Unchastity and Motives

The 2017 General Synod of the Reformed Church in America passed a resolution this week on the interpretation of “sexual immorality” or “unchastity” in questions #108 and #109 of the Heidelberg Catechism.  The statement that was passed reads as follows:

To affirm that the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108 and 109 categorically states that God condemns “all unchastity,” which includes same-sex sexual activity, and that faithful adherence to the RCA’s Standards, therefore, entails the affirmation that marriage is between one man and one woman.

I want to address specifically the words in this statement that “all unchastity” “includes same-sex sexual activity.”  I would note, first of all that the statement does not say that “all unchastity” includes all same-sex sexual activity.  This is the first problem with this statement.  It doesn’t consider LGBTQ people who desire to sanctify their sexual activity by incorporating it into a marriage covenant, raising questions, of course, about the final clause in the General Synod’s statement.  Given the absence of legalized same-sex marriage, both during the period when the New Testament was written, and during the period when the Heidelberg Catechism was written, I would not dispute that the writers of the catechism would have included the same-sex behaviors with which they might have been familiar within the general category of sexual immorality.  Yet this hardly is a conclusive argument that same-sex marriages of today would have been automatically included.  That is a case that needs to be argued, not merely asserted.

But this, of course, raises the deeper question about what sort of moral logic governs the concept of unchastity or sexual immorality in the Bible.  The Greek word used in the New Testament for this concept is porneia.  Certainly, some uses of this word are clear and unmistakable.  It is used for various kinds of sexual acts that everyone would agree are morally wrong.  It is linked to prostitution in 1 Cor 6:13-18.  It is linked with adultery in Matt 15:19, and the same moral logic appears to be reflected in the use of the word in Matthew 19:9 (cf. Sirach 23:23).  1 Corinthians 5:1 speaks of incest using this word.  So it seems clear that forbidden sexual acts are envisioned by this word.  At this level there is no dispute.  Any form of sex outside of marriage, any form of sex that creates conflicting roles within families, or any form of sex which violates a marriage bond that is already in place is always considered sexual immorality, and Christians are always to resist such behaviors or inclinations. We see this “objective” approach in other New Testament texts, such as Revelation 9:21.

But the New Testament is not only concerned about behaviors, it is even more centrally concerned with the motives and desires that lead to immoral behaviors.  Mark 7:21-23 is a classic and important text here:

 21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication (Greek porneia), theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

This concern about motives and desires appears commonly in the teaching of Jesus.  The most common problem Jesus addresses is not about actions that are wrong; it is about the motives and desires that lead to our actions.  He speaks often about hypocrisy, and confronts those whose lives are “whitewashed tombs,” whose behavior is technically acceptable, but which springs from corrupt motives.  We see these thoughts reflected in Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication (Greek porneia), theft, false witness, slander,” and in the words of Colossians 3:5 “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication (Greek porneia), impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).”  Note that all the words in Colossians address motives and desires.

This concern with motives and desires is evident, even in the Heidelberg Catechism, particularly Q&A 109, which states in part, that “God forbids all unchaste actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires, and whatever may incite someone to them.”  So clearly the Heidelberg Catechism is not only concerned with the “objective” side of unchastity, but also with the “subjective” side.

This focus on motives and desires is also reflected in the link between sexual immorality and impurity in the New Testament.  Note, for example, the way in which 2 Corinthians 12:21 links together “impurity, sexual immorality (Greek porneia), and licentiousness.”  We see the same linkage in Galatians 5:19. Ephesians 5:3 links together fornication (Greek porneia) and impurity, together with greed.  Of course, many things that the Old Covenant regarded as “impure” (e.g. dietary restrictions, exposure to blood, etc.) are treated differently in the New Testament.  But what the New Testament continues to affirm is the motivational side of the category of “impurity.”  If behavior of any sort springs from impure motives or desires, then that behavior is still considered “impure” by the New Testament, and is to be resisted.  In the New Testament, what makes behaviors “impure” is not some objective moral standard, but rather that these behaviors spring from wrong desires or motives.

So here we come to two dimensions to the biblical concept of “sexual immorality,” both of which need to be included in order to fully understand this concept.  On the one hand, there is the “objective” side of unchastity or sexual immorality.  Certain behaviors like prostitution, sex outside of marriage, adultery, or incest are always morally wrong, and the New Testament treats them consistently in this way.  However, the New Testament itself provides another “lens” through which to construct a sexual ethic as well, and that lens focuses on motives and desires.  This is important for two reasons.

First, there may well be sexual acts which are permitted by “objective” standards (like sex within marriage), but which are still problematic because of problems with motives and desires (such as excessive lust in marriage, or the failure to treat one’s spouse appropriately during sex).  The New Testament is rarely content to look merely at objective behaviors; it always probes to motives as well.

This leads to the second reason why the New Testament focuses on motives and desires.  The church often encounters marginal cases in its construction of sexual ethics, which require the exploration of motives and desires, beyond merely a focus on objective actions.  I think that the clearest case of this has to do with divorce and remarriage.  Mark 10:11-12 clearly forbids all divorce and remarriage: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  Matthew 19:3ff. qualifies this case, allowing for divorce and remarriage in the case of “sexual immorality” (Greek porneia).  But most Christians today call for an examination of the circumstances and motives leading to divorce and remarriage, and are generally open to a consideration of motives and desires, as a way of discerning which sorts of divorce and remarriage cases should be accepted by the church.  In other words, a consideration of motives and desires helps to solve sexual ethics cases which are at the margins, and for which more “objective” criteria seem problematic for one reason or another.

And so we return, finally, to the question of whether “unchastity” or “sexual immorality” as applied to same-sex marriages should fall under the “objective” category of those behaviors that area always forbidden by Scripture, or whether specific cases should be evaluated according to the motives and desires which drive them.  This strikes me as an important question worth pursuing, and a conversation worth having in the church in general, and in the RCA in particular.  I hope we can have such a conversation, even after the General Synod’s vote.

July 13 2014 Epistle lection Romans 8:1ff.; Comments on the Greek text

I have been doing these commentaries on the Greek text of the lectionary as part of my sabbatical discipline.  Now that my sabbatical is finished, I probably will not continue these, at least as regularly.  I hope you have found them helpful.

Ro 8:1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα[A] τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ· [There is] therefore now nothing [by way of] condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
Ro 8:2 ὁ γὰρ νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος[B] τῆς ζωῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἠλευθέρωσέν σε[C] ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed you from the law of sin and of death.
Ro 8:3 τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου[D], ἐν ᾧ ἠσθένει διὰ τῆς σαρκός, ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν πέμψας ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας κατέκρινε[E] τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκί,[F] For what was impossible from the law, in that it was weakened through the flesh, God [did], having sent his own Son in the likeness of [the] flesh of sin and for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh,
Ro 8:4 ἵνα τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου πληρωθῇ ἐν ἡμῖν τοῖς μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν ἀλλὰ κατὰ πνεῦμα·[G] in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Ro 8:5 οἱ γὰρ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς φρονοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ κατὰ πνεῦμα τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος.[H] For those who are according to flesh think the things of the flesh, and those who are according to Spirit [think] the things of the Spirit.
Ro 8:6 τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα[I] τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος, τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη· For the mindset of the flesh [is] death, but the mindset of the Spirit [is] life and peace.
Ro 8:7 διότι τὸ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς ἔχθρα εἰς θεόν,[J] τῷ γὰρ νόμῳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ὑποτάσσεται, οὐδὲ γὰρ δύναται· Because the mindset of the flesh is hostility toward God; for it does not submit to the law of God—for it is not even able [to do so].
Ro 8:8 οἱ δὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ὄντες θεῷ ἀρέσαι οὐ δύνανται. And those who are in flesh are not able to please God.
Ro 8:9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ἀλλὰ ἐν πνεύματι, εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν[K] ὑμῖν. εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει, οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ. But y’all are not in flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed [the][L] Spirit of God dwells in/among y’all.  But if someone does not have [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not his [i.e. Christ’s].
Ro 8:10 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν[M], τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρὸν διὰ ἁμαρτίαν, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωὴ[N] διὰ δικαιοσύνην. But if Christ [is] in/among y’all, on the one hand, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Ro 8:11 εἰ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἐγείραντος τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐκ νεκρῶν οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν, ὁ ἐγείρας ἐκ νεκρῶν Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν ζῳοποιήσει καὶ τὰ θνητὰ σώματα ὑμῶν διὰ[O] τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ πνεῦμα ἐν ὑμῖν. But if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from [the] dead dwells in/among y’all, the one who raised Christ Jesus from [the] dead will make alive also the mortal bodies of y’all because of his Spirit indwelling in/among y’all.

[A] Or “Therefore nothing is now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

[B] Categorizing the genitives is not easy here.  This seems to be a genitive of source, but the next one—the law of sin and death—seems to be a law which results in sin and death.  Of perhaps both are genitives of source:  the law which flows from Christ, and the law which flows from sin and death.  But neither is without its problems.

[C] Some textual uncertainty about whether this should be “you” or “me.” (Note that the “you” here—if that is the reading—is singular. This is the only singular form of “you” in this passage.)

[D] Or “the incapability of the law”

[E] The imperfect and aorist forms are indistinguishable here.

[F] Presumably by putting Jesus to death.

[G] Given the strongly substutionary language here, one might expect “in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who are joined to Christ,” but the focus on the Spirit instead is noteworthy (though note how this gets fused with union with Christ in verses 9-11 of this passage).

[H] In other words, patterns of thinking follow patterns of being.

[I] Note the semantic link with φρονοῦσιν in the previous verse.  The –μα suffix attached to nouns indicates the concrete results of a verbal action.  So the φρόνημα envisions the concrete results of a way of thinking.

[J] Cf. James 4:4.

[K] I’ve translated “in/among” because either is lexically possible, and I want to push a bit on the tendency to over-individualize this passage.

[L] One could also certainly render this, “if indeed a Spirit from God dwells in/among y’all.”

[M] Note how, in this verse and the one preceding, the text moves from “Spirit” to “Spirit of God,” to “Spirit of Christ” to “Christ,” treating all these terms as, at least in some important sense, referring to the same reality.

[N] Note how the two phrases are not entirely parallel:  the earlier clause uses an adjective (“dead” νεκρὸν) but the second phrase uses a noun (“life” ζωὴ).

[O] There is a noteworthy textual variant here that has to do with whether the object of this preposition is in the accusative case or the genitive case.  This particular text puts it into the accusative case, making the meaning “because of his Spirit dwelling in/among y’all,” but many other manuscripts (and the UBS4) read it in the genitive:  “through his Spirit dwelling in/among y’all.”  Metzger favors the latter reading, pointing to the diversity of textual witnesses that have “through.”

July 6 2014 Gospel lection; Comments on the Greek text of Matt 11:16ff.

Mt 11:16 Τίνι δὲ ὁμοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην; ὁμοία ἐστὶν παιδίοις καθημένοις ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς[A] ἃ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις But to what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children, sitting in the marketplace, who call out to the others,
Mt 11:17 λέγουσιν[B]· Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε· ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε·[C] saying, “We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we sang [a dirge] and you did not beat [the breast].
Mt 11:18 ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν· Δαιμόνιον ἔχει· For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.”
Mt 11:19 ἦλθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν· Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν. καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς.[D] The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Behold a person [who is] a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”  And wisdom is justified from her deeds.
Mt 11:25 Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· Ἐξομολογοῦμαί[E] σοι, πάτερ κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἔκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν,[F] καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις[G]· In that time, answering Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you hid these things from [the] wise and understanding, and revealed them to infants.
Mt 11:26 ναί[H], ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου. Indeed, Father, for [all this] happened before you in this way as [your] good pleasure.
Mt 11:27 Πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπιγινώσκει[I] τὸν υἱὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ, οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα τις ἐπιγινώσκει εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν[J] βούληται[K] ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι. All things were handed over to me by my Father, and no one recognizes the Son except the Father, neither does anyone recognize the Father except the Son, and [the one] to whom the Son chooses to make a revelation.
Mt 11:28 Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.[L] Come to me, all who toil and are burdened, and I will refresh you.
Mt 11:29 ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε[M] ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ,[N] καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς[O] ὑμῶν· Take my yoke upon y’all and learn from me, because I am gentle and lowly [in] heart, and you will find rest for your lives.
Mt 11:30 ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς[P] καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν. For my yoke is easy [to wear], and my load is light.


[A] The open area in the center of town where things are bought and sold.

[B] Could be either present indicative 3rd singular (they say), or dative plural neuter participle (saying).  The form is the same.

[C] Hence you do not want to play at all, either happy or sad games.

[D] Most commentators think that God’s wisdom is in view here, and the “works” of wisdom refer to the contradictory responses outlines just above.  This is illustrated in the woes which follow (vss. 20-24), but which are excluded from this lection.  Cf. a similar motif in v. 26.

[E] Literally “I confess to you,” though that meaning seems less likely here.

[F] Cf. 1 Cor 1:19.

[G] A term for younger children than the παιδία mentioned above in v. 16.

[H] Literally “yes.”

[I] Or just “knows,” though the preposition attached to the verb strengthens the force to some extent.

[J] This probably goes with the preceding pronoun, broadening its meaning (“to whomever”), rather than meaning “if” in this context.

[K] Or “wills”

[L] A remarkably generous verse, particularly after the exclusiveness of the previous verse.

[M] The verbal cognate for the noun disciple (μαθητής)

[N] Hence not inclined to dominate and control.

[O] The word does not carried the disembodied sense that often accompanies the English word “souls.”

[P] Or “good” or “kind.”

June 29, 2014 Epistle and Gospel lections; comments on the Greek text

Ro 6:12 Μὴ οὖν βασιλευέτω[A] ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐν τῷ θνητῷ ὑμῶν σώματι εἰς[B] τὸ ὑπακούειν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις αὐτοῦ, Therefore sin must not reign in your mortal bodies resulting in obeying its passions.
Ro 6:13 μηδὲ παριστάνετε[C] τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν ὅπλα[D] ἀδικίας τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, ἀλλὰ παραστήσατε ἑαυτοὺς τῷ θεῷ ὡσεὶ ἐκ νεκρῶν ζῶντας καὶ τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν ὅπλα δικαιοσύνης τῷ θεῷ. And stop offering your body parts [as] tools of unrighteousness to sin, but offer yourselves to God as alive from [the] dead, and your body parts [as] tools of righteousness to God.
Ro 6:14 ἁμαρτία γὰρ ὑμῶν οὐ κυριεύσει[E], οὐ γάρ ἐστε ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν. For sin will not rule you, for you are not under law, but under grace.
Ro 6:15 Τί οὖν; ἁμαρτήσωμεν[F] ὅτι οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλὰ ὑπὸ χάριν;[G] μὴ γένοιτο· What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  No way!
Ro 6:16 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ᾧ παριστάνετε ἑαυτοὺς δούλους εἰς ὑπακοήν, δοῦλοί ἐστε ᾧ ὑπακούετε, ἤτοι ἁμαρτίας εἰς θάνατον ἢ ὑπακοῆς εἰς δικαιοσύνην;[H] Don’t you know that to whom[ever] you present yourselves as slaves for obedience, you are slaves to the one whom you obey, either [slaves of] sin [which leads] to death or of obedience [which leads] to righteousness?
Ro 6:17 χάρις[I] δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον[J] διδαχῆς, But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart [the] pattern of teaching into which you were handed over.
Ro 6:18 ἐλευθερωθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἐδουλώθητε[K] τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ· And having been freed from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness.
Ro 6:19 ἀνθρώπινον[L] λέγω διὰ τὴν ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς ὑμῶν· ὥσπερ γὰρ παρεστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ καὶ τῇ ἀνομίᾳ εἰς τὴν ἀνομίαν, οὕτως νῦν παραστήσατε τὰ μέλη ὑμῶν δοῦλα[M] τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ εἰς ἁγιασμόν. I am speaking humanly because of the weakness of your flesh; for just as you presented your body parts [as] slaves to impurity and to lawlessness resulting in lawlessness, so now present your body parts [as] slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Ro 6:20 Ὅτε γὰρ δοῦλοι ἦτε τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ἐλεύθεροι[N] ἦτε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with respect to righteousness.
Ro 6:21 τίνα οὖν καρπὸν[O] εἴχετε τότε ἐφ’ οἷς νῦν ἐπαισχύνεσθε; τὸ γὰρ τέλος[P] ἐκείνων θάνατος· What result were you having then, because of which [things] you are now ashamed?  For the end of those [things] is death.
Ro 6:22 νυνὶ δέ, ἐλευθερωθέντες ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας δουλωθέντες δὲ τῷ θεῷ, ἔχετε τὸν καρπὸν ὑμῶν εἰς ἁγιασμόν, τὸ δὲ τέλος ζωὴν αἰώνιον. But now, having been freed from sin, and having become enslaved to God, you have your result [moving] into sanctification, and [its] end, eternal life.
Ro 6:23 τὰ γὰρ ὀψώνια τῆς ἁμαρτίας[Q] θάνατος, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα[R] τοῦ θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. For the compensation paid by sin is death, but the gift of God is life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mt 10:40 Ὁ δεχόμενος ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὁ ἐμὲ δεχόμενος δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με. The one who welcomes you welcomes me, and the one who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
Mt 10:41 ὁ δεχόμενος προφήτην εἰς ὄνομα προφήτου[S] μισθὸν προφήτου λήμψεται, καὶ ὁ δεχόμενος δίκαιον εἰς ὄνομα δικαίου μισθὸν δικαίου λήμψεται. The one who welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who welcomes a righteous person  in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of a righteous person.
Mt 10:42 καὶ ὃς ἂν ποτίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ποτήριον ψυχροῦ μόνον εἰς ὄνομα μαθητοῦ, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ[T] τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ. And whoever gives a drink [of] a cup of cold [water to] one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, he [or she] will surely not lose his [or her] reward.

[A] A third-person imperative.  We don’t have this in English, so it’s hard to render.  “Don’t let sin reign” sounds like a command that is given to us, but that’s not what the text is saying.  My translation is an attempt to get at the sense.

[B] This preposition with an infinitive usually expresses purposes, but result seems to make more sense here, and is grammatically possible.

[C] A negative with a present imperative usually suggests ceasing an action that is already underway, usually in a continuous, repeated, or habitual manner.

[D] The more generic “tools” seems to fit better than a focus on military usage with “weapons.”

[E] Note it’s a future, not an imperative.  A simple statement of fact!

[F] Deliberative aorist subjunctive.

[G] Apparently a fairly common question Paul had to deal with!  It seems to be the concern dominating this whole section.

[H] A radically different anthropology from our culture’s idolization of individual freedom!

[I] See BDAG section 5 for this meaning.

[J] See BDAG section 4 for this meaning.  It’s interesting that the obedience of faith does not focus centrally on particular forms of obedience, but rather on a pattern of teaching.

[K] In this sense, at least, radical freedom is not a possibility.

[L] Neuter accusative singular form indicates adverbial usage.

[M] In other words, your body parts don’t make decisions on their own—they serve some larger purpose.  The only question is which purpose they will serve?

[N] (Apparently) free in the sense that there was no understood or lived-out obligation with respect to righteousness.

[O] Literally “what fruit?”

[P] “end” in the sense of goal or target toward which they are moving.  It’s important to recognize these two basic categories—actions have “fruit” or “results” in the near term, and an “end” or “goal” in the long run.

[Q] My translation reads this as a genitive of source.

[R] Note the central contrast here between compensation and gift.  This remains a core reality, despite the passage’s critique of absolute notions of freedom.

[S] Most commentators read “in the name of a prophet” in the sense of “because he or she is a prophet,” or “as a prophet.”  And similarly below.

[T] οὐ μὴ + aorist subjunctive = emphatic future denial.

June 22 2014 Epistle lection, Rom 6:1-11; Comments on the Greek Text

Ro 6:1 Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ[A], ἵνα ἡ χάρις πλεονάσῃ;[B] What then shall we say?  Shall we persist with respect to sin, so that grace may abound?
Ro 6:2 μὴ γένοιτο· οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ,[C] πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ; No way!  How shall we, who died with respect to sin, still live in it?
Ro 6:3 ἢ ἀγνοεῖτε ὅτι ὅσοι ἐβαπτίσθημεν[D] εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ ἐβαπτίσθημεν;[E] Or are you ignorant that all [of us] who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Ro 6:4 συνετάφημεν οὖν αὐτῷ διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος εἰς τὸν θάνατον, ἵνα ὥσπερ ἠγέρθη Χριστὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός, οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν. So we were buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from [the] dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
Ro 6:5 Εἰ γὰρ σύμφυτοι[F] γεγόναμεν τῷ ὁμοιώματι[G] τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἐσόμεθα· For if we have become identified with the likeness of his death, all the more will we also [be identified with the likeness] of his resurrection.
Ro 6:6 τοῦτο γινώσκοντες ὅτι ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος[H] συνεσταυρώθη, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, Knowing this, that our old person was crucified together [with him], so that the body of sin might be set aside, so that we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
Ro 6:7 ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν δεδικαίωται[I] ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας. For the one who died has been justified away from sin.
Ro 6:8 εἰ δὲ ἀπεθάνομεν σὺν Χριστῷ, πιστεύομεν ὅτι καὶ συζήσομεν[J] αὐτῷ· But if we died with Christ, we believe that we also will live together with him,
Ro 6:9 εἰδότες ὅτι Χριστὸς ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὐκέτι ἀποθνῄσκει, θάνατος αὐτοῦ[K] οὐκέτι κυριεύει· knowing that Christ, having been raised from [the] dead, no longer dies; death no longer rules him.
Ro 6:10 ὃ[L] γὰρ ἀπέθανεν, τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ἀπέθανεν ἐφάπαξ· ὃ δὲ ζῇ, ζῇ τῷ θεῷ. What he died, he died to sin once for all; but what he lives, he lives to God.
Ro 6:11 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς λογίζεσθε[M] ἑαυτοὺς εἶναι νεκροὺς μὲν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ζῶντας δὲ τῷ θεῷ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. So you also—think about yourselves being dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

[A] The dative of respect is not easy to translate.  These sense is something like “shall we remain in relationship to sin?”

[B] Recalling 5:20b.

[C] Cf. Gal 2:19, where Paul uses the same sort of construction to speak of dying to the law.

[D] Note that it’s first person plural, not third person.  Hence the “[of us]” in brackets in the translation.

[E] Note the interesting chiastic structure of this verse:


εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν

εἰς τὸν θάνατον αὐτοῦ


[F] Literally “grown together with”

[G] For some interesting parallels in Paul for this word, cf. Rom. 1:23, Rom. 5:14, Rom. 8:3, Phil. 2:7.

[H] The word does not exactly mean “self” as the NRSV, NIV, and many others render it. The focus is not individualistic, but collective, particularly in light of the discussion of Adam and Christ in the previous chapter.

[I] A somewhat surprising word here—lots of stuff in the commentaries about this.

[J] Note the future tense—this is a reference to resurrection which has not yet happened in Paul’s framework.

[K] The verb κυριεύω takes its object in the genitive case.

[L] Probably an accusative of respect, since this verb can’t take a direct object.  “With respect to what he died . . .”  That’s where some translations get “in that.”

[M] Present imperative connotes ongoing, habitual, or repeated action.  The verb carries the sense of adding up a column of figures, and coming to a result.

June 15, 2014 Gospel and Epistle lections; Comments on the Greek text.

Getting ahead a little bit again.  Both the epistle and the gospel lection are short this week, so I’ve included both of them here.

2Co 13:11 Λοιπόν[A], ἀδελφοί, χαίρετε, καταρτίζεσθε[B], παρακαλεῖσθε[C], τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖτε[D], εἰρηνεύετε, καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθ’ ὑμῶν. As for the rest, brothers [and sisters], rejoice, mend your ways, be encouraged, have the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with y’all.
2Co 13:12 ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι.[E] ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἅγιοι πάντες. Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints greet you.
2Co 13:13 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος[F] μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit [be] with all of you.
Mt 28:16 Οἱ δὲ ἕνδεκα μαθηταὶ ἐπορεύθησαν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν εἰς τὸ ὄρος οὗ ἐτάξατο[G] αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, But the eleven disciples made their way into the Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus [had] instructed them.
Mt 28:17 καὶ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν προσεκύνησαν, οἱ δὲ[H] ἐδίστασαν[I]. And seeing him, they worshiped, but some wavered.
Mt 28:18 καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς λέγων· Ἐδόθη μοι πᾶσα ἐξουσία ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς· And coming forward, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on the earth was given to me.
Mt 28:19 πορευθέντες[J] οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη,[K] βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς[L] εἰς τὸ ὄνομα[M] τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, As you go, therefore, disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mt 28:20 διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν·[N] καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος. teaching them to keep everything which I commanded you.  And look!  I am with you all the days—until the consummation of the age.

[A] The accusative of respect.  Literally “with respect to the rest.”

[B] “Mend your ways” is the suggestion of the BDAG lexicon for this text.  It could also be rendered “set yourselves in order.”

[C] Or one could render this in the middle voice:  “encourage yourselves.”

[D] Literally “think the same thing.”  Cf. the same phrase in Rom 15:5,  Phil 2:2, 4:2.

[E] A command occurring five times in the NT.  In addition to this one, see  Rom 16:16, 1 Cor 16:20, 1 Thess 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14.

[F] Note the Trinitarian reference, both here and in the Matt lection (v. 19)

[G] Or “to the mountain which Jesus [had] appointed for them.”

[H] This might also be rendered, “but they wavered,” indicating not just some of them wavered, but all of them.  Either is possible grammatically.  In either case, this verse has always struck me as one of the most interesting in the gospel of Matthew—that uncertainty can even fill moments like this one!  From an exegetical point of view, the next verse could easily be read as a response to this “wavering.”  Some kinds of uncertainty are only resolved by mission.

[I] “doubt,” “waver” or “hesitate.”

[J] Or one could read the participle as having imperatival force:  “Go, therefore . . .”

[K] The more typical translation “make disciples of all the nations” is an interpretation, but I have tried to translate more literally here.  There is no partitive sense—“of”—in the text itself.  Remember too, of course, that the same Greek word can be translated either “nations” or “gentiles,” though the translation “nations” arises here from the fact that the usage is in the neuter, rather than in the masculine gender.

[L] now we switch to the masculine gender, focusing more on persons than on nations.

[M] A single name belongs to all three!

[N] Interesting that it doesn’t say “teaching them to remember all that I taught you!”

June 8 2014 Epistle lection; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; Comments on the Greek text

1Co 12:3b καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς[A] εἰ μὴ ἐν[B] πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. And no one is able to say “Lord Jesus” except in [the] Holy Spirit.
1Co 12:4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ[C] πνεῦμα· There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
1Co 12:5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν[D] εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· And varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
1Co 12:6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν[E] τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. And there are varieties of activities, but the same God who activates all things in all [people].
1Co 12:7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται[F] ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος[G] πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. To each one is being given the disclosure of the Spirit, for [what is] profitable.
1Co 12:8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος[H] σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ[I] τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, For to one, through the Spirit, is being given a statement of wisdom; to another a statement of knowledge according to the same Spirit.
1Co 12:9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν[J] τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι, To another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit.
1Co 12:10 ἄλλῳ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων[K], ἄλλῳ προφητεία, ἄλλῳ διακρίσεις[L] πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν[M], ἄλλῳ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν· To another workings of miracles; to another prophecy; to another distinguishing of spirits; to another types of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
1Co 12:11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται. But all these, the one and the same Spirit activates, distributing to each one just as [the Spirit] wills.
1Co 12:12 Καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν καὶ μέλη πολλὰ ἔχει, πάντα δὲ τὰ μέλη τοῦ σώματος πολλὰ ὄντα ἕν ἐστιν σῶμα, οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός[N]· For just as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also [is] the Christ.
1Co 12:13 καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ἕλληνες, εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι,[O] καὶ πάντες ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν[P]. For also in one Spirit we all were baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slave or free, and all were given to drink [of] one Spirit.

[A] Or “Jesus is Lord,” though the accent clearly is falling on “Lord,” regardless of which word order is chosen.

[B] Hard to know whether to render the preposition “in” or “by.”  Either is grammatically possible.

[C] Forms of αὐτὸς, when found in the attributive position, mean “same.”

[D] Hard to know how to translate this without sounding too ecclesiastical.  Literally “table service.”

[E] Literally “works” or “effects.”  I have translated “activates” to underscore the common term with the noun form ἐνεργημάτων earlier in the verse.

[F] I translated “is being given” to underscore the ongoing force of the present tense.

[G] The genitive could be objective (the disclosure which reveals the Spirit) or a genitive of source (the disclosure which comes from the Spirit).

[H] I have translated “statement” because the meaning of λόγος is not restricted to a single word alone.

[I] Note the variety of prepositions, seemingly used almost interchangeably by Paul in this text.

[J] Could also be rendered “faith in the same Spirit” but that sort of “objective meaning” of the preposition seems less likely here.

[K] I’ve translated “miracles” since this is a common rendering, though it could also be “powers.”

[L] or even “judging of spirits”!

[M] Or “languages” here and in the next usage.

[N] Or “the Messiah”

[O] Cf. Gal 3:28.

[P] Interesting how the water of baptism impacts not only the exterior of the body, but the interior!