3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ, 4 καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ, 5 προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, 6 εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ. 7 Ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ, τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν παραπτωμάτων, κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ 8 ἧς ἐπερίσσευσεν εἰς ἡμᾶς, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει, 9 γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ ἣν προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ 10 εἰς οἰκονομίαν τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐν αὐτῷ. 11 Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ 12 εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης αὐτοῦ τοὺς προηλπικότας ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. 13 Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς σωτηρίας ὑμῶν, ἐν ᾧ καὶ πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε τῷ πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῷ ἁγίῳ, 14 ὅ ἐστιν ἀρραβὼν τῆς κληρονομίας ἡμῶν, εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῆς περιποιήσεως, εἰς ἔπαινον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ.
Zondervan was kind enough to pass along a pre-release galley copy of Con Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study. It looks to be a very good study of some key Greek terms and their theological implications.
Zondervan also sent along of Murray Harris’ Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis. Most already are familiar with his important excursus on the same topic in the earlier NIDNTT.
Reviews are forthcoming.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
I have been reading through the Greek New Testament, slowly working my way through book by book. Unlike the common read through the Bible in a year plan, I have no plan. I just read what I desire and go from there. So far, I have read 1-3 John, Ephesians, and will finish 1 Peter tonight or early tomorrow. I am not sure where I will end up next, but I have an itching for either Revelation or Acts. After that, I will again tackle Hebrews for the third time.
I have enjoyed just reading the text. I do not usually stop long enough to investigate certain grammatical anomalies, but my readings in 1 Peter have caused me to slow down and park myself on some interesting patterns. I have noticed Peter likes to bracket off prepositional phrases and the likes quite a bit. Sometimes, I see an article and then will not see what it is modifying until further down the sentence. Cool stuff. Here is a fun example of what I am talking about:
εἰς τὸ μηκέτι ἀνθρώπων ἐπιθυμίαις ἀλλὰ θελήματι θεοῦ τὸν ἐπίλοιπον ἐν σαρκὶ βιῶσαι χρόνον.
Notice the underlined text above. The εἰς τὸ is modifying the infinitive βιῶσαι, most likely denoting purpose. Just something to chew on.
Grace and Peace…
Last week, Dr. Greg Beale (Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology) gave the Gheens Lectures at Southern Seminary. His topic was the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, one for which Dr. Beale has written extensively on. His three lectures were:
If you would rather have them fed directly into iTunes as podcasts, copy this link into iTunes.
A number of Dr. Beale’s important works on the subject would include his book, The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New, a Commentary on Revelation, an monograph on The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John, and a co-edited (with D. A. Carson) Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Later this year we should see the publication of a New Testament Biblical Theology, focusing on how the Old Testament is transformed in the New Testament.
Dr. Beale is one of my favorite New Testament scholars. He is an leading expert in the New Testament authors use of the Old Testament. Likewise, his work on Idolatry is one of the best I have read on the subject. I once had the pleasure to sit in on a Greek Exegesis of Revelation class in which he was the guest teacher.
1 Corinthians 2:6-9: The Revelation by God’s Spirit
6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων· 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν, 8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν· εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν. 9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται,
Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσε καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ἃ ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν. 10 ἡμῖν δὲ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος· τὸ γὰρ
6 Now we speak wisdom among the mature, but a wisdom not of this age nor from the rulers of this age who are perishing, 7 but we speak the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery, which God predestined before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age has known. For if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, and no ear has heard, and has not entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Commentary and Reflection:
The δὲ in 2:6 signifies a distinct shift in the topic of the discourse. In previous verses Paul is emphatic that what he came to say, he did not come to say with wisdom or sophisticated rhetoric (Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν [For on the one hand, the message of the cross is foolishness for the ones perishing; but on the other hand, the very same message is the power of God for the ones who are being saved]; Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθ᾿ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ [And when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom while I proclaimed the mystery of God to you], but in 2:6 Paul clearly states that he speaks with wisdom to the mature. Whereas the wisdom, which Paul rebukes in the previous verses, was a worldly and human wisdom, the wisdom that Paul imparts to the Corinthians is one “not of this age nor from the rulers of this age…[σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου].”
The wisdom we possess, and which has been imparted to us, is a mystery to the one perishing. The world’s wisdom does not comprehend the wisdom of God because it is a mystery to him. As mentioned above, the message of the cross (the wisdom of God) is such foolish thing to the world. He cannot comprehend it, and this is seen in the murder of the Son of God at their hands. Paul declares that at the hand of their ignorance they “crucified the Lord of glory [τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν].”
The wisdom we as Christians must possess is not to be found in this world, or in the rulers of this world. That wisdom led to the crucifixion of the Messiah. Thankfully, God’s wisdom is given to us in Christ. Our eyes have been opened to see and hear and comprehend the wisdom from God in Christ. May the Lord grant his people more of his wisdom as we live out our lives in a world full of foolishness and sin.
Anyone desiring to study the Bible in-depth will no doubt spend a significant amount of his or hers time in a commentary on Scripture. For the most part commentaries share the same basic outline and structure; they interact with the grammar, theology, social and historical concerns, and other relevant topics. Very rarely do commentaries stray from the norm and tackle the text in a whole new light. So, when an author ventures of the methodological prairie I take notice.
In his recently published commentary on the epistle of James, Dr. William Varner interacts with James through the discipline know as “discourse analysis.” Briefly defined, discourse analysis (DA) is the study of the text from the top down. Whereas traditional commentaries generally start by analyzing each individual word to gain an understanding of the text, DA begins by analyzing the discourse as a whole and from there works down to the level of the individual word. This reviewer finds this approach to the text of James to be a breath of exegetically fresh air. What Varner has been able to accomplish is not only a fresh way of interpreting a biblical text, he has also made commentary reading enjoyable and exciting. A note of caution should be included here. This commentary is not for the weak at heart or for one looking for a pithy exegetical nugget. Varner’s work takes serious time and effort to work through, mainly due to the almost exclusive interaction with the Greek text of the New Testament. Nevertheless, if one takes the time to carefully and prayerfully read through this commentary on James the payoff will far out weigh the effort and work put into reading it.
Much more can be said about this innovative and truly trailblazing commentary on James. His chapter on the methodology of DA and his appendix on James is worth the price of the book (with a price tag of $13.59 at Amazon, why have you not purchased it already?). Now, if one is looking for a more traditional commentary on James there is no shortage of good, solid exegetical works to be consulted. But if one is looking for a commentary that truly offers a fresh new understanding of James, this reviewer cannot recommend Varner’s work more highly.
I love Greek. More specifically, I love Biblical (Hellenistic) Greek. When looking for a college to do my undergraduate work at, I specifically chose The Master’s College because it offered a degree in Biblical Languages. I remember the long nights of parsing, studying vocabulary, translating portions of the New Testament, and working through the syntax of a specific passage. These were times of great joy (and sometimes great anguish). Now, almost four years removed from The Master’s College, I still regularly read my Greek New Testament. I am grateful to have stuck with my Greek up until this day. But for some, this is not always the case. They leave school and immediately get involved in ministry. The Greek which they acquired in school has fallen by the wayside. For these people, a book like the one recently published by Zondervan can be a great tool and encouragement for them to return to their Greek and begin to once again find the joy of reading the Greek New Testament.
In his book Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People, Constantine Campbell has done a great service for the minister and layman by writing a book that encourages and motivates the reader to get back into the Greek New Testament on a regular and consistent basis. In a very concise manner-ten chapters, an appendix, and a list of resources-Campbell outlines some practical tips for the person desiring to return to his Greek text. The chapters are as follows:
- Read Every day
- Burn Your Interlinear
- Use Software Tools Wisely
- Make Vocabulary Your Friend
- Practice Your Parsing
- Read Fast
- Read Slow
- Use Your Sense
- Get Your Greek Back
- Putting It All Together
What made this book so useful and enjoyable is that it was a great reminder for me to daily read my Greek text. Often times I can go days without cracking open my NA27 or UBS4. Campbell strongly reinforced the importance of daily reading from the Greek, even if it is only for 10-15 minutes at a time. One example that I found so useful was his discussion of a musician and his practice time. Campbell relates his personal story as a musician, and that by practicing for a little each day is far greater than practicing for a long period on one day, to the study of the Greek New Testament.
Having read Campbell before, I knew that I would find his work enjoyable and insightful, and he did not disappoint. He has taken an important subject and made it accessible and very practical. If you do not leave feeling energized to pick up your game and get back into the Greek New Testament, then you do not deserve to have a Greek New Testament.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5: The Mystery of God Proclaimed by the Power of the Spirit
2 Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθʼ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ. 2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον. 3 κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς, 4 καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖ[ς] σοφίας [λόγοις] ἀλλʼ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως, 5 ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλʼ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ.
2 And I, when I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superiority of speech or wisdom, while I was proclaiming to you the mystery of God. 2 For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I, in weakness and in fear and with much trembling came to you, 4 and my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and power, 5 so that your faith may not be in human wisdom but in the power of God.
Text Critical Notes:
The majority of the English translations read “The testimony of God” (τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ θεοῦ). But the critical Greek text (NA27, UBS4) has the reading τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοῦ (“The mystery of God”). Which one are we to consider as the original reading?
Both readings are well attested to by a number of mss. The reading μαρτύριον is supported by א2 B D F G and the majority text). The reading μυστήριον is supported by P46vid א* A C and a few ancient translations. The internal evidence is just as strong for both readings.
It is possible that μαρτύριον is an emendation influenced by 1:6: τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. But Fee argues that this is likely not the case, being that the gap between 1:6 and 2:1 is too great to carry such an emendation forward to this point. Further, he notes that because of the familiarity of μυστήριον amongst the scribes, it would be difficult for one to conceive that a scribe would have inserted the far more common μαρτύριον in place of μυστήριον.1
For the reading μυστήριον, is it argued that the context of the passage (particularly the appearance of μυστήριον in 2:7) supports the reading found in the NA27 and UBS4. The earliest witness to the reading μυστήριον is found in P46vid, but the reading there is incomplete, containing only ριον.
Because the context of 1 Cor 1-2 can support either reading, coming to a consensus is unlikely. This lack of agreement is seen most clearly in the printed English Bibles. As mentioned above, one notes that the English translations contain the reading “testimony”; but the margins in many of those same translations contain a note identifying “mystery” as another possible reading. As for me, I lean towards the reading contained in the Greek texts, μυστήριον.
Commentary and Reflection:
There is much that can be discussed exegetically, but time permits me to do so now. So for the sake of trying to finish this section is a reasonable amount of space, I will note a few things and then move along. I may go back and edit this post to include more exegetical material, but that is unlikely the case.
What stands out in this section is the need to proclaim the gospel not with persuasive words or clever wisdom. Sure, these methods can be used in the proclamation of the gospel, but they are not an ends to a means. We note that when Paul came to the Corinthians he came “in fear and much trembling.” This is not to say Paul was a wimp or afraid of people and what they may say or think of him. We have seen in scripture that Paul can hang with the best of them (Acts 23:3). Paul did not rely on his abilities as a rhetorician; he relied and depended on the power of the Spirit of God to move and convince the hearers of the gospel message and its truthfulness.
What I enjoy about this section is that the gospel message is not depending upon the fancy words and cleverness of the preacher. It is the power behind it—the power of God himself—that makes the gospel message true and worthy of acceptance.
Oh that the Lord would raise up preachers of power, not of cleverness! The gospel is powerful, and may it always be heard with such power and boldness.
1 Fee, First Corinthians 88n.1.
2 Those in support of the reading μυστήριον would include Thiselton, First Corinthians 207-8; Metzger, TCGNT 480; Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary 485-86. Comfort notes that in his personal evaluation of P46 he could identify that the letter preceding the final ριον was an eta (η), making the reading of P46 unquestionably μυστήριον (485).
1 Corinthians 1:26-31: A Contrast of Wisdom, pt. 2
26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω.
26 For consider our calling, brothers and sisters: not many are wise according to the flesh, not many are influential, not many are of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world in order to shame the wise, and God chose the weak things of the world in order to shame the things which are strong, 28 and God chose the despised and the insignificant things of the world, the things which are not, in order to invalidate the things which are, 29 so that no person may boast before God. 30 But because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written,
“The one who boasts let him boast in the Lord.”
A few mss. (D F G) have the reading οὖν in place of γάρ. Because of the shift in person a scribe may have seen γάρ as to soft of a transition and inserted οὖν in its place, signifying shift in topic
The insertion of καί before τὰ μὴ ὄντα is due to the repetitious nature of vv. 27-28. Each of the three clauses are connected by a καί, thus the insertion of καί is likely due to a scribes attempt to match the style of the previous three clauses. But as Metzger notes, “In adding the [καί], however, scribes overlooked the force of the expression τὰ μὴ ὄντα, which…is not another item of the series, but is a comprehensive and climactic characterization of all the preceding items.”1
Some mss. have the reading αὐτοῦ is place of τοῦ θεοῦ.
Commentary and Reflection:
These verses are closely related to the preceding ones. The conjunction γάρ is explanatory in nature,2 picking up on the second part of Paul’s proclamation in 1:18 (“but for us who are being saved the message of the cross is the power of God”). Further, the γάρ does not introduce a new topic (contra Garland, 72n.1) in the discourse; rather it continues to elaborate on what was previously discussed, namely the folly of worldly wisdom and the power of God’s wisdom.3
Another contextual indication for an explanatory use of γάρ is the repetition of key lexical words like “wise” (σοφός),“foolishness, foolish” (μωρία, μωρός), “weakness” (ἀσθενής), and “strong” (ἀσθενής). These keys terms help to move the discourse along, but they do so in an explanatory way without causing a change in the topic.
There is a shift in person, however, in the discourse at 1:26. Paul returns his focus again to the Corinthians specifically (this is seen in the shift to 2nd person, i.e. Βλέπετε… ὑμῶν, and in the use of the vocative ἀδελφοί). Whereas the focus of 1:19-25 seems to be on those outside the church, the focus in 1:26ff is on those who have been called (κλῆσις) into the church of God, specifically here the Corinthians. The “calling” the Corinthians are to consider is their calling to faith, not a vocational calling (i.e. calling to ministry). They are to contemplate their calling in light of the fact that not many people who the world would consider wise or of great importance were called by God to salvation. As Garland notes, “In choosing [the Corinthians], God overlooked their lack of spiritual merit and flouted all worldly measures of human worth.” 3
The structure of 1:27-28 is stylized in a somewhat poetic way. Paul lists three indicatives stating God’s choice, followed by three reasons for his choice. This is followed by the ultimate purpose for God’s actions in 1:29:
A ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός
A’ ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς
B καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός
B’ ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά
C καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα
C’ ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ
Purpose: ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ
A But God chose the foolish things of the world
A’ in order to shame the wise
B and God chose the weak things of the world
B’ in order to shame the things which are strong
C and God chose the despised and the insignificant things of the world, the things which are not
C’ in order to invalidate the things which are
Purpose: so that no person may boast before God
Our calling to salvation is because of God (ἐξ αὐτοῦ), for he has called us into Christ (ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ; 1:30). And this calling to Christ is so that if we boast, we boast only in the Lord, not in ourselves or or merit (1:31; cf. Eph 2:8-9).
Paul’s statement regarding those who are called to Christ in 1:26 is so true. Just look at world in our day. It is not the scientists, or philosopher, or politician, or the Steve Jobs that are coming to Christ. No, it is the you and I’s of this world. It is the people with very little money, power, nobility, and social status that are by and large turning to Christ for salvation from sin. This is not to say that God does not redeem those who are of money, power, etc. He does indeed do so. But the majority of people trusting in the Messiah are those of very little or no reputation. It is usually those who see their need for a Redeemer. They know that whatever wisdom, inteillect, presitige, and power they have will get them no closer to a holy God. They know that there weakness in strength, and their foolishness in the world’s eyes in true wisdom.
1 Bruce M. Metzger. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. New York: United Bible Societies, 1994: 480.
2 A.T. Robertson. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Logos, 2006: 1190.
3 For an excellent discussion on the function of γάρ in a discourse see Steven E. Runge. A Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis. Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, 2010: 69-73.
4 David E. Garland. 1 Corinthians. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003: 73.