You shall not take (nâśâʼ, תשׁא; Septuagint: λήμψῃ, a form of λαμβάνω) the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes (nâśâʼ, ישׁא; Septuagint: λαμβάνοντα, another form of λαμβάνω) his name in vain.[1]

Three occurrences of forms of nâśâʼ from Genesis 1:1 – Exodus 20:5[2] were translated with forms of λαμβάνω in the Septuagint:

Genesis 21:18 (NET)

Genesis 27:3 (NET)

Genesis 31:17 (NET)

Get up!  Help (nâśâʼ, שׁאי; Septuagint: λαβὲ, another form of λαμβάνω) the boy up and hold him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation. Therefore, take (nâśâʼ, שׁא; Septuagint: λαβὲ, another form of λαμβάνω) your weapons – your quiver and your bow – and go out into the open fields and hunt down some wild game for me. So Jacob immediately put (nâśâʼ, וישׁא; Septuagint: ἔλαβεν, another form of λαμβάνω) his children and his wives on the camels.

Only one of those (Genesis 27:3) was translated take in the KJV and NET before Exodus 20:7.  There is no particular problem with this translation if I’m studying nâśâʼ.  But if I read Exodus 20:7 in English only while trying to be declared righteous by the law[3] or attempting to have my own righteousness derived from the law,[4] the temptation is great to hear it as words I might say when I stub my toe in the dark.  If I don’t say those words then I may consider myself blameless according to the law.

You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who bears his name in vain.

This translation might have persuaded me even in English that any and every deviation from righteousness is bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Unbelievers seem to grasp this better than those who are trying to be declared righteous by the law or attempting to have [their] own righteousness derived from the law.  But unbelievers call it hypocrisy rather than bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain.  According to Merriam-Webster.com:

The word hypocrite ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player”…actors in ancient Greek theater wore large masks to mark which character they were playing…

The Greek word took on an extended meaning to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not.  This sense was taken into medieval French and then into English, where it showed up with its earlier spelling, ypocrite, in 13th-century religious texts to refer to someone who pretends to be morally good or pious in order to deceive others.  (Hypocrite gained its initial h– by the 16th century.)

It took a surprisingly long time for hypocrite to gain its more general meaning that we use today: “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”  Our first citations for this use are from the early 1700s, nearly 500 years after hypocrite first stepped onto English’s stage.  

On bibleone.net hypocrisy was distinguished from bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain by ascribing more evil intent to hypocrisy:

The meaning of the words, “hypocrite” and “hypocrisy,” as used in the Bible by our Lord Jesus Christ (primarily directed toward the “religious” leaders of the day) implies more than a “simple pretense” or “acting out as a stage-player.”  It embodies a purposeful intent, which stems from a deep-seated core of evil.  More than this, it suggests a determined effort to enforce a standard of conduct upon others, which conduct the enforcer knowingly and deliberately refuses to apply to himself–hence, action born of full knowledge and evil intent.  It is not merely the failure to live up to a holy standard–a condition applicable to every believer on any given day.  It is the condition of a person who is controlled by the sin nature to the end-desire of having power over other human beings by imposing on them a set of rules, which he himself intentionally disregards.  It is a condition applicable to either an unbeliever or a believer, i.e., a believer who is outside God’s will and under the influence of the sin nature.

I was particularly taken by the words imposing on them a set of rules.  That is acting at its core.  Some rules are imposed by the writer through the script.  Some are imposed by the director who interprets the script and blocks the scenes.  Most are self-imposed by the actor.  Though actors call them choices,[5] they are rules of behavior, what a particular character will or will not say or do in any given scene, derived from observation, research, experimentation and a deeply imaginative identification with the character to be performed.  Actors can win some arguments with both the writer and the director (since both are more focused on the work as a whole) because good actors ultimately know the individual characters they play better, at least more interestingly.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love actors and fully appreciate what they do, especially film actors.  I’ve had more opportunity to see them work up close, no one famous though a few were recognizable.  I sit with a silly grin on my face watching Amy Adams sing and dance her way through New York City in Enchanted, and am just as rapt watching her decipher an alien language in Arrival.  A brief exchange in Arrival between linguist Louise (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian (Jeremy Renner) encapsulates how I feel about studying the Bible.

Ian: You know, I was doing some reading about this idea that if you immerse yourself into a foreign language, that you can actually rewire your brain. 

Louise: Yeah, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis…It’s the theory that the language you speak determines how you think and…

Ian: Yeah.  It affects how you see everything.

You were taught with reference to your former way of life, Paul wrote believers in Ephesus, to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.[6]  It’s not a matter of being renewed (ἀνανεοῦσθαι, a form of ἀνανεόω) by learning Greek or Hebrew, but by immersing oneself in how the Holy Spirit thinks and communicates in Greek or Hebrew.  No matter how hard Amy Adams worked to become Giselle or Louise, no matter how many choices she made, she never became a cartoon princess or a xenolinguist in reality.

Stephen J. Cole, in the “The Deadly Sin of Hypocrisy (Acts 4:36-5:11),” wrote:

While Jesus was tender with many notorious sinners, He used scathing language to denounce those guilty of religious hypocrisy.

The story of Ananias and Sapphira warns us of the danger of the sin of hypocrisy.

None of the Greek words for hypocrite or hypocrisyὑποκριτής, ὑπόκρισις, ὑποκρίνομαι—occur in, or anywhere near, the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  I assume Pastor Cole took an 18th-century definition of hypocrisy—not living up to professed beliefs—or a 13th-century understanding of ypocrite—deliberate deception—and applied it to the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie (ψεύσασθαι, a form of ψεύδομαι) to the Holy Spirit…”[7]  If we think of hypocrisy as something so evil no believer would dare do it, we miss Jesus’ point about doing righteousness as actors play a role, because we do it all of the time.  It’s how we think.  It’s how we speak to one another:

A Christian wouldn’t do that!   A Christian shouldn’t do that!  Christians should do thus and such.  A real Christian would do this or that!

These are the arguments of actors: observing, researching, experimenting, engaging in deeply imaginative thought about what a Christian might be like and trying to perform that as a series of choices—that is, by obeying rules about how a Christian should or should not behave.  It is significantly different from being born from above, possessed (Romans 8:12-17) by his Holy Spirit, filled with God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.[8]

The simplest reason why ὑποκριτής was translated hypocrite in the 16th century is that the Latin derived actor was understood as an agent or doer and may have confused the reader regarding the contrast Paul had created—building on Jesus’ allusion to the Greek theater—between ὑποκριτής and ποιητής, the doers (ποιηταὶ, a form of ποιητής) of the law.

I’ve wasted too much time assuming Jesus was an angry preacher spouting pejoratives rather than patiently communicating the words of eternal life.  So I’ll take forms of ὑποκριτής at face value and remove the exclamation points from the text.  (They are obvious editorial comments added by translators.)  And then hopefully see Jesus again, see the smile on his face and the twinkle of his eyes as He reveals the name of his Father, God is love.

Be on your guard against the teaching (Matthew 16:5-12) of the Pharisees, Jesus told his disciples, which is acting class (ὑπόκρισις).[9]  Actors observe and judge others.  It is part and parcel of their craft as they prepare a role (Matthew 7:1-5 NET):

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive.  Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own?  You actor (ὑποκριτά, a form of ὑποκριτής), first remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Self promotion is part of the job of being a working actor (Matthew 6:1-4 NET):

Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people.  Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven.  Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the actors (ὑποκριταὶ, another form of ὑποκριτής) do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them.  I tell you the truth, they have their reward.  But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Actors crave an audience and thrive in the limelight (Matthew 6:5, 6, 16-18 NET):

Whenever you pray, do not be like the actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

When you fast, do not look sullen like the actors (ὑποκριταὶ, another form of ὑποκριτής), for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have their reward.  When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Actors never actually become the character they perform by acting (Matthew 15:1-9; Luke 13:14-16 NET):

Then Pharisees and experts in the law came from Jerusalem to Jesus and said, “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders?  For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.”  He answered them, “And why do you disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition?  For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say, ‘If someone tells his father or mother, “Whatever help you would have received from me is given to God,” he does not need to honor his father.’  You have nullified the word of God on account of your tradition.  Actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

But the president of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the crowd, “There are six days on which work should be done!  So come and be healed on those days, and not on the Sabbath day.”  Then the Lord answered him, “You actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from its stall, and lead it to water?  Then shouldn’t this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be released from this imprisonment on the Sabbath day?”

Since those attempting to serve God by acting are not led by his Holy Spirit, they do not share the mind of Christ but pursue their own agendas (Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 12:54-56 NET):

Then the Pharisees went out and planned together to entrap him with his own words.  They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality.  Tell us then, what do you think?  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus realized their evil intentions and said, “Actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), why are you testing me?  Show me the coin used for the tax.”  So they brought him a denarius.  Jesus said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.”  He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Now when they heard this they were stunned, and they left him and went away.

Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A rainstorm is coming,’ and it does.  And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and there is.  You actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), you know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how can you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Jesus described the experts in the law and you Pharisees as actors who keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven.  For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.[10]  You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.[11]  You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  You should have done these things without neglecting the others.[12]   You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too.[13]  You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy (ὑποκρίσεως, a form of ὑπόκρισις) and lawlessness (ἀνομίας, a form of ἀνομία).[14]  You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.[15]

Jesus warned of the consequence of an actor masquerading as a minister of the Gospel (Matthew 24:45-51 NET):

Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes.  I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the actors (ὑποκριτῶν, another form of ὑποκριτής), where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done (ἔπραξεν, a form of πράσσω) while in the body, whether good or evil.[16]  We do not want to appear before the judgment seat of Christ as actors with nothing to show but works (ἔργων, a form of ἔργον) of righteousness that we have done (ἐποιήσαμεν, a form of ποιέω).[17]  We want to have some pattern of behavior that demonstrates we have not ignored his teaching or rejected his salvation, that we have heeded his admonition—above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness[18]—and that each of us is one who practices (ποιῶν, another form of ποιέω) the truth, one who comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that [our] deeds (ἔργα, another form of ἔργον) have been done (εἰργασμένα, a form of ἐργάζομαι) in God.[19]

I want to consider another film.  Before I Fall didn’t do very well at the box office.  It’s Groundhog Day as straight-up tragedy.  But I thought it was a deeply moving, poignant film with one fatal flaw.  There are spoilers here for those who are bothered by such things.

Sam (Zoey Deutch), a self-absorbed teenage girl (Samantha), wakes up on the day of her death.  She repeats that day until she gets it right.  “For the first time, when I wake up,” her voiceover says on the last iteration of the last day of her life, “I’m not scared or confused or angry.  Because, for the first time, I truly understand what needs to happen.  I truly understand how to live this day.”  Sam’s transformation from self-absorbed teenage girl to loving daughter, sister and friend is truly breathtaking to behold.

The fatal flaw?  It’s not believable.  And I don’t think Ms. Deutch’s acting is to blame.  Christ-likeness apart from Christ isn’t credible.  Sam’s beautiful transformation is credited to her own knowledge, gained through the experience of repeating the same day over and over (not unlike an actor rehearsing), and her own “big heart.”  And none of us gets to do the same day over and over to acquire such knowledge.  Believers are called to live a new day of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control everyday forever.

Hypocrisy, by the way, isn’t the unforgivable sin.  Living an honest life of sin is never preferable to acting like the righteous.  If the fruit of the Spirit seems AWOL and the only way to obey God’s law is in one’s own strength—and that is possible—by all means do that.  Just don’t mistake that for the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.[20]  Open the Bible and search diligently for his righteousness once the immediate crisis has passed—win, lose or draw.

My own search began (for the purpose of this discussion) with the Ten Promises.  Though hearing the Ten Commandments as promises wasn’t exactly the silver bullet I hoped at the time, it did begin to change my attitude toward God and my relationship to Him.  So as a conclusion to this essay I invite the reader to hear his promise (Jeremiah 31:31-34) to all who believe, all who are led by his Spirit: You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who bears his name in vain.

[1] Exodus 20:7 (NET)

[2] Table 1, Forgiven or Passed Over? Part 3

[3] Galatians 5:4 (NET)

[4] Philippians 3:9 (NET)

[5] An excerpt from a video transcript of John Walcutt teaching young actors (all female apparently) follows:

…as you start to, you know, get more into grown up acting, you’re going to be expected to be able to make choices and what that means is, what we started talking about last week where you could look at material and go, “Hmm, what if I did this? What if I looked at it from this point of view? What if I decided that she is guilty? What if I decided, she’s lying?” When you make choices, your work gets interesting…
The lines are only ten percent of a scene, right? We talked about that. The other 90%  is what’s underneath, that’s where you have to make choices so here’s how I want you to think about it. Once you read through a scene and you start to get an idea of what it’s about, understand it. The first thing I want you to ask yourself is, “Who am I? Who am I in this scene? and if you just say… if you make a choice like, “Okay, I’m a girl.” Well that might be an interesting choice for me but for most of you, it’s not going to be an interesting choice. It has to be more specific. I’m a girl who has issues with her dad. I’m a girl who wants to drop out of school because I can’t stand my teachers. I’m, I’m competitive. I’m angry. I’m, I’ve low self esteem. I’m happy-go-lucky, cheerful optimist.
You make the most interesting choices you can. We call them Hot Choices so that, so that the scene starts to pop. So never say, “I’m just a girl.” Never say, “I’m just her friend.” Always make it as interesting and developed and complex as you can. So first thing you ask yourself, “Who am I?” Second thing you ask yourself, “What do I want?” What do I want in this scene, what is my objective?” And always make it about getting something from the other person, as simple as possible and it can change from line to line. Objectives change so I want to make you smile. I want to make you cry, I want to scare you, I want to wake you up, I want you to say, ”I love you.” I want you to laugh. Those are all choices and they determine how you’re going to say your lines…

As actors mature choices may become more personal or more commercial.

[6] Ephesians 4:22-24 (NET)

[7] Acts 5:3a (NET)

[8] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

[9] Luke 12:1b (NET)

[10] Matthew 23:13 (NET)

[11] Matthew 23:15 (NET)

[12] Matthew 23:23 (NET)

[13] Matthew 23:25, 26 (NET)

[14] Matthew 23:27, 28 (NET)

[15] Matthew 23:29 (NET)

[16] 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NET)

[17] Titus 3:5a (NET)

[18] Matthew 6:33a (NET)

[19] John 3:21 (NET)

[20] Romans 3:22a (NET)

Fear – Exodus, Part 9

Now when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand – when he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.  When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid (yârêʼ)[1] to approach him.[2]  The Greek word ἐφοβήθησαν (a form of φοβέω)[3] was chosen for this fear in the Septuagint.  This word occurs in the phrase ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον[4] μέγαν[5] in Mark’s gospel and was translated, They were overwhelmed by fear.[6]

Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat.  Now a great windstorm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped.[7]  Jesus was asleep in the stern.  His disciples woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”  So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!”  Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm.[8]

I thought Jesus rebuked them then.  “Why are you cowardly?” He said according to Mark’s account (which I assume was Peter’s account and Mark served as chronicler, if not his scribe).  Do you still not have faith?”[9]  In Matthew’s account Jesus’ rebuke—“Why are you cowardly, you people of little faith?”[10]—came even before He calmed the storm.  (Matthew/Levi hadn’t been called yet, according to Matthew.[11])  Of course, the text doesn’t actually say that Jesus rebuked them.

He rebuked (ἐπετίμησεν, a form of ἐπιτιμάω)[12] the wind (the cause[13] of the problem, if you will), and said (εἶπεν, a form of ῥέω)[14] to the sea as He said (εἶπεν) to his disciples.  Matthew recorded what He said (λέγει, a form of λέγω)[15] to his disciples, and how He rebuked (ἐπετίμησεν) the winds and the sea.  But when I believed that my faith was the work that made me worthy of heaven—Why are you cowardly?  Do you still not have faith? and Why are you cowardly, you people of little faith?—stung like rebuke.  My opinion began to change, however, after I began to believe that his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence,[16] and that credited righteousness[17] was a functional,[18] rather than merely a formal,[19] righteousness.

My original opinion about Jesus’ rebuke was rendered absurd when I began to believe that even faith did not come out of or out from me: For by grace you are saved through faith (πίστεως, a form of πίστις),[20] and this is not from yourselves (καὶ[21] τοῦτο[22] οὐκ[23] ἐξ[24] ὑμῶν[25]), it is the gift of God.[26]  I heard the argument that this (τοῦτο, literally these) cannot refer back to faith (πίστεως) because τοῦτο “is neuter plural and ‘Faith’ [πίστεως] is feminine.”[27]  And I certainly tried to live by its consequences: “God bestows grace on those who faithfully obey His truth (Romans 6:15-18).  Man’s obedient faith does not cancel grace.  The fact is that an obedient faith allows initial grace (Acts 2:38) and permits continual grace (1 John 1:7).”[28]  My faith proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was never up to the task.  On the other hand, “Grace is feminine…And even Salvation (as a noun) is feminine.”[29]  So τοῦτο (literally these) refers to none of them or all three of them.

Though now it seems somewhat redundant and unnecessary to say that God’s grace is not from yourselves, there was a time when I needed to hear that his grace was not from works, so that no one can boast.[30]  Though now it seems somewhat redundant and unnecessary to say that God’s salvation is not from yourselves, there was a time when I needed to hear that his salvation was not from works, so that no one can boast.  Likewise there was a time when I reached the end of MY faith and needed to hear that even faith is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.[31]  It is Christ’s faithfulness, not mine, the fruit of his Spirit.

And notice how easily these lofty requirements are fulfilled when the faithfulness in question is Christ’s rather than mine: “God bestows grace on those who faithfully obey His truth.  [Christ’s] obedient faith does not cancel grace.  The fact is that an obedient faith allows initial grace and permits continual grace.”  I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.[32]  And, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (πίστις), gentleness, and self-control.[33]

I’m not thinking here of the works of the flesh,[34] but that desire of the flesh that is most perniciously opposed to the Spirit[35] even after its works are largely under his control; namely, the desire to be accepted by God as righteous by my own works on my own terms.  But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites, Jesus said to men who pursued that kind of righteousness.  You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven!  For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.[36]  I know Paul didn’t explicitly say that this is a desire of the flesh in his letter to the Galatians, so I may be giving the flesh more credit than it deserves.  Perhaps the desire to be right is nothing more than a perversion or short-circuiting of a God-given hunger and thirst for righteousness.[37]  Regardless, the fruit and the glory are God’s, not mine.

The Greek word for this “obedient faith” in the New Testament is ὑπακοή.  At the beginning and the end of his letter to the Romans Paul went out of his way to make it clear that he did not mean “my own works by my own righteousness,” in fact, he called it faith’s obedience (Romans 1:5; 16:25-27 NET):

Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith (ὑπακοὴν[38] πίστεως) among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that had been kept secret for long ages, but now is disclosed, and through the prophetic scriptures has been made known to all the nations, according to the command of the eternal God [κατ᾿[39] ἐπιταγὴν[40] τοῦ[41] αἰωνίου[42] θεοῦ[43]] to bring about the obedience of faith [εἰς[44] ὑπακοὴν πίστεως] – to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever!   Amen.

While it is correct to translate ὑπακοή obedience relative to the Greek language, when Paul used ὑπακοή, even alone, relative to the Gospel he did not refer to “my own works by my own righteousness” any more than his use of the word θεοῦ referred to Zeus, Hera, Apollo or Aphrodite.  So I have to ask, how harshly did the Lord Jesus criticize his disciples for not demonstrating the faith He had not yet given them?  And look, I am sending you what my Father promised, Jesus told his Apostles after his resurrection.  But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.[45]

Jesus’ disciples knew, or suspected, that He was the Messiah, or Christ.  That’s why they followed Him, according to John’s Gospel account.  Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard what John [the Baptist] said and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah (Μεσσίαν, a form of Μεσσίας)!”[46] (which is translated Christ [χριστός]).[47]  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”[48]

Up to that time a messiah (Hebrew: mâshı̂yach, maw-shee’-akh) was simply a man anointed by God for a specific purpose.  Though incredulous at first that anything good could come out of Nazareth,[49] when he met Jesus, Nathaniel revealed some of his expectation regarding this particular anointed one at this particular time in Israel’s history, Rabbi, you are the Son of God (υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ); you are the king of Israel![50]  I’m not sure what Nathaniel meant by υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.  I don’t think he recognized yet that Jesus was Yahweh in human flesh.  I do think it is that particular lack of faith to which Jesus referred when He said, Why are you cowardly?  Do you still not have faith? or Why are you cowardly, you people of little faith?  I’m just not so sure any more that it was a rebuke.

The word translated cowardly in both Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts is δειλοί, a form of δειλός.[51]  Online in a section labeled HELPSTM Word-studies it reads, “deilós is always used negatively in the NT and stands in contrast to the positive fear which can be expressed by 5401 /phóbos [φόβος] (‘fear,’ see Phil 2:12).”[52]  Actually δειλός only occurs three or perhaps four times in the New Testament.  The fourth was rejected by the writer(s) of this particular definition: So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe (δέους, possibly another form of δειλός).[53]  This is quite similar to Philippians 2:12 (NET): So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe (φόβου, a form of φόβος)[54] and reverence

In a section labeled “Forms and Transliterations” at the bottom of the web-page in the Bible Hub δέους is listed along with δειλοί: “δειλοι, δειλοί, δειλοις, δειλοίς, δειλοῖς, δειλός, δεους, δέους.”  It is a form of δέος (δειλός is from δέος in Strong’s) according to the Greek Word Study Tool,[55] but it is a form of αἰδώς[56] according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.  The NET online Bible jumps to αἰδώς if I click on awe in English.  If I click on δέους in Greek the busy signal spins perpetually.  If δέους actually is another form of δειλός, Jesus’ saying might have been translated, Why are you [awestruck]?

The problem is, the one time δειλοῖς (another form of δειλός) occurs in the New Testament it is first in the list of the damned: But to the cowards (δειλοῖς), unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells, idol worshipers, and all those who lie, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.  That is the second death.[57]  And so Thayer’s Greek Lexicon reads, “δειλός, δείλη, δειλόν (δείδω to fear), timid, fearful: Matthew 8:28 [actually, Matthew 8:26]; Mark 4:40; in Revelation 21:8 of Christians who through cowardice give way under persecutions and apostatize. (From Homer down.)”[58]

Before I get too carried away by the idea that the Lord Jesus used δειλός in the same way that Homer used it, I’ll look more deeply into the context in Revelation.  But that kind of confusion could explain why Peter believed that Jesus wanted him to die[59] defending Him with a sword in the garden of Gethsemane.

The damned in Revelation were contrasted to one who conquers: The one who conquers (νικῶν, a form of νικάω)[60] will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.[61]  The one who conquers (νικῶν, a form of νικάω) will in no way be harmed by the second death.[62]  The one who conquers (νικῶν, a form of νικάω) I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it.  I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well.[63]

And to the one who conquers (νικῶν, a form of νικάω) and who continues in my deeds (τὰ ἔργα[64] μου[65]) until the end, I will give him authority over the nations[66]  The one who conquers (νικῶν, a form of νικάω) will be dressed like [the few individuals in Sardis who have not stained their clothes][67] in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels.[68]  I have not found your deeds complete (σου |τὰ| ἔργα πεπληρωμένα[69]) in the sight of my God,[70] the Lord complained against most in Sardis.  Wake up then, and strengthen what remains,[71] He said, remember what (πῶς)[72] you received (εἴληφας, a form of λαμβάνω)[73] and heard, and obey it, and repent.[74]

Ordinarily, εἴληφας, a form of λαμβάνω, means to take.[75]  Of course, coupled with πῶς which means how, in what way (translated what), the translation received makes more sense.  How could anyone take from the Lord except to receive what He has given?  What do you have that you did not receive (ἔλαβες, another form of λαμβάνω)?  And if you received (ἔλαβες) it, why do you boast as though you did (λαβών, another form of λαμβάνω) not?[76]

Translated as remember what you received I think of the Holy Spirit and all the righteousness, both fruit and gifts, that flows from Him: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[77]  And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us.  If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness.[78]

On the other hand if I think of it translated as remember what you [took], I am reminded of the law: You shall not take (Septuagint, λήμψῃ,[79] another form of λαμβάνω) the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes (Septuagint, λαμβάνοντα,[80] another form of λαμβάνω) his name in vain.[81]  Most in Sardis had not continued in Christ’s deeds, τὰ ἔργα μου (literally, my works, these works of mine).  They had not come into the light, so that it may be plainly evident that [their] deeds have been done in [or, by] God.[82]  They relied on their own works.  I have not found your deeds complete (ἔργα πεπληρωμένα [a form of πληρόω, fulfilled]) in the sight of my God, Jesus said.  He came to fulfill his works in and through us who believe (Matthew 5:17 NET):

Do not think that I have come to abolish (καταλῦσαι, a form of καταλύω)[83] the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish (καταλῦσαι, a form of καταλύω) these things but to fulfill (πληρῶσαι, a form of πληρόω) them.

One of the things the one who conquers will inherit[84] is a promise: To the one who is thirsty (διψῶντι, a form of διψάω)[85] I will give water free of charge from the spring of the water of life.[86]  The translators admitted (NET note 13) that they added the word water because it “is implied.  Direct objects were frequently omitted in Greek when clear from the context.”  So the text reads, To the one who is thirsty I will give free of charge from the spring of the water of life.  The implied direct object in this case is not water but righteousness: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst (διψῶντες, another form of διψάω) for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.[87]

Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty (διψήσει, another form of διψάω) again, Jesus, pointing at a well, told a Samaritan woman.  But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty (διψήσει, another form of διψάω) again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.[88]  So the way that righteousness, the will of God, is achieved in heaven is through free access to God’s Holy Spirit, not an occasional spurt of righteousness, but a spring or fountain springing up to eternal life, which is not so much a timeless time or place as an eternal way of life.  And so it is on earth: may your will be done (γενηθήτω, a form of γίνομαι, literally become)[89] on earth as it is in heaven.[90]

And so it was with our Lord and Savior: I will grant the one who conquers (νικῶν, a form of νικάω) permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered (ἐνίκησα, a form of νικάω) and sat down with my Father on his throne.[91]  For everyone who has been fathered by God conquers (νικᾷ, a form of νικάω) the world.  This is the conquering power that has conquered (νικήσασα, a form of νικάω) the world: our faith.  Now who is the person who has conquered (νικῶν, a form of νικάω) the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?[92]  If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.  And we have come to know and to believe the love [the fruit of his Spirit] that God has in us.  God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him.[93]

With that in mind I want to reconsider the story of Jesus calming the wind and the waves.  I’ll use my imagination along with a psalm to get into the scene a little deeper.  When a great windstorm developed and the waves first began breaking into the boat,[94] though the other disciples may have been immediately afraid, I imagine Peter, Andrew, James and John took it in stride, for they were fishermen (Psalm 107:23-25 NET).

Some traveled on the sea in ships, and carried cargo over the vast waters.  They witnessed the acts of the Lord, his amazing feats on the deep water.  He gave the order for a windstorm, and it stirred up the waves of the sea.

As Peter gave orders to man the sail, ropes or oars, I imagine he smiled to himself that Jesus could sleep through it all.  Obviously, the Messiah wasn’t worried that He might drown in a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Psalm 107:26a NET).

They reached up to the sky, then dropped into the depths.

That’s an apt description of a boat riding out a storm fairly successfully.  But in the midst of an inland lake, the longer the wind blows, the more confused the waves become as they bounce back from every shore.  In the dark with no clue where the next wave would come from, it became almost impossible to head into the waves, so that the boat was nearly swamped.[95]  As the level of the water rose inside the boat, I imagine Peter’s amusement gave way to dismay, that the Messiah could sleep through it all (Psalm 107:26b-28a NET).

The sailors’ strength left them because the danger was so great.  They swayed and staggered like a drunk, and all their skill proved ineffective.  They cried out to the Lord in their distress…

Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?[96] Peter roused Jesus from his slumber.  I imagine that it was Peter, telling on himself through Mark (Psalm 107:28b, 29 NET).

…he delivered them from their troubles.  He calmed the storm, and the waves grew silent.

Granted, there are more appropriate ways to cry out to the Lord at the end of one’s own faith.  I’ve certainly said worse than—Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?—but the Lord’s love is not easily angered or resentful.[97]  And with time in, living at the edge of my faith, his peace and patience work out more appropriate prayers for salvation in me.  My point in all this is that Jesus was not concerned with the fear his disciples felt during the storm.  They responded more or less appropriately to that fear according to the Scripture.

Hear how the words—Why are you cowardly?  Do you still not have faith?—sound, if they were spoken quietly with a smile and a wink as Jesus headed back to bed, rather than an imperious scowl.  Granted, the order of events in Matthew’s Gospel account lends more credence to that imperious scowl, but then in Matthew the phrase you people of little faith[98] is one word, ὀλιγόπιστοι (a form of ὀλιγόπιστος).[99]  Knowing that, it sounds more like a pet name or a term of endearment than a curse, or even a rebuke.

Where the disciples were in danger of diverging from Scripture was after Jesus calmed the storm, after He revealed that this particular Messiah was in fact Yahweh (Psalms 65:5-789:8, 993:3, 4 NET), who spoke to the wind and the waves and, Even the wind and sea obey him![100]  The sailors [in the psalm] rejoiced because the waves grew quiet, and he led them to the harbor they desired.[101]  Jesus disciples were overwhelmed by fear (ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν).[102]

So, when Aaron and all the Israeliteswere afraid (Septuagint, ἐφοβήθησαν, a form of φοβέω) to approach [Moses] because the skin of his face shone,[103] they were not frightened by a strange sight.  They had seen stranger sights.  They were frightened by the implication of Moses’ shining face, that Moses was becoming like Yahweh.  The fear of becoming like God, if it is not faced, could keep one from conquering, from inheriting, and from hearing the Lord say, I will be his God and he will be my son.[104]

So that fear fully deserves its place first in the list of the damned.  Aaron and all the Israelites faced that fear, however, and drew near to Moses anyway.  Jesus’ Apostles, except for Judas Iscariot, faced it and overcame by faith in Him, because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world.[105]

Fear – Leviticus

Back to Torture, Part 1

[2] Exodus 34:29, 30 (NET)

[4] a form of φόβος

[5] a form of μέγας

[7] Mark 4:37 (NET)

[8] Mark 4:38, 39 (NET)

[9] Mark 4:40 (NET)

[10] Matthew 8:26 (NET)

[11] Matthew 9:9 (NET) As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him.  And he got up and followed him.

[13] Now a great windstorm (λαῖλαψ μεγάλη [another form of μέγας]) developed and the waves, careening back and forth between the shores of the lake called the Sea of Galilee, were the result.

[15] Matthew 8:26 (NET)

[16] 2 Peter 1:3 (NET)

[17] Romans 4

[22] a form of οὗτος

[25] a form of σύ; of you

[26] Ephesians 2:8 (NET)

[30] Ephesians 2:9 (NET)

[31] Ephesians 2:8, 9 (NET)

[32] Galatians 5:16 (NET)

[33] Galatians 5:22, 23a (NET)

[36] Matthew 23:13 (NET)

[38] a form of ὑπακοή

[40] a form of ἐπιταγή

[41] a form of

[42] a form of αἰώνιος, of eternal

[43] a form of θεός, of God

[45] Luke 24:49 (NET)

[47] John 1:40, 41 (NET)

[48] John 1:45 (NET)

[49] John 1:46 (NET)

[50] John 1:49 (NET)

[53] Hebrews 12:28 (NET)

[57] Revelation 21:8 (NET)

[59] The Soul

[61] Revelation 21:7 (NET)

[62] Revelation 2:11b (NET)

[63] Revelation 3:12 (NET)

[64] a form of ἔργον

[65] a form of ἐγώ

[66] Revelation 2:26 (NET)

[68] Revelation 3:5 (NET)

[69] a form of πληρόω

[70] Revelation 3:2b (NET)

[71] Revelation 3:2a (NET)

[74] Revelation 3:3a (NET)

[75] Revelation 11:17b (NET) …you have taken (εἴληφας) your great power and begun to reign.

[77] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

[78] Romans 12:6-8 (NET)

[79] http://www.ericlevy.com/lxx/?Book=Gen&Chapter=24  Point to the word with the mouse to see a popup translation; then point to “search” in the popup to see another popup with the root form of the word.

[81] Exodus 20:7 (NET)

[82] John 3:21 (NET)

[86] Revelation 21:6 (NET)

[87] Matthew 5:6 (NET)

[88] John 4:13, 14 (NET)

[90] Matthew 6:10 (NET)

[91] Revelation 3:21 (NET)

[92] 1 John 5:4, 5 (NET)

[93] 1 John 4:15, 16 (NET)

[94] Mark 4:37a (NET)

[95] Mark 4:37b (NET)

[96] Mark 4:38 (NET)

[97] 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NET)

[98] Matthew 8:26 (NET)

[100] Mark 4:41 (NET)

[101] Psalm 107:30 (NET)

[102] Mark 4:41 (NET)

[103] Exodus 34:29, 30 (NET)

[104] Revelation 21:7 (NET)

[105] 1 John 5:4 (NET)