Wednesday, July 30, 2014

1 Peter 3:18-22 Exegetical Notes

Text


18 ὅτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἅπαξ περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἔπαθεν, δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων, ἵνα ὑμᾶς προσαγάγῃ τῷ θεῷ, θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζῳοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι· 19 ἐν καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν, 20 ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ εἰς ἣν ὀλίγοι, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί, διεσώθησαν διʼ ὕδατος. 21 καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 22 ὅς ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ θεοῦ πορευθεὶς εἰς οὐρανὸν ὑποταγέντων αὐτῷ ἀγγέλων καὶ ἐξουσιῶν καὶ δυνάμεων.

Critical


v18 περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἔπαθεν // many
There are a wide variety of varients. I think it’s more likely that ἀπέθανεν was an alteration of ἔπαθεν, and the ὑπέρ variants are expansions.

v18 ὑμᾶς / ἡμᾶς / omit
The 2nd person is more likely to have been changed to the 1st, than vice versa.

v21 / ὡς / omit
As Metzger says, though it is difficult to understand, no other reading makes better sense, indeed they are likely attempts to make sense of the text.

Translation


Because also Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God, being put to death in the flesh, but being raised in the Spirit; in which also going, he preached to the spirits in prison, those that at a former time disobeyed when the patience of God waitied patiently in the Days of Noah, constucting the ark into which few, i.e. eight souls, were saved through water; which is [this] – now baptism as an antitype saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body, but the appeal of a good conscience to God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into Heaven having subjected angels and authorities and powers to him.

Commentary


We now come to the most difficult passage in 1 Peter, and one of the conundrums of the New Testament.

It should not be missed that in this third (cf 1:18-21, 2:22-25, as per Goppelt) christological passage, it is introduced by ὅτι, connecting the thought of this as a ground for the ethical instruction in 3:13-17, especially 17.

I think we can largely agree that the idea of Christ’s descent into hell is, for the most part, the failure to understand the Latin addition and expansion of “was buried” in the Apostles’ Creed, and when both phrases were present it became necessary to understand “descended into hell” as meaning something other than “was buried”, so that previous generations misunderstood both their Creed and the Passage.
Jobes highlights four exegetical questions that demand an answer:

1.      Where did Christ go?
2.      When did he go?
3.      To whom did he speak?
4.      What did he say?

Verse 18, reading ἔπαθεν rather than ἀπέθανεν (suffered rather than died), makes best sense of the text. There are no uncontested occurrences of ‘died’, and ‘suffered’ with the meaning of ‘died’ makes better sense given Peter’s overall context of dealing with suffering. Therefore I reject Grudem inter aliis who propose reading ‘died’.

The inclusion of the adverb ‘once’ signifies the decisive and final nature of Christ’s suffering (the aorist tense itself should not be construed as signifying the ‘once for all nature’ of the event, this is over-reading tense-aspect). Furthermore that suffering had a redemptive purpose: “to bring you to God”. The pattern of Christ’s suffering is righteous suffering that leads through death to victory. This is the pattern that is laid down for the believer as well, even though the dynamics of that death and victory differ. In Christ’s case, it is the suffering of the righteous one on behalf of the unrighteous. Christ’s death, furthermore, is ‘for sins’, a phrase repeated through the OT Law referring to sacrificial sin offerings. The ‘once’ of Christ’s death is linked to its substitionary and atoning character.
In reading v18 in connection with 2:24 we see that believers in this context are the ‘unrighteous’ for whom Christ suffered, but now live as those who have died to unrighteousness and live for righteousness, so that the pattern of their own suffering is now modelled on the suffering of Christ the Righteous One.

The complementary participial phrases, “being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the Spirit” also needs careful attention. It is very wont to be misread along English language lines as a physical death but a ‘disincarnate’ resurrection. Rather, “in the Spirit” should be understood as something more like “in the realm of the Spirit’s activity”. However, the meaning of the second of these phrases must be further considered in relation to the opening of verse 19, ἐν - in which.
If one adopts the sense that Christ preached through Noah to Noah’s generation, then the phrase must be understood to refer to the pre-incarnate Christ. This is difficult, and the best argument for it is Grudem’s. It is difficult, I would say, since it means taking ἐν as meaning “in [the realm of] the Spirit” but divorcing that meaning from the immediate contrast between death and resurrection and temporally translocating it to mean that Christ, in the Spirit, preached (at a prior time).
Grudem lists 5 views:

1.      When Noah was building the ark, Christ in the Spirit preached through Noah to unbelievers then on earth, who are now spirits in prison (Grudem’s view)
2.      Christ, post-death, preached a second chance of repentance and salvation to people in hell.
3.      Christ, post-death, proclaimed his victory and triumph to people in hell.
4.      Christ, post-death, proclaimed salvation for “people who had repented just before they died in the flood”, and led them from Purgatory to Heaven. (A Catholic position traceable back to Robert Bellarmine in 1586)

5.      Christ, post-death, proclaimed triumph over fallen angels who had sinned in marrying human women before the flood. (Dalton, Selwyn). [This view depends upon both a reading of Genesis 6, and a knowledge of Jewish traditions by Peter and his readers, specifically 1 Enoch].

The key syntactical question between v18-19 is how to construe the datives. Are they (i) locatives, (ii) datives of respect/reference, (iii) instrumental, or (iv) simple conjunction? Or in fact are they not matched, and so able to be read differently. As I said above, Grudem reads them in a locative sense.
The view that Christ did descend into hell and proclaim the gospel, the kind of view of Clement and Origen, does not originally draw upon 1 Peter for its exegetical basis, and runs into problems of language. σάρξ for Peter rarely means “physical body”, just as πνεῦμα tends not to mean “disembodied soul”. If that was his meaning, we would rather expect the pairing of σῶμα and ψυχή here.
For these kinds of reasons, and with the majority of recent commentators, I am happy to understand the two phrases as referring “either to two spheres of Christ’s existence… or to two modes of his personal existence.”[1] Though, we should not, this does not yet solve our dilemma! However it does lead into our understanding of “in which” + participle that commences v19. If it picks up the meaning of the final phrase of v18, and does not involve temporal dislocation as Grudem suggests, then the context is at or immediately after the resurrection.

Jobes notes several reasons why v19 should not follow the traditional Western reading, including the absence of ‘descent’ language, the absence of traditional titles for the place of the dead (Hades, Tartarus, Sheol), and the use of the word φυλακῇ, not otherwise used in the NT for the place of the dead.

For Jobes, the necessary background is Jewish tradition as founding 1 Enoch. Especially 1 Enoch 12 and the story of the Watchers, which embellishes and elaborates on Genesis 6:1-4; this is view 5 per Grudem above. In brief, the Watchers are fallen angels, who had sex with human women, whose offspring were giants, from whom evil spirits came, who corrupt people and the earth; the Watchers appeal to Enoch to intercede with God, God’s response is to imprison the Watchers, and would watch the destruction of their children, those evil spirits.

Jobes notes that Peter’s readers do not require an explicit knowledge of 1 Enoch, all that is required is a general knowledge of a reasonably widespread Jewish tradition. That still leaves open whether such a general knowledge existed, and whether there was enough of a tradition of connecting evil spirits with the Noah account to make this passage meaningful and apparent without further elaboration. Jobes goes on to delineate “four extant accounts of a great flood that were indigenous to Asia Minor.”[2]
If we weigh Grudem’s and Jobes’ arguments, key questions remain on both sides. With regard to Grudem, his attempt to dislocate the temporality of the preaching event, to those now in prison but the preaching occurring pre-incarnation, is difficult in and of itself to square with the syntax of v18-19. However Jobes’ account runs into problems with its heavy reliance on the Enoch tradition, which we may question both in terms of its utility in explaining the context, as well as theologically in terms of how Genesis 6 ought to be understood.

In Jobes’ version, the proclamation is of the risen Christ to evil spirits/fallen angels, the content is confirmatory and vindicatory declaration of his triumph and God’s judgment, and the effect is to provide encouragement to believers of the certainty of Christ’s victory over evil in the face of present suffering. The reference then to Noah, and the salvation through water of the few, parallels the socio-historical setting of Asia Minor believers, who are also small in number, in a time of God’s patience with unbelievers’ sin, but who will assuredly be both delivered and vindicated.

I have not finished with this matter, but it’s worth quoting Grudem’s conclusion, since although he has a radically different theological understanding of the passage, his understanding of the passage’s rhetorical effect is almost identical:

In its context, this passage thus functions (1) to encourage the readers to bear witness boldly in the midst of hostile unbelievers, just as Noah did; (2) to assure them that though they are few, God will surely save them; (3) to remind them of the certainty of final judgment and Christ’s ultimate triumph over all the forces of evil which oppose them.[3]

We still have to deal with verses 20-22, which moves the discussion to Noah and salvation ‘through water’ as an antitype of baptism. Verse 20 refers to the salvation of Noah and his family “through water”, which is meant in an instrumental sense. Just as the flood was the sudden and dramatic judgment of God, it represented the means by which God saved them. The parallel δία phrase is not baptism, but ἀναστάσεως, resurrection, which immediately dislocates attempts to read the passage as an endorsement of sacramental baptism for salvation.

What is the antecedent of ? Is it ‘water’ (so Achtemeier, France, Michaels), or ‘antitype’ (Elliot), or all of 3:20b (Beare, Cook, Goppelt), or even ὑμᾶς (so Selwyn)? The latter is particularly unlikely on grammatical grounds alone. The most immediate antecedent would be water, unless we take it conceptually; I think the best solution is to translate as I have done, “which is [this] – now baptism as an antitype saves you also”. However we take it, the parallels of the typology must be noted, especially as to see how Peter avoids maximalism. As per Elliot:

               20                          21
               a few                    you
               were saved         baptism now saves
               through water    through the resurrection of Jesus

The statement that baptism saves is qualified in two ways that significantly count against the sacramentalist view. Firstly, the two δία phrases correspond so that however we understand baptism, we understand its salvific element to be instrumentally realised through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One could flip Peter’s statement and read “you are saved by Jesus’ resurrection through baptism”. One is the ground and transforming power of salvation, the other the means by which that ground and power is applied.

Secondly, Peter elaborates on what baptism is in a contrastive phrase, “not the removal of dirt from the body, but the appeal of a good conscience to God”. The first part, in combining the language of ἀπόθεσις with the strong word for moral filth, ῥύπος, seems to point far less to external washing, and rather to the utter removal of moral filth from Christians. Peter’s point is that baptism does not effect this as a once for all event. Rather, in contrast, it is “a pledge of good conscience unto God”. What kind of pledge and what kind of conscience? Under the evidence of 2nd century lexical data, Jobes follows the suggestion that it is indeed a pledge, rather than as request for a good conscience, so that in baptism believers are committing themselves to a disposition of faithfulness towards God. In baptism, believers pledge themselves “to live in relationship with God, which would result in a good conscience before him.”[4]

How does this fit the rhetorical import of the passage? We must remember that Peter’s whole aim from 18-22 is to support the notion of v17, that it is better to suffer righteously than unrighteously. In the face of suffering, Peter builds upon both the example and the efficacy of Christ’s own righteous death, before drawing a typological link to Noah’s situation, comparable in some ways to his addressees’, and connecting this to baptism, whose salvific efficacy is grounded in Christ’s resurrection, but whose hortatory power derives from the pledge that believers have made to continue in fidelity to the Lord to whom they have pledged.

The final verse of this section, v22, completes the redemptive and Christological frame of the passage, complementing “Christ died” in v18 and πορευθείς in v19 (a resurrection reference in light of v18), with a second πορευθείς referring to his ascension and resuming the sequence of participles. Christ’s ascension is a presentation of his final and complete victory over angels and powers and authorities. If Christ has conquered the primordial forces of evil in the world, through his death and resurrection, “who is there to harm you if you are zealous for the good?”

However we read it, it is noteworthy that both main interpretations that I have offered here give a rhetorical impact that is quite similar. Grudem highlights that the passage aims at three functions, “(1) to encourage the readers to bear witness boldly in the midst of hostile unbelievers, just as Noah did; (2) to assure them that though they are few, God will surely save them; (3) to remind them of the certainty of final judgment and Christ’s ultimate triumph over all the forces of evil which oppose them”.[5] This, in my view, is the force of the passage on either reading.



[1] Jobes, p242.
[2] p245f.
[3] Wayne A. Grudem, 1 Peter: An Introduction and Commentary, p248.
[4] Jobes, p255-6.
[5] Grudem, ibid.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The idolatry of liberty and the sin of slavery

I was reading just yesterday some of Edwin Judge's work in Social Distinctives of the Christians in the First Century, and particularly was enjoying some of his perceptive comments on Paul as radical critic of society.

One of the standard criticisms of Christianity, and the New Testament in particular, is how little it does to oppose slavery. Why doesn't it? Why didn't Christians abolish slavery immediately? This kind of discourse is, I find, especially prevalent in American circles. I believe it emerges from a number of complex factors. These include that (1) Americans generally understand and process 'slavery' through the American experience of slavery. This tends to skew their perception of slavery practices in other times and places. (2) Americans are enculturated in a tradition that makes the civil war, and the abolition of slavery in the US, part of the defining history of their national identity. We can point to Wilberforce and Evangelicals in England all we like, the American narrative is different. (3) Liberty, in both a political and an ideological sense, is deeply embedded as a core cultural value in the American psyche. That concept of liberty has become more extreme in contemporary political and philosophical discourses, so that radical autonomy of the will is seen as the great moral good.

Which is why, in contemporary American thinking, slavery is one of the great moral evils, one which America banished and defeated. And anything that can be tied to slavery is also 'on the wrong side of history'.

Anyway, let's return to Edwin's work. Edwin points out how Paul seems so radically uninterested in questions of social status and the way friendships work in classical society. He has many female friends, and calls them co-workers, and doesn't make a big deal of this. He moves freely across social strata. He engages in manual labour. He seems simply not to care that people are slaves. Judge suggests that this is part of a relativisation of social status. That, in Paul's new social ordering where service is such a key element, being or not being a slave is not so important. "Become free if you can" means that Paul sees the social advantage of being emancipated, but no moral imperative to do so.

I want to point to a few interesting elements of the New Testament in this regard In 1 Peter 2:13, Peter writes "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution". I wrote in my exegetical notes on this passage that here Peter, while on the one hand upholding a contemporary social order, at the same time radically undermines it because he places submission to authority on the foundation of submission to the supreme authority of God. This delegitimises other claims to authority and power - they are all dependent and subordinate upon the supreme God.

Secondly, in looking at Galatians 3:26-29, I have argued that what Paul is articulating is radical equality of status before God, not radical abolition of difference. This is clearly apparent in the first two instances, since slaves and free-people continue to be the same, and Jews and Gentiles remain Jews and Gentiles. Paul elsewhere continues his practice of relating differently to differences, and does not argue for a gender egalitarianism that means no gender distinction at all. Simply put, before God, these differences mean nothing.

Is not the same true for slavery? If as a slave I am entirely free and equal before God, what theological meaning attaches to my slavery at all? None. This is even more radical than overturning the slave system of antiquity, it renders it meaningless, powerless, void, all in an instant. And for Paul that opens up a possibility that is impossible for modern liberty-minded folk to contemplate: it might be of more service to remain a slave, even when you could go free. 

I am almost certain to be misunderstood by some people in this post. I have no desire to return to a world with slaves (all the while acknowledging that the slave trade is in fact real and happening in today's world). Slavery has, indeed, been a system of great and terrible evils. But the NT shows us something shockingly different - slavery is not the greatest evil of all. In fact, Philippians 2 tells us the most amazing thing: the one in the form of God took on the form of a slave, and so became obedient unto death.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Interviews with Communicative Greek Teachers (2): Michael Halcomb

It's my pleasure this week to interview Michael Halcomb. Not to be confused with the several Michael Holcombs out there! Halcomb. Anyway, I have had some personal connection with Michael, taking a few courses through the CKI program which, given how many other Ancient Greek speakers I run into on the streets of Ulaanbaatar, has been a real blessing. In this field, nothing is quite like real-time in-language interaction. Anyway, I think Michael's doing great work, and so let's hear from him:

1. What’s your personal academic background?

      First of all Seumas, let me say “Thanks!” for inviting me to share on your site by way of this short interview/questionnaire. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog as the opportunities to do have arisen and am glad there are folks like yourself writing about language, language teaching, and language learning. But to get to your question, I have four degrees in Biblical Studies. I earned a B.S. with a double-major (Bible, and Youth & Family Ministries) + a minor (Homiletics) from Kentucky Christian University and then went on to do my M.Div. at Lexington Theological Seminary. After that I did an M.A in Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and after taking a year off, went back to Asbury and finished a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies (New Testament focus). In addition to that I've done some continuing education along the way in ancient Greek.



2. How did you first learn Greek?

      When I first started learning Greek it was something that I really came to despise. My first exposure to it was via a traditional online class. Basically we just logged into a Moodle-like forum, uploaded an assignment, commented on a thread, and logged off. Essentially, I was wrestling through teaching myself Greek by way of using a grammar book. There were no audio lectures, no video lectures, no live online meetings, no live in-person meetings, etc.. It was just me and the book, and despite having studied some French and Spanish in high school many years earlier, this experience and this type of approach was completely foreign to me (in multiple ways). All that set me on a path that kept me in a constant wrestling match with Greek. One thing I knew about myself was that this just wasn't working for me like I wanted it to.

      The result was that I eventually started creating my own resources to help “get” the language. I created my own notes and dictionaries, flash games, websites, interactive quizzes, audio recordings, etc.. I was attempting to fire on all cylinders and have my interaction with the language be more holistic. This helped me tremendously as I went on to take exegesis, research, reading, and language courses across the span of my academic career.

3. What made you shift to a communicative methodology?

      I mentioned just above that in my journey of language learning I had been creating all sorts of resources for myself. This was not just for Greek, however, because I eventually had to take exams for German, French, Hebrew, and Aramaic. In studying those languages and preparing for quizzes, exams, and classes, I found that two things were especially helpful for me personally in engaging and retaining the vocabulary, etc: 1) Creating audio recordings; and 2) Writing in the language. To this day, those two elements—speaking and writing—are what I find to be key in the language learning process.

      Eventually, I came to learn that others were doing similar things, that is, making recordings, writing in the language, etc.. In fact, I realized that folks had been doing this for many many years. And so, when I ran into others online who were engaging in similar practices and realized that a small community existed, I was incredibly relieved. This seemed to not only affirm my struggle with the language but also my desire to move in what many today would consider “unorthodox” or “non-traditional” ways of teaching (which may actually be kind of backwards, historically speaking). So, I think that one of the major things that caused me to go ahead and make the whole shift into teaching via a communicative approach was the realization that there were others, a type of small community, who were trying to do it too. And that’s precisely the DNA of the Conversational Koine Institute—it’s a rapidly growing community consisting of folks who want a more holistic approach to language learning and language teaching.

4. How did you first equip yourself to use a communicative method? What were some of the difficulties?

      As I noted previously, two of the things I have done most, in addition to reading, is making audio recordings and writing in the target language. Apart from what education I've had and the skills I gained there, I started getting involved in small pockets of communities where folks were trying to speak. What I noticed happening, however, was a sort of antagonistic pendulum swing. It was not only as if the so-called “traditional” (i.e. grammar-translation) approach was inefficient, but that it was somehow evil and wretched. That sort of attitude and discussion was and continues to be a constant turn-off to me; in my opinion, it’s just not all that helpful or needed. And that has led many to just neglect and even discard explicit grammar teaching altogether. To me, that’s even worse! In my view, then, that needed to be remedied. And that’s why I launched the Conversational Koine Institute. Here, students will be exposed to classes taught in the target language in fun, conversational ways, but also get needed discussions of grammar, grammatical terminology, syntax, etc., also in the target language. This equips students with the ability to navigate the language in the language as well as to talk about and discuss the language in the language (I’m thinking “meta-language” here). So, one of the first things I started doing was researching ancient grammar and grammar terms. Since nothing like that really existed and students kept requesting it, I turned it into a book and had it published. Getting that settled was one of the initial hurdles I had to jump over. Another hurdle was getting the word out about CKI. Fortunately, CKI is growing quickly today and I’m grateful for that; I’m grateful to see a portion of the movement spring forth from CKI!

5. What courses or materials do you currently offer?

      At present the Conversational Koine Institute offers a number of classes, workshops, and materials. With regard to the classes we have a core curriculum that consists of Greek 1-5. In addition to this there are Greek Readings classes and various types of immersion events and workshops year-round. We now also have Hebrew 1 and Latin 1 courses. CKI is always innovating and new courses in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin will be offered continually. CKI also has a Greek Certificate Program that offers Continuing Education Units/Credits in conjunction with Asbury Theological Seminary. We have also formed a relationship with an undergraduate institution in Canada.

      As far as materials, CKI offers a lot. In addition to live classes, I have created a number of helpful audio, video, and print resources. You can find some free ones here (http://www.conversationalkoine.com/2013/02/sneak-peeks-downloadables-etc.html). There's a list of print resources (some of which have additional audio companion files) with links at the end of this interview.

6. What sort of outcomes do your students generally finish with? Where are they ‘at’ when they’ve completed a course of study with you?

      This is actually a really tough question. It is tough because every single student is different. Students have different work ethics, attitudes, focus levels, backgrounds in (the) language, interest levels, amounts of time to put into the language, etc.. But this, of course, is not something unique to CKI students; rather, this is pretty much just the case with students taking any subject anywhere. Nevertheless, I do try to shoot for several outcomes for students who can make it all the way through Greek 5. So, let me speak with a view to going all the way through as opposed to just completing a single class. In addition to being able to listen, respond, and speak, one of my biggest goals is to equip students to be able to read Greek texts like the New Testament with a high level of comfort. I would hope that the students who can make it through these 5 core classes would be able to take an intermediate level seminary class and be farther along than most of the other students in there, and eager and ready to move on to an advanced class. They should be farther along because they will have a broader understanding of the language and the way it works as well as a much more expansive vocabulary. At CKI, when students make it all the way through the 5 courses, they are permitted to take the Greek Readings courses that are offered each semester (everyone else must be enrolled in another Greek class to take those). Of course, I cannot make any promises as to where an individual student may be. But if they come and really apply themselves and stick with it, my hope is that they’d be, as I said before, comfortably at home within the Greek New Testament, and well-equipped to take an intermediate level seminary class and eager and ready to move on to advanced classes.

      With that said, I’d love to invite any of your readers to come join us at CKI. Early Fall classes begin Tues. Aug. 12th for Greek and Sat. Aug. 16th for Hebrew and Latin. Classes are already filling up quick. If folks are interested, they can register on the site here (http://www.conversationalkoine.com/p/contact.html).

     Thanks again for hosting this conversation, Seumas, I hope readers find it edifying and helpful. Keep up the good work!

Links
Mark: GlossaHouse Illustrated Greek-English New Testament
Speak Koine Greek: A Conversational Handbook (has audio companion files)
ἡ ὁδός: The Path to Learning Greek (has companion audio files)
ὀκτακόσιοι λόγοι καὶ εἰκόνες: 800 Words and Images: A New Testament Greek Vocabulary Builder (has companion audio files)
A Handbook of Ancient Greek Grammatical Terms: Greek-English and English-Greek
Ποῦ Οἱ Σταφυλῖνοι Εἰσιν; διήημα ἐν τῇ Κοινῇ διαλέκτῳ (Where Are The Carrots? A story in Koine) (has audio and video companion files)
A Parallel & Interlinear New Testament Polyglot: Luke-Acts in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, German, and French


Friday, July 25, 2014

Developing the Neo-Koine vocabulary

One of the great challenges for anyone wanting to speak some 'contemporary' Ancient Greek is that often there are simply not good vocabulary resources available. That is beginning to change, but slowly.

The past week I've been working on a little something that will help this along. Over at this site there is a 625 word list of common words. It's English based, but what we need in this case is a common word list of spoken language, and so this is as good as anything. We can acquire a good reading vocabulary through reading, but a speaking vocabulary needs words for everyday things.

I took that list and have been creating my own multi-lingual version of it, and the version we are interested in today is Ancient Greek. Here's the section on 'locations':

Greek English
πόλις, έως, ἡ city
οἰκία, ας, ἡ house
κατοικία, ας, ἡ apartment
ὁδος, ου, ἡ street
ὁδος, ου, ἡ road
ὁ τοῦ ἀέρος λιμήν airport
σταθμός, οῦ, ὁ train station
γέφυρα, ας, ἡ bridge
πανδοκεῖον, ου, τό hotel
καπηλεῖον, ου, τό restaurant
ἀγρός, οῦ, ὁ farm
δικαστήριον, ου, τό court
διδασκαλεῖον, ου, τό school
ἐργαστήριον, ου, τό office
οἴκημα, ατος, τό room
πόλις, έως, ἡ town
πανεπιστήμιον, ου, τό university
χορειοθηκή, ῆς, ἡ nightclub
καπηλεῖον, ου, τό bar
κῆπος, ου, ὁ park
σκηναί, ῶν, αἱ camp
πωλητήριον, ου, τό store/shop
θέατρον, ου, τό theater
βιβλιοθήκη, ης, ἡ library
νοσοκομεῖον, ου, τό hospital
ἐκκλησία, ας, ἡ church
ἀγορά, ᾶς, ἡ market
χώρα, ας, ἡ country
οἰκοδόμημα, ατος, τό building
ἔδαφος, ου, τό ground
οὐρανός, οῦ, ὁ space
οὖδας, οὔδεος, τό floor
τράπεζα, ας, ἡ bank
τόπος, ου, ὁ location


There are three types of words here. Some are indeed classical/Koine words already attested. Others are retro-engineered terms, which I derive by taking Modern Greek and working backwords. πανεπιστήμιον is one of those, though I suspect a better word might be found for "university". Thirdly there are terms that are neologisms of my own construction, for example χορειοθηκή is made up from χορειος - relating to dance, and θήκη - a case, but already used in βιβλιοθήκη, and related to latin thēca so not a big leap to χορειοθήκη.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

1 Peter 3:13-17 Exegetical Notes

Text

13 Καὶ τίς κακώσων ὑμᾶς ἐὰν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ζηλωταὶ γένησθε; 14 ἀλλʼ εἰ καὶ πάσχοιτε διὰ δικαιοσύνην, μακάριοι. τὸν δὲ φόβον αὐτῶν μὴ φοβηθῆτε μηδὲ ταραχθῆτε, 15 κύριον δὲ τὸν Χριστὸν ἁγιάσατε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, ἕτοιμοι ἀεὶ πρὸς ἀπολογίαν παντὶ τῷ αἰτοῦντι ὑμᾶς λόγον περὶ τῆς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐλπίδος, 16 ἀλλὰ μετὰ πραΰτητος καὶ φόβου, συνείδησιν ἔχοντες ἀγαθήν, ἵνα ἐν καταλαλεῖσθε καταισχυνθῶσιν οἱ ἐπηρεάζοντες ὑμῶν τὴν ἀγαθὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστροφήν. 17 κρεῖττον γὰρ ἀγαθοποιοῦντας, εἰ θέλοι τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, πάσχειν κακοποιοῦντας.

Critical

v14 μηδὲ ταραχθῆτε / καὶ οὐ μὴ ταραχθῆτε / omit
The first reading has strong support. Omission can be explained as the eye moving from φοβηθητε to ταραχθητε.

v15 τὸν Χριστόν / τὸν θεόν
The former reading has widespread and early support.

v16 καταλαλεῖσθε / καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν / καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν / καταλαλῶσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν
Again, the shorter reading is preferable, the later readings more likely explicable as accretions.

Translation

And who is the one who will harm you if you become zealots of what is good? But even if you should suffer on account of righteousness, you are blessed. “Do not fear their fear nor be troubled”, but consecrate the Lord Christ in your hearts, being always prepared to give a defense to all that inquire of you concerning the hope that is in you, but with humility and respect, having a good conscience, so that in that which they speak against you they may be ashamed, those that malign your good way of life in Christ. For it is better, doing good, if the will of God wills it, to suffer, than [because of] doing evil.

Commentary

Verse 13 offers us a rhetorical question following from verse 12, possibly an allusion to Isa 50:9 LXX. The implied answer is “no one”, though that answer must be nuanced by the reality of the situation Peter is addressing. It is indeed possible that someone will bring harm against the believers. Peter, rather, is configuring the situation in light of God’s sovereign goodness. It is the Petrine parallel to a passage like Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

However, given the general tone of the passage, it is probably correct to understand the socio-historical setting as prior to the Neronic persecution, for otherwise the rhetorical power of the question is lost; if the setting were one of significant persecution or the possibility of the same, then the perceived answer would be that there were indeed those seeking to harm believers. We must, then, balance the reality of possible suffering, as Peter addresses repeatedly not only for believers who are slaves, but all believers, against the Christocentric expression of God’s goodness through unjust suffering. This is seen in the first part of v14, where the the real possibility of various forms of suffering is acknowledged, in the conditional + optative phrase. In light of this, believers are “blessed”; the only other reference to believers being blessed in this way comes in 4:14, in a similar context. We would do well to compare with Matthew 5:10 and I suggest that Peter’s understanding in this context derives from Jesus’ own teaching. Jobes puts it well, “for Peter the privilege of living rightly because of Christ and suffering for it is nothing less than a blessing, a sign of God’s favor and evidence of one’s salvation.”

Verse 14b offers the first half of a response, quoting from Isa 8:12 LXX. IN context, Isaiah is encouraging Judah not to feer the Israel-Aram alliance of Assyria, because ultimately (a) God is with them, and (b) God is to be feared. While the grammar of v14 is difficult in English translation, “do not fear their fear”, the sense is “the fear that they cause” rather than “the fear which they fear”. This is complicated by the fact that in the Isaiah context it is the latter sense that is intended. Peter modifies the quotation slightly replacing a singular 3rd person pronoun referring back to ‘this people’ with a plural, ‘their’, but this really only adjusts to the lack of a collective antecedent. It is the setting in Peter that transforms the meaning.

Verse 15 continues the quotation, and provides the counter-part to the negative command in 14b, “sanctify the Lord, Christ”. Again there is modification from Isa 8:13 LXX, and this time more significant. Peter takes κύριον αὐτὸν ἁγιάσατε (sanctify the Lord himself) and substitutes in τὸν Χριστόν for αὐτόν. Assuming that the grammatical construction remains similar, this yields to appositional phrase “sanctify the Lord, Christ”, giving a clear example of identifying the Christ with the Lord of the OT.

The setting is different, and so the exhortation is appropriately adjusted, but its basic thrust is the same. In the face of opposition and threat, believers are to put their trust in the Lord himself, as he is both with believers, and is to be feared. For NT believers, the Lord they know, the Lord who is with them, the Lord to be feared, is Christ himself. Theocentric faith is, post-incarnation, always Christocentric faith.

The second part of v15 has long been used as the springboard verse for Christian apologetics, and not without good reason. However it is unlikely that Peter has in mind either philosophical presentation or a strict legal setting for ‘defence’, but rather the readiness of believers to give an account of their belief in the face of inquiry, particularly pointed or hostile inquiry. “Hope that is in you” means something like “the eschatological expectation of salvation that is shared among the community of believers.” Such a presentation must be a meaningful communication with outsiders, not the mere re-patterning of insider language for self-affirmation.
Further, v16 consists of qualifications of the manner and purpose of such an account. Firstly, with fear and humility. Fear is probably better understood here as ‘reverence’ or ‘respect’, in keeping with Peter’s general usage through the letter. Achtemeier understands it as respect towards God, while Jobes prefers respect towards outsiders grounded in respect towards God (cf 2:17-18).

Secondly, having a good conscience, believers are to offer such an account with integrity, both of message and of conduct. Integrity of witness is dependent not only upon the content of the message, but the conduct of the speaker, both in the delivery of the account, and in the day-to-day life of the believer.

Thirdly, the purpose of such giving an answer is to evoke shame for those that malign believers’ way of life in Christ. Again, we must not directly read contemporary western notions of shame as embarrassment into the text, but recognise that shame has to do with social status in terms of loss of face and social defeat. Christians are not to engage in the same kind of honour-contest behaviour as unbelievers, i.e. using malignant language and insult, but rather by patient, honourable, upright discourse and lifestyle shaped by continual trust in the Lord and eventual vindication.

This ethical response is brought full circle in v17 with a “better than” proverbial statement, comparable to Jesus’ teaching, as well as OT Wisdom literature.