Posts Tagged ‘exegesis’

Intro to Preaching: Sermon #1 Info

February 7, 2011

For the first sermon I preached for my Intro to Preaching course, I was assigned Mark 2, 1-12.  Along with the sermon, we were required to turn in the following:

(1)         Text: Mark 2, 1-12

(2)         Reconsider the limits of the pericope:  I consider this pericope to be a logical part of the whole.

(3)         Establish a reliable translation of the text as a basis for your study: I will be using the NRSV as I found it to be clear and concise.

(4)         Read the Text Aloud: There seems to be a sense of urgency on the part of the people who are there to see Jesus.  This is especially true for the people who carry the man who is paralyzed to the house where Jesus is speaking.  Mark does not tell the reader where these men have come from.  Did they carry the paralyzed man a long distance?  And not only have they carried the man here to Jesus, (more…)

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Greek Exegesis

April 21, 2010

In Fall 2009, I took an Intro to New Testament Exegesis class that I very much enjoyed.  I have previously posted a paper on 1 Thessalonians and Luke as well as a resource list for each ( 1 Thes. / Luke ).  Here I will post information from my professor on questions to ask when “exegeting” a paper as well as some recommendations for general exegesis tools.  The list of questions was actually designed for the shorter assignments I reference in my post about the class in general but can definitely be helpful in general.  While it probably would have made more sense to post these earlier, alas, it only now they are going up.  The I hope it is helpful to some!

Questions to Ask When Exegeting

A. What does this text say?
Are there significant textual or translational difficulties to be taken into account? What are they, and how might you address them?
B. What is this text?
  1. Literarily, identify the structural unit(s) represented in the passage. Where does it begin and end?
  2. Contextually, examine the place of the pericope in its literary context.
  3. Form-critically, identify the genre(s) represented in the pericope.
  4. Does the passage contain citations of Scripture? If so, how do they function in the passage?
C. What does this text mean?
  1. Trace the “movement” of the pericope. If it is a narrative, how does the “plot” unfold? If non-narrative,
  2. what line of thought is developed? What argument is being advanced?
  3. What (if any) are the key term(s) or significant images in this pericope?
  4. What do you need to know about the writer’s religious heritage or cultural environment in order to understand this passage better?
  5. How do the concerns of the text function within its literary context? What might they suggest about the occasion and purpose of the writing?
D. How does this text contribute to Christian thought and life?
  1. How do the concerns of this pericope compare or contrast with those in relevant, parallel texts (whether by the same or another biblical author)?
  2. As you presently understand this passage, what questions does this text present for you as a Christian theologian?

Exegetical Tools

Texts and Reference Tools

Aland, Kurt, and Barbara Aland. The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Translated by E. F. Rhodes.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.

Brenton, L. C. L.  The Septuagint with Apocrypha:  Greek and English. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1987.

Epp, Eldon J.  “Textual Criticism (NT),” Anchor Bible Dictionary 6: 412-35.

Metzger, Bruce M.  The Text of the New Testament:  Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. 3d ed. New York:  Oxford University Press, 1992.

______. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 3d ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994.

Nestle-Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece. Edited by Barbara Aland and Kurt Aland.  27th ed. Stuttgart:  Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1997.

Novum Testamentum Graecum: Editio Critica Maior. Edited by the Institute for New Testament Textual Research.  Stuttgart:  Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1997.

Rahlfs, A. Septuaginta. Stuttgart:  Deutsche Bibelstifung, 1935.

Swanson, R. J.  New Testament Greek Manuscripts:  Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus. 4 vols.  Sheffield:  Sheffield Academic Press, 1994-99.

United Bible Societies. Greek New Testament. 4th ed.  Stuttgart:  Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994.

Vaganay, Léon and Christian-Bernard Amphoux, An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. Rev. and enl. ed.  Translated by J. Heimerdinger. Cambridge 1991 (French 1986).

Dictionaries/Lexicons

Danker, F. W., et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Kittel, G., and G. Friedrich, eds.  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 10 vols.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-76.

Lampe, G. W. H.  Patristic Greek Lexicon. Oxford:  Clarendon, 1961.

Liddell, H. G., R. Scott, and S. Jones.  A Greek-English Lexicon with a Supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.

Lust, J., et al.  A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1992-96.

Moulton, J. H., and G. Milligan.  The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.

Van Voorst, Robert E. Building Your New Testament Greek Vocabulary. 3d ed. Atlanta:  Society of Biblical Literature, 2001.

Concordances

Computer Concordance to the Novum Testamentum Graece of Nestle-Aland 26th edition. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1985.

Hatch, E., and H. A. Redpath. A Concordance to the Septuagint and the Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament (Including the Apocryphal Books). Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1998.

Moulton, W. F., A. S. Geden, and H. K. Moulton.  A Concordance to the Greek New Testament. Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, 1963.

Grammars

Blass, F., et al.  A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Moule, C. F. D.  An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek. 2d ed. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1959.

Moulton, J. H., et al.  A Grammar of New Testament Greek. 4 vols.  Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, 1908-65.

Olsen, M. B.  A Semantic and Pragmatic Model of Lexical and Grammatical Aspect. New York:  Garland, 1997.

Owings, T.  A Cumulative Index to New Testament Greek Grammars. Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1983.

Porter, S. E.  Idioms of the Greek New Testament. Biblical Languages: Greek 2.  Sheffield:  JSOT Press, 1992.

_____. Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament. New York:  Peter Lang, 1989.

Robertson, A. T.  A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934.

Smyth, H. W.  Greek Grammar. Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1920.

Wallace, Daniel B.  Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics:  An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes. Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1996.

Young, Richard A.  Intermediate New Testament Greek:  A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach. Nashville:  Broadman & Holman, 1994.

Bibliography

ATLA Religion Database (formerly Religion Indexes).  Reference CD-ROM and Online (For those at PTSEM look for “ATLA Religion Index,” then “ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials” after you click the following link: http://www.ptsem.edu/Library/opac/dbases.php)

Elenchus Bibliographicus Biblicus.

Elenchus of Biblica.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A.  An Introductory Bibliography for the Study of Scripture. 3d ed.  Rome:  Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 1990.

New Testament Abstracts. (NTA is also available via the ATLA Religion Database noted above)

Suggested Resources on Luke

April 16, 2010

Below is a list of resources my Greek Exegesis Prof made available for us.  The exegesis paper I wrote on Luke can be found here.

Recommended Commentaries:

Bovon, Francois. Luke 1 (Luke 1:1-9:50). Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002.

Culpepper, R. A. The Gospel of Luke. In The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 9. Nashville: Abingdon, 1995.

Fitzmyer, J. A. The Gospel According to Luke. 2 vols. Anchor Bible. Garden City: Doubleday, 1981 and 1985.

Green, J. B. The Gospel of Luke. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Johnson, L. T. The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1991.

Marshall, I. H. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978.

Talbert, C. H. Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel. New York: Crossroad, 1988.

Commended Commentaries:

Caird, G. B. Saint Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963.

Schweizer, E. The Good News according to Luke. Atlanta: John Knox, 1984.

Tannehill, R. C. Luke. Abingdon New Testament Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996.

For general background, you may want to begin with one of the following:

Carroll, John. “Gospel of Luke.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2008. 3:720-34.

Green, Joel. The Theology of the Gospel of Luke. New Testament Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Exegesis Paper on Luke 19:1-10

April 12, 2010

A few weeks ago I blogged on my NT Exegesis class here at Princeton Theological Seminary.  I then posted my paper on 1 Thessalonians 15:12-28 as well as a list of resources for 1 Thessalonians provided by my prof.  I will now do the same for the paper I wrote on Luke 19:1-10.  I will tell you I got a ‘B’ on this paper not to be prideful, but rather so you know it isn’t what some would call an ‘A’ paper.  I will also say that a ‘B’ with the prof I had is something I am proud of. Some self critique: This paper was much better with respect to footnoting and secondary sources usage.  It is not (as my 1 Thess. paper was) a commentary on the commentaries I used.  I feel as though I found my voice a bit more in this paper.  That said, the introduction and conclusion need some work.  That said, here is my translation of the passage followed by my take on the story of Zacchaeus.

_______________________________________________

1And Jesus entered Jericho to pass through it. 2And behold, there was a man called Zacchaeus and he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3And he wanted to see who Jesus was but he was not able to because of the crowd and he was small in stature.[1] 4So he ran ahead to the front [of the crowd] and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see him because [Jesus] intended to pass by that way. 5And as he came to that place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry down for today it is necessary[2] for me to stay in your house.”6So he hurried down and received him rejoicing. 7And all who saw this murmured to one another saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 8Standing, Zacchaeus said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I give[3] to the poor and if I have gained anything from anyone by falsehood I give back fourfold.” 9Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”  — Luke 19:1-10

Luke 19:1-10 is more than a story about what might at first glance appear to be a chance encounter between Jesus and a tax collector named Zacchaeus.  In light of the entirety of the book of Luke, this passage is packed with theological implications.  The passage starts out with a rather innocuous phrase, “And Jesus entered Jericho to pass through it” (v. 1), but even in this Luke is communicating much more than Jesus’ physical location.  Jesus’ movement brings him closer and closer to his ultimate goal of Jerusalem.  This is stated very matter of fact in 17:11, where the reader learns that “on the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.”[4] Then in 18:35 Jesus approaches Jericho which means he is less than 15 miles from Jerusalem.  The description in 19:1 continues with the theme of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem which is significant in and of itself.  In v. 2, the main character in the story next to Jesus is introduced as “a man called Zacchaeus and he was a chief tax collector and was rich.”  It is interesting to that Luke chose to inform his readers that Zacchaeus “was a chief tax collector and he was rich” (v. 2) since usually being a tax collector would automatically indicate wealth.  It seems possible that Luke was emphasizing the fact that Zacchaeus was rich in light of the outcome of the story since earlier in Luke Jesus is quoted as saying, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (18:25).

Luke’s overall presentation of the rich is not very sympathetic.   Early on in Luke, Jesus is quoted as saying “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (6:24).  The nature of this “woe” (οὐαὶ) is exemplified in the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  The fact that Lazarus is named while “the rich man” is given no name at all speaks volumes since those who receive no names are denigrated to obscurity and generality.  Even if this story is a parable created to present a point, the fact still remains that the rich man is not given a name.  In this story, Lazarus is a poor man who lay at the gate of the rich man “covered with sores, and longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table” (v. 21) who “feasted sumptuously every day” (v.19).  Both Lazarus and the rich man die but while Lazarus was by Abraham’s side (v. 23b), the rich man is “in Hades, where he [is] being tormented” (v. 23a).  When the rich man notices this, he says, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames” (v. 24).  The irony that the rich man is asking to be served by the very one he neglected on a daily basis is overpowering.[5] Abraham’s response presents this stark reality to the rich man in saying tenderly, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony” (v. 25).  While the word “woe” is not explicitly used here, it is indeed the most succinct way to describe the rich man’s predicament.  This is important to keep in mind as the story of Zacchaeus continues.

In v. 3 the reader learns that Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus but is unable due to the combination of the crowd around Jesus and because he is “small in stature” (τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς).  While many translations, including the NRSV, render the Greek here as “short in stature,” this only captures one sense of the meaning here.  In Luke 2:52, ἡλικίᾳ is used to describe Jesus in where he is described as “growing in wisdom and stature” while in 12:25, ἡλικαν is used to discuss the span of a person’s life.  So while this word can refer to physical height, as seen in 2:52, it apparently can also refer to the span of a person’s life as in 12:25.  Within the context of Jewish culture, however this latter use could easily be used with respect to moral span or fullness of a person so to speak.  In this mindset, Zacchaeus would not short merely in the physical sense, but his character would be lacking as well.  The story of the blind beggar Jesus heals is a perfect of this type of character deficiency.  Thus, just as sickness, disease, or disability was often understood as the result of sin on the part of the individual or their parents or as the result of demon possession, so it was with the case with being short.  This, as well as Zacchaeus’ wealth, and position meant that Zacchaeus was a sinner as far as his town was concerned.[6]

While v. 3 says that Zacchaeuswanted to see who Jesus was,” it is v. 4 that helps us see the level of intensity of this statement.  Similar to when the father in the parable found in Luke 15, when in Luke 19 the text reveals that “he ran ahead to the front [of the crowd]” and on top of that, he “climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see him because [Jesus] intended to pass by that way” (v. 4).    Regardless of the level to which Zacchaeus’ dignity was degraded, it is obvious that he fully intended on doing whatever it took to see who Jesus was.[7] In the midst of Zacchaeus’ seeking, Jesus steps in to meet him there.  When Jesus arrived at the tree Zacchaeus had climbed in hopes of merely seeing Jesus, Jesus looks up at him and speaks to him saying, “Zacchaeus, hurry down for today it is necessary for me to stay in your house” (v. 5).  The use of δεῖ in v. 5 is worth exploration since Luke’s usage of this word gives the corresponding action much more weight.  While there is a spectrum of meaning for this word when translating it into English, BDAG includes this instance of δεῖ in the heading “to be under necessity of happening, it is necessary, one must, one has to” and then under the subheading “of compulsion caused by necessity of attaining a certain result.”  Jesus is not asking to stay at Zacchaeus’ house, nor is he merely suggesting it, rather it seems that Jesus is saying that he must stay with Zacchaeus or that “it is necessary.”  But in what sense is it necessary for Jesus to stay with Zacchaeus?  Is there, as some scholars have argued, a theological implication behind Luke’s use of this word in such a way?  This sense of the word is also used when Jesus says, “When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12, emphasis added).  It seems in this case Luke is intentionally pairing δεῖ, here translated as “ought to,” with the presence and work of the Holy Spirit which indicates understanding δεῖ as “divine necessity” is legitimate at least in some cases.  Danker also includes Acts 9:6 in this type of usage of the word δεῖ which only increases the level of significance.  Once again it is Jesus speaking, but this time to Saul on the road to Damascus.  To preface Jesus’ words, we are told that Saul “was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (v.3).  At this point Saul “fell to the ground” because “he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” (vv. 4-5).  It is important to realize that Saul is headed to Damascus with letters that provide authorization for him to proceed with his plan to bring all followers of the Way “bound to Jerusalem” presumably to be tried in some way (v. 2).  The divine necessity in this situation seems warranted when considering Saul would receive a new name and a new mission regarding followers of the Way that results in the spread of the gospel beyond what many may have imagined.  So when Saul says, “Who are you, Lord?” (v. 5) and receives the response “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do” (v. 5b-6, emphasis added) it seems the NRSV understatements the necessity of what it is that Saul must do.  The divine necessity involved in Jesus’ stay at Zacchaeus’ home may provide some insight into how Jesus knew his name.[8]

According to v. 6, the obedience Zacchaeus exhibits in response to this divine necessity (whether he understands it as that or not) is flawless.  Not only did he hurry down as Jesus asked, “he hurried down and received him rejoicing” (v. 6).[9] Luke’s usage of χαίρω is revealing.  The first usage of this word in Luke is in 1:14 where the birth of John the Baptist is foretold in the prophecy given to Zechariah by an angel at the temple.  Since the Baptist is the forerunner of Jesus, this is not just your average, run of the mill happiness.  Rather there is a sense of what could be described as the fulfillment of a deep longing.  Xαίρω is also used by the angel who greets Mary to tell her about the birth of Jesus (1:28), as well as the healing of the “bent-over-woman” in Luke 13, the return of the so called “prodigal son” (15:5), and the way the disciples rejoice at Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem (19:6).  The passion that is the magnificat seems to be in the spirit of χαίρω as well though the word itself is not used in this case.

Though Zacchaeus is rejoicing, after those who are present observe this exchange between Jesus and Zacchaeus there is “grumbling” (v. 7a) among the crowd since Jesus is going to stay at the house of a sinner (v. 7b).  What happens next could be understood as a rebuttal: Zacchaeus’ tells Jesus, “half of my possessions I give to the poor and if I cheated anyone of anything I repay [them] fourfold” (v. 8b).[10] Though most translations present Zacchaeus’ statement in future tense where he will give half his possessions to the poor, the fact that the verbs are actually in the present tense seems as though Zacchaeus has already been doing this.[11] The fact that we are told that Zacchaeus stands up before speaking supports the idea that he may be defending himself.  That said, since there are gaps in the text this is not definitive evidence.  If this is the case, reading the story of Zacchaeus as a conversion narrative is problematic.  If Zacchaeus has already been doing as he says, it is possible that he was already a believer and is standing up for himself and the illegitimate declaration that he was a sinner (v. 7).  He did seek Jesus out after all (vv. 3-4).  With this in mind, Jesus’ response might make a bit more sense.  In hearing Zacchaeus’ legitimate response, Jesus declares that “Today salvation has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham” (v. 9a) stating emphatically that Zacchaeus is “also a son of Abraham” (v. 9b).  This verse is both supportive and problematic concerning the possibility that Zacchaeus may have already been a believer.  Indeed John preaches to the crowds that came to him for baptism, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Luke 3:8-9).[12] Do Zacchaeus’ works prove he is indeed a true son of Abraham?  The problematic aspect of this verse comes at the beginning of the verse when Jesus says salvation (σωτηρία) has come to Zacchaeus’ house “today” (σήμερον).  If Zacchaeus is already a believer, how it is that salvation is only coming on the day of Jesus’ arrival?  As it turns out, this word appears in Luke in more than a few places either alluding to or directly identifying Jesus.  When Zechariah is finally able to speak after being mute for doubting God’s provision, Zechariah is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and prophesies (1:67).  His prophecy includes three uses of σωτηρία the first of which is a veiled reference of the Messiah who will be “a horn of salvation” (v. 69).  In addition, σωτηρία is also used when Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and praises God saying “my eyes have seen your salvation (σωτηρία)” (2:30).  And lastly, John the Baptist uses this same word to describe Jesus when he invokes the prophecy of Isaiah saying “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (3:6).  If then, Luke uses σωτηρία to refer to Jesus himself as the embodiment of God’s salvation, it is indeed true that Salvation (read Jesus) has come to Zacchaeus’ house that day and would not be problematic in weighing the possibility that Zacchaeus was already a believer.

Luke’s use of σήμερον (v. 9) is telling as well.  Once again, Luke seems to reserve this word for very important events.  In fact the first usage is used in one of the most quoted passages of Luke: the announcement of the birth of Jesus.  Here an angel declares to some shepherds watching their flocks in the fields, “‘Do not be afraid; for see —  I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’” (2:10-12, emphasis added).  Jesus also uses this word after he reads from the scroll of Isaiah in his synagogue saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21).  This is no small thing that Jesus has said and in fact contributes to Jesus’ rejection in his home town of Nazareth. (4:24, 29).

Even with all this however, the possibility that the story of Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus was not a conversion story as it is usually presented could very well fall apart in v. 10.  Here Jesus states, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” showing how in one sense Jesus’ “seeking” parallels the efforts Zacchaeus made to see Jesus (vv. 3-4).  When Jesus refers to “the lost,” is he indicating that Zacchaeus was indeed lost and is now “found” so to speak?  This is after all the same word (ζητῆσαι) that is used in the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7.  While this is a distinct possibility and may prove after all that the more accepted reading of this story is that of a conversion narrative, Jesus’ words just a chapter before the story of Zacchaeus in 18:8b more significant.  Here the use of the title “Son of Man” is used, just as it is in 20:10 in response to Zacchaeus’ declaration, but here Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Is the story of Zacchaeus then an answer to his own question?  In pondering this possibility, let us first return to the “grumblers” in v. 7.  If Zacchaeus’ declaration of his financial conduct is taken as him standing up for himself, it seems possible, if not probable, that Jesus is addressing the grumblers (vv. 9-10) and not Zacchaeus.[13]

While v. 10 could also function in this way even if it is a conversion story, if Jesus is indirectly identifying the grumblers as those who are lost, this would once again indicate the possibility that Zacchaeus’ use of present tense verbs does in fact show that Zacchaeus already believes.  This, coupled with the indications mentioned above, seem to show that Zacchaeus is standing up for himself and then even declared a true son of Abraham by Jesus.   It would not be hard to envision at least some of those who are grumbling feeling slighted or indignant that Jesus did not choose to stay at their homes.  Instead he chooses one who is on the “wrong” side of the social structure thus turning that same social structure on its head.  The question that must now be addressed is “So what?”  If this story is in fact a story that legitimizes, and even showcases Zacchaeus’ faith how does that affect our understanding of conversion?  It seems that the only thing at stake is the human tendency to turn things into rules and formulas.  While faith must be present for salvation, all efforts to make salvation formulaic seem myopic and detrimental to the expansion of the kingdom of God.  That this would help us remember that “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord” (Psalm 37:39) and those who are the recipients of God’s grace do not get to make the rules.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008.

Craddock, F. B. Luke Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox, 1990.

Fitzmyer, J. A. The Gospel According to Luke. Vol. 1 Anchor Bible. Garden City: Doubleday, 1981 and 1985.

Marshall, I. H. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978.

Talbert, Charles H. Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel. New York: Crossroad, 1984.

Tannehill, R. C. The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: A Literary Interpretation. Vol. 1: The Gospel According to Luke. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986.


[1] I have chosen to translate this phrase in a slightly ambiguous way since it seems that more than Zacchaeus’ height is under scrutiny in this passage.

[2] The significance of the phrase “it is necessary” (δεῖ) will be discussed at length in this paper.

[3] While many translations choose to render Zacchaeus’ statement as something he intends to do, the Greek is in present tense indicating that Zacchaeus is already doing these things.

[4] All verses not from Luke 19:1-10 are taken from the NRSV unless otherwise noted.

[5] Charles H. Talbert comments on this as well in his book Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1984), 157.

[6] Marshal states that here “ἡλικαν obviously means ‘height’” in The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978, 696.  While I do would not argue that this word does mean ‘height’ in this context, it seems irrational to me to rule out the possibility of the additional connotations mentioned above.

[7] Kenneth E. Bailey also addresses this aspect of this passage in his book Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 177.

[8] Marshal also notes that “this may be a case of supernatural language” but also states that “it is perfectly possible that Jesus could have known his name,” 696.

[9] Marshal also notices this noting that “the repetition of σπεύσας κατέβη is no doubt deliberate” (697).

[10] Fitzmyer disagrees with this as he understands a rebuttal on Zacchaeus’ part as a “bristling protest of self-righteousness.”  While it could definitely be read that way, this seems to assume a tone that is not otherwise apparent in the text, 1220.

[11] Tannehill comments on this be chooses to translate Zacchaeus’ statements as “I will give” and “I will give back” as “they could also a new policy that begins at this time” (277).

[12] Craddock also makes this association noting that the when Jesus says “Today salvation has come to this house” (v. 10), it is possible that “this house” may be a reference to “the concept of household salvation” which is an important concept for Luke (F. B. Craddock, Luke, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox, 1990), Salvation Brought to Zacchaeus.).  [Note: As the CD-ROM version does not provide page numbers, I will reference this work using section headings instead.].

[13] Talbert also comments on this idea, 176.

Exegesis Paper on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

March 6, 2010

Last week I blogged about the New Testament Exegesis class I took here at Princeton Theological Seminary.  Here is the first of two papers I turned in.  Before reading it, please note that the biggest thing that is wrong with this paper is that I used secondary sources entirely too much.  It ended up being more a commentary on the commentaries I used instead of an exegesis paper.  For those that have read the post about the class, it was prior to my ‘ah-ha’ moment with the baptism story.  My use of footnotes is not very good either.  I met with the teaching fellow for the class (a Ph.D. student who is now working on her dissertation) and was able to work through some of this so my second paper, which I will post later, is (I believe) a bit better.  The paper is preceded by my translation which I did not edit although I did receive a bit of feedback on a few small points in the translation.  As with some of my other posts, this one if definitely very long.

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12We ask you, brothers and sisters[1], to appreciate those who labor among you and those who lead you in the Lord and admonish you 13and consider them with the greatest respect in love because of their work.  Live in peace with one another.  14We urge you, brothers and sisters, to admonish those who are disorderly, console those who are faint-hearted, be devoted to those who are weak, and be patient with all people.  15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always pursue good for one another and for all people.
16Rejoice always,
17Pray incessantly,
18Give thanks in all things, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19Do not quench the Spirit,
20Do not despise prophecies,
21But rather test all things, hold fast to that which is good,
22And keep away from every form of evil.
23May the God of peace make you completely holy and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do this.  25Brothers and sisters, pray for us.  26Greet all the brothers and sisters with holy kisses.  27I charge you in the Lord to read this letter to them!  28May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 is a highly organized conclusion to Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica.  The layout of the pericope summarizes what he has written to the Thessalonians so far in hopes of emphasizing his main points.  Paul uses the literary form of the letter to accomplish this as well as brevity, intentional linguistic shifts, and mnemonic devices.  Thus, in bringing all his points together in this conclusion, Paul provides the church in Thessalonica with a valuable resource for addressing current difficulties in the church at Thessalonica as well as a concise reflection on Christian living and worship.

Written in approximately 51 C.E., 1 Thessalonians is the oldest book of the New Testament canon.  Thessalonica, “capital of the province of Macedonia and thus the seat of the Roman administration,” was a politically significant place.[2] An “important port city of the Roman province of Macedonia” with “a long Greek history,” there was no lack of gods and goddesses to worship[3] in addition to the Imperial Cult.[4] The prevalence of cultic practices in addition to the internal evidence (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9) shows the church in Thessalonica consisted of converted pagans.  Unfortunately, shortly after Paul presents them with the gospel, he had to leave.  Bruce points out that as a result of this premature departure, “[Paul] believed that the new Christians in Thessalonica had received insufficient instruction to prepare them for the [Christian] life.”[5] As a result Paul writes “in lieu of a personal visit” since “several attempts which he made to return to them were thwarted (1 Thess. 2:18).”[6] Largely considered a paraenetic letter written by Paul as a “concerned missionary,”[7] other scholars argue that it is rhetorical while some say it is deliberative. Gaventa suggests that it is best understood as “consolidation or, to use Paul’s own language “upbuilding” (see, for example 1 Thess. 5:11)”[8] which “borrows elements from several of [these] positions.”[9] However this is parsed out, it is “not a letter of self-defense.”[10]

At first glance, it seems that the beginning of the pericope is not well defined.  The first two, maybe even three, verses could easily be included in the previous pericope covering the beginning of chapter 5.  However upon careful consideration, this pericope corresponds directly to the rest of the letter with the exception of chapter 1 which serves as an introduction to the letter as a whole.  Starting at 2:1 and continuing through 3:5, Paul addresses his ministry in Thessalonica.  This corresponds directly to 5:12-13a where Paul tells them to “appreciate those who labor among you and those who lead you in the Lord and admonish you and consider them with the greatest respect in love.”  Here the word “labor” (κοπιῶντας) is the word used to describe “apostolic labor” (see, for example, 1 Cor. 15:10, 16:16, Rom. 16:12, 6, Gal. 4:11).  This is an interesting parallel as Paul may ask this of the Thessalonian church because their leaders are serving them as he would if he were there.  Τhe word “lead” (προïσταμενος) seems to reflect back on this since it is understood to “combine the ideas of leading, protecting, and caring for.”[11] While some believe this could indicate a very early institution of ecclesiastical offices, since 1 Thessalonians is dated so early this is unlikely.  In addition, since it is here in its verb form, as opposed to the noun form (προστάτης), it “cannot be regarded as an official designation.”[12] Admonish the last part of this triplet of laboring, leading, and admonishing.  While the Greek (νουθετοῦντας) also has a sense of instructing or advising, admonish is preferred because of its clear use as such just a few verses later in 5:14.

Continuing on in 3:6-4:12, Paul vacillates between acknowledging their efforts “to live and to please God” (4:1) and encouraging them to continue doing so.  The parallel for this portion of the letter is found in 5:14-22.  In 5:14, Paul encourages not just the leaders, but rather the entire church to admonish the disorderly, console the faint-hearted, be devoted to the weak, and patient with all people.  Since Paul is encouraging them to reach out to these people, it is an indirect acknowledgment of their efforts to live a life pleasing to God.  They are not considered part of those groups but rather are asked to reach out to those who are.  The word “disorderly” comes from ἀτάκτους and requires a decision between English translations with significantly different connotations.  While one way to translate this word is “disorderly” another choice is “idlers” as it is interpreted in the New Revised Standard Version.  Since this word is related to τάσσω, which has a sense of bringing order to things, and “when used of a person,” as in this case, “the word generally refers to someone who is undisciplined or insubordinate, as when a soldier is found away from his post”[13] the interpretation of “disorderly” is likely what Paul intended.  After instructing the Thessalonians to admonish the disorderly, Paul tells them to console those who are “faint-hearted” or “small-souled” (ὀλιγοψύχος).  While Richard argues this term indicates some sort of “religious despondency,”[14] that seems to be something based on a 21st Century thought.  Considering Paul’s discussion of death in chapter 3, it is also possible a possible reference to those “who grieve over the loss of loved ones.”[15] As for “be[ing] devoted (ἀντέχεσθε) to those who are weak (ἀσθενῶν),” the phrase “be devoted” is fitting because the Greek has a sense of “having strong interest in” or “standing by” someone or something.  While “the term may generally apply to those who are vulnerable to pressures of various sorts,”[16] Gaventa believes this instruction could be a result of Paul’s “strong concern about the susceptibility of the Thessalonians to “the power of the tempter” (1 Thess. 3:5).[17] It is tempting to read the next injunction to “be patient with all people” as referring only to the disorderly, faint-hearted, and weak instead of acknowledging the possibility that Paul is instructing them to be patient with everyone. The later seems to be the case however since, as Bruce points out, when Paul writes his letter to the Galatians patience is “included in the ninefold fruit of the Spirit”[18] (Gal. 5:22) and as such should be exhibited towards all.

In 5:15-22, Paul returns to addressing the church in its entirety and encourages them with succinct instructions on Christian living and worship.  In verse 15 Paul instructs the Thessalonians, “see that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always pursue good for one another and for all people.”  A “classical imperative,” it is found “in almost identical terms in Rom. 12:17a” and has “OT antecedents (cf. Prov. 25:21).”[19] As Gaventa points out, “it is intriguing to see the freedom with which Paul employs traditional instruction to address a particular local situation.”[20] Continuing on Paul instructs the Christians in Thessalonica to “always pursue good for one another and for all people.”  As this is the second time in two verses Paul has used the παντα to indicate “all people” (v. 14 & 15), it seems as though Paul is encouraging a community that is “distinctive but not closed.”[21]

The editors have drawn verses 16-22 out of the text considerably by insetting the verses and allowing a separate line for each imperative phrase.  In addition, “each imperative phrase contains a word, usually the first word, that begins with a “p” sound (from the Greek letter pi).”[22] This alliterative technique gives this portion a rhyming effect and combined with the “content of these verses have provoked the suggestion that they represent an early form of church order, such as the one found in the Didache.”[23] While Paul uses similar language in Ephesians 5:20, since Thessalonians is widely believed to predate it, it is more likely that it is from another source.  As “Paul writes for the ear,”[24] it is also likely that he chose his words and kept his points brief to create a mnemonic devices that would assist those who heard this letter to retain his instructions.

The imperatives to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in verses 16-18 “clearly belong together.”[25] However “unlike those of the previous verse” Paul places the “focus on the adverbial constructions (implying attitude) rather than on the verbs.”[26] As Richard sees it, the terms “always,” in verse 16 “underscores Paul’s notion that joy is to be an attitude of Christian living.”  In this same way, “incessantly” is emphasized in verse 17 which “addresses the concept of prayer…as constituent of ecclesial inner life and attitudes.”  Lastly, placing the emphasis on “in all things” where once again “the adverb underscores the concept of attitude” rather than the action itself.[27] This linguistic shift seems intentional and could have easily served as a way for Paul to keep the attention of those who would hear his letter read aloud.  After these three imperatives, Paul states, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” in 18b.  Here Paul calls attention to what he has just said giving it power that goes beyond the words themselves, but rather rests on Paul’s assertion that it is God’s will that the people rejoice, pray, and give thanks.  These three items are inseparable and so important that they are “God’s will” for them.

Verses 19-22 shifts to what seem to be instructions for community worship, specifically the use of the spiritual gift of prophecy.  Still using short imperative phrases, “the first two are joined by their negative expression and the last three by their positive contrasts.”[28] In verse 19, one is left to determine what “Spirit” (πνεῦμα) Paul is referring to though the he seems to infer the Holy Spirit (hence the decision to use an uppercase “S”).  Even more confusing is Paul’s use of the word “σβέννυτε” which is translated “quench” in most English translations.  In all other cases where this word is used in the New Testament it is “related to figure of fire”[29] (cf. Matt. 12:20, Heb 11:34).  But how does one “quench” the Spirit?  Is it truly possible to snuff out the Spirit of God?  While this is the only place where “σβέννυτε” is used in reference to the Spirit, there are no other occurrences to compare Paul’s usage.  It seems however that verse 19 holds the key to answering these questions.  The word “προφητείας” in verse 20 seems to refer to the spiritual gift of prophecy, but does not say so explicitly and could also refer to “the words of the prophets” as it is translated in the NRSV.  The former seems the more likely translation since “προφητείας” is the same Greek work Paul uses in 1 Cor. 12:10, 13:2, and 14:22 when he is distinctly talking about the spiritual gift of prophecy.  He elaborates on the gifts of the Spirit extensively and specifically mentions that prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers (14:22) thus confirming that verses 19-22 are indeed intended as direction for worship.  With this in mind, it seems that “quenching the Spirit” occurs “when the prophet refuses to utter the message he has been given, or when others try to prevent him from uttering it”[30] as well as when the prophecy itself is “despised” or “rejected disdainfully” as stated in verse 20.  Paul’s inclusion of these verses is interesting considering he has not mentioned spiritual gifts in this letter.  As they are included in what seems to be an order of worship as mentioned above, it is possible that Paul rightly assumed his audience would infer the correct meanings to these simplified phrases.  Following these two negative imperatives, Paul encourages the Thessalonians how to avoid both “quenching the Spirit” and “despising prophecy” by encouraging them instead to “test all things, hold fast to that which is good” and “keep away from every form of evil.”  This is indicated with the inclusion of “but rather” in the translation above.[31]

The pericope ends with a closing prayer, or benediction, in verses 23-28 which simultaneously parallels and brings closure to Paul’s discussion about death and the coming of the Lord (παρουσίᾳ) found in 4:13-5:12.  Verse 23 presents the challenge of sorting through word order and deciding which phrases modify which verbs.  I believe Paul is saying, “May the God of peace make you completely holy and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Paul usage of the image of the “body, soul, and spirit” is contested.  In Deut. 6:4-5, the shema emphasizes the oneness of God (Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one) in verse 4, and then in verse 5 the reader is presented with the human response to that oneness: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  With this in mind, it is possible that Paul would draw this image from his Jewish background and present the wholeness of a humans “being” in parallel fashion.[32] According to Richard, “Paul is not here speaking of holiness as an ethical process or as a social communal activity.”[33] Indeed verse 24 supports this idea in declaring rather absolutely that “the one who called you is faithful, and he will do this.”

At this point a rather significant and intentional shift is made grammatically.  Paul has been using imperatives extensively and in verse 23 shifts to optatives in the aorist tense.  This shifts his speech from injunctions to “prayer-wish.”[34] Paul is not instructing them to do anything at this point.  It seems rather clear in fact that Paul is indirectly communicating the human insufficiency to make ourselves completely holy.  In fact only “the one who calls you” is capable of “do[ing] this.”  Since Paul has been directing the church in Thessalonica to live a life that is pleasing to God, it seems to me that he used this dramatic literary shift to make sure those who read or heard his letter would be sure to pay attention and more likely to understand that complete holiness is only something God can bring about.  Similar use of the imperative-optative shift is found in Rom.15:1-6, 7-13.  Paul picks up in verse 25 with a request for prayer and tells them to “greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.”  While “it is agreed that the kiss was a common custom in Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures to show affection towards family members and friends and honor towards those of superior rank,” some believe this may have “served as an introduction to the Lord’s supper.” [35] Before ending his letter with a benediction, Paul emphatically charges them to read this letter to everyone.  Since it is very likely that this is Paul’s first apostolic letter, it is possible that he is “instituting a new practice and so one requiring strong language.”[36] However Bruce argues that “the most probable explanation is that Paul took over the pen at this point and added the adjuration and concluding benediction with his own hand.”[37] Whatever the case may be, this undoubtedly got their attention and communicated how important it was to Paul that they read the letter aloud to all.

The literary forms, intentional linguistic shifts, mnemonic devices, as well as the brevity of the imperative phrases throughout, are used skillfully to summarize and emphasize what Paul hoped to communicate to the church in Thessalonica.  Thus, in bringing all his points together in this conclusion, Paul provides the church in Thessalonica with a valuable resource for addressing current difficulties in the church at Thessalonica as well as a concise reflection on Christian living and worship.  As a result, the Body of Christ in Thessalonica, as well as the body of Christ in all historical and cultural settings, has a succinct version of straight forward, practical guidance on Christian living.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bruce, F. F. 1 and 2 Thessalonians Word Biblical Commentary. Waco, Texas: Word, 1982.

Gaventa, Beverly. “Lecture: Translating 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.” Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary, 2009.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts. First and Second Thessalonians. CD-ROM ed. Interpretation. Loisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998.

Richard, Earl. First and Second Thessalonians Sacra Pagina 11. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995.


[1] While the Greek word used here is “brothers,” as this letter is addressed to the church of Thessalonica as a whole I have chosen to make all references to “brothers” gender inclusive by using “brothers and sisters.”
[2] Beverly Roberts Gaventa, First and Second Thessalonians, CD-ROM ed., Interpretation (Loisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998), Author and Audience. [Note: As the CD-ROM version does not provide page numbers, I will reference this work using section headings instead.]
[3] Earl Richard, First and Second Thessalonians, Sacra Pagina 11 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1995), 2.
[4] Gaventa, Author and Audience.
[5] F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, Texas: Word, 1982), xxv.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Richard, 292.
[8] Gaventa, Form and Purpose.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Bruce, 119.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Gaventa, Treatment of the Marginal.
[14] Richard, 270.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Gaventa, Treatment of the Marginal.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Bruce, 123.
[19] Ibid., 124.
[20] Gaventa, Conduct within the Community of Believers.
[21] Ibid., Form and Purpose.
[22] Ibid., Elements of Church Order.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Beverly Gaventa, “Lecture: Translating 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28,”  (Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary, 2009).
[25] Gaventa, First and Second Thessalonians, Elements of Church Order.
[26] Richard, 271.
[27] The use of adverbial construction to emphasize attitude rather than action used throughout this paragraph is taken from E.J. Richard’s commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians in the Sacra Pagina Series, 271.
[28] Richard, 272.
[29] Bruce, 125.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Bruce uses a similar convention in his translation.
[32] The discussion on the “body, soul, and spirit” imagery here is used extensively from Richard, 285.
[33] Ibid.
[34] Gaventa, “Lecture: Translating 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.”
[35] Richard, 287.
[36] Ibid., 291.
[37] Bruce, 291.