bible study


Here are two verses from the Psalm I’m reading this morning, a portion from the “my life is terrible” part, and a portion from the “God has delivered me!” part. Both are good :-).

Update: It looks like I misread the Psalm. I *think* that the whole Psalm is a complaint. The latter verse is then part of the Psalmist’s argument with God: “I’ve hoped on you, so am I still suffering?”

“ἡ καρδία μου ἐταράχθη, ἐγκατέλιπέν με ἡ ἰσχύς μου,
καὶ τὸ φῶς τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν μου καὶ αὐτὸ οὐκ ἔστιν μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ.”

“My heart is troubled, and my strength as forsaken me,

and the light of my own eyes is not with me”
Psalm 37:11 (LXX)

ὅτι ἐπὶ σοί, κύριε, ἤλπισα·
σὺ εἰσακούσῃ, κύριε ὁ θεός μου.

Because on you, Lord, I hoped;

You will hear me, Lord my God.
Psalm 37:16 (LXX)

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Here’s a nice Greek verse, taken from the 31 Psalm (LXX):

πολλαὶ αἱ μάστιγες τοῦ ἁμαρτωλοῦ,
τὸν δὲ ἐλπίζοντα ἐπὶ κύριον ἔλεος κυκλώσει.

Many are the snares of sin,
but the one who hopes in the Lord will be enveloped with mercy

~alex

ὁ ψαλμος
Psa. 13:1 ¶         Εἰς τὸ τέλος· ψαλμὸς τῷ Δαυιδ.
        Εἶπεν ἄφρων ἐν καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ Οὐκ ἔστιν θεός·
        διέφθειραν καὶ ἐβδελύχθησαν ἐν ἐπιτηδεύμασιν,
        οὐκ ἔστιν ποιῶν χρηστότητα, οὐκ ἔστιν ἕως ἑνός.
Psa. 13:2         κύριος ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ διέκυψεν ἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων
        τοῦ ἰδεῖν εἰ ἔστιν συνίων ἢ ἐκζητῶν τὸν θεόν.
Psa. 13:3         πάντες ἐξέκλιναν, ἅμα ἠχρεώθησαν,
        οὐκ ἔστιν ποιῶν χρηστότητα, οὐκ ἔστιν ἕως ἑνός.
        τάφος ἀνεῳγμένος ὁ λάρυγξ αὐτῶν,
        ταῖς γλώσσαις αὐτῶν ἐδολιοῦσαν·
        ἰὸς ἀσπίδων ὑπὸ τὰ χείλη αὐτῶν,
        ὧν τὸ στόμα ἀρᾶς καὶ πικρίας γέμει·
        ὀξεῖς οἱ πόδες αὐτῶν ἐκχέαι αἷμα·
        σύντριμμα καὶ ταλαιπωρία ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν,
        καὶ ὁδὸν εἰρήνης οὐκ ἔγνωσαν·
        οὐκ ἔστιν φόβος θεοῦ ἀπέναντι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν.
Psa. 13:4         οὐχὶ γνώσονται πάντες οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν;
        οἱ κατεσθίοντες τὸν λαόν μου βρώσει ἄρτου τὸν κύριον οὐκ ἐπεκαλέσαντο.
Psa. 13:5         ἐκεῖ ἐδειλίασαν φόβῳ, οὗ οὐκ ἦν φόβος,
        ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἐν γενεᾷ δικαίᾳ.
Psa. 13:6         βουλὴν πτωχοῦ κατῃσχύνατε,
        ὅτι κύριος ἐλπὶς αὐτοῦ ἐστιν.
Psa. 13:7         τίς δώσει ἐκ Σιων τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ Ισραηλ;
        ἐν τῷ ἐπιστρέψαι κύριον τὴν αἰχμαλωσίαν τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ
        ἀγαλλιάσθω Ιακωβ καὶ εὐφρανθήτω Ισραηλ.

τουτος ψαλμος εστιν βοη τῳ κριματι. εστιν πολλυς ασηβης. πας ουκ εκζητει θεον. Παυλος εγραψεν απο τουτου ψαλμου εν επιστολῃ αυτου προς Ρωμην. βλεπωμεν την διαστολην μεν ἡ πλουτης μεν ὁ πτωκον. ὁ κακος κατεκρινει τον πτωκον, αλλα κυριος κατεκρινει πλουτον. ὁ κυριος αγαπα τον πτωοκον και ἡ ελπις του πτωκου εστιν ὁ κυριος. ουκ εστιν αλεθεια της ασηβης. ὁ κακος λεγει “ουκ εστιν θεος” αλλα θεος ηκουσεν αυτον. ὁ κυριος κρινεσει επι ημεραν κριτης, δικαιαν και αδικιαν.

ευχαριστω σε, θεος μου, οτι εἶ πτωχῳ. αγαπας ταπεινον και αντισσεσαι τον ὑπερεφανον. θελω ειναι ως σὐ κυριε μου. συ εἶ δικαιος, συ εἶ αξιος. ουκ αξιος ειμι. ψευδος και κακος ειμι. ευχαριστω σε οτι σταυρος Ιησοῦ! ουκ αξιος ειμι, αλλα εδικαιοσεν με εν ὑιῳ σου. μονος εστιν χαρις σου. ειμι ως ειμι χαριτι θεου. κυριε, θελω ποιεν δικαιῶ. θελω αγαπαν τον πτωκον ως συ. ελεησον με κυριε, τον ἁμαρτωλον.

αλεξανδρος

I’ve started recently taking the advice of several folks regarding Greek composition. I’ve known for a while that only way I’ll learn the language well is to express my own thought in it. As I’ve been reading through the Psalms, I’ve finally changed my strategy to include a small bit of Greek composition. I had been going through bit by bit, attempting to learn all of the words I didn’t know. This was quite tedious, since there are so many words I don’t know!

What I have discovered is that I know enough to get a gist of what’s going on by a few re-readings. For instance, I can usually pick out the transition in a Psalm. Today, I was in Psalm 10 (LXX, Psalm 11 in our English Bibles) and the contrast was between the ungodly, and the righteous Lord. By focusing on the bigger picture instead of the granular details, I’m able to keep the whole Psalm in view much better. I know I’m missing details, but it’s much less tiresome and much more rewarding this way.

After reading a few times, I start to summarize the Psalms in Greek. I’ll vary the wording so I don’t just end up copying out of the Psalms. Where I can, I’ll use synonyms. After some summary, the reflection into a prayer. The prayers aren’t terribly long (and a First Century kindergartener would no doubt put me to shame in terms of style and vocab!) , but I must say that they’re tremendously helpful, especially spiritually. Thankfully, God has turned these into wonderful devotional moments! I’m starting to appreciate the Psalms in a way I never have before. I’m both learning lots of Greek, and constantly seeing the God for whom I’m doing so.

Πιστος εστιν ὁ Κυριος!

εν αυτῳ,
alex

So, I had a Duh! moment today while reading the Greek version of Psalm 2. The verse in particular was the 2nd:

καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες συνήχθησαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ
        κατὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ κατὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ

For some reason, it never occurred to me that when my English Bible says, “and the rules gather together, against the Lord and against his anointed,” that the early Church would have read this as “and the rulers gather together, against the Lord and against his Messiah. (Gk. Christ)” For some reason I never connected the two in this psalm. Of course the early Church read this messianically! It talks about the nations raging against God and his Christ. I hope I have more “Ah hah!” moments as I work through the psalms. It seems like if we want to understand the early Church’s exegesis, then it’s even more important to read the OT in Greek than it is Hebrew. That is what they were using after all! (for the most part ;-) ) [1]

~alex

[1] I do have a vested interest in that view. After all, I know a little bit of Greek. I don’t know any Hebrew. ;-)

The text:

6.) τουτο δε λεγω κατα συγγνωμεν ου κατ῾ επιταγην.
7.) θελω δε παντας ανθρωπους ειναι ὡς και εμαυτον. αλλα παντα εχει ιδιον χαρισμα εκ θεου. ὁ μεν ουτως, ὁ δε ουτως.
8.) λεγω δε τοις αγαμοις και ταις χηραις, καλον αυτοις εαν μεινωσιν ως καγω.

A rough translation:
6.) I’m saying this as a concession, and not as a command.
7.) I’d like for all to be as I am. However, all have their own gift from God. One has this gift, another that.
8.) To the widows and widowers I say: it is good for them to remain as I am.

Some notes:
6.) I’m thinking τουτο (this) refers to the instruction in 2/3-5, though I’m not sure.
7.) I’ve translated θελω very lightly as “I would like.” I think Paul is speaking rather lightly here, on the level of wish or preference. He’s quick to point out that not everyone has the gift that he does.
8.) The question here is precisely the meaning of αγαμοις. Most literally, it means unmarried. But in light of the rest of the passage, I think he’s speaking specifically to widowers, especially since χηρα seems to refer only to women. If that’s the case, then it might support the hypothesis that Paul himself was a widower, though pushing beyond singleness as the meaning of the “as I am” statements needs to be done carefully.

Meditating on the “gift of celibacy” is something that we Protestants should probably do more of. What does Paul mean when he speaks of singleness as a gift? What does it mean for a wife or husband to a gift? It’s a worthy line of thought methinks.

~alex

As I’m thinking more about suffering in Paul’s thought and Ignatius’ thought, I’ve realized that I’m going to have to defend a “partcipationist” reading of Paul. Typically, this is done by arguing the “in Christ” notion of Paul as being more fundamental or important than his justification/legal language. I’m not terribly interested in attacking justification, but I do want the participation language to take its proper place. The early fathers read Paul almost exclusively on these terms, where as Protestants have done the complete opposite: we have read Paul exclusively from justification/legal terms. We need to understand both! As I’ve been working through 1 Corinthians and memorizing, I’ve been surprised by the participatory language that is present. It’s couched in very practical sections, but it’s there nonetheless.

The first thing I noticed was 1 Cor 6:17, “But the one who joins himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” The contrast here is with the prior verse, and the one “who joins himself with a prostitute.” Here, our union with Christ is compared to sexual union. If that’s not participatory language, I don’t know what is! Of course, as I’ve noted somewhere prior, I don’t want to run off to strange places with this metaphor. But what remains is that there is something “mystical” (for lack of a better word) going on here. There’s is more to conversion than simply what Christ accomplished on the cross (magnificent though it was!). In baptism, we die and rise with Christ. We become a part of his body. We participate in his suffering and in his glorification.

We see similar things a chapter later. After instructing believers married to unbelievers not to leave their spouses, Paul offers this little statement:
For the unbelieving man is sanctified by the [believing] wife, and the unbelieving woman is sanctified by the [believing] husband. If this were not so, your children would be unclean. As it is, though, they are holy”
and, after another verse:
how do you know, wife, that you won’t save your husband? how do you know, husband, that you won’t save your wife?”
1 Cor 7:14,16

What’s strange here is the “high view of the believer” for lack of a better term. Paul states that an unbelieving spouse is made holy by a believing spouse. He also states that a believing spouse may save an unbelieving spouse. I think this is difficult to make sense of in a traditional, justification-driven framework.

For example, if I lead a friend to Christ tomorrow, and then introduce to my pastor as “my friend who I just saved,” I’m probably gonna get a rebuke about how it’s only Jesus who saves people, not me. Likewise, If I pray for a sick person and they become well, it’ll sound strange if I say, “I just healed someone!” I’ve been corrected along those lines before, in my more youthful and zealous days. But whereas that kind of language makes us uncomfortable, it doesn’t seem to phase Paul here (though he does have problems when he’s mistaken for a Greek deity ;-) ). The New Testament occasionally will name an apostle as healing someone without making explicit reference to God, like in Acts 28:8: “Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him. “

I think this make much more sense if we take Paul’s participation language into account. How on earth can a believer make an unbeliever holy? How on earth can a believer make their children holy? And how on earth can a believer sanctify an unbeliever? Well, if we’re “one with the Lord in Spirit” then it makes sense. If we’re participating with Jesus in the power of resurrection and the fellowship of sufferings (Philippians 3:10) then we can talk like this. It’s not me κατα σαρκα (according to the flesh) that saves or sanctifies someone, it’s me κατα πνευμα (according to the Spirit). It’s the me that has joined itself with the Lord, and become one with him in Spirit.

A high view of the believer (contra Luther, perhaps?) makes plenty of sense when we consider that we are μελη χριστου, members of Christ’s body. In some way we take part in the suffering and the glory of the risen Messiah. From this standpoint, I think we can begin to understand what’s going on here in 1 Corinthians regarding “saving” and “sanctifying.” The people correcting me were right to an extent, it is only the triune God that saves and heals. The funny thing is, we’re called into that triune fellowship, that communion, in Christ and by the Spirit. I don’t know what that means exactly, but it’s tremendously exciting. I’m looking forward to discovering more!

~alex

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