Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 6: Feel the force like the early church

Feeling the force of the Greek like the early church did.

Something that I have really appreciated since using my GNT for my devotions, is being able to read the bible how the early church read it.

During my devotions, I am seeing things in the Greek that I have studied before, but this time I am reading them in the natural flow of the passage, rather than pulling a verse out to exegete it. Obviously I've looked at the context before, but usually in English, and then only switching into Greek for the particular verse I want to exegete.

Today, by reading the Greek devotionally, I was affected by a verse in a way I have never experienced before:

I've studied the ego eimi's in John's gospel before (if you're not familiar with this, you can read a bit about this here).
But today for the first time in my life I was hit by the force of how these are introduced in John's Gospel:

It started with John 8:12 ego eimi to fos tou kosmou. "I am the light of the world".
Now wait for it, this is not the main point I wanna make!

The ego eimi obviously stands out because the ego is not that necessary. Although this is not blatantly clear because it is still reasonable to use it (cf. Acts 10:21). So I saw this, and then looked up the cross reference (which the UBS readers edition does not have, but the standard UBS GNT does), and I saw Is 49:6 as a reference, and looked this up, and that was good. But I had no idea of the shock I was in for later.

Later when I got to verse 23 I noticed an interesting style that flows better in the Greek than English, and I thought about how creative Jesus was, and the Holy Spirit, and John in their use of words. Now at this stage I've forgotten about Jesus' ego eimi stuff earlier, and then in v.24 Jesus suddenly says, "ean gar me pisteusate hoti ego eimi, apothaneisthe en tais harmatiais humon." - "For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins."

It hit me like a knockout punch!

One minute I was reading about the Jews discussing where this man Jesus comes from, and Jesus the man is discussing this with them. I've forgotten by now about Jesus' not so clear claim to deity in v.12, and then pow! Jesus suddenly says EGO EIMI!
Suddenly I feel face to face with God, the great I AM.
Although I cognitively know that Jesus is both fully God, and fully man, this truth hit me in a powerful way through the literary device that Jesus and John used.

At that moment I had to stop, and think about Jesus as the I AM. I had to think about his power, his amazing power and might, and how amazingly that power and might was contained within a human body.

It got me thinking of how powerful Jesus is, and how weak I am.

But then it also got me thinking of how much I can identify with Jesus, because he came and humbled himself as a man.

Then I realised how this fits in with the prologue of John's gospel.

I have studied the eqo eimi's before, but I have never been hit by them in such a powerful way as today. I think this was because I was reading the bible devotionally, paragraph by paragraph, so that God's breathed words were able to hit me with the full effect he has intended back in the first century. I'd like to think that the early church would have been shocked in a similar way when they came to that verse.

What a mighty God we serve!

Peace,
D

P.S. None of my English translations translate this in a way that would have the same effect:

ESV John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."

NET John 8:24 Thus I told you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins." - this is footnoted, but a footnote does not have the same literary effect!

NAU John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

NIV John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."

KJV John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

NKJ John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

NRS John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he."

I'm going to T4G!!!!!!!!!

God in his kindness, has provided a plane ticket and a place at the T4G conference this year!

A month ago, our financial situation changed quite dramatically, and I was left wondering if I could go on pastoring.

During the time I was praying about this, I came across the Together for the Gospel 2006 videos on the web:
www.ligonier.org/rym.php

I found the videos so encouraging, and they confirmed to me to continue pastoring, and to trust God for finances.

Then about a week after being so encouraged by watching Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C J Mahaney, and Al Mohler talk about pastoral ministry, I was out of the blue offered a plane ticket to Kentucky and a ticket at the conference!

It is so amazing how God provides for us!

If any of you out in the blog-o-sphere are going to be at T4G 2008, then please contact me so that we can link up in Kentucky!

Peace
D

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's wrong with nooma?

Rob Bell has a nooma video where he criticises people who warn others of God's judgment. In it he claims that all people are sacred! You can see a preview of the video here:



Below is a parody of Rob Bell's video, which demonstrates how wrong the nooma video is:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 5: Nuances

Spotting Jesus' nuances.

Today I was reading in John 6 where disciples leave Jesus, and Jesus turns to the twelve and asks them a question,

ESV John 6:67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?"

If looking solely at the English, it would be hard to know what Jesus is getting at. Is he annoyed? perplexed? Is he making a genuine offer to the disciples to leave?

In the Greek, we see it clearly spelled out. The question begins with 'me', indicating that this a question that expects a negative answer, "No". Therefore Jesus is asking if they want to go away, but asking in a way that shows that he does not expect them to go away.
This led me to ponder why he did not expect them to go away. I believe the answer is found in v.64

John 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

So we see that Jesus knew from the beginning which of his disciples were genuine believers, and which were not. How so? This is made clearer in the next verse:

John 6:65 "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

As I said in a much earlier post, the "coming" is "believing", and the context is people not believing in Jesus. Jesus says that the ones who believe in him are the ones to whom this has been given by the Father.
The tense of "given / granted" is a periphrastic pluperfect, meaning the giving has happened in the past, and the results of this action were in the past. In other words, the ones who believe in Jesus, were given that ability in the past, and then as a result of that, they then believed.

This then is why Jesus knows that the 12 disciples (minus Judas v.70-71) will not permanently leave him. It is because he knows that the Father has drawn them (v.44), that the Father has given them to Jesus (v.37), that Jesus will never lose them (v.39).

Later, before Jesus went to the cross, he prayed the priestly prayer, bearing these disciples in mind (7:6). So right through Jesus' ministry, even right before he went on the cross to pay for their sins, he had the 11 disciples in mind, and he knew he would not let them fall away.

What is amazing is that, we see that he didn't just pray that prayer for them, but for us to (7:20).
Therefore, if we believe in Jesus, we can be confident that Jesus will not let us permanently fall away. When we read Jesus saying, "You don't want to go away too do you?", we see that Jesus knows that we will not, because he knows that the Father has given us to him.

Praise Jesus!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Learning Koine Greek vocab via CD

I've posted before about using Mounce's vocab CD.
Today I want to write something about Jonathan Pennington's vocab CD.
You can find it here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Testament-Greek-Vocabulary-Learn/dp/0310243823

It's different to the Mounce one.
The Mounce one is keyed to the Mounce Grammar book. This means you can use the Mounce CD to learn the vocab of each chapter in the book you are studying.
But Jonathan Pennington's CD is different because:
1) it is based on the number of times a word is used in the GNT.
2) It covers more vocab than Mounce.
3) It includes a small booklet, with the vocab listed, so that you can read along.

Both are very good, for my Greek class, this my recommendation:

- If you have the money, buy the Mounce CD now (buy the CD, not the download version, because then its not divided up into chapters). Then when you have finished your first year of Greek, buy Jonathan Pennington's CD.

- If you only want to buy one - then buy Jonathan Pennington, because it will last you into year 2 Greek.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 4: Word plays

Spotting word plays.

Today I was reading John 6.
I noticed in the Greek a word play going on from 6:27-30 based on the word ergon
This is not so noticeable in most English translations (although the NASB, does make it clear).

In v.27 the word for 'labour' or 'work' is ergazomai - a cognate verb of ergon. "Do not work..."
In v.28 they literally say, "What must we do, to be working (ergazomai) the works (ergon) of God?"
In v.29 Jesus answers "This is the work (ergon) of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

The play on words here shows that John is making a point here with these words, and so I spent more time thinking over these than I may otherwise have done, and meditated on the following:

1) These people were seeking after Jesus (v.24, 26). We would call them "seekers" today. But Jesus points out that their seeking is wrong because they are seeking Jesus to get material blessing, they want to get fed with bread. Jesus then preaches to correct this misconception (v.27).
- this made me think of how often people will present the gospel to working class people in a way that encourages them to seek for material blessing, they may even talk about Jesus, but the emphasis is on getting a good job, and financial security (or even aspiring to be middle class).

2) In v.28 The people ask Jesus for a list of works (plural) that they can be working on (continuous tense). They seem to think that if they were given a list they would be able to fulfill it! They seem to think that they could actually please God, by doing a bunch of things.

3) Jesus answers them (v.29), but in his answer he changes 'works' (plural) to 'work' (singular). There is only one job to do, and that job is believing / trusting in Jesus Christ.

What a relief to know that we only have to put our trust in Jesus Christ our mighty Saviour who died and rose again. What a weight off our shoulders to know that we can never please God with a list of things, but that we don't have to, because instead God has provided a way, through his son, Jesus Christ.

Praise God!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 3: Perfect tense

Seeing the perfect tense:

One of the things I love about reading from the GNT is that I can see when the perfect tense is being used. I like reading my ESV, and my NET Bible, but when I come to a verb in the past tense, I often wonder if its an aorist or a perfect in the Greek (even imperfects aren't always very clear).

Moulton called the perfect tense “the most important, exegetically, of all the Greek Tenses.” Moulton, Prolegomena, 140. It tells us that an action has been completed, and that there are results from that action that exist at the time of writing.

So today I was reading John 5:24 in the GNT, in the ESV it reads like this:

ESV John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Apart from the fact that the Greek has the word kai instead of a fullstop (US = period) in the middle of this verse, of more help to me in my devotions was that the verb metabainw for 'passed' is in the perfect tense as metabebeken. This meant that as I read it, I realised that Jesus is saying that the one who is believing in him (present \continuous participle), has already passed over from death into life. This is a completed action that has happened in the past, and has ongoing results. From these, there are at least three further meditations to be made:

1) What Jesus describes here seems very much like the doctrine of justification. In other words, at the point of conversion we are declared, "Not Guilty!" and "Righteous!". We no longer face condemnation, we have passed over from that.

2) Eternal life starts at the moment of conversation, if we believe in Jesus then we are already living our eternal life now.

3) Having been justified, we now continuously believe in Jesus, and walk in our eternal life. We are presently being saved, although we have already been saved, and we know that we will be saved (the Greek word for 'saved' is used in every tense in the NT!). The key here I believe, is to see that we have already been justified. Therefore we can now work out our salvation in fear and trembling whilst being aware that we are not working out our justification - that has already been declared by our wonderful God.

Praise God!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Free Puritan books online

I recently found a bunch of Puritan books available to read online:

http://www.monergism.com/puritan_library.html

If you don't know who the Puritans were then read on:


You may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when Britain used to produce excellent Christian books, that time was the 16th to 17th century, and the authors were called the Puritans.

These men were saturated in scripture, loved God, and devoted their lives to Him. Their books demonstrate their high view of scripture, and their devotion to God.

You can read a number of their books online here:
http://www.monergism.com/puritan_library.html

Enjoy,
D

Friday, February 08, 2008

South West London Koine Greek course approved by Jayda Forbes


Last week after the Greek lesson, Jayda Forbes aged 4, ran into the room, looked at the whiteboard and said,
That's good Greek!

Tonight Jayda said,

It looks very good when you do the stuff!

What could be a better endorsement than that?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

There is more grace in Christ, than sin in us

There is more grace in Christ, than sin in us

Richard Sibbs

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 2: Slow down factor

The slow down factor:

Something I find really helpful about using the GNT for my devotions is that it forces me to slow down my reading.
I am naturally task orientated, and can often rush through my Bible reading, with the aim of reading through the Bible in a year, or whatever my plan is.
This problem is increased when I read a familiar passage.

When I'm reading in Greek however, I have to read much slower, and this gives me much more time to think about the text.

For example, today I was reading John 4:31-38. This is a very familiar passage, and I could have been tempted to quickly read it, except that I was reading it in the Greek, and so I was slowed down (especially by the farming vocab!). This meant that I thought more about the text than I would have had I read it in my ESV translation.

As a result I started thinking about God's sovereignty in evangelism. How God had sent the prophets, and then Jesus Christ, and then Jesus' disciples, and today he has sent us - and all the time God has planned out his harvest. I found this very encouraging because the work in our area is very hard, and we evangelise but see little fruit. Its so much easier to take this, when I realise that God is sovereign over the harvest.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Motivations to learn Greek, from an old missionary

Before John Paton was even 12 years old he was very busy learning his father’s trade (making stockings) from 6am to 10pm.

Nevertheless, because he wanted to be a missionary, he studied Greek during his 30min breakfast break, his 1hr lunch break, and his 30min supper break.

When still under twelve years of age, I started to learn my father's trade, in which I made surprising progress. We wrought from six in the morning till ten at night, with an hour at dinner-time and half an hour at breakfast and again at supper. These spare moments every day I devoutly spent on my books, chiefly in the rudiments of Latin and Greek; for I had given my soul to God, and was resolved to aim at being a Missionary of the Cross, or a Minister of the Gospel.

From The Story of John G. Paton Told for Young Folks or, Thirty Years among South Sea Cannibals by James Paton. New York: A. L. Burt Company, Publishers, [1892].

Monday, February 04, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 1:

For the last 2 years I’ve been using Greek primarily for exegesis for sermons. In the last month however, I tried something new, and started using a Greek text for my devotions. I knew someone years ago who did this, but since then have never heard anyone encourage this.

My own limited experience of the last month has been that reading the New Testament in Greek is a wonderful devotional experience. Hopefully through this blog, I can encourage it amongst others – especially you ex-Bible college students who don’t use your Greek anymore!

What do I mean by devotions? Personally I'm using this word to speak of set times in the day in which I read God words with the view to knowing Him better, knowing how to obey Him better, and how to pray to Him better. I'm sure others have much better definitions of devotions - this was just off the top of my head, in case anyone was wondering what the word 'devotions' meant.

Peace
D

"He walked with God, why may not I?" Motivation to pray, from an old missionary's dad

I wanted to read John Paton's biography recently, but realised that whoever I last lent it out to never gave it back (please give it back if you're out there!).
Fortunately I found a website that contains selections from his biography:
http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/paton/paton1.html

In the first section, there was a bit that is very motivating to pray:

The "closet" was a very small apartment betwixt the other two, having room only for a bed, a little table and a chair, with a diminutive window shedding diminutive light on the scene. This was the Sanctuary of that cottage home. Thither daily, and oftentimes a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and "shut to the door"; and we children got to understand by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about) that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place. We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice pleading as if for life, and we learned to slip out and in past that door on tiptoe, not to disturb the holy colloquy. The outside world might not know, but we knew, whence came that happy light as of a new-born smile that always was dawning on my father's face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived. Never, in temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles. Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, or blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, "He walked with God, why may not I?"


From The Story of John G. Paton Told for Young Folks or, Thirty Years among South Sea Cannibals by James Paton. New York: A. L. Burt Company, Publishers, [1892].
Green flower

Saturday, February 02, 2008

New Testament Exegesis Step 6: Rhetorical Devices part c

Inclusion or inclusio:
This is where a phrase is repeated to show where an author starts a unit, and where he finishes a unit.

For example:
Matthew 19:30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.


It would be possible to see this as the concluding words to what Jesus has said previously. In which case when studying the text, we might be tempted to stop right there, and even in a sermon we might be tempted to end the sermon at that verse.
However if we read on, we see the same phrase used again in the next chapter,

Matthew 20:16 So the last will be first, and the first last.


This is called inclusion, or if you want to sound clever, inclusio.

I found this very helpful when I was preparing a sermon on this last week. It helped me to decide how much of the text I was going to teach. I started the sermon at Mat 13:27, and ended it at Mat 20:16. This meant that I was able to teach a unit of thought that Matthew put there, rather than a chapter division that someone put there hundreds of years later.

How to catch up on the Greek course

If some of you on the Greek course have fallen behind and are struggling to keep up, I would recommend trying the following:

Use the Mounce CD-rom:
a) Watch whichever chapter you are stuck on.
b) Then go through the vocab on that chapter on the CD-Rom
- listen to Mounce pronounce the words, as you try to learn them.
c) Then read through the chapter - perhaps doing this in 15 minute slots.
- highlight any paradigms that Mounce says you must memorise.
d) Spend time trying to memorise the highlighted bits.
- try writing out the paradigms from memory.
e) Use the Mounce software "parseworks" and "flashworks" to test yourself.
f) keep repeating the above steps until you feel ready to do the workbook exercises.
g) If you find you can't do the workbook exercises - rather than cheat, put the workbook away and go through the previous steps again.

Happy studying,
Duncan