Sunday, April 30, 2023

Stirring Up the Pot of God's Word

Becky and I used to say to each other, "Have I told you lately that I love you?" Well, have I told you lately that I love God's word? I do. I love its simplicity. I love its grandeur. I love its precision. I love its message. I love its beauty. Reading it daily is one of the greatest blessings of my life. When I read it I fall at his feet in worship and adoration. There's a lot in the book I don't understand, of course, and yet this is my favorite book in the whole world. Somehow the awesome power and glory of God is reflected in this book as much as in any sunrise or sunset. Need I say more? Who could not help but want to shout HalelluYah when reading God's holy word? Why, just this morning I saw this absolutely beautiful construction in Greek. It's Rom. 1:31:

Here we have four Greek adjectives, all beginning with the letter alpha. Now in Greek, an alpha at the beginning of a word usually negates the idea being spoke about. It's sorta like the "un" prefix in English. You can be "happy" or "unhappy," for example. Here in Rom. 1:31, Paul has taken 4 Greek adjectives and then negated them by using an alpha. See? 

I guess the next question is: Can we bring this over into English? One English translation called the New American Bible (a Roman Catholic version) has succeeded quite nicely in doing this. But instead of using an "un" at the beginning of the word they use the suffix "less" (which has the same meaning). Here's what the NAB has:

senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Now that is some nice translating! I like it better than the ESV's "foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless." Close, but no cigar. 

But is there any way we can put the negation at the beginning of the word in English (like it is in Greek) rather than at the end? Yes indeed. What do you think about this?

unreasonable, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.

Do we get at least an "A" for effort?

Incidentally, the Greek word for "unloving" is astorgous = not storgous. As Hendricksen points out in his Romans commentary, "The meaning is without natural affection" (p. 82). He adds -- and oh how telling this is! -- :

"It was not at all unusual for pagans to drown or in some other way to destroy unwanted offspring. In this connection think of present-day abortion, for which all kinds of excuses are being invented." 


Now, these kinds of sound patterns in Greek are not uncommon in the New Testament. They would have delighted the ears of the audience to whom they were first read, just as they delighted my ears as I "heard" them in my mind this morning. 

Did you ever look at a big pot of soup that was sitting on the stove? Not cooking but just sitting. Would you ever have guessed in a million years what was underneath it? Nope. You never could until you took a spoon and stirred it and then you found a wealth of goodies under the surface. But if all you do is just look at the top, you won't find too much to get excited about.

Forgive the lame analogy, but I teach Greek in order to give my students a spoon to stir with. I tell them, "Okay, it's time to take a big old soup ladle and stir up all the goodies that God has placed within his word. When you do that, believe me, you will find things you never dreamed of before you started stirring."

So yes, I love God's word. Every word. Everywhere. Not to mention all the amazing literary devices you can find by stirring the pot. 

How about you? 

Be ye stirrers of the word and not lookers only!!