As you may already know—unless you live under a rock—the Nestle-Aland 28th edition is right around the corner. I am excited about this as I know all students and scholars of the New Testament are as well. I was perusing their site today and noticed that in the section “Revision of the Catholic Letters” they had indicate a few changes in the NA28. One of them—which I have written on in the past—is the famous passage in Jude 5.
Professor Rod Decker, who teaches New Testament and Greek at Baptist Bible Seminary recently announced over at his blog that he will soon be publishing a first-year Greek grammar entitled Learning Koine Greek. Tentatively scheduled for a 2014 release, Dr. Decker says he has been working on LKG for the last four years. Prof Decker is no stranger to the world of Koine Greek. He has published a monograph on Mark in the “Studies in Biblical Greek” series called Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal Aspect, Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers, and a forthcoming handbook on Mark’s Gospel in the “Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament.” He also writes quite a bit on Greek grammar on his blog. I look forward to his contribution to Greek language study and will most certainly be picking up a copy of LKG once it is released.
Mark’s Gospel continues to be my favorite of the Synoptics. I find myself returning to its message time and again, always encouraged by the way Mark is able to get to the point of the message quickly and powerfully. This week I found myself back at the beginning of Mark. In the past I would normally read at a relatively steady pace, moving from to one scene to the next. This time, after reading Beale’s work on New Testament Theology I decided to slow the pace and listen for echoes that may be in the text. This is something that I should do far more often!
Mark begins his writing with a brief introduction (or title): Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ (1:1). Unlike John’s Gospel, where the presence of ἀρχὴ is meant to point back to the beginning of creation (cf. Gen 1:1, Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν), the ἀρχὴ in Mark is τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ. The comparative καθὼς, along with the citation formula γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ (1:2a) locate the ἀρχὴ …τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ in the OT message of Isaiah. For Mark, the Gospel message has its roots in the prophet Isaiah and his message to Israel.
In Mk 1:2b-3 three passages of scripture are included in Mark’s citation formula of 1:2a, which Mark apparently conflates into Ἠσαΐᾳ τῷ προφήτῃ : Ex 23:20; Mal 3:1; and Isa 40:3. The following tables are a visual layout of these OT citations:
|הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י שֹׁלֵ֤חַ מַלְאָךְ֙ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ לִשְׁמָרְךָ֖ בַּדָּ֑רֶךְ וְלַהֲבִ֣יאֲךָ֔ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֲכִנֹֽתִי||Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ἵνα φυλάξῃ σε ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ, ὅπως εἰσαγάγῃ σε εἰς τὴν γῆν, ἣν ἡτοίμασά σοι||Behold, I am sending my angel before you to guard you on the way and thus bring you into the land which I promised you|
|הִנְנִ֤י שֹׁלֵחַ֙ מַלְאָכִ֔י וּפִנָּה־דֶ֖רֶךְ לְפָנָ֑י||ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου, καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου||Behold, I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me|
|ק֣וֹל קוֹרֵ֔א בַּמִּדְבָּ֕ר פַּנּ֖וּ דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְהוָ֑ה יַשְּׁרוּ֙ בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה מְסִלָּ֖ה לֵאלֹהֵֽינוּ||φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν||A voice crying: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight the way of our God|
The Context Mark’s OT Citations
As seen in the citations above, each make reference to a number of key terms: messenger, way and preparation. Also noted in Isa 40 is the word wilderness, which we will see plays a role in framing the opening of Mark’s Gospel.
In Ex 23, YHWH declares that he is going to send his messenger (מַלְאָךְ, ἄγγελος) with Israel into the promised land to guard them on the way (לִשְׁמָרְךָ֖ בַּדָּ֑רֶךְ, φυλάξῃ σε ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ). Mark’s use of Ex 23.20 has a prophetic ring to it, pointing to John the Baptist’s role as the forerunner (ἄγγελος) of the Lord’s entry into the land.
Malachi 3:1 is a prophecy of the coming of YHWH’s messenger as a forerunner to the Lord’s sudden appearance in his temple (3:1). According to Malachi, YHWH will send his messenger to clear the way for him, which will result in the sudden appearance of YHWH in his temple. Unlike Ex 23:20 where YHWH’s messenger prepares the way for Israel, the messenger of Mal 3:1 will prepare the way for Lord himself.
Isaiah 40 is the beginning of a lager section (40-55), containing echoes back to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The writer of Isaiah writes of a grand coming of the Lord. Isa 40:1-2 proclaims an end to warfare and the removal of iniquity. Isa 40:3-4 describes the preparation that is to take place for the YHWH’s coming, with 40:5 revealing how YWHW will come: “Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together.”
Each of the three citations have a context of exodus/exile, which plays a role in Mark’s immediate context as we shall see.
Wilderness Motif in Mark
According to Mark, the beginning of the gospel message, as indicated in the OT citations, is in the proclamation of John the Baptist. According to Mark, John the Baptist is the one that is spoken of in Isa 40:3 as the voice crying out in the wilderness: ἐγένετο Ἰωάννης [ὁ] βαπτίζων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν (1:4). It is here—in the wilderness (ἔρημος)—where John performs his ministry of baptism. All of Judea and Jerusalem (πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία χώρα καὶ οἱ Ἱεροσολυμῖται πάντες) go out to him to be baptized in the Jordan (1:5). Further, it is in the wilderness where Jesus comes to be baptized by John (1:9-13). It is no coincidence, in light of the OT citations, that Mark begins his Gospel not with a genealogy like Mathew or even Luke, or with a beginning similar to John’s. Rather, Mark’s beginning is the beginning of the final exodus, which has been inaugurated by the coming of the Messiah.
Unlike the first exodus, in which Israel left the bondage of Egypt for the land flowing with milk and honey, this exodus called for a coming out of the promised land (καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία χώρα καὶ οἱ Ἱεροσολυμῖται πάντες) to the wilderness. It is from the wilderness that we find Jesus returning to Galilee and proclaiming that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel [πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ· μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ]” (1:14-15). Whereas in the first exodus, Joshua leads Israel in a battle to rid the land of foreign nations. In this final exodus, Jesus rids the land of unbelief and the power of Satan.
1. While I will not enter into the discussion on the conflation of the of Ex 23:20 and Mal 3:1, this is nevertheless a serious textual matter. Markan scholar Rikki Watts has recently written a post at the Gospel Coalition Blog answering this very question. See also his contribution on Mark’s use of the OT in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Carson and Beale.
2. Rikki Watts, “Mark” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Ed. by Carson and Beale, 118. Watts notes that Malachi’s use of Ex 23:20 and Isa 40:3 “suggests that Malachi sees the delayed second exodus as an ironic recapitulation of the first. Whereas in the first exodus Yahweh sent his messenger to prepare Israel’s way by destroying the idolatrous nations, now the messenger prepares Yahweh’s way, and it is faithless Israel who, having become like those nations, is under threat.”
The alphabet is essential in any language, this goes without saying. Knowing how to recognize a letter and put them together to form a word, phrase, sentence is where comprehension all takes place. Porter et al. does not hold back their discussion of the alphabet, the accents, and punctuation. They are very detailed, explaining pretty much everything there is to know about these matters.
The chapter begins with an overview of the concepts that will be taught in the chapter. This is always a helpful thing to do. It gives the learner a foundation to return to if he feels like he is swimming to far in the deep end. And I must say, this chapter is a bit to far in the deep end for the beginner, so much so he may begin to get a bit overwhelmed. This is not to say that the information is not helpful or useful; I just question if it is necessary at this point. Learning a language is not an easy process, so the overload of information at the very beginning may scare off some who are weak of heart and not truly dedicated to learning the language. On the other hand, this may turn out to be a good thing. While it may scare some away from learning Greek, those who are truly dedicated to learning the language may find their perseverance rewarded in the end. I sure hope this is the case.
What I did appreciate about Porter et al. is that the information they provided was beneficial and enlightening. The extra information on the history of the alphabet, form and punctuaction was well placed and useful. For me, I find these quick asides to be not only informational, but also a quick break from the storm. It gives the learner a chance to catch their breath so-to-speak and make sure they are understanding what they have read. There are a few things that I do not recall learning in Mounce. For example, did Mounce ever mention the intervocalic sigma? I do not recall him using that term. On a side note, I do remember my good friend and professor Abner referring to this as the “suicidal sigma.”
Also, Porter et al. go into more linguistic detail in regards to consonant voicing and assimilation. But where I find Mounce to be more helpful in this regards is in his “square of stops” chart. It is charts like that that give the first year student the confidence and encouragement to carry on when things get deep and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. This may be a bit much for the beginner to grasp at first, but it is helpful in the long run. An important section is the discussion on the accents. I found Porter et al. to be much more helpful in understanding the mechanics of the accents and their rules. This was an overlooked part of Mounce; he moved rather quickly through this if my memory serves me correctly.
Overall, I feel like the beginning student may find this chapter a bit daunting. The first chapter should be less intimidating; it should ease the learner into the race, not throw him into arena to run from the raging bull! While not impossible, Porter et al. may take more than a few careful read through until the learner feels like he is tracking with the concepts that are being taught.
I have decided that I want to learn Greek. Although I took beginning Greek at the Master’s College, I want to go back to the beginning and relearn the fundamentals of the language. My mentor and friend Dr. Varner always would say that he could never teach a first year Greek class because he does not remember first year Greek, and this is a true statement. That is not to say that he is not proficient in Greek, he is! I know that for me, if you were to ask me to reproduce a given paradigm I would not be able to do so (maybe λέγω or λύω, but not much else!). I would fail a basic quiz.
Well, I have decided that I want to know the language better than this. Therefore, I have enlisted the help of Stan Porter, Jeff Reed, and Matthew O’Donnell in my quest for Greek proficiency. Originally I learned Greek from Mounce. It was a great first year grammar, and it taught me the language well. After glancing through Porter et al. my first impression was: This is no Mounce! Porter et al. is dense and packed with a boatload of information. Because I respect Porter as a scholar, I am sure that what he has deemed important for the beginning student is in this grammar.
I also intend to blog some of my thoughts on the overall usefulness and benefits of Porter. I will post my thoughts (or at least what I can remember) on Mounce and how Porter is more/not as helpful.
Any man to-day can learn to read the Greek New Testament if he wants to do it. There are schools in plenty within easy reach of all. But if circumstances close one’s path to the school, there are books in plenty and cheap enough for all. No one to-day has to make his own grammar and lexicon of the Greek New Testament or go without a teacher.
From: A. T. Robertson. The Minister and His Greek New Testament. New York: George H. Doran, 1923. (See ch. 9.)
(HT: Rod Decker).
One of my favorite sections of Scripture is Philippians 2:5-11. In this passage Paul paints for us a beautiful picture of humility and self-denial in the person of Christ. All to often I read this hymn and I am immediately struck by how I fail to model such humility. Whereas Christ climbs down the latter of success and praise from others, I seem to want to climb as high as I can up that very latter. When you examine the text, you get a picture of just how far down the latter Christ goes.
5 τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 6 ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, 7 ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος 8 ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. 9 διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα, 10 ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων 11 καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός (Phil 2:5-11).
Paul frames his hymn with a command in v.5: τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (Have this way of thinking among yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus). The demonstrative τοῦτο functions in both a backward as well as forward pointing manner, reminding the reader of what was previously said and also preparing the reader for what follows. Already Paul has exhorted the Philippians to act in a way which cares more for the concerns of others rather than themselves. But in case the Philippians do not know how this looks, Paul gives them the ultimate example of humility, Christ Jesus.
While much has been said in regards to Phil 2.6-11 and the deity of Christ, I tend to think that this is not the main focus of Paul’s argument. While he does in fact make mention of Christ’s deity, ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων (Although he existed in the form of God…), it is in passing and assumed. It is hard to believe that in light of the command in v.5 Paul would focus on Christ’s deity as their motivation to think in a particular manner. The reader may ask himself, How can anyone attempt to even try to have the mindset of Christ since he is God? Rather, Paul focuses on the humanity of Christ.
What exactly was the attitude(s) that Paul says was characteristic of Jesus?
- He did not grasp for what was rightfully his (οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ). Although he was God, he did not concern himself with the privileges, honor, or status that came with the title God. In an honor and shame culture like the one we find in Phillipi, the pursuit of glory and honor meant everything. But Jesus did not climb that latter.
- Instead, he emptied himself of this pursuit by taking the form of a slave (ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος·). Right here we see the irony of this in full effect. Christ, who is God, refuses to cling to his title, and instead goes the other way and takes on the status of a slave. The Master becomes the slave.
- The climb down the latter of success ends with three nails and a cross (ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ). The Lord of glory willing submits to the most shameful death imaginable. In first-century Palestine there was no more shameful way of dying. Not only is the physical pain unbearable, but while you are hanging there in pain you are also suffering the pain of shame, mockery, and rejection.
Thankfully the hymn does not end there. God does not leave Christ with the shame of the cross to bear. Instead, he exalts him higher than he previously was and gives him a name more glorious than any name (διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα). And it is at this name, Jesus, that every knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus is Lord (ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός).
In a culture saturated in honor and the drive for success, Paul turns the whole thing upside down and gives us a picture of what true humility looks like. Instead of seeking honor and praise from man, seek rather how you can serve others in a manner that may lead to your death. But do not worry, God will reward you in heaven.
In closing I am reminded of the words of the Master: “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
I have been reading a very informative and intriguing book by T. Desmond Alexander entitled From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. The main premise of his book is tracing The Temple motif from Gen 1-2 all the way through Rev 21-22. Although I am not unfamiliar with this line of exegetical thought (I have read a similar argument in Beale’s monumental work on The Temple and the Church’s Mission), Alexander nevertheless affirms in my mind that he is on target. While I hope to give a review of Alexander’s book in the coming weeks, this is not the point of my post.
While reading through some of Alexander’s book, I began to think of the implications it would have on my own reading of Scripture. I have long been intrigued by the church being called the temple:
- Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν; εἴ τις τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φθείρει, φθερεῖ τοῦτον ὁ θεός· ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς. (1 Cor 3.16-17)
- ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν ναὸς τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν ἁγίου πνεύματός ἐστιν οὗ ἔχετε ἀπὸ θεοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἑαυτῶν; (1 Cor 6.19)
- τίς δὲ συγκατάθεσις ναῷ θεοῦ μετὰ εἰδώλων; ἡμεῖς γὰρ ναὸς θεοῦ ἐσμεν ζῶντος, καθὼς εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐνοικήσω ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐμπεριπατήσωκαὶ ἔσομαι αὐτῶν θεὸς καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μου λαός (2 Cor 6.16)
- ἐν ᾧ πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ συναρμολογουμένη αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ (Eph 2.21)
- πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι λίθον ζῶντα ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, 5 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους [τῷ] θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 6 διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ· ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. 7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας 8 καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν. 9 ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς· 10 οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ, οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες (1 Pet 2.4-10. Although the word temple does not occur, it is safe to assume that it is alluded to in 2.5: οἶκος πνευματικὸς).
So what is the point of all of this? Well, I for one was raised in a tradition that taught that the temple will again be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the promised “millennial reign” of Christ. But the more I read the Scriptures, the more I am convinced that this is not the case. For example, The OT describes God as dwelling among his people, primarily in the holy of holies in the tabernacle and then the temple. But there is a significant change in the NT. Now, as 1 Cor 3.16 indicates, τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν (the spirit of God lives in you). If the Jerusalem temple is to be rebuilt, then will the Spirit of God no longer dwell in us, but rather return to the the function of dwelling among us? In my understanding, the best illustration of this is Christ himself. In the person of Christ the fullness of the God dwells: ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς (Col 2.9). Also, the play on words in John’s Gospel is more than just a coincidence, for in his incarnation Jesus has tabernacled among men: Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας (John 1.14).
I am sure more can be said. But these are just some of my musings on this topic, topics of which I hope to develop more in the future. But for now I leave you with these thoughts.
I am sure most of you who read this blog know by now that Logos is gearing up to publish the massive Perseus Collection. I am still in shock that they are releasing all of this for free! Soon we will have at our fingerprints a wealth of information that can help shed light on many historical, cultural, and grammatical issues. So, if you haven’t yet jumped over to the pre-pub page at Logos I suggest you do that pronto! (but finish reading this first:).
Some may be wondering how a collection like this can have any relevance for personal Bible study. While I must admit that I do not like this question; it seems to suggest a lack of concern for the historical background of Scripture. But that is a different topic for a different day. So I ask, What benefit does Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Herodotus, Dio Chrysostom, Homer, Plutarch, Quintilian and others have for us today? Great benefits in many ways!
A number of years back I fell in love with the art of ancient rhetoric. I began to read certain articles that applied rhetorical criticism to certain books of the Bible. It was these articles that led me to the writings of Aristotle (Rhetoric), Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria: 1-9), and Cicero. These authors were masters of rhetoric, and their works were handbooks on how to structure a rhetorical speech. There writings began to open up fresh understanding on how Paul may have structured Galatians, or how the author of Hebrews used various types of rhetoric in his homily. We must not forget that writers of Scripture were a product of their times. Therefore, understanding the writings of antiquity help us in turn understand the writings of Scripture.
Another fascinating feature of Perseus is the ability to now be able to see for myself the context of some of these ancient writers that are frequently cited. Let me explain what I mean by this by means of a few illustrations from the standard Greek Lexicon, BDAG.
As is common with BDAG, a number of citations are to references outside the LXX, GNT, and AF. In the above excerpt taken from BDAG you note that the highlighted text refers to Aristotle’s Poetics, a resource that will be included in the Perseus Collection. Many times I have wanted to see the cross reference to these writings, and now with the Perseus Collection in my library I may be able to! I am not sure about you, but this really excites me!
Here is another example
This example is from the entry ἐκτείνω in BDAG. Here, Acts 26.1 is mentioned as an example under heading one: “Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand (ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα) and proceeded to make his defense.” The gesture of stretching out ones hands was in some part connected to the orator and his speech, for which Quintilian is referenced for me information on this practice.
I leave you with one more example, this time mentioning Dio Chrysostom and Herodotus in the same reference:
Well, those are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more examples that I could include, but I will leave some for you to discover. I hope you take advantage of this great resource that Logos has provided for us. And remember, just because it is not inspired writing it does not mean that it is of no value.
…Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν (Gal 1.3b-5).
When you sit and think about, for Christ to give his life for sinners like us is the most amazing thing we mortals will ever see.
Over at Biblical Exegesis and Interpretation, James Tucker has an excellent post that all who are students of Greek/Hebrew should heed. I cannot agree more with the advice he gives for those of us who take the study of the languages of Scripture seriously. So, head over there and thank James for advising us on how we can be better students of God’s word.
Setting to Work
In chapter-four Parker discusses in some detail the various aspects that go into producing a manuscript in the fourth-century. Topics discussed in this chapter are focus on the materials, techniques, people, place, budget, and binding of Sinaiticus. Also included is a brief section on palaeography (the study of ancient writing). Because of the amount of detailed information contained in this chapter I will on focus on a few interesting points.
Parker’s detailed discussion on the production of parchment in antiquity was quite fascinating. Maybe it’s me, but I found the whole process that goes into making sheets of paper suitable for writing amazing and quite remarkable really. What we have discovered from manuscripts that we have found written on parchment is that they tended to be made from the skins of sheep of calves. The process that went into skinning the animal all the way to the finished product of paper contained many time-consuming steps.
The skins had to be soaked in some form of acidic or alkaline bath. Next, the hair had to be scraped off. Once the hair was removed, it was returned to a bath for further soaking. It was then removed from its bath and stretched out and scraped thinner. Finally, after drying out and scraped for its determined thickness, it was cut to its predetermined size and rubbed with pumice stone.
What we know of Sinaiticus and the parchment used for it is that it is one of the highest quality codices from antiquity ever discovered. The amount of care, detail, and expense that was put into Sinaiticus is without compare. According to Parker
“What is certain is that the makers [of Sinaiticus] were exceptionally skilled, and that they worked with excellent materials. It is clear that no expense was spared” (45).
Usually in parchment manuscripts we would find many places of defect scattered throughout the manuscript. This is not so with Sinaiticus. While we do find defects, they are few and far between, usually found in the margins of the pages (45). Further, the difficulty finding veins on the pages is probably due to a very thorough job in draining the blood. Another aspect which indicates a more professional job in producing Sinaiticus is the thinness of the pages. Parker indicates that the thickness of the pages of Sinaiticus range from 100-150 micrometres, with the average page size somewhere in the neighborhood of 116.2. when compared to the thickness of Parker’s own book (125 micrometres) we see just how amazing this really is.
In case you may be interested in the production process of parchment, I have included this brief video illustrating for us just went into making parchment paper
Another informative section was on the scribes of Sinaiticus. Parker indicates that Tischendorf (the discoverer of the codex) identified four different scribes, which he labeled A, B, C, D. Each of these scribes were responsible for the writing of particular sections of Sinaiticus. Imagine the amount of hours that Tischendorf must have spent analyzing the pages of Sinaiticus and cataloguing the differences he found, and then placing these differences into four different groups. The even more astonishing thing is that he was able to accomplish this without the technology of computer readily available to us today. That alone speaks to the genius and dedication of Tischendorf. Since Tischendorf’s work there has been some changes to the number of scribes identified responsible for Sinaiticus, but nothing too radical. What can be said regarding Sinaiticus is that there were a number of scribes working on this manuscript. Both in the writings and correcting stages, scribes would assist each other in the writing of Sinaiticus.
Although misplaced in my opinion, the section on palaeography is an important one. No doubt a page-and-a-half summary of palaeography will not cover every aspect of the subject, nevertheless it is a vital part of a book like this. Parker briefly outlines some examples of differences in the writing style of Sinaiticus, things such as differences in letter formation, compression of the text as the scribe reached the end of a margin, spelling errors consistent with one particular scribe, etc. All of these idiosyncrasies are discovered by studying the writing style and observing changes and patterns in the text.
Another job of the palaeographer is to determine the approximate date of a manuscript. Because a scribe would not date his manuscript once he finished, it is up to the palaeographer to determine the dating of a particular manuscript. According to Parker, he is aided in such a task by means of external and internal clues. Externally, things like paper type, elaborate artwork, and historical circumstances may help shed light on a date for a manuscript. Internally, things like writing style (was the script in capital or lowercase letters?) may give clues for dating. It’s safe to assume that the job of a palaeographer is one of great detail. He must be a master of the language written on the manuscript, and he must be one of great patience and discipline.
There is much more that can be covered in chapter-four, but I will leave it here. One thing I have noticed is that Parker references Sinaiticus a number of times in his examples. It would benefit the reader greatly to access Sinaiticus online and follow along with Parker as he describes aspects of Sinaiticus in detail.
Making a Bible in the Year 350
After laying a historical/theological foundation in chapter two, Parker begins to turn his attention to Sinaiticus itself.
In the opening pages of chapter three, Parker lists a number of “defining characteristics” of a codex. Because a codex is written by the hand of a scribe(s), there is a certain amount of freedom in how he shapes his manuscript. He is able to define his margins at the exact length he needs for his writing. Also, he is given the freedom to include decorative aspects to the manuscript, unique to his own work. The scribe is in full control of every aspect of his work, from beginning to end.
On the negative side, because a codex or manuscript is hand written in ink this allowed for later scribes to add what he felt was missing, or correct what he felt was a wrong reading of the text. Sinaiticus was not immune to scribal corrections or additions. For example, see the image below
What we notice is that an addition has been added to the bottom of the text by a later scribe, altering the neat flow of the block of text. At other places in Sinaiticus the original text has been erased with no chance of recovery. All of these additions and omissions are important in understanding the textual history of Sinaiticus and in aiding the recovery of the original reading. Regarding these changes to the text, Parker writes
The kind of changes that will have occurred range from alterations in the spelling which reflect the way the scribe was used to speaking the word rather than the correct spelling, through a wide range of unconscious errors, to places where conscious decisions were made (28).
The remaining focus of chapter three is on the contents of Sinaiticus. Sinaiticus originally contained the Greek OT (including the Apocrypha), the New Testament, and two additional writings: The Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. Parker gives us a survey of these textual units, including a nice analysis of each unit. The canonization of the Old and New Testament was a long and tedious process, but Parker does a nice job navigating the reader through the process in the limited space he has. While some readers may not agree with his conclusions regarding the process of canonization, one cannot argue that he presents his case in a fair and sensitive manner.
Parker concludes with the hypothesis that because Sinaiticus includes books not considered part of the canon, but nonetheless still useful for catechumens, it may be that Sinaiticus was used as a family or community Bible. As the title indicates, the making of Sinaiticus took place in the middle of the fourth-century. This was a volatile time in the history of the Church and no doubt the production of Sinaiticus was influenced to a certain degree by the theological tension in Christendom.
My first exposure to Codex Sinaiticus came during my first semester of intermediate Greek. I was an eager student who loved all things Greek. For a few weeks we focused on textual criticism, specifically as it relates to exegesis and interpretation. We were introduced to various manuscripts, one of which was Sinaiticus, and I remember being enamored with the story of it’s discovery in a monastery in the Sinai peninsula. Since that initial exposure to textual criticism, I have kept an elementary interest in text-critical studies.
So, when I first came across David Parker’s book my interest was piqued for a couple of reasons. The first, as mentioned above, was my continuing interest in text-critical studies. The second was my love of historical studies. I have always told myself that if I did not get my degree in biblical languages I would have majored in history, probably the history of the American and French Revolutions. But that’s a different post for another day.
Anyways, back to the subject on hand. Parker, who himself is a leading expert in the field of text-critical, has written a very helpful and informative introduction and history of the famous Codex Sinaiticus.
Every Book it’s Destiny
Parker’s first chapter is a quick overview of both the history as well as the future of Sinaiticus. Parker briefly discusses the process that went into the writing and copying of the codex. Likewise, Parker gives a concise synopsis on the the use of Sinaiticus in antiquity, explaining the number of corrections that have appeared since it’s original writing. Also included is a brief discussion on the transportation of the Codex from one place to another. A quick discussion of it’s discovery in St. Catherine’s Monestary and the dispersion of the codex to three different countries is included as well. Much of this will be show up in greater detail in subsequent chapters.
Next, Parker outlines the present project that is taking place to have the entire codex published online for all the world to see. This project also includes a conference (which took place in 2009), the present book under review, and a new print facsimile. Each of these projects are a welcomed addition for the Church and the academy.
Parker’s last section in chapter one is an outline of Sinaiticus as well as a quick reference to the pagination of the codex (this pagination key is very helpful when wanting to look up specific examples in Sinaiticus online). Included at the end of chapter one-and at the end of every chapter-are recommended resources for further study. If you are anything like me, then you will find these short summaries a gold mine of potential study.
The Christian Book in the Age of Constantine
Chapter two centers mainly around the time of Constantine. One fascinating topic was Parker’s discussion of the writing materials used in antiquity. At the time of Sinaiticus’ publication, two types of writing material were in use: papyrus and parchment. Papyrus was easier to come by and much quicker to produce than parchment. Because parchment was produced from the skins of sheep and calves, it was not as readily available for use. But unlike papyrus, which would deteriorate at a much faster rate, parchment was much more durable and withstood the elements far better than papyrus.
Another fascinating element is the theory that Sinaiticus was produced at the request of Constantine himself. While only a theory at best, there are similarities with some of the specifics for codices to be produced in Constantine’s letter to Eusebius and Sinaiticus.
What Parker does extremely well is bring the reader into the fourth-century at the time of Sinaiticus’ publication. He gives the reader a historical and theological framework by which he can understand the reasons for such a codex to have been produced. I am looing forward to the remaining chapters.
Let me first affirm that I wholeheartedly believe in the sonship of Jesus. The title serves more as an attention getter than anything.
With that said, I have been spending sometime in the Gospel of Mark, and one of the first things the reader notices is the variant reading found in Mark 1:1. Let us look the text and then explore this a little.
Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [υἱοῦ θεοῦ].
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, [the Son of God].
Now, I am no text-critic. But I do dabble from time to time in this field of study. I find it rewarding and exciting following to follow these rabbit trails to wherever they may lead. But what of Mark and this addition/omission to his opening title? Is the reading υἱοῦ θεοῦ (Son of God) Mark’s original reading, or was it a scribal addition added later to expand upon the name of Christ?
I will not focus too much on the various readings, other than mention them here and give relevant information. First note some major manuscript witnesses to each reading:
- Omission of υἱοῦ θεοῦ: א* Θ Or. (Most of the marginal notes in the major English translations make not of the subtraction in some manuscripts).
- Inclusion of υἱοῦ θεοῦ: א1 B D (The majority of English translations include “son of God” in their base text).
The majority of textual evidence seem to indicate that the inclusion of υἱοῦ θεοῦ is the original reading. This also has strength from the whole of Marks Gospel, being that the topic of sonship is a major theme in the Gospel (cf. 1.11; 3.11; 5.7; 9.7; 14.61; 15.39). Therefore, the omission of υἱοῦ θεοῦ may have likely been due to a scribal mistake.
Another interesting insight is the inclusio which is formed with 1.1 and 15.39. This in turn would likely indicate an original reading of υἱοῦ θεοῦ in 1.1.
This all came to my mind as I was sitting in the dentist chair today. While I was waiting for the dentist to come and prep my tooth for a root canal (fun times, let me tell you!) I began to think about this verse. What would be the reasons for both adding υἱοῦ θεοῦ as well as omitting it? I could understand the possibility of a scribe adding it due to the sonship theme spread throughout Mark. But I could not understand why a scribe would want to omit υἱοῦ θεοῦ. Just some more musings on the text, this time from a dentist’s chair.
Ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ κεντυρίων ὁ παρεστηκὼς ἐξ ἐναντίας αὐτοῦ ὅτι οὕτως ἐξέπνευσεν εἶπεν· ἀληθῶς οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος υἱὸς θεοῦ ἦν.
When the centurion, who was standing right in front of Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
There is something so powerful, and yet so humbling about this passage from Mark’s Gospel. While the Messiah hanged on a Roman cross, placed there by the Jewish and Roman leaders, a lowly Roman centurion stands by and utters one of the most powerful professions of faith in the New Testament. Just the hours before this confession, we read of Jesus’ humiliation at the hands of Roman soldiers (15.16-20). The text does not specifically say so, but it may be that the hands of this centurion were used in the beating of Jesus (15.19). How then do we explain such a radical transformation? How is it that a man is transformed from a violent, torturous human being to one confessing faith in the Son of God?
Also, what is interesting is that Mark’s Gospel is the only one which records the centurion’s confession. With all of Jesus’ disciples standing around the cross, why not record their words? It may be that Mark’s inclusion of the centurion’s confession is an exclamation point for his whole Gospel: the centurion confession is representative of Rome’s confession of Jesus as Son of God. Just a thought.
I just noticed that the next installment in the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament will see the light of day in July. This is a fine series of quasi-commentaries, focusing primarily on aspects of grammar, linguistics, lexicography, etc. For the student of the Greek New Testament these Handbooks are a valuable tool for doing exegesis of the text.
From the Publisher:
This new installment of the popular handbook series gives teachers and students a comprehensive guide to the grammar and vocabulary of both 2 Peter and Jude. Within the text of these intertwined Catholic Epistles, Peter H. Davids finds rhetorical features and stylistic elements often overlooked. By using this handbook in combination with traditional commentaries, students will be guided toward a greater understanding of the Greek text in 2 Peter and Jude while gaining a deeper appreciation for textual and rhetorical intricacies not available in the English translations.
Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ…γράψον·
Admittedly, I have not spent much time in the Revelation of John. This may be due to a Left Behind overdose early in my Christian life. Not to say that God did not use those books to help me focus on His word, but after awhile I just got burnt out by all the speculation and guessing of what certain images in Revelation symbolized and when the rapture was going to happen.
But I have decided to return to Revelation in my reading through the Greek text and I am just jotting down (mentally that it) notes and thoughts as I work through the text. One of these thoughts was just who are the “angels” John is intructed to write to and what is the historical setting and situation of the churched he mentions? I have heard it said that while the chuches are indeed real churches in the first century, they also symbolize the mant different stages of the church throughout the church age. My question is this: how is this even deduced from Revelation? How does one come to this conclusion except by trying to squeeze a modern day application into a first century context. This seems to me to be evangelicalized allegory, but I could be way off on this.
I am writing this late at night, so the brain may not be running on all cylinders. I may need to return to this and add/subtract from it. I had to scratch my head at this and really ask myself what have we done to the book of Revelation?
I have finished my reading of 1 Peter, and let me tell you it was no walk in the park! Very challenging, but rewarding as well. So what book did I turn to next to read? None other than Revelation!
Already in my readings I have come across a strange grammatical (by strange, I mean a grammatical faux pas). I will reproduce the text of Rev 1:4-5a in Greek and English and then comment on the underlined parts:
4 Ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ Ἀσίᾳ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ 5 καὶ ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς, ὁ πιστός, ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν καὶ ὁ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
What’s the problem, you ask, with the text? Well, in Greek the preposition ἀπὸ is followed by a genitive, but the above ἀπὸ is followed by the nominative ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος. Did John somehow forget the rules of the very language he was writing in? Obviously this is not the case because he gets it right immediately after when he says ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων ἃ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ…(note the genitives proceeding the next two uses of ἀπὸ). So, John, why the grammatical mishap? Well, according Greg Beale, in his magisterial commentary on Revelation, this is an example of what is known as a “solecism.” A solecism is simply a mistake in grammar. But is John’s use of solecism purely accidental, or is there a rhetorical reason for such a use?
What can be adduces from Rev 1.4 is that it is an allusion back to the LXX text of Ex 3:14-15, where God declares himself to be “I am who I am (Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν).” One answer to our question of why the solecism is that because John understands ὁ ὢν as the Divine Name for God, it is indeclinable.
Perhaps a better reason for John’s grammatical no-no is to highlight the allusion to the OT. This is what Beale argues in his commentary, and I would tend to agree with him on this point. Beale notes,
John’s solecisms are to be explained even more specifically as grammatically awkward because they are parts of OT verbal allusions carried over in their original syntactical forms as they stand in the OT.
He goes on to conclude,
[T]he overall purpose of these Septuagintalisms, stylistic Semitisms, and awkward OT allusions was probably to create a “biblical” effect in the hearer and, hence, to show the solidarity of the writing with the that of the OT; such stylistic employment of language likely expresses the author’s notion that the OT revelation through the church as the true Israel was penetrating uncompromisingly the pagan world in an irreversible manner.
What is clear is that John was taking extra special care to highlight the Divine Name of God. It would be unwise and unfair to think that John was somehow incompetent with the Greek language. I find it quite ingenious and creative to utilize a solecism to highlight an allusion to the OT. It helps his readers to pickup textual links that he wants to highlight as important.
 Greg Beale, Revelation (NIGTC), 103.