Monday, May 23, 2016

A Pious Centurion, His Beloved Slave and the Imperial Command Structure

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding Luke 7:1-10, the Gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 2, 2013 in the Revised Common Lectionary. Your comments are welcomed.

1  Ἐπειδὴ ἐπλήρωσεν πάντα τὰ ῥήματα αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς ἀκοὰς τοῦ λαοῦ, εἰσῆλθεν εἰς 
Καφαρναούμ. 
When he completed all of his sayings in the ears of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
ἐπλήρωσεν: AAI 3s, πληρόω, 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full  
εἰσῆλθεν: AAI 3s, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter

1. Jesus, in Luke’s gospel, had spent some time in Capernaum and had done things there that gave him a reputation (4:23) and he returned there after being rejected in Nazareth (4:31).

2  Ἑκατοντάρχου δέ τινος δοῦλος κακῶς ἔχων ἤμελλεν τελευτᾶν, ὃς ἦν αὐτῷ ἔντιμος. 
Then an ill slave of a certain centurion was being about to die, who was precious to him.
ἔχων: PAPart nsm, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold 
ἤμελλεν: IAI 3s, μέλλω, 1) to be about  1a) to be on the point of doing or suffering something  1b) to intend, have in mind, think to
τελευτᾶν: PAInf, τελευτάω, 1) to finish, bring to an end, close  2) to have an end or close, come to an end 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The construction ἔχων ἤμελλεν τελευτᾶν is a little difficult to navigate because the primary meaning of ἔχων is ‘to have.’ But, it looks like a secondary meaning can have a ‘to be’ sense and that seems to be how it translates best here.
Update: I got a helpful note via email noting: The verb ἔχων plus an adverb is an idiomatic construction in Greek. It's equivalent to "to be" plus the adjective that corresponds to the adverb. (See Smyth's Greek Grammar, article 1438). 
2. However, because ἔχων is a participle (‘being’), this verse translates as an incomplete sentence. Therefore, many translations make it a simple past tense verb “was.”
Further Update: That same helpful note argued that ἤμελλεν is the finite verb in this clause, making it a complete sentence with the verb "was about to die." 

3 ἀκούσας δὲ περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτὸν πρεσβυτέρους τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἐρωτῶν αὐτὸν ὅπω ἐλθὼν διασώσῃ τὸν δοῦλον αὐτοῦ. 
Yet having heard about Jesus he sent to him elders of the Judeans, beseeching him that having come he might make his slave well.
ἀκούσας: AAPart nsm, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf 
ἀπέστειλεν: AAI 3s, ἀποστέλλω, 1) to order (one) to go to a place appointed
ἐρωτῶν: PAPart nsm, ἐρωτάω, 1) to question  2) to ask  2a) to request, entreat, beg, beseech
ἐλθὼν: AAPart nsm, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons
διασώσῃ: AASubj 3s, διασῴζω, 1) to preserve through danger, to bring safely through  1a) to save, i.e. cure one who is sick, bring him through  
1. I follow Richard Horsley’s argument that Ἰουδαίων is best translated as Judeans, rather than Jews, although Horsley’s argument is specific to the Gospel of Mark and he might not make the same argument for Luke. Probably here ‘Jews’ is perfectly fine.
2. The verb ἐρωτῶν (beseeching) is singular, indicating that it is the Centurion who is asking, through the elders. It seems that the comment in v.2 about the slave being ‘precious’ to the Centurion suggests a verb stronger than ‘requested.’ “Beseech” sounds ancient to me, but “begged” almost sounds too desperate.
3. The verb διασώσῃ is made up of the prefix δια and the verb σῴζω. I typically make σῴζω “to make whole” because I think it is often translated too narrowly as “to save.” In this case, because the slave has been identified as sick and near death, “to make well” seems warranted. Some translations interpret the prefix to indicate “thoroughly heal.” I am not using “heal” here, because of a different word (ἰαθήτω)that I am translating as “heal” in v.7 below.

4 οἱ δὲ παραγενόμενοι πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν παρεκάλουν αὐτὸν σπουδαίως, λέγοντες ὅτι Ἄξιός ἐστιν ᾧ παρέξῃ τοῦτο,
Yet the ones having come to Jesus summoned him instantly, saying “He is worthy to whom you shall offer this,
παραγενόμενοι: AMPart npm, παραγίνομαι, 1) to be present, to come near, approach 2) to come forth, make one's public appearance 
παρεκάλουν: IAI 3s, παρακαλέω, 1) to call to one's side, call for, summon 
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
παρέξῃ: FMI 2s, παρέχω, 1) to reach forth, offer 
1. Now we hear the voice of the messengers, not merely the message that they bring on behalf of another. They say two things: A) The Centurion is “worthy,” or “deserving” of what is requested; and B) they assume that Jesus will indeed honor the request, using the future indicative and not a subjunctive voice in the verb παρέξῃ.
2. These are elders of the Jews, speaking on behalf of a worthy Roman Centurion acknowledging Jesus as a healer. That is a rare convergence in the gospels.

5 ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν. 
For he loves the our nation and he built the synagogue for us.
ἀγαπᾷ: PAI 3s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly  2) of things  2a) to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing
ᾠκοδόμησεν: AAI 3s, οἰκοδομέω, 1) to build a house, erect a building 
1. Here, the messengers describe what it is about this Centurion that makes him worthy of Jesus’ response. It is very similar to the Centurion Cornelius that Luke writes about in Acts 10, who is described as “a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.”
2. When the messengers say “our nation,” it is not clear to me whether they mean “our” to refer to themselves and their people or if they are including Jesus in that reference. Since ἔθνος could mean things other than “nation,” it could be a reference to the Judeans, which would not include the Galilean Jesus. I would assume that they are speaking of greater Israel, including Jesus (for it certainly was his nation as well), which would give him all the more reason to look favorably on the Centurion’s request.


6ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐπορεύετο σὺν αὐτοῖς. ἤδη δὲ αὐτοῦ οὐ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκίας ἔπεμψεν φίλους ὁ ἑκατοντάρχης λέγων αὐτῷ, Κύριε, μὴ σκύλλου, οὐ γὰρ ἱκανός εἰμι ἵνα ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην μου εἰσέλθῃς
So Jesus was going with them. Then being not yet distant greatly from the house the Centurion sent friends saying to him, “Lord do not be troubled, for I am not deserving that you should enter under my roof;
ἐπορεύετο: IMI 3s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer
ἀπέχοντος: PAPart gsm, ἀπέχω, 1) have  1a) to hold back, keep off, prevent  1b) to have wholly or in full, to have received  1c) it is enough, sufficient  2) to be away, absent, distant  3) to hold one's self off, abstain
ἔπεμψεν: AAI 3s, πέμπω, 1) to send  1a) to bid a thing to be carried to one  1b) to send (thrust or insert) a thing into another
σκύλλου: PPImpv 2s, σκύλλω, 1) to skin, flay  2) to rend, mangle  2a) to vex, trouble, annoy  2b) to give one's self trouble, trouble one's self 
εἰμι: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἰσέλθῃς: AASubj 2s, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter
1. “being not yet distant greatly” is awkward, but it shows that the participle here is ἀπέχοντος, which I am translating as ‘being distant.’ It includes a negative particle and an adverb. The fact that ‘distant’ is the participle is lost in some translations which make it ‘a great distance.’
2. The Centurion now sends ‘friends,’ after earlier sending ‘elders of the Judeans.’ I’m not sure what the significance is, but it feels significant.
3. Contrary to the report earlier from the elders, the Centurion himself declares that he is not deserving. Some translations use “worthy” to capture both the adjective Ἄξιός in v.4 and ἱκανός here. I am using ‘deserving’ just to show that they are different words. My sense is that Luke is not using the same word to set up a contrast between the Centurion and the elders, but is demonstrating the humility of the Centurion.
4. Not to belabor the analogy between this Centurion and Cornelius of Acts 10, but the first thing Cornelius does when Simon Peter enters his house is to fall at his feet to worship him. A jaded view would be that Centurions got to their position by knowing when to grovel, but my sense is that Luke has a less jaded view and sees these men of enormous power and influence lowering themselves appropriately.

7 διὸ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἠξίωσα πρὸς σὲ ἐλθεῖν: ἀλλὰ εἰπὲ λόγῳ, καὶ ἰαθήτω ὁ παῖς μου. 
Wherefore I did not judge myself worthy to come to you; but say a word, and my boy will be healed.
ἠξίωσα: AAI 1s, ἀξιόω, 1) to think meet, fit, right  2) to judge worthy, deem, deserving
ἐλθεῖν: AAInf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons
εἰπὲ: AAImpv 2s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἰαθήτω: APImpv 3s, ἰάομαι, 1) to cure, heal  2) to make whole  2a) to free from errors and sins, to bring about (one's) salvation
1. The Centurion now relates, via his friend, why he has sent messengers instead of coming himself to Jesus. In this explanation Luke uses another word that indicates unworthiness, ἠξίωσα. This particular word signifies ‘judging’ something unworthy, as opposed to being unworthy. The stem of ἠξίωσα is the same as  Ἄξιός, the word for “worthy” in v.4. This is the Centurion’s second expression of humility. He is not deserving that Jesus should enter under his roof; and he is not worthy of approaching Jesus personally.
2. The Centurion’s reference to Jesus saying a word and having the result might be an echo of the creation story in Genesis 1, where God says and it happens. If that is an intentional echo on the Centurion’s part, it would be quite a statement of faith.
3. I am translating the word ἰαθήτω as ‘heal’ here, which is why I used “make well” for διασώσῃ in v.3.
4. The word παῖς has a curious history and wide sense of meaning. It can be translated ‘servant,’ and is the LXX word for עבד, which in most cases seems to mean servant. It can also mean “child,” and in this verse would be “my child.” But, that might give the impression that the Centurion is the father and it seems that conclusion is not warranted. There are other less ambiguous words for ‘son.’ What seems warranted is a word for “slave” (δοῦλος) who is “precious” (ἔντιμος) to the Centurion. (V.8 makes it abundantly clear that a δοῦλος does what a δοῦλος is told.) I think the phrase “my boy” carries both the endearing and the demeaning sense that a precious slave might have. I might be wrong here, given the torturous history of the word “boy” in the US. He is precious. But, he is a slave. And he is young.

8 καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπός εἰμι ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν τασσόμενοςἔχων ὑπ' ἐμαυτὸν στρατιώτας, καὶ λέγω τούτῳ, Πορεύθητι, καὶ πορεύεται, καὶ ἄλλῳ, Ἔρχου, καὶ ἔρχεται, καὶ τῷ δούλῳ μου, Ποίησον τοῦτο, καὶ ποιεῖ
For I am also a man being appointed under authority, having soldiers under myself, and I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes, and to another “Come” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this,” and he does.  
εἰμι: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
τασσόμενος: PPPart nsm, τάσσω, 1) to put in order, to station  1a) to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a  place, to appoint
ἔχων: PAPart nsm, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold 
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
Πορεύθητι: APImpv 2s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer 
πορεύεται: PMI  3s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer 
Ἔρχου: PMImpv 2s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons
ἔρχεται: PMI 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons
Ποίησον: AAImpv 2s, ποιέω, 1) to make, to do
ποιεῖ: PAI 3s, 1) to make, to do
1. There are two correlative ways of reading this verse. In the first place, it is indicative of the command structure of the Roman Empire. The Centurion is appointed (that word could be ‘ordained’) under authority. He does not simply establish that authority for himself or by himself. Yet, it grants that when he speaks to those under him, he speaks with the authority of the Empire and so they do exactly what he says. In the second place, the Centurion is describing this command structure as an analogy for how he understands Jesus’ authority. Jesus is given his authority by another, yet when Jesus speaks he speaks with the absolute authority of the other.

9 ἀκούσας δὲ ταῦτα ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐθαύμασεν αὐτόν, καὶ στραφεὶς τῷ ἀκολουθοῦντι αὐτῷ ὄχλῳ εἶπενΛέγω ὑμῖν, οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ τοσαύτην πίστιν εὗρον
Yet having heard these things Jesus marveled at him, and having turned to that crowd who was following him said, “I say to you, not in Israel have I found such great faith.”
ἀκούσας: AAPart nsm, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf 
ἐθαύμασεν: AAI 3s, θαυμάζω, 1) to wonder, wonder at, marvel  2) to be wondered at, to be had in admiration
ἀκολουθοῦντι: PAPart dsm, ἀκολουθέω, 1) to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant,  accompany him
στραφεὶς: APPart nsm, στρέφω, 1) to turn, turn around
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
Λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
εὗρον: AAI 1s, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with
1. The Centurion’s blend of humility and his trust that Jesus has the authority to heal analogous to the command structure of the Empire is deemed exemplary faith by Jesus.
2. For those of us who invest in ‘empire studies’ (from New Testament scholars like Warren Carter, John Dominic Crossan, William Herzog, Ched Myers, Walter Wink, etc.) it is very difficult to hear trust in the command structure of the empire being exalted as exemplary faith. But, as Warren Carter has effectively argued in many places, the Synoptics have an admixture of resistance to the empire, as well as conformity, as well as co-existence, as well as outright defiance, etc. Carter points to the word βασιλεία, which is translated “reign” as in “reign of God,” as a term that is borrowed from the empire. In fact, to make this point, Carter often translates that phrase “the empire of God.”

10καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες εἰς τὸν οἶκον οἱ πεμφθέντες εὗρον τὸν δοῦλον ὑγιαίνοντα
And having returned to the house the ones who were sent found the slave in good health.
ὑποστρέψαντες: AAPart npm, ὑποστρέφω, 1) to turn back  1a) to turn about  2) to return
πεμφθέντες: APPart npm, πέμπω, 1) to send  1a) to bid a thing to be carried to one
εὗρον: AAI 1s, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with
ὑγιαίνοντα: PAPart asm, ὑγιαίνω, 1) to be sound, to be well, to be in good health  2) metaph.  2a) of Christians whose opinions are free from any mixture of error  2b) of one who keeps the graces and is strong 
1. This conclusion leaves no doubt that the slave – while in good health – is a slave. It may be unfair to have the American experience of slavery in mind as the experience of slavery in all times and places, but it would be even more unfair to treat slavery as an occupational form of domestic service akin to the Downton Abbey crew.
2. The word ὑγιαίνοντα is the 3rd term in this pericope that means to restore health, along with διασώσῃ from v.3 and ἰαθήτω from v.7.
3. Jesus found great faith in the Centurion, the ambassadors found the slave well.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Spirit as the Emissary of Truth


The Spirit as the Emissary of Truth

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments about John 16:12-15, the gospel reading of the Revised Common Lectionary for the Sunday after Pentecost. ‘Tis the Season of Pentecost, so we are listening for how God’s spirit is poured out in the community today. Your comments are welcomed.

12  Ἔτι πολλὰ ἔχω ὑμῖν λέγειν, ἀλλ' οὐ δύνασθε βαστάζειν ἄρτι: 
Still many things I have to say to you, but you are not able to bear now;
ἔχω: PAI 1s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
λέγειν: PAInf, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
δύνασθε: PMI 2p, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power 2) to be able to do something 
βαστάζειν: PAInf, βαστάζω, 1) to take up with the hands
1. Several translations supply a “them” for the last phrase as the object of ‘to bear’.
2. This is a very open-ended remark, similar to 20:30 and 21:25, suggesting that the revelation of and about Christ is continual and not final. This language suggests (to me, anyway) that John is addressing his community and their living engagement with the gospel.

13 ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὁδηγήσει ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ πάσῃ: οὐ γὰρ λαλήσει ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ, ἀλλ' ὅσα ἀκούσει λαλήσει, καὶ τὰ ἐρχόμενα ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν. 
Yet when he may come, the spirit of truth, it will guide to you in all the truth; for it will not speak about himself, but whatever it hears it will say, and the things which are coming it will make known to you.
ἔλθῃ: AASubj 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
ὁδηγήσει: FAI 3s, ὁδηγέω, 1) to be a guide, lead on one's way, to guide 
λαλήσει: FAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak
ἀκούσει: FAI 3s, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing  2) to hear
λαλήσει: FAI 3s, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak
ἐρχόμενα: PMPart apn, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
ἀναγγελεῖ: FAI 3s, ἀναγγέλλω, 1) to announce, make known 
1. I’m struggling with the gender-laden nature of both Greek and English here. The pronouns ἐκεῖνος (he) and ἑαυτοῦ (himself) are male; the noun τὸ πνεῦμα, to which those pronouns refer, is neuter. The verbs are 3rd person singular and could the implied subject could be he, she, or it. I am going to let the pronouns be male, but retain the neuter for the implied subject of the verbs, honoring the noun.
2. The verb ἔλθῃ is an aorist subjunctive verb, signifying something conditional. I use ‘may’ in the raw translation in order to keep that conditionality prominent. In this phrase, the condition that the subjunctive indicates is ‘when,’ so in a refined translation I would simply make it “when he comes.”
3. The pronoun ὅσα (whatever) is plural, as is the substantive participle τὰ ἐρχόμενα (the things which are coming), indicating that what the spirit will hear and report will not be just one thing, but many.
4. The verb ἀναγγέλλω shows up in vv.13, 14 and 15. See the comment in v.15, n.3.
5. I am curious about the caveat that the spirit of truth will not speak about itself, but will only repeat what it hears. Why would Jesus make this clarification? Was there some kind of ongoing controversy over whether the spirit of truth (or truth itself) has something to say that Jesus (via God) does not? Is there a ‘reason v. revelation’ controversy behind this statement? If so, this verse would be subordinating reason to revelation without dismissing reason (if that is a valid way of interpreting ‘the spirit of truth.’)

14 ἐκεῖνος ἐμὲ δοξάσει, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήμψεται καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν. 
He will glorify me, because out of the mine it will take and make known to you.
δοξάσει: FAI 3s, δοξάζω, 1) to think, suppose, be of opinion  2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate
λήμψεται: FMI 3s, λαμβάνω, 1) to take 
ἀναγγελεῖ: FAI 3s, ἀναγγέλλω, 1) to announce, make known 
1. The phrase “out of the mine” is rather awkward because I want to show that there is a definite article (τοῦ) before the possessive pronoun ‘mine’ (ἐμοῦ), both of which are genitive singular. I’m not sure how to translate that article. Most of the translations that I have seen seem to make it the object of the verb ‘take’ and ‘make known,’ as “what is mine it will take and make known.”  I would expect an accusative case or a relative pronoun if that were the meaning. Anyone have some insight into this curious construction?

15 πάντα ὅσα ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστιν: διὰ τοῦτο εἶπον ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λαμβάνει καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν.
All that the father has is mine; because of this I said “Out of the mine it takes and makes known to you.”
ἔχει: PAI 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
εἶπον: AAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
λαμβάνει: PAI 3s, λαμβάνω, 1) to take 
ἀναγγελεῖ: FAI 3s, ἀναγγέλλω, 1) to announce, make known 
1. There are two words in this verse which could mean ‘because’: διὰ and ὅτι. ὅτι can also mean ‘that’ or mark the beginnings of a quote. I am interpreting it as the latter because this verse quotes (almost) the previous one.
2. The difference between the quote in v.15 and v.14 is that v.15 has ‘takes’ and v.14 has ‘will take.’
3. The verb ἀναγγέλλω, which appears in vv. 13, 14 and 15, appears 2 other times in John’s gospel. In Jn. 4:25, the woman at the well tells Jesus that when the Christ comes he will “tell us all things.” In Jn. 5:15 a lame man whom Jesus had healed on the Sabbath went “and told the Jews that it was Jesus who healed him.” My next step in studying this text will be to explore the difference between ἀναγγέλλω and the more common verb ἀγγέλλω. In this context, the spirit seems to be a ‘go-between’ that explores and hears the things that Chris has (since everything God has, Christ also has) and then makes them known to the church.

4. This verse feels like an odd thing for someone to say in real time. I suspect it is a clarification by the writer for the sake of a controversial theological point at play in his community. Elaine Pagels (in Beyond Belief) argues that one polemic John is addressing is the notion embraced in the Gospel of Thomas that the truth lies within each person. Instead, John argues that the truth lies within Christ alone, who is made known by the spirit to those who believe in Christ. If Pagels’ thesis is correct, this text could be part of that ongoing polemic, centering the theology embraced by the Johannine community in Christ. On the other hand, it could also be validating the Johannine community’s theology even though it is different from what other Christian communities hold (such as reflected in the synoptic gospels).

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pentecost in Contexts

The story of the day of Pentecost - Acts 2:1-21 - can go in many directions, depending on the lenses through which we read it. If we read it alongside of Genesis 11 - the story of the Tower of Babel - we might attend to the languages and how God uses differing languages to scatter one people and to gather another. If we read it alongside of Ezekiel 37 - the valley of dry bones - we might attend to the spirit/breath that infuses the church, bringing new life. We might connect it to the 2nd creation story if we go in that direction, when God breathes life into the lump of clay called Adam. If we read it alongside of the tradition of Shavuot from Leviticus 23, we might see how this is an empowerment of justice, which is realized in Acts 2:44-5, All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments. I welcome your responses.

ACTS 2:1-21
1 Καὶ ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς ἦσαν πάντες 
ὁμοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. 
And in the fulfilling the day of the Pentecost, all were together at the same.   
συμπληροῦσθαι: PPInf, συμπληρόω, 1) to fill completely  1a) of the hold of a ship  2) to complete entirely, be fulfilled: of time 
ἦσαν: IAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The αὐτό (same) is substantive, meaning that it implies ‘the same … something.’ Most translations see it as implying location, so they make it “the same place” or “one place.” Since this story continues the story in c.1, one assumption is that they are in the “same place” as mentioned in 1:13, “an upstairs room.” That may be a faulty assumption, given that the 11 apostles are named in c.1 as staying in the upstairs room, but v.15 says “In those days Peter stood and addressed about 120 believers.” Do we picture this Day of Pentecost story as an upper room with 12 Apostles (after they added Matthias)? Do we picture an upper room with 120 believers? Do we picture a house (see v.2 below) with 12 or a large house with 120 persons? The story itself is inconclusive. (And while the question is curious, it seems unimportant, but for the fact that many have grown accustomed to saying that this is an “upper room” experience.)
2. On the “fulfilling of the Day of Pentecost,” see the comment below on the origins of this holy day.
3. I am uncomfortable with any interpretation of Luke’s language that implies that the real meaning of Pentecost in the OT is finally made known with the ‘birth’ of the Christian church. That seems to be yet another form of supersessionism that only sees value in the God’s relationship with Israel if we can speak of it as unfulfilled until the Christian church came along. As an alternative, I suggest that Luke is one of many voices – including Jews, Jewish Christians, and others over long ages – who are in a continual conversation or argument over true meaning of the story of God and God’s people. If we join that conversation, the process is more circular than linear: We can interpret this “Day of Pentecost” story through the original story and re-interpret the original story through this story.

2 καὶ ἐγένετο ἄφνω ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἦχος ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας καὶ ἐπλήρωσεν ὅλον τὸν οἶκον οὗ ἦσαν καθήμενοι: 
And there began/came suddenly out of the heaven a sound like a gusting, violent wind (or windy violence) and filled all the house where they were seating themselves. 
ἐπλήρωσεν: AAI 3s, πληρόω, 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full  1a) to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally  1a1) I abound, I am liberally supplied 
ἦσαν: IAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
καθήμενοι: PMPart npm, κάθημαι, 1) to sit down, seat one's self  2) to sit, be seated, of a place occupied  2a) to have a fixed abode, to dwell 
1. The root of the word “fulfilled” in v.1 and “filled” in v.2 are the same. Is this just happenstance, or is there a creative tie between the fulfilling of the Day of Pentecost and the filling of the house? Or, is that just the right word to explain a tornado-like sound?
2. The word “wind” (πνοῆς) has the same root as the word which is typically translated “spirit” (πνεύματος) below. It could also mean “breath.” This particular variation of that root only appears one other time in the Scriptures, in Acts 17:25, which says that God “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

3 καὶ ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός, καὶ ἐκάθισεν 
ἐφ' ἕνα ἕκαστον αὐτῶν,
And there appeared to them various languages like fire, and sat on each one of them,
ὤφθησαν: API 3p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know 
διαμεριζόμεναι: PMPart npf, διαμερίζω, 1) to cleave asunder, cut in pieces  2) to be divided into opposing parts, to be at variance, in dissension  3) to distribute
ἐκάθισεν: AAI 3s, καθίζω, 1) to make to sit down  1a) to set, appoint, to confer a kingdom on one  2) intransitively  2a) to sit down
1. The language that Luke uses in vv.2 and 3 is physically powerful, but the terms are set off with “as” and “like,” which are words of analogy. It is tempting for Sunday School artists to depict actual flames of fire on top of each person’s head, while a swirl of wind seems to be engulfing the room. But, Luke seems to be in that wonderful biblical tradition of using poetic speech, where words point beyond their literal meaning to describe significance.  
2. The gathered ones sit (v.2) the appearances of fiery divided languages sit (v.3). Perhaps this just means that whatever was happening is involving each of them.

4 καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις 
γλώσσαις καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδου ἀποφθέγγεσθαι αὐτοῖς. 
And they were all filled with a spirit of holiness, and began to speak other languages as the spirit was giving speaking to them. 
ἐπλήσθησαν: API 3p, πίμπλημι,  a lengthened form of the theme ΠΛΕΩ, whence πλέος, πλήρης 1.to fill, fill up. Passive to become full of, be satisfied, have enough of.
ἐδίδου: IAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  
ἀποφθέγγεσθαι: PMInf, ἀποφθέγγομαι, 1) to speak out, speak forth, pronounce  1a) not a word of everyday speech but one "belonging to dignified  and elevated discourse"
1. Again we have a word from the ‘filled’ family, to accompany ‘fulfilled’ v.1, and ‘filled’ v.2. The Day of Pentecost was fulfilled; the house was filled; each of them was filled.
2. The word for ‘tongue,’ (γλώσσαις), carries the meaning of ‘language’ in Greek and in English.  

5 ησαν δὲ εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ κατοικοῦντες Ἰουδαῖοι, ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς ἀπὸ 
παντὸς ἔθνους τῶν ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν:
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews/Judeans, men devout from every nation/ethnicity which is under the heaven;
κατοικοῦντες: PAPart, npm, κατοικέω, 1) to dwell, settle  1a) metaph. divine powers, influences, etc., are said to  dwell in his soul, to pervade, prompt, govern it 
1. The Jews from other nations were “dwelling in” (κατοικέω) in Jerusalem because of the feast of Pentecost. As a friend (who knows far more about these things than I) pointed out to me, κατοικέω is not indicative of ‘pilgrimage’ as much as ‘dwelling,’ and Jerusalem was a very cosmopolitan city - suggesting that these folks are residents and not simply pilgrims visiting Jerusalem on the occasion of the feast.
2. However, in v.9 at least some of these folks are identified with the same word as those who dwell in Mesapotamia (κατοικοῦντες τὴν Μεσοποταμίαν). Likewise, v.10 speaks of ‘visitors from Rome’ (οἱ ἐπιδημοῦντες Ῥωμαῖοι), so it seems to me that some of the crowd may well be visiting instead of residing in Jerusalem, however cosmopolitan it was.


6 γενομένης δὲ τῆς φωνῆς ταύτης συνῆλθεν τὸ πλῆθος καὶ συνεχύθη, ὅτι 
ἤκουον εἷς ἕκαστος τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ λαλούντων αὐτῶν. 
And at the appearance of this sound, the crowd came together and was bewildered, because each one heard in the idiomatic dialect of their speaking.
γενομένης: AMPart gsf, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
συνῆλθεν: AAI 3s, συνέρχομαι, 1) to come together  1a) to assemble 
συνεχύθη: API 3s, συγχέω, 1) to pour together, commingle  2) to disturb the mind of one, to stir up to tumult or outbreak  3) to confound or bewilder 
ἤκουον: IAI 3p, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear 
λαλούντων: PAPart gpm, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak  
1. The word “sound” (φωνῆς) is different from the word “sound” (ἦχος) that is used in v.2. φωνῆς is most often associated with voices, which would mean that it was not the sound like the wind (v.2), but the sound of voices that attracted the crowd. The second half of this verse confirms that the voices are the matter of interest.
2. Luke uses “idiom” (ἰδίᾳ) and “dialect” (διαλέκτῳ) here rather than “language” (γλῶσσαι).

7 ἐξίσταντο δὲ καὶ ἐθαύμαζον λέγοντες, Οὐχ ἰδοὺ ἅπαντες οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ 
λαλοῦντες Γαλιλαῖοι; 
Yet they were astounded and amazed saying, “Look! Are not all of these who are speaking Galileans? 
ἐξίσταντο: IMI 3p, ἐξίστημι, 1) to throw out of position, displace  1a) to amaze, to astonish, throw into wonderment  1b) to be amazed, astounded  1c) to be out of one's mind, besides one's self, insane 
ἐθαύμαζον: IAI 3p, θαυμάζω, 1) to wonder, wonder at, marvel  2) to be wondered at, to be had in admiration
λαλοῦντες: PAPart npm, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak  

8 καὶ πῶς ἡμεῖς ἀκούομεν ἕκαστος τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ ἡμῶν ἐν  ἐγεννήθημεν; 
And how do we hear each in our idiomatic dialect in which we were born?” 
ἀκούομεν: PAI 1p, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear
ἐγεννήθημεν: API 1p, γεννάω, 1) of men who fathered children  1a) to be born  1b) to be begotten  1b1) of women giving birth to children 

9 Πάρθοι καὶ Μῆδοικαὶ Ἐλαμῖται, καὶ οἱ κατοικοῦντες τὴν Μεσοποταμίαν, 
Ἰουδαίαν τε καὶ Καππαδοκίαν, Πόντον καὶ τὴνἈσίαν, 
Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and those who live in Mesopotamia, and Jews from Cappadocia, and Pontus and Asia,

10 Φρυγίαν τε καὶ Παμφυλίαν, Αἴγυπτον καὶ τὰ μέρη τῆς Λιβύης τῆς κατὰ 
Κυρήνην, καὶ οἱ ἐπιδημοῦντες Ῥωμαῖοι, 
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya accorded to Cyrene, and the visitors from Rome,
ἐπιδημοῦντες: PAPart npm, ἐπιδημέω, 1) to be present among one's people, in one's city or one's native land  2) to be a sojourner  2a) of a foreign resident, among any people, in any country

11 Ἰουδαῖοί τε καὶ προσήλυτοι, Κρῆτες καὶ Ἄραβες, ἀκούομεν λαλούντων 
αὐτῶν ταῖς ἡμετέραις γλώσσαις τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ θεοῦ. 
And Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabs, we hear their speaking in our own languages the mighty acts of God. 
λαλούντων: PAPart gpm, λαλέω, 1) to utter a voice or emit a sound  2) to speak
1. “the mighty acts of God,” is the first indication of what the disciples were speaking and what the crowd was hearing. This verse makes it clear that the “Pentecostal Experience” was not a kind of personal prayer glossolalia, but a way of communicating the mighty acts of God inter-culturally via many languages.

12  ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηπόρουν, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, Τί θέλει 
τοῦτο εἶναι; 
And all were astounded and perplexed, saying one to another, “What does this wish/intend to be?”
ἐξίσταντο: IMI 3p, ἐξίστημι, 1) to throw out of position, displace  1a) to amaze, to astonish, throw into wonderment
λέγοντες: PAPart npm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain 
θέλει: PAI 3s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend  1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose
εἶναι: PAInf εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. “astounded” – This is repetition of the claim in v.7. So far, Luke describes the crowd as gathered, bewildered, astounded (2x), and amazed. What if these were required words for every church’s mission statement?
2. “What does this wish to be?” is not the way that anyone translates the question of v.12, but it is as close to a word-for-word rendering as I can get. While this translation needs refining to make sense, I worry that “What does this mean?” (NRSV, NIV, ESV) misses the intentionality of the verb θέλω.

13 ἕτεροι δὲ διαχλευάζοντες ἔλεγον ὅτι Γλεύκους μεμεστωμένοι εἰσίν.
And others mocking said “They have been filled with sweet wine.”
διαχλευάζοντες: PAPart npm, δια-χλευάζω; to deride, scoff, mock,
ἔλεγον: IAI 3p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
μεμεστωμένοι: PerfPPart, npm, μεστόω, 1) to fill, be full
εἰσίν: PAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. The note that some folks likened this occasion to a drunken exhibition is either ridiculous on the face of it or it makes it much more lively than simply a story of inter-cultural communication. I don’t know if this comment reflects more on the actions of the believers or of the ones scoffing at them.

14 Σταθεὶς δὲ  Πέτρος σὺν τοῖς ἕνδεκα ἐπῆρεν τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ καὶ 
ἀπεφθέγξατο αὐτοῖς, Ἄνδρες Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ οἱ κατοικοῦντες Ἰερουσαλὴμ 
πάντες, τοῦτο ὑμῖν γνωστὸν ἔστω καὶ ἐνωτίσασθε τὰ ῥήματά μου. 
But standing with the twelve, Peter raised his voice and expounded to them, “Men of Judea and all those dwelling in Jerusalem: Let this be known to you and attend to my words. 
Σταθεὶς: APPart nsm, στημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set  1a) to bid to stand by.
ἐπῆρεν: AAI 3s, ἐπαίρω, 1) to lift up, raise up, raise on high  2) metaph. to be lifted up with pride, to exalt one's self 
ἀπεφθέγξατο 1) to speak out, speak forth, pronounce  1a) not a word of everyday speech but one "belonging to dignified  and elevated discourse"
κατοικοῦντες: PAPart, npm, κατοικέω, 1) to dwell, settle  1a) metaph. divine powers, influences, etc., are said to  dwell in his soul, to pervade, prompt, govern it 
ἔστω: PAImpv 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐνωτίσασθε: AMImpv 2p, ἐνωτίζομαι, 1) to receive into the ear, to give ear to, listen
1. I’m appreciating the difference between the ones who were “mocking” (διαχλευάζοντες) in v.13 and Peter using ἀπεφθέγξατο, defined in some lexicons as a kind of discourse that is “dignified and elevated.” Perhaps part of the Spirit’s empowerment is – in addition to the content and language – the tone of the message.

15 οὐ γὰρ ὡς ὑμεῖς ὑπολαμβάνετε οὗτοι μεθύουσιν, ἔστιν γὰρ ὥρα τρίτη τῆς 
ἡμέρας, 
For these are not drunk as you suppose, for it is the third hour of the day,
ὑπολαμβάνετε: PAI 2p, ὑπολαμβάνω, 1) to take up in order to raise  ...  4) to take up in the mind  4a) to assume, suppose 

16 ἀλλὰ τοῦτόἐστιν τὸ εἰρημένον διὰ τοῦ προφήτου Ἰωήλ, 
But this is what has been said through the prophet Joel,
εἰρημένον: PerfPPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain

17 Καὶ ἔσται ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις, λέγει  θεός, ἐκχεῶ ἀπὸ τοῦ 
πνεύματός μου ἐπὶ πᾶσαν σάρκα, καὶ προφητεύσουσιν οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν καὶ αἱ 
θυγατέρες ὑμῶν, καὶ οἱνεανίσκοι ὑμῶν ὁράσεις ὄψονται, καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι 
ὑμῶν ἐνυπνίοις ἐνυπνιασθήσονται: 
And it will be in the last days, says God, I will pour out of/from my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young shall see visions, and your elders shall dream dreams;  
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain
ἐκχεῶ: FAI 1s, ἐκχέω, 1) to pour out, shed forth  2) metaph. to bestow or distribute largely
προφητεύσουσιν: FAI 3p, προφητεύω prophesy, to speak forth, in declaration, warning, or exhortation, as directed by the Spirit of God
ὄψονται: FMI 3p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive, know 
ἐνυπνιασθήσονται: FPI 3p, ἐνυπνιάζομαι, 1) to dream (divinely suggested) dreams 
1. The NRSV, NIV, and ESV suggest that “my spirit” is the object of the verb “I will pour out.” But, “my spirit” is in the genitive case and is the object of the preposition ἀπὸ. As such, it seems to read “I will pour out from my spirit” instead of “I will pour out my spirit.” What is poured out is not given. I’m not sure if this observation matters greatly in a practical sense, but at the level of translation it is quite different from what we customarily hear. It could be that the implied object of the verb ‘pour out’ is ‘myself’ or ‘drunkenness’ or ‘fire,’ etc.

18 καί γε ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους μου καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς δούλας μου ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις 
ἐκείναις ἐκχεῶ ἀπὸ τοῦ πνεύματός μου, καὶ προφητεύσουσιν. 
And even upon my male and upon my female slaves in the last days I will pour out from my spirit, and they shall prophesy. 
ἐκχεῶ: FAI 1s, ἐκχέω, 1) to pour out, shed forth  2) metaph. to bestow or distribute largely
προφητεύσουσιν: FAI 3p, προφητεύω prophesy [verb] -ieth, -ied, -ing
1. Again the phrase is “I will pour out of/from my spirit,” not “I will pour out my spirit.” Whatever is being poured out, it enables prophesying.

19 καὶ δώσω τέρατα ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἄνω καὶ σημεῖα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς κάτω, αἷμα 
καὶ πῦρ καὶ ἀτμίδα καπνοῦ: 
And I will give portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below and blood and fire and vaporous smoke;
δώσω: FAI 1s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone 

20  ἥλιος μεταστραφήσεται εἰς σκότος καὶ  σελήνη εἰς αἷμα πρὶν ἐλθεῖν 
ἡμέραν κυρίου τὴν μεγάλην καὶ ἐπιφανῆ. 
The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and epiphanic day of the Lord. 
μεταστραφήσεται: FPI 3s, μεταστρέφω, 1) to turn around, turn around 
ἐλθεῖν: AAInf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come  1a) of persons  1a1) to come from one place to another, and used both of  persons arriving and of those returning  
1. The word for “come” is ἐλθεῖν, an aorist infinitive. I’m not sure how to translate that most accurately.

21 καὶ ἔσται πᾶς ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται. 
And it will be anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be made whole.   
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐπικαλέσηται: AMSubj 3s, ἐπικαλέω (καλέω with ἐπί upon, prefixed) to call on, to call to (denoting the object, not the subject, as προσκαλέω (proskaleō 4341)) to call on any one (by turning towards and crying to him); in NT middle implying interest and advantage, to appeal; to call out something to some one, that is to say to name, designate
σωθήσεται: FPI 3s, σῴζω, 1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction  1a) one (from injury or peril)
1. The verb σῴζω is very versatile. It is often translated “saved” here and that is one possibility. I shy away from “saved” because it has taken on specific ‘religious’ connotations of ‘saved from hell’ or ‘saved into heaven’ in many peoples’ minds. It could be translated ‘healed’ in many instances and points to a condition of being whole, not simply avoiding eternal punishment.  

The Festival of Weeks; Shavuot; Pentecost;
Leviticus 23:15-22 reads: “And from the day after the sabbath, from the day on which you bring the sheaf of the elevation-offering, you shall count off seven weeks; they shall be complete. You shall count until the day after the seventh sabbath, fifty days; then you shall present an offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation-offering, each made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of choice flour, baked with leaven, as first fruits to the Lord. You shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, one young bull, and two rams; they shall be a burnt-offering to the Lord, along with their grain-offering and their drink-offerings, an offering by fire of pleasing odor to the Lord. You shall also offer one male goat for a sin-offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of well-being. The priest shall raise them with the bread of the first fruits as an elevation-offering before the Lord, together with the two lambs; they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. On that same day you shall make proclamation; you shall hold a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. This is a statute for ever in all your settlements throughout your generations.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God.” 

The word “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek word for 50, pente. There is a natural sense of the “day of Pentecost” being fulfilled, since the original establishment of the celebration encouraged the people to “count” seven weeks of seven days from Passover until the day after the seventh Sabbath, or the 50th day.


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