Monday, September 27, 2010

Greek FAIL!!!

Another example of flagrant Greek abuse. Courtesy of FAILBlog
The airbrushed lettering gives this shirt a special effect, as if to say, "I'm not all GEEK. I'm a graffiti artist (er... tagger) too." I think it's supposed to be a play on "alpha male" or "alpha dog" in which case he is claiming to be the top, most dominant geek. Despite the oxymoronic nature of such a claim, the title is all yours buddy. Definitely more GEEK than GREEK here. Verdict... NotGreekToMe!

Do you have other examples of the misuse of Greek in everyday life? Send them to me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Clean Conscience in Christ and Comments on Colwell's Corollary

1 Corinthians 4:4
"For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." (ESV)

A clean conscience is not sufficient evidence of one who has been made righteous. Paul recognized that even though he was consciously aware of no sin in his life, he was not therefore justified in claiming to be righteous. Having a clear conscience is good and necessary, but it is not sufficient to assure righteousness. Neither is it by the inquiry or testimony of others. We may be cleared by a jury of our peers, our spouse, our church, the whole world and even our own conscience, but this does not assure innocence. The only way Paul can claim, "I am free from accusation and guilt" is because he has been examined by the Lord. Unfortunately, some of the original emphasis is lost in the English translation (here comes the Greek lesson).

Note Colwell's Rule and Colwell's Corollary[1] in play here:

ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριος έστιν (but the one who judges me is Lord)

In the Greek text, the word order and lack of article before κύριος (Lord) shows that emphasis is being placed on the quality of κύριος. It is the examination by one who is Lord that can ultimately vindicate or condemn. No other authority can do either, not even our own consciences. What a relief to know that my hope rests in the LORD Jesus, and not my own fickle conscience. 

[1] Colwell's Rule states that "definite prediacte nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article." (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 257)
Colwell's Corollary states that when "an anarthourse pre-verbal predicate nomonative is normally qualitative, sometimes definite, and only rarely indefinite." (Wallace, 262)

The "Rule" simply tells us that since κύριος comes before the verb ("is") and that, if it is definite, it is likely to not have an article (which it doesn't). Okay.... So what? So, we are not required to translate is as indefinite ("a Lord"). Okay good, but keep reading!

The "Corollary" to the rule tells us κύριος is most likely qualitative, not definite or indefinite. That is, the emphasis is on the quality of being "Lord." An expanded translation would look like this: 

       "I am judged by one who has the quality of being Lord"

It is Jesus' status as Lord that makes His acquittal meaningful. Since there is no Lord other than Jesus, only He can declare our innocence or pronounce our guilt. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Iota Subscript by Robert Frost (and John the Baptist)

 Iota Subscript 
by Robert Frost

Seek not in me the big I capital,
Not yet the little dotted in me seek.
If I have in me any I at all,
'Tis the iota subscript of the Greek.
So small am I as an attention beggar.
The letter you will find me subscript to
Is neither alpha, eta, nor omega,
But upsilon which is the Greek for you.
Two critical points can be made. First, the Greek iota does not subscript under the upsilon, only under alpha (α), eta (η) or omega (ω) (the long vowels). Of course I'm sure Frost knew this; otherwise he would not have mentioned these three. Second, the Greek for "you" begins with upsilon and is written μείς. As you can see (hopefully the fonts render properly for you), the Greek letter upsilon (υ) looks similar to the English letter "u". This too I doubt was lost on Frost (as I'm sure the preceding rhyme is not lost on you).

Were I to write this witty poem , I would change but one thing (one iota of it if you will). The last line would read "You" rather than "you" to make the poem addressed to God. 

As John the Baptist said when questioned about Jesus' growing influence, "He must increase, but I must decrease."John 3:30 Or, He must capitalize and I must subscript.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sony's definitely not Greek to me!

It's all Japanese to me!
How a Japanese company has come to own the trademark for a Greek letter is beyond me. I'm pretty sure the Greek system of writing can in no way be traced back to the Japanese. I guess my Greek New Testament is now under penalty of using Sony's registered trademark without permision approximately 10 gazzilion times. Not to mention Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and on down the line. Who knew that when Jesus said he was the Alph and the Omega, he was being so multicultural!

εἶπέν μοι· γέγοναν. ἐγώ [εἰμι] τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ, ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος. ἐγὼ τῷ διψῶντι δώσω ἐκ τῆς πηγῆς τοῦ ὕδατος τῆς ζωῆς δωρεάν. (Revelation 21:6)

He said to me, "They have come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the one who is thirsty I will give freely from the the springs of the water of life." (my translation)

--Since we're looking at this verse, I can't help but add a few comments (sorry, it's the Greek instructor in me).

The adverb "freely" (δωρεάν) is separated from the verb it describes and is placed as the last word in the statement. This helps draw attention to it and emphasize that this is how the water of life is given ("without payment" as the ESV puts it). But what exactly is given freely? That is, what does the phrase "the spring of the water of life" mean? It seams pretty clear what the first word group "the spring of water" means. But what does it mean for this spring to be "of life"? A little study of the uses of the Genitive case in Greek would be instructive here. 

Shedding μικρόν φωτόν (a little light) on "walking in the light" in First John

The more I read 1st John, the less I believe I fully understand it. But as I press on anyway, I find little nuggets of insight. Here is one such nugget.

In trying to understand how these four conditional statements related together I came up with the following chart and the enlightening conclusion below. (I was enlightened by it at any rate, and hope you will be as well.)

1 John 1:6-9


Resulting Reality
In fellowship with God
Walk in darkness
Do not do the truth
Walk in light
Fellowship with one another
The blood of Jesus cleanses (from ἁμαρτία)
Have not sinned
Lie to self
Devoid of truth
Confess sin
God's faithfulness and righteousness lead to
Forgiveness (ἁμαρτία) and cleansing (ἀδικία)

Verse 6 is the only one of the four containing both a claim and an incompatible action. The claim to have fellowship and the act of walking in darkness demonstrate that both the claim and the action are out of sync with the truth. The one who meets this compound condition lies (his claim is false) and does not do the truth (his actions are not in keeping with the truth). Verse 6 is parallel to v 8. This is especially noticeable in the apodosis of the conditional statements. In v 8, the protasis seems to have changed, but the outcome is essentially the same (a liar who does not live out the truth). This parallelism helps define the problem in v 6. The claim to fellowship is contradicted by walking in darkness not because one is characterized by the presence of sin and the other is not, but because walking in darkness is itself the denial of sin. John is not claiming that everyone who sins is out of fellowship with God, but only those who refuse to admit their sin. Notice the protasis in v 7 has no claim. It is simply stated that walking in the light is a sufficient condition for fellowship (with one another, not with God) and for cleansing from sin. So, if walking in the light is antecedent to forgiveness, it can’t possibly mean walking free of sin as many commentators assume. Rather, walking in the light is the very act of confession, of bringing sin into the light where it might be exposed and forgiven and the sinner might be cleansed. Similarly, walking in darkness is the denial of sin. Both walking in darkness (while claiming to have fellowship with God) and claiming be in a state of not having sinned (perfect tense) lead to the same conclusion – this person is deceived and a deceiver whose life does not accord with the truth. But the person who confesses her sin benefits from God’s faithfulness and righteousness. She receives forgiveness and cleansing. The two actions of forgiveness and cleansing are related to the two characteristics of God. His righteousness (δίκαιος) and our unrighteousness (ἀδικία) are lexically related; they are antonyms. Similarly, Gods faithfulness (πιστός) is an antonym to our sin (ἁμαρτία). God’s nature is antithetical to human sinfulness, just as light is antithetical to darkness. And just as light drives out the darkness, so God’s nature as faithful and righteous drives out sin and unrighteousness wherever it shines.