Keep your Greek: Coming to a store near you!

30 09 2009

Readers of this blog may remember my series of posts in January called Keep your Greek.

I’m delighted to report that Zondervan has recently agreed to publish a book by the same title, drawing on the principles I outlined in those posts.

I’ll be expanding the posted material, adding new stuff, and will need to think creatively about how to really help students, pastors, et al, to keep their Greek skills long term amidst the busyness of life.

I’ll keep you posted about new developments, but for now I am keen to hear from you. Lots of the comments on the original posts were helpful, and I want more! Please share your tips, your own experiences (positive or negative), and any ideas you might have for this book. I’d love to hear from you, and will acknowledge your ideas as appropriate.


Posted by Con Campbell

Jesus: Connections for Life

18 09 2009

connections-for-lifeFor those readers not living in Sydney, our city has begun to be blanketed by a huge advertising campaign, called Jesus: All About Life (JAAL). Through a series of TV ads, billboards, social media, etc., messages regarding Jesus’ answers to life’s questions are being put out there in the public arena. The campaign is in partnership with hundreds of churches.

While we don’t normally use this blog for promotional purposes, I want to mention a new resource that Dominic Steele—the senior minister at my church—has developed to help Christians make the most of JAAL.

The struggle with JAAL will be helping people who might be provoked by the ads to take their next step. Dominic’s resource, Jesus: Connections for Life, offers a series of simple studies from Luke, and talks on DVD from Revelation, which take the JAAL stuff deeper, and facilitate people coming to Christ. It’s just what we need to take the next step.

As to be expected, the resource is put together professionally and stylishly and I recommend it to churches that want to make the most of JAAL. Check it out here.

Posted by Con Campbell

More on hip preachers…

15 09 2009

From Challies: I’ve never been mistaken for Brad Pitt

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.14

14 09 2009

καὶ προέκοπτον (ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ) (ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας) (ἐν τῷ γένει μου),

↑περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων.

Continuing the description of his former way of life, Paul here indicates his zeal and success within Judaism. First, he was advancing beyond many of his contemporaries (ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας). The imperfect προέκοπτον continues on from the two imperfects in 1.13 to convey descriptive information—a common function of imperfective aspect.

Second, Paul was extremely zealous for the traditions of his ancestors. The subordinate participial clause 1.14b begins with the comparative adverb περισσοτέρως (even more so), with which Paul could be outdoing himself or outdoing others. That is, the adverb could be comparative to his advancing in Judaism, such that he would be be saying that he was advancing in Judaism but even more so he was zealous for his ancestral traditions. Or the adverb could be comparative to his contemporaries, such that he would be saying that he was more zealous for the traditions than his contemporaries were. The clause would then read as follows: Paul was advancing beyond many of his contemporaries, being even more zealous than they for their ancestral traditions. Either option is possible. However, given that the first half of the verse sees Paul comparing himself to others, it follows that the second half is furthering the comparison: Paul was advancing beyond his contemporaries and was more zealous for their ancestral traditions than they were.

The affect of this comparison is to underscore the radical nature of Paul’s conversion, which will be described from the next verse on. Not only was Paul an ‘extreme’ persecutor of the church (1.13)—and thus wholeheartedly committed to preserving true Judaism (as he then saw it)—but he was a rising star of Judaism.

Until Christ was revealed to him.

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.13

13 09 2009

Ἠκούσατε γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε (ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ),

↑ὅτι (καθ᾿ ὑπερβολὴν) ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν,

This verse begins a key section of embedded narrative that describes Paul’s former way of life (1.13–14), his conversion and calling through a revelation of Christ (1.15–16), and his lack of consultation with others (1.16–17). Paul begins by referring to the Galatians’ knowledge of who Paul was before his encounter with Christ, indicating that they had heard about his way of life in Judaism. The aorist indicative Ἠκούσατε encodes perfective aspect and here expresses the action in summary. It does not indicate that the Galatians at one particular time or instant heard Paul’s story—indeed, their information may well have been received over an extended period, and even in installments. The aorist simply indicates that the Galatians heard about Paul when he was Saul.

In the subordinate clause of 1.13b, Paul begins to unpack the things that the Galatians would have heard about his previous life with two imperfect indicative verbs. These two verbs, together with the subordinating conjunction ὅτι, shape the descriptive function of this clause. Description is a standard function of the imperfect indicative within narrative (embedded or otherwise), in keeping with its imperfective aspect. Paul describes himself as persecuting the church of God according to excess (καθ᾿ ὑπερβολὴν), and as trying to destroy it (ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν). This second imperfect is translated trying to destroy because it is a conative imperfect, which expresses an attempted (but unsuccessful) action. There is nothing about the imperfect itself that indicates this, but it is simply one of the functions of remote imperfectivity in a context that implies that the action was not successful.[1] Obviously, Paul did not succeed in destroying the church, thus the verb is regarded as conative in function.

As Paul begins this autobiographical section, he is unsparing in the implicit critique of his former way of life. The two actions portrayed are not only violent, but harsh. He executed them in an excessive fashion. And he highlights the vulgarity of his deeds with the possessive genitive of God (τοῦ θεοῦ), which indicates his severe misdirection: in seeking to serve God, it was the church of God that he tried to destroy.

Posted by Con Campbell

[1] See my Basics of Verbal Aspect, 78.

Preaching on Galatians 1.10–12

3 09 2009

The essential point of this small pericope is that because the gospel has come by a revelation of Jesus Christ, it is not a human message, and therefore a slave of Christ will not seek to please people through it. The logic underpinning these verses can be seen by reversing the order of Paul’s points: the gospel comes through revelation (1.12); it is therefore not human (1.11); Paul therefore does not seek to please people (1.10). It is no doubt best, however, to preach the verses as they stand. In this way, a sermon could be structured simply with three points—one for each verse.

First, a slave of Christ is concerned to please God, not people. This is an enormous challenge for Christians today, with pressure from within and without the church to conform to the patterns of our societies. Indeed, heralds of the gospel are not immune from such pressure, but they ought to model the courage required to fulfil their vocation as slaves of Christ. A caveat here, however, would be that Christians should not deliberately cause offence in the name of not being people-pleasers; we do not add stumbling blocks that the gospel itself does not evoke. Additionally, we must avoid the error of thinking that if we are not people-pleasers then we must be pleasing God, for it is possible to please neither man nor God!

Second, our pleasing of God rather than people stems from the fact that the gospel is not a human message. It will not appeal to people on a ‘natural’ level because it is a divine message, which can only be received when God opens our hearts. As such, Christians must avoid the temptation to make the gospel more palatable or more ‘human’. To do so, would be to deny the nature of the gospel, and to fall into the trap of pleasing people rather than God. To ‘humanize’ the gospel is also to rob it of its power, for it will domesticate it to the level of all other human wisdom. Thus, ironically, the preacher who seeks the wider acceptability of the gospel will undermine it.

Third, the gospel is not a human message because it comes by the revelation of Christ. Christ himself has been revealed and forms the content of the message. While we will not receive a personal revelation akin to Paul’s, the gospel that is taught to us has a divine source and origin. It may have been taught to us, but it was revealed to Paul, who learnt it from no man. This underscores the significance of the apostolic gospel; we are not at liberty to proclaim a message—human or otherwise—that contradicts the apostolic witness. Our gospel must be Paul’s gospel, which is, in fact, the message of Christ.

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.12

1 09 2009

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ (παρὰ ἀνθρώπου) παρέλαβον αὐτὸ

οὔτε διδάχθην

ἀλλὰ (δι᾿ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ).

While the previous verse states that the gospel that Paul proclaimed to the Galatians is not according to man—thus focusing on its nature—here Paul declares how he received this gospel. The verse consists of two negative statements followed by a positive statement. The rhetorical force of this verse as it runs on from 1.11 is created by three negatives that deny the possibility of any human source of the gospel, followed by the ultimate—and positive—statement concerning the gospel’s true source: the gospel is not according to man (1.11c); nor did Paul receive it from man (1.12a); nor was it taught to him (1.12b); but rather it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ (1.12c).

The first two negative statements are linked through the correlated conjunctions οὐδὲ and οὔτε: not…nor. The first statement is full, specifying the redundant subject (ἐγὼ), first person verb (παρέλαβον), object (αὐτὸ), as well as the all-important source that is being ruled out: (παρὰ ἀνθρώπου). This may be contrasted to the truncated second statement that simply includes the correlative conjunction οὔτε and the verb (ἐδιδάχθην). The function of this truncation is simply to add a qualification to the first statement: he did not receive the gospel from man, nor was he taught it. It is hard to know whether this qualification is of any special significance, or if Paul is simply reiterating the point that he has underscored throughout this chapter so far. It might be supposed that the two notions of receiving the gospel and being taught the gospel imply slightly different things: the former regards the gospel as a valuable commodity that has been deposited to him (cf. ‘my deposit’, 2 Tim 1.12; also 1 Tim 6.20; 2 Tim 1.14); the latter regards the gospel as something that is passed on through instruction and teaching. Given the emphasis on the gospel as a deposit in the Pastoral Epistles, the former notion may have more to do with the entrusting of the gospel to leaders in the church; leaders receive the gospel, and are thereby entrusted with it for safekeeping as well as proclamation. But when the gospel is proclaimed by such leaders, it is taught to their hearers. While such notions are speculative, they may be seen to reinforce Paul’s point: his gospel was neither received from man, nor taught to him (by man).

The strong adversative ἀλλὰ introduces the positive statement that declares the true source of the gospel. The stength of the statement has a rhetorical facet by virtue of it being a verbless clause. Such clauses are normally significant, and when found in positions other than epistolary greetings can achieve striking prominence. The verbless nature of the clause, however, leaves unclear which verbal concept is to be supplied by the reader. This ambiguity is reflected in the translations, some of which render the verbless clause I received it through a revelation (ESV), while others have it came by a revelation (HCSB). Since Paul regards this knowledge as revelatory in source, some sense of receiving it seems appropriate. After all, revelatory knowledge is not, ordinarily, learnt; its direct and dramatic nature means that it is apprehended, received, taken hold of.

The revelation could be from Jesus Christ (genitive of source) or about Jesus Christ (genitive of apposition), or even of Jesus Christ (genitive of content); the genitive could express either one. While it is standard to regard this expression as indicating source, such that the revelation comes from Jesus Christ, it might be more likely that it indicates content: the gospel was received by Paul through a revelation of Jesus Christ. The main reason for this is that in 1.15–16 Paul says that God was pleased to reveal his Son in me (ἀποκαλύψαι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐμοί). His Son is the direct object of the verb to reveal, such that Paul is not saying that the message about Christ was revealed to him, but Christ himself. This is confirmed in the second half of 1.16: so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles. Again, Paul does not say so that I could preach about Him, but so that I could preach Him. Since, therefore, Jesus Christ is himself the revelation of God to Paul, it follows that here in 1.12 the genitive Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ should be taken to express content: Paul received the gospel through the revealing of Christ to him.

It is likely that Paul refers to his encounter with the risen Christ when he speaks of the revealing of Christ to him. On the one hand, the pericope that follows this verse describes his former way of life and then what happened after this revelation was received (1.16 ff), which implies that he does have an event in mind—the Damascus road incident. On the other hand, Paul stops short of explicitly referring to that event. Nevertheless, the contrast between his former way of life and what was to follow underscores the apocalyptic nature of the revelation of Christ: Paul’s life was dramatically reversed as he came into line with the reality of the risen Christ.

Posted by Con Campbell

We’re in the top 50

1 09 2009

We’re pleased to announce that our little blog has cracked the Biblioblog Top 50.

Besides thanking our parents, wives, sunday school teachers, and tennis coaches, we’d like to thank YOU, our readers. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Now, tell your friends so we can give Jim West a run for his money one day (in the very distant future).

Posted by Con Campbell