλαις εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα· καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα.

This verse contains pleonasm (Greek, πλεονασμός). One source defines pleonasm as "the use of more words than those necessary to denote mere sense (as in the man he said)" (see Merriam-Webster): a synonym of pleonasm is redundancy. Vide David A. Black (Linguistics for Students of NT Greek, page 136)--he defines pleonasm as "the use of more words than necessary, as in 'He was appointed temporarily, for the time being.' "

Compare Ephesians 3:21, Colossians 2:13 and Philippians 1:23 for examples of this trope.

Under the entry for ἅμα in BDAG, we also read that ἅμα σὺν (1 Thessalonians 4:17) is evidently pleonastic: cf. the Latin una cum and 1 Thessalonians 5:10 which seems to be a clear example of pleonasm, maybe even more distinctly than the former verse in Thessalonians.

David J. Williams (1 and 2 Thessalonians) adds that the whole phrase ἅμα σὺν "is emphasized by placing it early in the sentence" prior to the verb ἁρπαγησόμεθα in 4:17 (Williams, page 85). He notes that ἅμα "reinforces" σὺν here.

For a potential use of pleonasm in the Gospels, see

Gregory K. Beale argues that pleonasm occurs in Revelation 2:7, 17 with the occurrence of Τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ; one thing that indicates αὐτῷ is pleonastic is the fact that some MSS omit it. See Beale, The Book of Revelation, 235-236.

For more on pleonastic participles (also called redundant or appositional participles), vide

Next I want to discuss metaphor. John Sanders made a comment upon which I'd like to piggyback:

"When God is said to be a husband, father and friend, these metaphors depend on the reality of God's being a personal agent" (The God Who Risks, page 26).

The point I want to extract from Sander's comment is that when the Bible proclaims that God is a husband, father or friend, it is employing metaphorical language. God doesn't have a corporeal and female wife and Jehovah is not a friend to any human in the same way that human friends are (Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8; James 2:23). The same principle applies to my relationship with Jehovah as Father (Matthew 6:9; James 1:17) or when it comes to his relationship with Jerusalem above (Gal. 4:26)--God's figurative wife.

Having said the foregoing, however, I want to make it clear that I think it is still possible to speak literally (i.e., non-metaphorically) about certain spiritual realities. A medieval thinker named Duns Scotus set forth the possibility that humans possess the resources to speak univocally about God and creatures. The late William Alston did work in our time on this same question: he insisted that it's possible to speak literally about God, yet much of our theological speech remains metaphorical.

One example of metaphoricity in the Bible might be Colossians 1:15.
πρωτότοκος is possibly a metaphor: (1) For according to Scripture, Christ was not really born since God is not a man and does not have a wife, but he was created since John calls him,
ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ (Revelation 3:14). Even if Trinitarians don't want to accept that Christ was created, I would submit that they don't think God sired a Son. Moreover, God's bringing forth a heavenly male Son should not be appealing to non-Trinitarians. Keep in mind that the created angels in heaven are called "sons" in the Hebrew Bible.

2) The verb "born" and its derivatives or cognates is used metaphorically in the Hebrew Scriptures to portray the divine act of bringing forth contingent entities. Psalm 90:2 refers to the "birth" of mountains actually created by God. Isaiah 66:7-8 depicts Zion giving birth to sons and a land in one day, id est, in a moment. But the context shows that Jehovah is the one who causes Zion to bring forth sons in a figurative sense: he too produces the land that suddenly issues forth.

In the prophecy's fulfillment, God is responsible for the repatriation of Judah as he causes the land to teem with people. By returning Judah to her homeland, Jehovah "creates" a new heavens and a new earth (Isa. 65:17ff); nevertheless, the prophet likewise employs birth imagery to delineate this event which is clearly metaphorical. Revelation employs similar tropes (Revelation 12:1-6).

Another trope or rhetorical device that I will discuss briefly is chiasmus: the chief interest for me is how Bible writers deploy chiasmus.

Definition of chiasmus: "
inversion of the second of two parallel phrases, clauses, etc. ( Ex.: she went to Paris; to New York went he)"

(Webster's New World College Dictionary)

Others describe chiasmus as literary crisscrossing that may assume the rhythmical form ABBA (
“But many that are first / Shall be last, / And many that are last / Shall be first”; “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”).


Compare Matthew 7:6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Colossians 3:3-4; 2 Peter 3:8.

It appears that John 14:1 employs chiasmus or literary inversion--notice the syntax, πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν θεόν, καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ πιστεύετε.

Another example of rhetorical usage is 1 John 2:12-14, which is D.A. Black's example for doing rhetorical criticism.

Further Reading:

Friday, September 10, 2021

Using New Testament Greek (David A. Black)-Part IX

How might we define structural analysis?

David Black offers these defining words: "If syntax is concerned with the meaning of words in their combination with other words, structural analysis is concerned with the ways clauses and larger thought units are placed in relation with each other. Since it is difficult to say what anything means until one has decided in a sense what everything means, the study of structure is an indispensable component of exegesis.

As you can see, structural analysis deals with the relationships between clauses and macrostructures although I've read microstructural studies before. In truth, there's no one way to do structural analysis, but I'll consider what scholars have proposed.

The main idea behind structural analysis is tracking the flow of discourse or understanding how the whole relates to the parts. One way of breaking down structures in order to see how they flow is through diagramming. For an example, see

Some benefits of diagramming is that it helps one to discern grammatical subjects: you can also determine the grammatical object and other parts of speech when diagramming and track how discourse flows. Another benefit is that diagramming facilitates the separation of salient material (what is prominent) from what the writer views as subordinate. All these efforts are part of tracking discourse flow.

Some famous examples of structures amenable to analysis include Colossians 1:15-20: these verses are thought to constitute a hymn although this interpretation is not as prevalent as the idea that Philippians 2:5-11 contains hymnic material. In any case, both Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:5-11 are considered to be structural units that one can analyze to determine how they fit into the overall discourse of the respective letters.

James D.G. Dunn examines features that purportedly help one to identify hymnic material: see his NIGT Commentary on Colossians and Philemon. Similar to other commentators, Dunn proposes that the "hymn" in Colossians 1:15-20 clearly includes poetic elements and uses exalted language about the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he points to hymnic clues like the relative clause beginning with ὅς along with a sequence of clauses and phrases falling easily into matching "rhythmic units" and a "clear structure of two strophes (1:15-18a, 18b-20)" inter alia. See Dunn, Colossians and Philemon, pages 83-85. Compare the thoughts of F.F. Bruce here:

Probably no GNT books have been studied structurally like Colossians, Philippians, Hebrews and Revelation have. The first chapter of Hebrews
possibly could be broken down structurally in the following way:

Hebrews 1:1-4 (the exordium of the Epistle)
1:5-2:18 (The Son's name is superior to the angels)
3:1-5:10 (Jesus is faithful and compassionate)
5:11-10:39 (The central exposition)
11:1-12:13 (Faith and Endurance)
12:14-13:19 (The Peaceful fruit of Justice)
13:20-25 (Conclusion of the Epistle)

This is one structure for Hebrews proposed by A. Vanhoye, and other attempts for arranging the structure of Hebrews can be found in George H. Guthrie,
The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis.

Guthrie initiates his discussion of Hebrews by reviewing past scholarly endeavors to discern the letter's structure. He convincingly demonstrates that scholars have found it rather challenging to ascertain the precise textual structure of Hebrews: it is no wonder that Guthrie humbly approaches his task.

Since Patristic times, attempts have been made to ascertain the structure and recurring motifs of Hebrews. Text-linguists currently put forth efforts to apply their knowledge of discourse principles to this Bible book; Guthrie's work demonstrates that these attempts can produce valuable fruitage.

After examining the numerous theories posited
vis-à-vis the structure of Hebrews, Guthrie proceeds to explain his own approach. Accentuating the author's use of inclusio and "hook-words," he supplies an enlightening study on the rhetorical devices employed in Hebrews and the main point the writer is trying to develop (See Hebrews 1:5-14). Guthrie's study concludes on a somber and grave note, observing that "the problems caused by the complex structure of Hebrews are not easily answered; they may never be answered with a consensus of New Testament scholarship" (146).

Comparing the writer of Hebrews to a highly skilled virtuoso, Guthrie states that while he does not understand or comprehensively fathom every rhetorical device which the writer of Hebrews wields in his discourse to the first-century recipients of his letter, he can still appreciate the hortatory and expository aspects of an epistle written by a "Mozart" of oratory (147). What insightful remarks!

The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis  showcases Guthrie's thorough knowledge of discourse analysis, rhetoric, and rabbinic practices. Additionally, his approach to Hebrews models one way to carry out structural analysis.

The only drawback to Guthrie's study is that he primarily writes for specialists who have a working knowledge of Greek and rhetoric as well as some knowledge of Hebrew and the rabbinic writings; the neophyte could quickly find himself or herself lost in the sea of technical terminology used in the book. If you like struggling with difficult subjects, however,
The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis will be worth the read.

My next post will discuss rhetorical criticism.

Other Resources:

Thursday, September 09, 2021

To Whom Can Proskynesis Properly Be Given? (Looking at Case Examples)-In Progress

This post was written years ago, but I've taken the time to edit some of it or supplement some parts: still a work in progress.

Exodus 11:8 (LXX):
καὶ καταβήσονται πάντες οἱ παῗδές σου οὗτοι πρός με καὶ προκυνήσουσίν με λέγοντες ἔξελθε σὺ καὶ πᾶς λαός σου οὗ σὺ ἀφηγῇ καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξελεύσομαι ἐξῆλθεν δὲ Μωυσῆς ἀπὸ Φαραω μετὰ θυμοῦ

In BAGD (now BDAG), Exodus 11:8 is cited as an example of the LXX using προσκυνὲω: I guess that one could interpret Moses' words there as describing inferiors bowing down to their superior, but I do not understand 11:8 that way. Even if the Egyptians would acknowledge that the Israelites were correct in their religious beliefs, and that Jehovah (YHWH) God was the living and true deity and Moses was a prophet-ruler/priest (as it were)--this would not necessarily mean that the children of Israel or Moses were superior to the Egyptian officials who would bow down to them. But maybe the text could be read that way.

Furthermore, I see no reason to view the Christians in first-century Philadelphia as being superior to the Jews who persecuted them: being a Christian does not make one superior to a non-Christian (Rev. 3:9), especially not socially. When the Jews would come "groveling" to the early Christians, I don't think they would perform this act as that of an inferior to a superior.

Regarding προσκυνεῖν and Jesus, Gerald L. Borchert declares concerning John 9:38:

"The use here of proskunein ('worship') as applied to Jesus is unique in this Gospel. While the term can be used in secular parlance for rendering 'obeisance' or prostrating oneself before another human and kissing the person's feet in an act of utmost respect, in the Biblical context the term, when applied to God, is meant to signify worship" (Borchert 325). [check]

Borchert feels that what took place in John 9:38 was an act of worship, likely because he believes that Jesus is God. However, I do not wish to debate that point now; rather, I want to point out that Borchert admits προσκυνεῖν may delineate an act rendered to "another human" and constitute a sign of "utmost respect" in secular Greek; moreover, the term can be employed that way in the LXX (Genesis 23:7).

While Borchert reckons that John 9:38 describes a religious act directed to God somehow, not all scholars agree. For instance, neither G.R. Beasley-Murray nor R. Schnackenburg think John 9:38 portrays the blind man worshiping Jesus per se.

Murray's exact comments:

"PROSEKUNHSEN is commonly translated [in John 9:38], 'he worshiped him' . . . but this is doubtful. KUNEW means 'to kiss,' its extension in PROSKUNEW reflects the Eastern custom of prostrating oneself before a person and kissing his feet, especially of one viewed as belonging to the supernatural world, e.g., a deified king . . . Note also Acts 10:25, and Rev. 3:9, which is significant in view of the frequent and consistent use of the term in Revelation for the worship of God or pseudo-divinities. It would seem that in John 9:38 the healed man is ascribing honor to the Redeemer from God, which is beyond that due to other men but short of that due to God Almighty" (Murray 159-160).

Again, Murray says that PROSKUNEW could be performed "before a person," especially of a "superior. Yet according to this Johannine scholar, PROSKUNEW is not limited to those who are one's superiors. It is also clear that Murray does not view John 9:38 as proof that Jesus is worshiped while on earth; the former blind man is seen as ascribing honor to the God-sent Redeemer. This honor is greater than the kind given to other men, but less than the honor vouchsafed to God Almighty. Depending on his intent, I concur with this part of his remarks.

Finally, Schnackenburg professes:

"The man's action is not the expression of formal adoration of Jesus, but of the honor due to the God-sent bringer of salvation which itself gives honor and adoration to God. It shows the man's advance from his Jewish faith (vv 31-33) to Christian faith" (Schnackenburg 2:254).

I might add remarks by Ralph Earle pertaining to Mark 5:6 which show that PROSKUNEW does not always mean worship, in the Biblical context; of course, Jesus was and is superior to any human. This doesn't mean that the man in Mark's Gospel was worshiping Jesus when EDRAMEN KAI PROSEKUNHSEN AUTWi. Mark 5:6 could illustrate the non-religious import of PROSKUNEW.

I offer one other thought on proskunew: R.E. Brown in the Anchor Bible for the Gospel of John I-XII:

So, Brown thinks the blind man offers worship to Jesus in John 9:38. Could he be mistaken?