Monday, January 09, 2012

A firm foundation

It occurred to me while I was sitting in church a week ago that people often talk about basics of the Christian faith in ways that make me think that we just aren't speaking the same language. This is more glaringly evident here in Botswana, where people are often using English as a language that is not their primary or best understood one. But I can remember many times in North America where I realized that people were using religious terms in ways that made me think that communication was probably not happening as well as we were all pretending that it was.

Which brings me to where I'm at right now: looking to build a firm foundation. I mean, I say that I am a follower of Christ. What does that mean? What are the Scriptural criteria for being a follower of Christ? I should probably figure that out, eh? And I don't think that I should do it by reading books that other people have compiled on the topic. I think I should do it by reading through the Bible and looking for specific passages that directly - not metaphorically or indirectly - refer to basic faith terms. These are what are known as key terms in the field of Bible translation. For example, as a Christian, I should probably try to please God. But "without faith it is impossible to please God". So, what does it actually mean to have faith? Don't answer that; I'm not looking for pat answers here. I'm looking forward to implementing my own process of reading, absorption and synthesis to thesis.

This is not a work exercise, specifically, though key terms are something that need to be dealt with in my project even within this year. This is me figuring out what I mean when I say I believe certain things by figuring out what the meanings of the terms are that I am using to describe my belief.

Wow. I feel somewhat dense for not having realized that I should do this sooner. But, then, life is primarily just a big series of "Doh! Why didn't I think of this sooner?" moments, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

learning Greek at home

A person could teach themselves Koine Greek, with the right resources. There is an online companion to the Croy textbook that looks useful for this purpose.

To check out this online resource, click here:

This site is meant to be used with Clayton Croy's A Primer of Biblical Greek, available at Amazon for about $15.

Here's what it looks like:

If you want to work on memorizing Greek vocabulary, there is a free flashcard program that you can install from my server space by clicking here:

Happy Greeking!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Matthew 10:24-39

Here are the NT passages that I found that use the word sparrow:

Mat 10:29 - Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. NRSV
Are not two sparrows sold (for) an assarion? And one of them will not fall upon the earth without the father of y'all. - Eshinee SV

The problematic word here is aneu (without). It occurs in 2 other places in the NT:

1Pe 3:1-2 - Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. NRSV
Likewise wives, being submitted (to) their own husbands*, that even if any (men) are disobeying the word, through the wives' conduct without a word they will be gained/acquired, having observed the 'pure in fear' conduct of y'all. - Eshinee SV

* The being submitted thing is connected to the earlier subjunctive exhortation, "Let us live to righteousness - 1Pe 2:24," as a condition for the rest of the sentence arising from that righteous living. Like, the being submitted to one's own husband is an example of righteous living, the fruit of which can be seen in time.

1Pe 4:9 - Be hospitable to one another without complaining. - NRSV
[Be] hospitable to one another without grumbling. - Eshinee SV

I would have hoped for a larger sampling of verses from which to draw conclusions of range of meaning for this word. The argument in Bible translation circles is exactly whether it's the implied knowledge of God or the acting will of God that the sparrow's falling is apart from.
The reason I would run with the knowledge theory is because everything else in the context of this passage relates to knowledge. Jesus is talking about no secrets remaining unknown (27), instructing his followers to make secrets known (28) without fear of bodily consequence (29). And, immediately after the sparrow thing, Jesus says that the number of hairs are counted or known (30). The ultimate conclusion of Jesus spiel is not related to predestination but personal accountability (33). This is where the acting will of God element comes in, I think. As in:

A sparrow doesn't hit the ground without God
* Knowing about it
* Responding to that event/action

Let's look at the chain of "Fear" commands in Mat 10 that leads up to Jesus' command to "Fear not" because of our related worth to sparrows (31).
16 - I'm sending y'all as sheep among wolves: Become wise as serpents and Become innocent as doves.
17-18 - Be aware (prosecw) that they will persecute y'all.
19-21 - But Be not anxious (merimnaw) about what to say; the HS will give that to you.
22 - You'll be hated but the one enduring to the end will be saved.
23 - When you're persecuted in one city, Flee to another.
26 - Fear not (fobew) the ones persecuting you because all truth will be known.
27 - Speak and Preach the truth I tell you.
28 - Fear not the ones killing your body; Fear the one able to cast your soul into hell.
29 - worthless sparrows: they don’t "fall upon the earth" without God knowing? Making them fall? What? … more on this weird construction in Greek to come.
30 - God has counted your hair (i.e. God knows everything about you).
31 - Fear not [the killers? God?] because you're worth more than many sparrows.
32-33 - THEREFORE, if y'all confess/deny me, I'll confess/deny you before my Father.

Fall upon the earth - in Greek, this is sometimes an idiomatic construction: piptw epi tina (fall upon something). It means ‘to cause to suffer, to cause pain to.’ Now, most of the places in the NT where someone falls upon the earth, it just means it literally, to fall down on the ground (Mar 9:20, 14:35, Act 9:4). These instances are all in active voice; the person does the falling. I'm unclear as to whether that necessarily means that they were not cast down by an external force but cast themselves down. It could just mean a simple going from not being on the ground to being on the ground. In the case of inanimate objects, they are obviously cast down by an external force, being inanimate and all. Seeds are the example in the NT (Mat 13:8). Are we counting sparrows as inanimate objects? I don't know.

Here are 2 options that I might propose for 29, in the context of the passage as a whole:

* No sparrow (a tiny living being) causes suffering on the earth without God knowing about it.
* No sparrow (a tiny object) hits the ground without God knowing about it.

My paraphrase for 30-31 would, either way, run like this:

I mean, hey, God keeps track of your hairs, right? So, don't fear the body-killers; fear the God who keeps tabs on sparrows and, to a much greater extent, keeps tabs on you.

Luk 12:6 - Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight. - NRSV
Are not five sparrows sold for two assarion? And one of them is not having been forgotten in-front-of God. - Eshinee SV

Again, we have a tricky word: lanqanw, forget. It can either just mean to not have in one's memory any more or to forget with the implication that it affects one's actions. The term for forgetting something completely is eklanqanomai. The term used in this passage is epilanqanomai. This does appear to be the subset of forgetting that refers to forgetting with a subsequent failure to act.

The immediate context for this verse is that Jesus is exhorting his followers to live in the fear of God who has the authority to cast them into hell, not fearing humans who kill the body. It's a warning against hypocrisy, saying one thing in secret and expecting to not experience divine repercussions. It is immediately followed by further exhortation against blasphemy and denying Jesus publicly. As in God doesn't forget things and then, subsequently, not take those things into account in his actions.

So, this passage doesn't speak to whether or not our deaths are a part of God's will. This passage as a whole says something more like, "Your faithful death or, alternatively, your faithless life will not slip under God's radar in the final judgment."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Conditional sentences

Here's a chart of the conditional sentence structure. Click to enlarge and download the bigger size.

Of course, I'm now realizing that the wording isn't what Dr. Peterson gave in class so this might not be as helpful as I thought it would be. Oops.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

translating Greek indicative verbs

Click on the above chart to be taken to a large, letter sized jpg that you can either right click to save to your hard drive or to print.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A mnemonics and memory improvement resource

from BUILDYOURMEMORY.COM: "So if you wanted to commit this particular word to your long-term memory, in a way that will make it easy to recall, then the first thing that you would need to do, would be to transform it into a form that you can immediately visualise."

An interesting idea. And some of us in Greek last year used this technique to remember some of the trickier words ... words whose meanings in English come immediately to mind now when we read them!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mark 5:23

The phrase referring to the daughter of the synagogue leader translated as at the point of death (NRSV) occurs only once in the New Testament, and it's in this verse. The only way we know escatws ecw as an idiomatic expression for being about to die is from its use in ancient Greek medical writings. Escatws is an adverb meaning finally. Literally, the leader's daughter had finally had [it].

This is a tricky verse to translate. What the leader literally says is, "My daughter is finally having it, in order that, having come, you might place the hand on her, in order that she might be saved/healed and she might live." Such a literal rendering of the leader's request makes it sound like the leader sees the situation of his daughter being at death's door as an intentional opportunity for Jesus to display his power. This speaks not only to the faith of the leader but to the leader's worldview with regards to suffering.