Hypocrisy

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)

Father, Forgive Them – Part 1

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,[1] Jesus prayed from the cross.  It isn’t found in some early manuscripts so it’s in single brackets in the NET (note 81) translation.  I don’t intend to argue the Is it really true that God said[2] aspect here.  I’m more interested in what He meant when He said it since less than forty years later Roman armies quashed a Jewish revolt.  The death toll was staggering and the temple in Jerusalem was completely destroyed.

“Israel’s sins were responsible for the” destruction of the temple Rabbi Irving Greenberg wrote.  “But what were the sins?  Interestingly, the Rabbis focused on Jewish divisiveness.  Unjustified hatred among the people had invited the tragedy…”[3]  Eliezer Cohen, an editor of The Jewish Magazine online, called it punishment:[4]

The calamity of two thousand years in the exile requires understanding…the sages…told us that the first Temple was destroyed because of three things: sexual immorality, widespread murder and idolatry.  The second Temple was destroyed because of one reason: baseless hatred (sinat chinam).

Sexual immorality, murder and idolatry are three grave sins for which a person is obliged to give his life rather than transgress.  Baseless hatred is not considered such a severe sin.  For the sin of sexual immorality, murder and idolatry the Jews had their Temple destroyed and were exiled for a period of only seventy years.  After this period, they came back to their land and rebuilt the second Temple which stood another 400 plus years.

Yet for the comparatively minor sin of baseless hatred the second Temple was destroyed and we were exiled for almost two thousand years!  The punishment seems out of proportion to the crime!!

Though his reasons were different the church historian Eusebius, writing about the destruction of the temple under the Roman emperor Vespasian, seemed to describe it as divine punishment:[5]

For the Jews after the ascension of our Saviour, in addition to their crime against him, had been devising as many plots as they could against his apostles.  First Stephen was stoned to death by them, and after him James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, was beheaded, and finally James, the first that had obtained the episcopal seat in Jerusalem after the ascension of our Saviour, died in the manner already described.

John Chrysostom called it grievous wrath and punishment:[6]

‘I ask the Jews, whence came upon them so grievous wrath from heaven more woeful than all that had come upon them before?  Plainly it was because of the desperate crime and the denial of the Cross.  But He shews that they deserved still heavier punishment than they received, when He adds, “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved;” that is, If the siege by the Romans should be continued longer, all the Jews would perish; for by “all flesh,” He means all the Jewish nation…”

“This early Christian understanding that the Jewish people were being punished for their rejection of Christ may seem very harsh today,” Robin A. Brace explained:[7]

but we must understand that this was a widespread view for many hundreds of years.  Only now, in an age of ‘political correctness,’ ‘liberal values,’ and a concern for ‘human rights,’ has it become unfashionable to express such a view.  Yet let there be no doubt that when the people of Judea demanded that Barabbas the robber should be released and that Jesus should be condemned, those people apparently accepted a curse upon themselves and upon their children for their rejection of Jesus.  Scripture itself states,

Mat 27:25: ‘Then all the people answered and said, Let His blood be on us and on our children.’

The end of the second temple era “was an era of great political upheaval internally, with an ongoing struggle for supremacy amongst different groups of Jews:”[8]

  1. The Pharisees were the led by the rabbis and Sanhedrin…they were careful to maintain ritual purity, and separated themselves from those who did not strictly observe these laws.
  2. The Sadducees rejected the Oral Torah and the leadership of the rabbis…Those who wanted to befriend the Romans were mostly Sadducees.
  3. The Zealots were passionate nationalists who broke away from the Pharisees because they wanted to fight the Romans at all costs, while the Pharisees hesitated.
  4. The Sicarii were against any form of government altogether. “Sicarii” literally means “dagger-men.”  They resorted to stealth and terrorism to achieve their objectives.  They would carry small daggers under their cloaks and stab their enemies – Romans or Roman sympathizers, often wealthy Jews and elites associated with the priesthood – and then blend into the crowd.

“By 66 CE, the Jews in many of the coastal cities were treated as despised outsiders:”[9]

On one day in Jerusalem, 3,600 Jews were killed by Roman troops who had been sent in to quell the riots. Florus hoped the Jews of Jerusalem would try to avenge the slaughter so he could justify the mass killing of the Jewish population, loot their possessions, and seize the Holy Temple.  Instead, the Jews organized a march seeking to make peace with the governor.  The Roman soldiers, lusting for blood, charged into the crowd of marchers, killing many Jews, and continued on to the Temple Mount.  Many Jews had gathered in there to block the entrances.  They were successful, and the Roman soldiers retreated.

But now the Jews began revolting against the Romans throughout the land.  In ever-increasing numbers they joined the movement of the Zealots who were openly preparing for warfare against the Romans.

“The story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza was the pivotal event that ignited Nero’s rage and caused the destruction of the Holy Temple:”[10]

A Jew who had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza made a feast.  He told his servant to invite Kamtza, but by mistake the servant invited Bar Kamtza …when the host noticed Bar Kamtza, he demanded that he leave…Bar Kamtza was embarrassed…“I am willing to pay the full cost of the feast, but do not embarrass me any more…”  The host had Bar Kamtza dragged from the feast and thrown into the streets…Bar Kamtza went to Emperor Nero and told him that the Jews were planning a rebellion against him.

“Vespasian’s troops brutally conquered the north of Israel, eradicating all resistance:”[11]

Meanwhile, the Jewish factions – now increasingly concentrated in Jerusalem – moved beyond power struggles into open civil war.  While Vespasian merely watched from a distance, various factions of Zealots and Sicarii fought each other bitterly, even those that had common goals.  They killed those advocating surrender.  Thousands of Jews died at the hands of other Jews in just a few years.

Long before, the residents of Jerusalem had stored provisions in case of a Roman siege.  Three wealthy men had donated huge storehouses of flour, oil, and wood—enough supplies to survive a siege of 21 years.

The Zealots, however, wanted all-out war.  They were unhappy with the attitude of the Sages, who proposed sending a peace delegation to the Romans.  In order to bring things to a head and force their fellow Jews to fight, groups of militia set fire to the city’s food stores, condemning its population to starvation.  They also imposed an internal siege on Jerusalem, not letting their fellow Jews in or out…

In 69 CE, Vespasian returned to Rome to serve as emperor, but first he appointed his son, Titus, to carry on in his stead.  In 70 CE, Titus came towards Jerusalem with an army of 80,000 soldiers.

“In honor of Passover, many Jews from all over Judea risked their lives to make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, arriving just ahead of the swiftly-approaching Roman army:”[12]

When they arrived, they found a city divided among warring factions, even as the Romans were in sight.

An unlikely alliance of Pharisees and Sadducees – both of whom did not want to engage the Romans in war – held control of large swathes of the city.  The Sicarii, led by Simon ben Giora, held much of the Upper City and parts of the Lower City.  The Zealots, divided amongst themselves, controlled the Temple area: A moderate faction, led by Eleazar ben Simon, camped in the Temple complex itself while the extreme Zealots, led by Yochanan of Gush Chalav, camped on the Temple Mount—in between the moderate Zealots and the Sadducees.

The moderate Zealots generously opened the gates of the Temple so the Jews could come in and offer their Paschal sacrifices.  But the extremists, pretending to be Jews coming to offer sacrifices, also entered.  Once inside, they took out their swords and began to kill moderates as well as visiting Jews.

“On the day after Passover, Titus started engaging in active warfare.  Now, finally, all the factions in Jerusalem had no choice but to work together and fight their common enemy.”[13]  “When Titus saw he could not conquer them by force, he decided to starve the Jews into submission:”[14]

A terrible hunger now ravaged the overcrowded city.  Soon the last stores of food dwindled down.  Rich people gave all their wealth for a bit of food.  Even leather was cooked and eaten.  At first the Zealots had not been affected by hunger because they took other people’s food, but eventually they too became desperately hungry, eating their horses and even their horses’ dung and saddles.

In Josephus’s account (The Jewish Wars, 5:10): “The roofs were filled with women and small children expiring from hunger, and the corpses of old men were piled in the streets.  Youths swollen with hunger wandered like shadows in the marketplace until they collapsed.  No one mourned the dead, because hunger had deadened all feeling…”

The streets were soon filled with corpses, and, as it was hot summer weather, terrible epidemics broke out. Hundreds of people were found dead every morning.  In their despair, many of the Jews tried to leave the enclosure of Jerusalem under the cover of night to seek something edible in the fields.  They were easily captured, and Titus had them crucified in plain view of the city’s defenders on the wall.  In one night, Josephus tells us, five thousand Jews were discovered searching for food and were all crucified.

“Knowing the dire situation in the Jewish camp, Titus sent his spokesman, Josephus, to convince the Jews to surrender.  The Jewish warriors turned deaf ears to his words and ejected him contemptuously from their presence.  The battle now raged in the Temple area.”[15]  “According to Josephus, Titus did not want the Temple to be burnt, apparently because a standing (but vanquished) Temple would reflect more on Rome’s glory:”[16]

It was a Roman soldier acting on his own initiative who, hoisted on the shoulders of another soldier, threw a firebrand into the Temple.  Titus tried to put a stop to the fire, but in the chaos, his soldiers did not hear him.  (Other historians contradict this account of Titus’s enlightened perspective and report that Titus ordered the Temple destroyed.)

In either case, before long, the Temple was engulfed in flames.  The Jews frantically tried to stop the fire, but were unsuccessful.  In despair, many Jews threw themselves into the flames.  The Roman soldiers rushed into the melee.  Romans and Jews were crowded together, and their dead bodies fell on top of each other.

Josephus recalled the carnage:[17]

Crowded together around the entrances, many were trampled down by their companions; others, stumbling on the smoldering and smoked-filled ruins of the porticoes, died as miserably as the defeated.  As they drew closer to the Temple, they pretended not even to hear Caesar’s orders, but urged the men in front to throw in more firebrands.  The rebels were powerless to help; carnage and flight spread throughout.

Most of the slain were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, and they were butchered where they were caught.  The heap of corpses mounted higher and higher about the altar; a stream of blood flowed down the Temple’s steps, and the bodies of those slain at the top slipped to the bottom…

While the Temple was ablaze, the attackers plundered it, and countless people who were caught by them were slaughtered.  There was no pity for age and no regard was accorded rank; children and old men, laymen and priests, alike were butchered; every class was pursued and crushed in the grip of war, whether they cried out for mercy or offered resistance.

Through the roar of the flames streaming far and wide, the groans of the falling victims were heard; such was the height of the hill and the magnitude of the blazing pile that the entire city seemed to be ablaze; and the noise – nothing more deafening and frightening could be imagined.

There were the war cries of the Roman legions as they swept onwards en masse, the yells of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the panic of the people who, cut off above, fled into the arms of the enemy, and their shrieks as they met their fate.  The cries on the hill blended with those of the multitudes in the city below; and now many people who were exhausted and tongue-tied as a result of hunger, when they beheld the Temple on fire, found strength once more to lament and wail.  Peraea and the surrounding hills, added their echoes to the deafening din.  But more horrifying than the din were the sufferings.

The Temple Mount, everywhere enveloped in flames, seemed to be boiling over from its base; yet the blood seemed more abundant than the flames and the numbers of the slain greater than those of the slayers.  The soldiers climbed over heaps of bodies as they chased the fugitives.

It’s a horrifying story.  But is it knowledge of God, how He treats people who are dearly loved (ἀγαπητοὶ, a form of ἀγαπητός)?  I thought so and became an atheist when God didn’t measure up to my expectations.  But now I think it’s the religious mind that seeks out guilt to assign blame: Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?[18]  “They deserved it,” mitigates the horror a bit.  But I can no longer conscience standing before the judgment seat of Christ with this story as proof of how God treats people.

If anything, this story describes how sin treats people.  It is not a story (Galatians 5:13-26) of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.[19]

Father, Forgive Them – Part 2

Back to Who Am I? Part 7

[1] Luke 23:34a (NET)

[2] Genesis 3:1b (NET)

[3] Rabbi Irving Greenberg, “Destruction As Punishment,” myjewishlearning.com

[4] Eliezer Cohen, “Baseless Hatred and the Destruction of the Temple,” The Jewish Magazine

[5] Quoted from: Robin A. Brace, “Jerusalem, AD70: The Worst Desolation Ever?,” ukapologetics.net

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8]The Factions of the Second Temple Era,”  Chabad.org

[9]Revolt against Rome,” Chabad.org

[10]The Story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza,” Chabad.org

[11]Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai’s Request,” Chabad.org

[12]The Last Passover,” Chabad.org

[13]Battle,” Chabad.org

[14]Starvation,” Chabad.org

[15]The Seventeenth of Tammuz,” Chabad.org

[16]The Destruction of the Temple,” Chabad.org

[17]The Romans Destroy the Temple at Jerusalem, 70 AD,” eyewitnesstohistory.com

[18] John 9:2 (NET)

[19] Romans 3:22 (NET)

My Deeds, Part 1

In another essay I contrasted 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 and Revelation 2:26-29.  I’ve wanted to return to the latter for a while.  Here is a table representing my unstudied view of the relationship of its clauses in English.

Revelation 2:26-29 (NET)

And to the one who conquers and who continues in my deeds until the end,

I will give him authority over the nations –

he will rule them with an iron rod and like clay jars he will break them to pieces,
just as I have received the right to rule from my Father – and I will give him the morning star.

The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

To begin I’ll consider who continues in my deeds until the end, because it tugs the hardest at me to return to my own works.  As the title of this essay suggests my goal is to understand what Jesus meant by τὰ ἔργα μου, translated my deeds.  But first I’ll look into τηρῶν (a form of τηρέω), translated who continues.

The most basic understanding of τηρῶν is: Blessed is the one who stays alert and does not lose (τηρῶν, a form of τηρέω) his clothes so that he will not have to walk around naked and his shameful condition be seen.[1]  It means to keep, not to lose or discardHe who has My commandments and keeps (τηρῶν, a form of τηρέω) them, Jesus said, is the one who loves Me.[2]

In another essay I described shacking-up “with my girlfriend du jour” as a time when “I began to walk in the grace of Christ’s salvation.”  Of course, I shacked up with my girlfriend because I was trying to believe that Christ put an “end” to the law and all things were “lawful” for me.  In other words, I was attempting to lose or discard Jesus’ commandments (ignoring for the moment that the main “commandment” at issue in my mind was the suspect “sin of premarital sex”).

Jesus wasn’t perplexed by my conundrum.  Suddenly I was filled with desire to write a rock opera about Him.  I became immersed in the words of the four Gospel narratives.  Among those words was: He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.  Though I read the word keeps, I heard the word obeys.  I thought keeps meant obeys at that time: The person who has my commandments and obeys (τηρῶν, a form of τηρέω) them is the one who loves me.[3]

So when I married my roommate, though I had certainly fallen away from grace since I was trying to be declared righteous by the law,[4] I was done for the moment with my attempt to lose or discard Jesus’ commandments.  I can’t say I was obeying them.  Obedience apart from grace is hypocrisy, an actor playing at righteousness.

The Circle in the movie of the same name is a religious cult/high-tech company.  There are many spoilers here.  During a weekly worship service called Dream Friday tech evangelist Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), one of the founders, introduces a new low-cost, wireless, internet-enabled camera to the faithful, called Circlers.  These cameras, connected to The Circle, are being placed all over the world.  “There needs to be accountability,” Eamon preaches.  “Tyrants and terrorists can no longer hide.  We will see them.  We will hear them.  We will hear and see everything.  If it happens, we’ll know.  We’re calling it SeeChange.”

A new employee Mae Holland (Emma Watson) sits in the congregation drinking the Kool-Aid (as she admits to another Circler later in the film).  “We will see it all because knowing is good,” Eamon proclaims, “but knowing everything is better.”

“We need accountability.  We need openness,” Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt), COO of The Circle, concurs as he introduces Congresswoman Olivia Santos (Judy Reyes) at another worship service.  “I intend to show exactly how democracy can and should be,” Congresswoman Santos thrills Tom’s congregation.  “Starting today, my every meeting, my every phone call and email will be accessible to my constituents and to the world in real time.”

“Hello, democracy!  Open and accountable!” Tom seals the deal.

One night SeaChange cameras and monitoring help save Mae’s life after a misguided kayaking accident.  Tom and Eamon counsel her after the incident.  “I am a believer in the perfectibility of human beings,” Eamon admits.  “When we are our best selves, the possibilities are endless.  There isn’t a problem that we cannot solve.  We can cure any disease, and we can end hunger.”  Mae is a repentant convert.  “Without secrets,” Eamon concludes, “without the hoarding of knowledge and information, we can finally realize our potential.”

“I committed a crime” Mae confesses before the Circlers.  “I borrowed a kayak without the owner’s knowledge, paddled out to the middle of the bay and I wasn’t wearing a life jacket.”

“So, Mae,” Eamon asks, “do you think you behave better or worse when you are being watched?”

“Better.  Without a doubt.”

“What happens when you’re alone and unobserved?”

“Well, for starters, I steal kayaks.  Seriously, I do things I don’t wanna do.  I lie…secrets are lies.  Secrets are what make crimes possible.  We behave worse when we’re not accountable.  I was my worst self because I didn’t think anyone was watching.  I thought that I was alone…Knowledge is a basic human right.  Access to all possible human experience is a basic human right…From now on I’ll be wearing a modified SeeChange camera at all times.  I’m going fully transparent.”

My personal logline for The Circle is “Cyber-bullying with a great warm smile.”  But the attempt to drive a preachy plot with a series of worship services didn’t fare any better for a mainstream movie than it does for a Christian film.  And when Tom and Eamon bully Mae in front of the congregation into becoming complicit in her friend’s accidental death, she doesn’t rise up and race against the clock and certain death to consume The Circle in slow-motion fireballs.  The Circle is not presented as evil through Mae’s eyes but as a necessary good.

From the beginning she believed that the needs of society and the needs of the individual are the same.  “When someone dies in a plane crash,” she explains to her disbelieving parents, clinging desperately to their sick old ideas of personal privacy, “you don’t abandon planes.  You make them safer.”  And with the self-assurance that “I’m the only one who can do this,” Mae flips the script on Eamon and Tom, becomes high priestess of the cult and leads the Circlers into the light.

Still, I enjoyed the film’s depiction of the religious mind in a non-theistic context.  And it was a welcome reminder that forced righteousness under an ever-watchful eye is not the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.[5]  The table below contrasts the NASB and NET translations of John 14:21.

NASB

NET

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me.  The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.

Though keeps may be a lower standard than obeys, the flow here is still fairly clear and appears that there is something one must do before Jesus will disclose or will reveal Himself to that person, not to mention love.  I looked into ἐμφανίσω (a form of ἐμφανίζω) the Greek word translated will disclose and will reveal.  It only occurred this once, so I made a table of all the forms of ἐμφανίζω.

Form of ἐμφανίζω Reference KJV

NET

ἐμφανίσατε Acts 23:15 …ye with the council signify to the chief captain… …you and the council request the commanding officer…
ἐμφανίσω John 14:21 …I will love him, and will manifest myself to him… …I will love him and will reveal myself to him.
ἐμφανισθῆναι Hebrews 9:24 to appear in the presence of God for us… and he appears now in God’s presence for us.
ἐμφανίζειν John 14:22 …thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? …you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?
ἐμφανίζουσιν Hebrews 11:14 …they that say such things declare plainly …those who speak in such a way make it clear
ἐνεφάνισαν Acts 24:1 …who informed the governor against Paul. …they brought formal charges against Paul to the governor.
Acts 25:2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him… So the chief priests and the most prominent men of the Jews brought formal charges against Paul to him.
Acts 25:15 …the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me… …the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him…
ἐνεφάνισας Acts 23:22 See thou tell no man that thou hast showed these things to me. Tell no one that you have reported these things to me.
ἐνεφανίσθησαν Matthew 27:53 …and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. …and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

The most basic meaning is to appear in person (Hebrews 9:24; Matthew 27:53).  And that sense was certainly true in John 14:21 and 22:  After his resurrection Jesus appeared (ἐφανερώθη, a form of φανερόω) in a different form to two of them while they were on their way to the country.[6]  Then he appeared (ἐφανερώθη, a form of φανερόω) to the eleven themselves, while they were eating[7]  After this Jesus revealed (ἐφανέρωσεν, another form of φανερόω) himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias.[8]  This was now the third time Jesus was revealed (ἐφανερώθη, a form of φανερόω) to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.[9]  But not once did He reveal Himself in person to Ananias, Caiaphas, the Pharisees (other than Saul) or the experts in the law after his resurrection.

“Lord, what then has happened” Judas (not Iscariot) asked, “that You are going to disclose (ἐμφανίζειν, another form of ἐμφανίζω) Yourself to us and not to the world?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me [e.g., if anyone has My commandments and keeps them], he will keep (τηρήσει, another form of τηρέω) My word (λόγον, a form of λόγος); and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.  He who does not love Me [e.g., does not have or keep My commandments] does not keep (τηρεῖ, another form of τηρέω) My words (λόγους, another form of λόγος); and the word (λόγος) which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.[10]

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, Jesus said.  But you want to kill me, because my teaching (λόγος) makes no progress among you[11] (NASB: My word has no place in you).  And, Having no regard for the command of God, you hold fast to human traditionThus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.[12]  In other words, they did not keep his word or his commandments and He did not disclose or reveal Himself to them by a personal appearance after his resurrection.

There are five other occurrences (Acts 23:15, 22; 24:1; 25:2, 15) of forms of ἐμφανίζω which included personal appearance but the communication of certain information was also of key importance.  I’ll highlight two of them because they remind me of my own experience studying the Bible.

The chief priests and the most prominent men of the Jews brought formal charges (ἐνεφάνισαν, another form of ἐμφανίζω) against Paul to[13] Festus, the Roman governor.  Describing those charges Festus said (Acts 25:15-19 NET):

When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed (ἐνεφάνισαν, another form of ἐμφανίζω) me about [Paul], asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.  I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met his accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the accusation.  So after they came back here with me, I did not postpone the case, but the next day I sat on the judgment seat and ordered the man to be brought.  When his accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the evil deeds (πονηρῶν, a form of πονηρός) I had suspected.  Rather they had several points of disagreement with him about their own religion (δεισιδαιμονίας, a form of δεισιδαιμονία) and about a man named Jesus who was dead, whom Paul claimed to be alive.

In Jerusalem the information Festus received from the chief priests and the elders of the Jews formed an image in his mind based largely on his own knowledge and experience—the evil deeds I had suspected.  On further examination at trial in Caesarea Festus’ erroneous ideas were corrected—they had several points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a man named Jesus who was dead, whom Paul claimed to be alive.  Though Festus received more information and even some more clarity about Paul’s situation, he acknowledged: I was at a loss how I could investigate these matters[14]  My point here is that the information, and understanding the information presented, had taken precedence over the personal appearance aspects of ἐμφανίζω.

Finally, one occurrence of a form of ἐμφανίζω referenced people of the past, known only through Scripture: These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth.  For those who speak [e.g., through words recorded in the Bible] in such a way make it clear (ἐμφανίζουσιν, another form of ἐμφανίζω) that they are seeking a homeland.[15]  And it is in this way that I think Jesus’ words have meaning for me here and now.  He will disclose or will reveal Himself to me through Scripture if I love Him, which means if I have his commandments and keep them.

So why was I filled with desire to write a rock opera about Jesus even as I attempted to lose or discard his commandments?  Why wasn’t I filled with desire to write a rock opera about Aleister Crowley?  I certainly knew of him.  No one gets very deep into rock music without hearing about its patron saint. “Harm None, Do as You Will” was much closer to my mantra at that moment than anything Jesus had said.

Before Jesus said—He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me—He said—If you love Me, you will keep (τηρήσετε, another form of τηρέω) My commandments.[16]  Then[17] he introduced the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 17 NASB).

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

If I remember that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,[18] then what Jesus said logically was:

  1. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
  2. You will love Me (e.g., the fruit of the Spirit).
  3. Therefore, you will keep My commandments.

The simple answer to my question then is that I was filled with desire to write a rock opera about Jesus because his Holy Spirit is alive and well.  Aleister Crowley is dead.  (I’ll ignore for the moment that spirits which may or may not have influenced him are alive still.  They obviously had little or no influence on me.)  But what do I make of Jesus’ other statement?  He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.

The implication here is that if I do not have and keep his commandments He will not disclose Himself to me.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, He also said, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.[19]  How do I reconcile these two?

Do not extinguish the Spirit,[20] Paul wrote the Thessalonians without any explanation.  I think I’ve found here one way to extinguish the Spirit (in me, not in anyone else); namely, to lose or discard Jesus’ commandments, whether deliberately by conscious rejection or holding fast instead to the traditions of human religion so that his teaching (λόγος) makes no progress in me.  But if I were to teach others the traditions of human religion that nullify the word of God, though my power would be less than absolute, I might become instrumental in extinguishing the Spirit in them as well. 

I’ll pick this up in another essay.

[1] Revelation 16:15b (NET)

[2] John 14:21a (NASB)

[3] John 14:21a (NET)

[4] Galatians 5:4 (NET)

[5] Romans 3:22a (NET)

[6] Mark 16:12 (NET)

[7] Mark 16:14 (NET)

[8] John 21:1a (NET)

[9] John 21:14 (NET)

[10] John 14:22-24 (NASB)

[11] John 8:37 (NET)

[12] Mark 7:8, 13a (NET)

[13] Acts 25:2 (NET)

[14] Acts 25:20a (NET)

[15] Hebrews 11:13, 14 (NET)

[16] John 14:15 (NASB)

[17] By adding then to the text the NET translators have made it seem as if Jesus said, If you love me and you keep my commandments then I will ask the Father…   This then however does not make the second clause logically dependent on the first two.  It is simply an irregular translation of (καγὼ, a form of κἀγώ) and means no more than Jesus said this then He said that as they acknowledge in a footnote 36.

[18] Galatians 5:23, 24a (NET)

[19] John 14:26 (NASB)

[20] 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (NET)

Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 2

Instruct these people as follows, yehôvâh had said to Moses: ‘You are about to cross the border of your relatives the descendants of Esau [Jacob’s brother], who inhabit Seir.  They will be afraid (yârêʼ, וייראו; Septuagint: φοβηθήσονται, afraid) of you, so watch yourselves carefully.’[1]

The rabbis who translated the Septuagint understood the last phrase, καὶ εὐλαβηθήσονται ὑμᾶς σφόδρα (“and they will be very cautious,” of you; i.e., of Israel).  Either works in context.  The origin of this fear was the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea: The nations will hear, Moses and the Israelites sang to yehôvâh.  Israel by contrast overflowed with confidence (Exodus 15:13 NET):

By your loyal love you will lead the people whom you have redeemed; you will guide them by your strength to your holy dwelling place.

The Hebrew word translated By your loyal love was chêsêd (בחסדך).  Below is a table of forms of chêsêd and their translations in Genesis to the giving of the law.

chêsêd

Hebrew KJV NET Tanakh

Septuagint

Genesis 19:19 חסדך mercy kindness mercy δικαιοσύνην
Genesis 20:13 חסדך kindness loyalty kindness δικαιοσύνην
Genesis 21:23 כחסד kindness loyalty kindness δικαιοσύνην
Genesis 24:12 חסד kindness Be faithful kindness ἔλεος
Genesis 24:14 חסד kindness you have been faithful kindness ἔλεος
Genesis 24:27 חסדו mercy faithful mercy δικαιοσύνην
Genesis 24:49 חסד kindly faithful kindly ἔλεος[2]
Genesis 32:10 החסדים mercies faithful mercies δικαιοσύνης
Genesis 39:21 חסד mercy kindness kindness ἔλεος
Genesis 40:14 חסד kindness kindness kindness ἔλεος
Genesis 47:29 חסד kindly kindness kindly ἐλεημοσύνην
Exodus 15:13 בחסדך mercy By your loyal love in Thy love δικαιοσύνῃ
Exodus 20:6 חסד mercy covenant faithfulness mercy ἔλεος

This equation of mercy, kindness, faithfulness, loyalty and loyal love with δικαιοσύνῃ, righteousness, is a profound lesson in itself for one who neglected what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness: the righteousness (δικαιοσύνη) of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, The righteous (δίκαιος) by faith will live.”[3]  Paul quoted Habakkuk 2:4.  The Tanakh reads, Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just (tsaddı̂yq, וצדיק) shall live by his faith.  The Septuagint translated into English reads, “If it draws back, my soul is not pleased in it, But the just shall live by my faith.”  The first part was translated, if he shrinks back, I take no pleasure in him[4] in the New Testament.

NET Parallel Greek

Septuagint

if he shrinks back, I take no pleasure in him.

Hebrews 10:38b

ἐὰν ὑποστείληται, οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ ἡ ψυχή μου ἐν αὐτῷ

Hebrews 10:38b

ἐὰν ὑποστείληται οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ ἡ ψυχή μου ἐν αὐτῷ

Habakkuk 2:4a

The righteous by faith will live

Romans 1:17b

ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται

Romans 1:17b

ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου ζήσεται

Habakkuk 2:4b


The nations will hear and tremble
,[5] the song Moses and the Israelites sang continued.  The Hebrew word translated tremble was râgaz (ירגזון).  As Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan to bring their father and their families to Egypt, He said to them, “As you travel don’t be overcome with fear.”[6]  The Hebrew word translated be overcome with fear was also râgaz (תרגזו) but a footnote (31) acknowledged:

The verb means “stir up.” Some understand the Hebrew verb רָגָז (ragaz, “to stir up”) as a reference to quarreling (see Prov 29:9, where it has this connotation), but in Exod 15:14 and other passages it means “to fear.” This might refer to a fear of robbers, but more likely it is an assuring word that they need not be fearful about returning to Egypt. They might have thought that once Jacob was in Egypt, Joseph would take his revenge on them.

The rabbis who translated the Septuagint did not agree.  They chose ὀργίζεσθε (a form of ὀργίζω) in Genesis 45:24.  Be angry (ὀργίζεσθε) and do not sin,[7] Paul quoted the Psalm[8] in his letter to the Ephesians.

NET

Parallel Greek

Septuagint

Be angry and do not sin

Ephesians 4:26a

ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε

Ephesians 4:26a

ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε

Psalm 4:4a

And in Exodus 15:14 they chose ὠργίσθησαν (another form of ὀργίζω).  The nations were enraged[9] (τὰ ἔθνη ὠργίσθησαν) is nearer the rabbis’ understanding in the Septuagint ἤκουσαν ἔθνη καὶ ὠργίσθησαν.

The song continued, anguish will seize the inhabitants of Philistia.[10]  The Hebrew word translated anguish was chı̂yl (חיל).  It was translated pain (בחילה) in Job 6:10 and writhing (חיל) like a woman in childbirth in Psalm 48:6.  That is what the translators of the Septuagint picked up on with ὠδῖνες (a form of ὠδίν): Now when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” Paul wrote believers in Thessalonica, then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains (ὠδὶν) on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape.[11]

Then the chiefs of Edom will be terrified,[12] Moses’ song continued.  The Hebrew word translated terrified was bâhal (נבהלו).  It was also translated terrified (נבהל) in 1 Samuel 28:21, but they were dumbfounded (נבהלו) in Genesis 45:3 and panicked (ויבהל) in Judges 20:41.  That hasty confused state of mind seemed to be what the rabbis responded to in the Septuagint with ἔσπευσαν (a form of σπεύδω).  Hurry (σπεῦσον, another form of σπεύδω), Jesus said to Saul [Paul] in a vision, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.[13]

The song continued, trembling will seize the leaders of Moab.[14]  Here the Hebrew word translated trembling was raʽad (רעד).  It was translated shake uncontrollably (רעדה) in Psalm 48:6 and panic (רעדה) in Isaiah 33:14.  It was translated τρόμος in the Septuagint.  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and ran from [Jesus’] tomb, for terror (τρόμος) and bewilderment had seized them.[15]

Moses and the people sang, and the inhabitants of Canaan will shake.[16]  The Hebrew word translated will shake was mûg (נמגו).  It was translated are cringing (נמגו) in Joshua 2:9 and seemed to melt (נמוג) in 1 Samuel 14:16.  This was the sense the rabbis understood in the Septuagint: “all those inhabiting Canaan melted away” (ἐτάκησαν, a form of τήκω), whether by death, defection or fleeing as refugees.  Peter prophesied, the heavens will be burned up and dissolve, and the celestial bodies will melt away (τήκεται, another form of τήκω) in a blaze![17]

Fear and dread will fall on them; by the greatness of your arm they will be as still as stone until your people pass by, O Lord, until the people whom you have bought pass by.[18]  In the Septuagint this was understood as a request for more supernatural fear and trembling: “May fear and trembling fall upon them.”[19]  The Hebrew word translated fear (ʼêymâh, אימתה) was translated my terror in yehôvâh’s promise: I will send my terror (ʼêymâh, אימתי) before you, and I will destroy all the people whom you encounter.[20]  This terror was associated with an angel: For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.[21]  Fear was φόβος in the Septuagint.   And Zechariah, visibly shaken when he saw the angel, was seized with fear (φόβος).[22]  The Hebrew word translated dread was pachad (ופחד), which was translated τρόμος in the Septuagint.

There was a lot of anger, pain, panic, trembling and defection among the people who heard about the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea.  There was fear and dread of supernatural origin besides.  The fear (yirʼâh, יראת; Septuagint: φόβος) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.[23]  I heard that often with no trace of irony.  Apparently the NET translators heard it the same way for they went a step farther and translated yirʼâh to obey: To obey the Lord is the fundamental principle for wise living.[24]

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked, David penned, There is no fear (pachad, פחד; Septuagint: φόβος) of God before his eyes.[25]  I didn’t hear this simply as a factual diagnosis but as a prescription for more fear.  I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this.  I had a pastor once who took No Fear sportswear as a personal insult.  Perhaps he was considering the quotation credited to Albert Camus: “Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.”

I didn’t find the context for this quote online so I’m just guessing, but I suppose that Camus didn’t know many French citizens who became committed NAZIs during the occupation out of fear, only resistance fighters and collaborators.  We see the same phenomenon in the Old Testament if we will see it: some rebelled against God, others adopted a hypocritical religiosity.  What is born of the flesh is flesh[26] and the works of the flesh[27] erupt eventually through the hypocritical veneer of any religion (Romans 3:10-18 NET).

“There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.”

“Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues, the poison of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

This is the diagnosis.  The prescription is given in Jesus’ summary of Israel’s history: You must all be born from above,[28] not more fear but more God, the righteousness (δικαιοσύνη) of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe,[29] more of our daily bread, more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and Holy Spirit control, not pumped up artificially by some virtue of mine like some little engine that could, but flowing freely and continuously from those rivers of living water,[30] his Holy Spirit.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.[31]

If I may assume that yehôvâh’s instruction, how to behave[32] in Edom, implies yehôvâh’s intent that Israel pass through Edom, then the result of all of this anger, pain, panic, trembling, defection, fear and dread was exactly what one believing Jesus’ summary of Israel’s history would expect: Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border.[33]  Edom said to [Israel], “You will not pass through me, or I will come out against you with the sword.”[34]  Fear (φόβος), John explained, has to do with punishment.[35]

Though fear did not supply Esau’s descendants with enough faith in yehôvâh to allow Israel to cross through their land of Edom, it kept them from attacking Israel and being destroyed by yehôvâh.  Fear can produce collaborators.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom if the collaborators don’t settle down to live in it (1 John 4:15-19).  In that case they may have been better off as resistance fighters (Revelation 3:14-22).

Back to Who Am I? Part 4

Back to Fear – Deuteronomy, Part 5

[1] Deuteronomy 2:4 (NET)

[2] Here ʼemeth (ואמת) was translated δικαιοσύνην.

[3] Romans 1:17 (NET)

[4] Hebrews 10:38b (NET)

[5] Exodus 15:14a (NET)  Also in the Tanakh, tremble

[6] Genesis 45:24b (NET) In the Tanakh, fall not out

[7] Ephesians 4:26a (NET)

[8] Psalm 4:4 Also râgaz (רגזו) in Hebrew, translated Stand in awe in the Tanakh and Tremble with fear in the NET.

[9] Revelation 11:18 (NET)

[10] Exodus 15:14b (NET)

[11] 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (NET)

[12] Exodus 15:15a (NET)

[13] Acts 22:18b (NET)

[14] Exodus 15:15b (NET)

[15] Mark 16:8a (NET)

[16] Exodus 15:15c (NET)

[17] 2 Peter 3:12b (NET)

[18] Exodus 15:16 (NET)

[19] Exodus 16:16a (NETS)

[20] Exodus 23:27a (NET)

[21] Exodus 23:23 (NET)

[22] Luke 1:12 (NET)

[23] Psalm 111:10a (NKJV)

[24] Psalm 111.10a (NET)

[25] Psalm 36:1 (NKJV)

[26] John 3:6a (NET)

[27] Galatians 5:19-21 (NET)

[28] John 3:7b (NET)

[29] Romans 3:22a (NET)

[30] John 7:37-39 (NET)

[31] Romans 8:14 (NET)

[32] Deuteronomy 2:4-7 (NET)

[33] Numbers 20;21a (NET)

[34] Numbers 20:18 (NET)

[35] 1 John 4:18b (NET)

Sexual Immorality Revisited, Part 2

The exercise of revisiting Paul’s Religious Mind and the meaning of Sexual Immorality has clarified a few things that were right in front of me all along.  I considered again the list of sins that described the former lives of some who were called to faith in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 6:9b, 10 (NET)

Parallel Greek

The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. οὔτε πόρνοι (another form of πόρνος) οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται οὔτε κλέπται οὔτε πλεονέκται, οὐ μέθυσοι, οὐ λοίδοροι, οὐχ ἅρπαγες βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν

Each word preceded by οὔτε, οὐ or οὐχ (a form of οὐ) gives a strong indication that Paul did not consider πόρνοι the one word that included all of the others.  In other words the list is not to be understood as, The πόρνοι: idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers.  I’ve considered this option, by the way, given the shorter list in Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:5 (NET)

Parallel Greek

For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. τοῦτο γὰρ ἴστε γινώσκοντες, ὅτι πᾶς πόρνος ἢ ἀκάθαρτος ἢ πλεονέκτης οὐκ ἔχει κληρονομίαν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ

So I began a subtractive process, trying to determine what πόρνοι did not mean.  As I studied ἀρσενοκοῖται (a form of ἀρσενοκοίτης; translated, practicing homosexuals) the obvious became more clear.  The Greek word ἀρσενοκοίτης is a compound of two words: 1) αρσην, male, and 2) κοίτη, couch, bed.

Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male (ἄρσεν, a form of αρσην) and female,[1] Jesus answered the Pharisees who asked Him about divorce.  The men (ἄρσενες, another form of αρσην) also abandoned natural relations with women, Paul wrote the Roman believers, and were inflamed in their passions for one another.  Men (ἄρσενες, another form of αρσην) committed shameless acts with men (ἄρσεσιν, another form of αρσην) and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.[2]  The Greek is a bit more graphic: ἄρσενες ἐν ἄρσεσιν τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην κατεργαζόμενοι (literally, “male in male this unseemliness performing”).  The writer of Hebrews penned: Marriage must be honored among all and the marriage bed (κοίτη) kept undefiled, for God will judge sexually immoral people (πόρνους, another form of πόρνος) and adulterers (μοιχοὺς, a form of μοιχός).[3]  I can’t imagine one word better than ἀρσενοκοίτης (male marriage bed) to describe You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman.[4]

I combined this with the fact that Paul’s particular usage of πορνεία in 1 Corinthians 5:1 is a fairly clear reference to You must not have sexual intercourse with your father’s wife; she is your father’s nakedness.[5]  And I came to one inescapable conclusion irrespective of whether Paul used πορνεία because he thought it meant anything and everything that was not sex between one man and one woman or because it was the only word he had had to use when he arrived in Corinth, constrained by his reliance on James’ abbreviated version of the law:

James’ abbreviated version of the law

…to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood…

Acts 15:20 (NET)

ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν ἀλισγημάτων τῶν εἰδώλων καὶ τῆς πορνείας (a form of πορνεία) καὶ |τοῦ| πνικτοῦ καὶ τοῦ αἵματος
…that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality…

Acts 15:29a (NET)

ἀπέχεσθαι εἰδωλοθύτων καὶ αἵματος καὶ πνικτῶν καὶ πορνείας (a form of πορνεία)

The inescapable conclusion is: in the letter called 1 Corinthians Paul taught Levitical law (as knowledge of sin not as a path of salvation) to Gentiles (1 Timothy 1:8-10 NET).

But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately, realizing that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, sexually immoral people (πόρνοις, another form of πόρνος), practicing homosexuals (ἀρσενοκοίταις, another form of ἀρσενοκοίτης), kidnappers, liars, perjurers – in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching.

Gone was any pretense to be concerned about nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.[6]  More importantly, perhaps, the pretense of not placing on the neck of the [Gentile] disciples a yoke that neither [Peter’s] ancestors nor [his contemporaries had] been able to bear[7] was utterly gone from Paul’s thinking.  That yoke would not be borne by the works of the flesh.  That is true.  But it would not be shirked either.  The yoke would be borne by the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe,[8] the fruit of the Spirit, the love [that] is the fulfillment of the law.[9]  Jesus said (Matthew 11:28-30; 5:17-20 NET):

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.  So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Do we then nullify the law through faith? Paul asked rhetorically.  Absolutely not!  Instead we uphold the law.[10]  Have I just made the case for πορνεία as a violation of Leviticus 18 or 20?  But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful [πορνείας, a form of πορνεία]) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.[11]  I don’t think so.

I might have made that case.  I have a philosophical bent to my mind; I am a legalist in theory and in practice.  Why not see Matthew 5:32 as Jesus’ instruction to governor-priests and as vindication or exoneration of Ezra the priest?  Ancient Roman legislators had articulated concepts of lawful connubium.  The priests and bishops Constantine left to govern Rome when he abandoned it for Byzantium heard Jesus’ words as Roman law.  Wouldn’t Jesus follow Roman law?  It’s certainly more in line with the way my mind works.  Until, that is, I heard yehôvâh in the prophet Malachi (2:14b, 15a, 16 NET):

The Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young, to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion and wife by law.  No one who has even a small portion of the Spirit in him does this.

“I hate divorce,” says the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) God (ʼĕlôhı̂ym, אלהי) of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) who rules over all. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.”

This is the intellectual and spiritual equivalent of a ratchet, and I cannot go back.  Now I hear, For God has consigned (συνέκλεισεν, a form of συγκλείω) all people to disobedience (ἀπείθειαν, a form of ἀπείθεια; literally, disbelief) so that he may show mercy to them all.[12]  We are all like fish caught in a net of disobedience.  Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under (ἐν; literally, in) the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable (ὑπόδικος; literally, under sentence, under judgment) to God.[13]

Ezra was exactly where yehôvâh wanted him to be when he said: O Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) God of Israel, you are righteous, for we are left as a remnant this day.  Indeed, we stand before you in our guilt.  However, because of this guilt no one can really stand before you.[14]  Who knows what would have happened if Ezra had stayed there, waiting on yehôvâh, instead of chasing after Shecaniah’s get-righteous-quick scheme (Ezra 10:2-4 NET).

Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, from the descendants of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the local peoples.  Nonetheless, there is still hope for Israel in this regard.  Therefore let us enact a covenant with our God to send away all these women and their offspring, in keeping with your counsel, my lord, and that of those who respect the commandments of our God.  And let it be done according to the law.  Get up, for this matter concerns you.  We are with you, so be strong and act decisively!”

I want to make this as clear as I possibly can.  If a man has married the wrong sort of woman he cannot redeem himself in God’s eyes, he cannot make himself righteous again, by divorcing her and sending their children away.  The religious mind encourages us to change our own behavior, to conform us to some image of righteousness derived from the law (or some lesser doctrine) by that religious mind.  The mind of Christ speaks to the wriggling soul caught in a net of disbelief, saying, Stop your striving (râphâh, הרפו) and recognize (yâdaʽ, ודעו) that I am God!  I will be exalted over the nations!  I will be exalted over the earth![15]  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’[16]

I don’t live in Rome in the first half of the fourth century.  I don’t hear Jesus speaking to Roman legislators about external controls.  I hear Him speaking to the ἐκκλησία, those called by God the Father through Jesus Christ to be led by his Holy Spirit.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.[17]  For this and other reasons I still hear Jesus’ use of πορνείας (a form of πορνεία) in Matthew 5:32 and πορνείᾳ in Matthew 19:9 as a reference to the same πορνεῦσαι (a form of πορνεύω, e.g., sexualized worship) He condemned in Revelation 2:20 (NET):

But I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and by her teaching deceives my servants to commit sexual immorality (πορνεῦσαι) and to eat food sacrificed to idols (εἰδωλόθυτα, a form of εἰδωλόθυτον).

Such sexualized worship was the bane of Israel’s descendents from the beginning of their existence as a nation: So do not be idolaters (εἰδωλολάτραι, a form of εἰδωλολάτρης), as some of them were.  As it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”  And let us not be immoral (πορνεύωμεν, another form of πορνεύω), as some of them were (ἐπόρνευσαν, another form of πορνεύω), and twenty-three thousand died in a single day.[18]  Rather than thinking of it as an abbreviated version of the law it would be far more charitable to assume that sexualized worship was what James had in mind at the Jerusalem Council:

Jesus (NET)

Parallel Greek James (NET)

Parallel Greek

…to commit sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols…

Revelation 2:20b

πορνεῦσαι καὶ φαγεῖν εἰδωλόθυτα …to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood…

Acts 15:20

ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν ἀλισγημάτων τῶν εἰδώλων καὶ τῆς πορνείας (a form of πορνεία) καὶ |τοῦ| πνικτοῦ καὶ τοῦ αἵματος
…that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality…

Acts 15:29a

ἀπέχεσθαι εἰδωλοθύτων (another form of εἰδωλόθυτον) καὶ αἵματος καὶ πνικτῶν καὶ πορνείας (a form of πορνεία)

I want to substitute a more literal understanding of ὁμολογεῖ (a form of ὁμολογέω) translated confesses and confess respectively in 1 John 4:1-3 (NET):

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that [speaks the same as] Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not [speak the same as] Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world.

To that extent that the religious mind encourages us to reform our own behavior rather than to rely on the fruit of the Holy Spirit, it is the spirit of antichrist no matter how well-intentioned the mouthpiece. Suspicious of the Gospel I tried to be good first to prove that I was, failing that, I tried because “God will get you if you don’t watch out.”  My fear was flight from rather than toward God.  And yet, in that dark foreboding I became most aware of His forgiveness and patience.  Paul put it this way for Timothy (1 Timothy 1:15, 16 NET):

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them!  But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life.

Amanda Bynes delivers one of the funniest and most poignant lines in the movie Easy A: “Jesus tells us to love everyone.  I mean, even the whores and the homosexuals, but it’s just so hard.  It’s so hard because they keep doing it over and over again.”  An attitude of forgiveness toward others flows from the love that comes from the Holy Spirit.  Still, Jesus said, the one who is forgiven little loves little.[19] One who is forgiven much is forgiven often for the same offense, sometimes many more than seven times a day.  And that experience is far more persuasive than any threat (Matthew 18:34, 35 NET):

And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture [the unforgiving slave] until he repaid all he owed.  So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart.

In that sacred space of loving forgiveness the truth began to dawn on me that not only the desire and effort were God’s but the fulfillment of his desire and his effort was his as well, the kingdom, the power and the glory.  I’ll substitute the same literal understanding I used above for ὁμολογήσῃς (another form of ὁμολογέω) translated confess, and ὁμολογεῖται (another form of ὁμολογέω) translated confesses in Romans 10:9, 10 (NET):

…if you [speak the same as Jesus] with your mouth that Jesus is Lord[20] [e.g., yehôvâh as opposed to a Lord or Sir] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness [πιστεύεται εἰς δικαιοσύνην; literally, “believes unto righteousness”] and with the mouth one [speaks the same as Jesus] and thus has salvation [ὁμολογεῖται εἰς σωτηρίαν; literally, “speaks the same as Jesus unto salvation”].

 

[1] Matthew 19:4 (NET)

[2] Romans 1:27 (NET)

[3] Hebrews 13:4 (NET)

[4] Leviticus 18:22a (NET)

[5] Leviticus 18:8 (NET)

[6] 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NET)

[7] Acts 15:10 (NET)

[8] Romans 3:22 (NET)

[9] Romans 13:10b (NET)

[10] Romans 3:31 (NET)

[11] Matthew 5:32 (NAB)

[12] Romans 11:32 (NET)

[13] Romans 3:19 (NET)

[14] Ezra 9:15 (NET)

[15] Psalm 46:10 (NET)

[16] John 3:7 (NET)

[17] Romans 8:14 (NET)

[18] 1 Corinthians 10:7, 8 (NET)

[19] Luke 7:47b (NET)

[20] NET note 10: Or “the Lord.” The Greek construction, along with the quotation from Joel 2:32 in v. 13 (in which the same “Lord” seems to be in view) suggests that κύριον (kurion) is to be taken as “the Lord,” that is, Yahweh. Cf. D. B. Wallace, “The Semantics and Exegetical Significance of the Object-Complement Construction in the New Testament,” GTJ 6 (1985): 91-112.

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 3

The movie Spotlight is named after a team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe.  They pierce a smokescreen of secrecy—fueled by police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, businessmen, civil servants, their own bosses and colleagues, even their own subconscious desires to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church—to shine a spotlight on priests’ abuse of children, both sexual and spiritual, in articles published in 2002.  There are spoilers here.  Though the film is based on actual events and people, I’m writing about characters in a movie, including the Catholic Church.

The scope of investigative journalist Mike Rezendes’ (Mark Ruffalo) research is broadened by phone conversations with Richard Sipe (Richard Jenkins – voice only), a psychiatrist and former priest, who treated pedophile priests during the last half of the 1960’s.  I quote one of their conversations, more personal than professional.

“Richard, do you still go to mass?” Mike asks.

“No.  No, I haven’t been to church for some time now.  But I still consider myself a Catholic.”

“How does that work?”

“Well, the church is an institution, Mike, made of men.  It’s passing.  My faith is in the eternal.  I try to separate the two.”

“Sounds tricky.”

“It is,” Richard agrees.

Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) presides over a shell game in the Boston Archdiocese, moving pedophile priests from parish to parish.  A super at the end of Spotlight reads, “In December 2002, Cardinal Law resigned from the Boston Archdiocese.  He was reassigned to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, one of the highest ranking Roman Catholic churches in the world.”

The producers expect us to feel a certain way about that fact.  I want to use it to distinguish church—a not-for-profit business—from what I’ll call ἐκκλησία, those called by God through Jesus Christ to be led by his Holy Spirit.  Cardinal Law was promoted by the church.  He was a company man defending it from scandal.  Richard says: “the secretary-canonist for the papal nuncio…co-authored a report warning pedophile priests were a billion-dollar liability” sixteen years earlier than the present in the film.  But this faithfulness to the church doesn’t work out so well for the ἐκκλησία, especially the little ones Jesus mentioned (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1, 2).

Spotlight editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) threatens attorney Eric Macleish (Billy Crudup)—who profited settling child abuse cases against the Church privately—for information and confirmation: “We’ve got two stories here.  We’ve got a story about degenerate clergy, and we’ve got a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry.  Now, which story do you want us to write?”  Later however Robby admits regretfully:

“We had all the pieces.  Why didn’t we get it sooner?…Macleish sent us a letter on 20 priests, years ago…We buried the story in Metro.  No folo.”

“That was you,” Robby’s boss Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Slattery) says.  “You were Metro.”

“Yeah.  That was me.  I’d just taken over.  I don’t remember it at all.  But yeah…”

Paul was concerned with both, the church and the ἐκκλησία, without distinguishing between the two.

church

ἐκκλησία

When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints?….So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church?  I say this to your shame!  Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians?  Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers?

1 Corinthians 6:1, 4-6 (NET)

The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be cheated?  But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters!

1 Corinthians 6:7, 8 (NET)

His most beautiful words to the ἐκκλησία and to the church are his words on love.  In his letter to the Corinthians love was presented as one way, albeit, a way that is beyond comparison,[1] a more excellent way (KJV), a still more excellent way (ESV), a way of life that is best of all (NLV), the most excellent way (NIV), the same way Jesus preached in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:13-48 NET).  In his letter to the Romans Paul presented love as the only way (Romans 13:8-10 NET):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Cleary, the love of natural humans will not fulfill the law.  We must all be born from above[2] through faith in Jesus Christ, dependent instead on the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe,[3] the love that is an aspect of the fruit of his Holy Spirit.  I’ll continue contrasting Paul’s regime in 1 Corinthians 5 to Jesus’ regime in Revelation 2:18-29.

Paul’s Regime

Jesus’ Regime

Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast (ζύμη) affects the whole batch of dough?

1 Corinthians 5:6 (NET)

But to the rest of you in Thyatira, all who do not hold to this teaching (who have not learned the so-called “deep secrets of Satan”), to you I say: I do not put any additional burden on you.  However, hold on to what you have until I come.

Revelation 2:24, 25 (NET)

Clean out the old yeast (ζύμην, another form of ζύμη) so that you may be a new batch of dough – you are, in fact, without yeast (ἄζυμοι, a form of ἄζυμος).  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast (ζύμῃ, another form of ζύμη), the yeast (ζύμῃ, another form of ζύμη) of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast (ἀζύμοις, another form of ἄζυμος), the bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 (NET)

Not good your boasting (or, glorying, KJV, NKJV), Paul wrote.  The Greek word translated good is καλὸν (a form of καλός).  This is the beautiful good of Jesus’ works.  What follows is a quote from an article by George Long in William Smith’s “A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities,” defining incestum in Roman law:

If a man married a woman whom it was forbidden for him to marry by positive morality (moribus), he was said to commit incestum (Dig. 23 tit. 2 s39). Such a marriage was in fact no marriage, for the necessary connubium between the parties was wanting. Accordingly, incestum is the sexual connection of a male and a female, whether under the form of marriage or not, if such persons cannot marry by reason of consanguinity.

There was no connubium between persons related by blood in the direct line, as parents and children. If such persons contracted a marriage it was Nefariae et Incestae nuptiae. There was no connubium between persons who stood in the relation of parent and child by adoption, not even after the adopted child was emancipated.

With this in mind I would say it was the most likely meaning of the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles.[4]  A man cohabiting with his father’s wife, was against the law, Roman law as well as yehôvâh’s law.  In other words, it was a circumstance not unlike those in the movie Spotlight.  Would anyone consider the conspiratorial cover-up revealed in Spotlight a beautiful good?

Of course, now I need to consider whether turn this man over to Satan (σατανᾷ, a form of Σατανᾶς; adversary) was simply an instruction to turn him over to Roman authorities in the city of Corinth.  But I reject that notion just as quickly.  Roman authorities had no interest in the blasphemy of Hymenaeus and AlexanderI find no guilt in him,[5] Pilate said of Jesus, while the Jewish authorities had Him dead to rights for blasphemy (Matthew 26:25, Mark 14:63, Luke 22:71 NET) if He is not yehôvâh, the Son of God the Father.

Don’t you know that a little yeast (ζύμη) affects the whole batch of dough?[6]  Paul continued.  Yes, that is exactly how Jesus expected his teaching to work in and through those who are called according to his purpose:[7]  He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast (ζύμῃ) that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.”[8]  To be fair Paul wasn’t writing about Jesus’ teaching.  He wrote about the yeast (ζύμῃ, another form of ζύμη) of vice and evil.  He’d already been-there-done-that as far as Jesus’ teaching was concerned.  In 1 Corinthians he was scrambling to put the toothpaste[9] back in the tube.

I need to pause to spell out what I’m actually thinking.  That is the main purpose of these essays, after all, to remind me what I was thinking as I did a particular word study.  As I worked on this one I stumbled across a website by Sherry Shriner.  She uses many of the Scriptures I use to assert that “The Apostle Paul Was A Deceiver!  He was Satan In The Flesh!  An Antichrist!”[10]  I’m not asserting that at all, only that Paul is a human being, born from above, led by the Holy Spirit, struggling at times with the sinfulness of his own flesh or with overcoming his own religion, which he characterized as my own righteousness derived from the law.[11]

More to the point here in 1 Corinthians 5 I think he struggled with 1) the repercussions of changing[12] his manner of teaching—When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God.  For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified[13]—and, 2) his allegiance to James’ abbreviated version of the law (Acts 15:19, 20 NET) from the Jerusalem CouncilAs [Paul, Silas and Timothy] went through the towns, they passed on the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the Gentile believers to obey.[14]  I think what the NET translators called a Corinthian slogan—All things are lawful for me[15]—was the logical consequence of this teaching.  I also think the Corinthians may have been the most sinful people (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NET) to be called to that time—but called they were (Acts 18:9-11 NET):

The Lord said to Paul by a vision in the night, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, because I am with you, and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.”  So he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

According to Kyle Harper: “Prostitution [πορνεία; sex with “slaves, prostitutes, and concubines”] was considered a social necessity, an alternative to the violation of respectable women [μοιχεία], in the Roman Empire no less than in classical Greece.”  But “πορνεία was not a common term before Judaism and Christianity infused it with new meaning.”[16]  “Πορνεία in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs functions,” Mr. Harper continued, “as a catchall vice for any sexual transgression….Reuben was guilty of πορνεία for sleeping with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, because his father had been in the same bed….”[17]  The thought that Paul derived his understanding of πορνεία from a book of fiction sent me to bed for a time.

When I got back to work I realized that the language of popular fiction[18] might well reflect the common word usage of a people and a time.  I realized we are not told whether the man who had his father’s wife was a Jew or proselyte who might be familiar with a usage of πορνεία that would include incestum, or a pagan more familiar with πορνεία as sex with slaves, prostitutes or concubines.  I don’t know whether Paul assumed his hearers understood the breadth of πορνεία that may have been common in Second Temple Judaism or taught it explicitly in Corinth.  I know Paul wrote a sin list in his letter to the Galatians (5:19-21a NET):

NET

Parallel Greek

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινα ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθεῖαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, φθόνοι, |φόνοι,| μέθαι, κῶμοι καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις

In the Textus Receptus this list begins with μοιχεία (adultery).  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, Jesus said, and these things defile a person.  For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality (πορνεῖαι, another form of πορνεία), theft, false testimony, slander.[19]  And, For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality (πορνεῖαι, another form of πορνεία), theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly.[20]

Jesus’ Sin Lists in Greek

Matthew 5:19

Mark 7:21, 22

διαλογισμοὶ πονηροί, φόνοι, μοιχεῖαι, πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, ψευδομαρτυρίαι, βλασφημίαι διαλογισμοὶ οἱ κακοὶ ἐκπορεύονται, πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, φόνοι, μοιχεῖαι, πλεονεξίαι, πονηρίαι, δόλος, ἀσέλγεια, ὀφθαλμὸς πονηρός, βλασφημία, ὑπερηφανία, ἀφροσύνη

These sin lists alter the landscape considerably.  It is not possible for the words πορνείας[21] (another form of πορνεία) or πορνείαν[22] (another form of πορνεία) from James’ abbreviated version of the law to stand for every defilement that comes from the human heart, every work of the flesh.  Frankly, I think all of this happened in space and time to push Paul, the human author of so much of the New Testament commentary on the Gospel, to abandon his allegiance to this decision of the Jerusalem Council and to hear better words and gain a better understanding.  And I think these events are recorded in Scripture so that we would see how much better these words and this understanding actually are (Romans 7:7, 12; 3:19-24, 31 NET):

What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  Absolutely not!  Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law.  For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, Do not covet.”

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Do we then nullify the law through faith?  Absolutely not!  Instead we uphold the law.

Confronted with a Corinthian man who had his father’s wife, Paul turned to Satan for help.  Confronted with pedophile priests, the Catholic Church turned to psychologists and psychiatrists.[23]  Spotlight, perhaps it is unnecessary to say, is not a movie about the amazing power of psychologists and psychiatrists to take away the sin of pedophile priests.

On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away (αἴρων, a form of αἴρω) the sin of the world!”[24]

For far too long I believed that meant forgiveness only.  I didn’t believe that, Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.[25]  I didn’t believe that all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.[26]  I thought it was all up to me: my faith, my obedience, my love, my joy, my peace, my patience, my kindness, my goodness, my faithfulness, my gentleness, and my self-control.

Paul’s Religious Mind Revisited, Part 4

Back to Sexual Immorality Revisited, Part 2

Back to Sowing to the Flesh, Part 2

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:31b (NET)

[2] John 3:7b (NET)

[3] Romans 3:22 (NET)

[4] 1 Corinthians 5:1b (NET)

[5] John 19:6b (ESV)

[6] 1 Corinthians 5:6b (NET)

[7] Romans 8:28b (NET)

[8] Matthew 13:33 (NET)

[9] Romans, Part 66; Romans, Part 68

[10] http://www.justgivemethetruth.com/paul_was_a_deceiver.htm

[11] Philippians 3:9 (NET)

[12] Paul in Corinth; Romans, Part 2; Paul in Athens

[13] 1 Corinthians 2:1, 2 (NET)

[14] Acts 16:4 (NET)

[15] 1 Corinthians 6:12a (NET)

[16] Kyle Harper: “Porneia—The Making of a Christian Sexual Norm;” Journal of Biblical Literature 131, no. 2 (2012); p. 369; “For all the importance of prostitution in Greek and Roman societies, πορνεία was not a common word.  Πορνεία occurs in only four classical authors (by contrast, the word occurs nearly four hundred times in Jewish and Christian literature before 200 c.e., and over eighteen hundred times between 200 and 600 c.e.).”  (I cannot link to this article directly, but was able to download it at academia.edu.)

[17] ibid, p. 372

[18] What lover of the Old Testament Scriptures wouldn’t want to hear the patriarchs confess their sexual sins according to the law yehôvâh delivered at Sinai so many years after the patriarchs themselves died?

[19] Matthew 15:18, 19 (NET)

[20] Mark 7:21, 22 (NET)

[21] Acts 15:20, 29 (NET)

[22] Acts 21:25 (NET)

[23] http://www.themediareport.com/2015/11/30/cardinal-law-spotlight-movie/  (I am not the “Dan” who commented on this article, by the way.  I just discovered this site researching the current essay.)

[24] John 1:29 (NET)

[25] 1 John 3:9 (NET)

[26] Romans 8:14 (NET)

Fear – Genesis, Part 5

I think I am safe using the word fear to describe Jacob’s prognostication that Simeon and Levi…had brought ruin on him by making him a foul odor among the inhabitants of the land, that the Canaanites and the Perizzites…would join forces against him and attack him, and both he and his family would be destroyed![1]  It was not a prophecy; it did not come to pass.  It was a rational appraisal of the likely response of men born of Adam (then Noah).  And it was a righteous expectation of the law God gave Noah and his sons after the flood (Genesis 9:5, 6 NET).

For your lifeblood I will surely exact punishment, from every living creature I will exact punishment.  From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative.  Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed; for in God’s image God has made humankind.

Simeon and Levi had perpetrated the kind of violence that brought the flood in the first place (Genesis 6:11-13 NET).

The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence.[2]  God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful.  So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.  Now I am about to destroy them and the earth.”

It is a fearful thing to contemplate a God with the power and the will for such destruction (Genesis 6:5-7 NET).

But the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth.  Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time.  The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended.  So the Lord said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.”

But if I take the Lord’s reasons and offense seriously, his relative tolerance of human evil after the flood is just as fearful a thing if in a different way (Genesis 8:21, 22 NET).

I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on.  I will never again destroy everything that lives, as I have just done.  While the earth continues to exist, planting time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.

And thus the law: Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed.[3]

Though Simeon’s and Levi’s die hard antics seem more like justice for Dinah to my religious mind (compared to David’s inaction regarding Tamar, or Jacob’s silence), the most likely outcome for Dinah did not look good.  Both the evil of men and the righteousness of God’s law conspired to catch her up in the violent retribution due Simeon and Levi, or she might have become like one of the slave women her brothers took from Shechem.  But Jacob, Dinah, Simeon, Levi and all of their family found favor (or, grace) in the sight of the Lord.[4]

I have appropriated what the Bible said about Noah to Jacob, Dinah, Simeon, Levi and all of their family.  This would have been unthinkable to my religious mind.  It assumed that Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord because Noah was a godly man; he was blameless among his contemporaries.  He walked with God.[5]  Now I am more and more convinced that my religious mind had the cart before the horse.  Noah was a godly man, blameless among his contemporaries, and walked with God because Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.  In that light it is not much of a stretch to see the similarity here.

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up at once to Bethel and live there.  Make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”[6]  This was God’s solution despite the fact that Simeon and Levi at least (and perhaps at most) should have died according to his own law.  I am not accusing God of wrongdoing.  He never bound Himself to law when it came to showing favor or mercy.  I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy,[7] He said to Moses.  And when Paul analyzed the Gospel that my religious mind was so intent on converting to a new law, he reiterated that point and added, So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.[8]

So Jacob told his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you.  Purify yourselves and change your clothes.  Let us go up at once to Bethel.  Then I will make an altar there to God, who responded to me in my time of distress and has been with me wherever I went.”[9]

When I see it in this context the Gospel of Jesus Christ mitigates my fear concerning God’s “tolerance” of human evil after the flood.  The Gospel does not belong, and is perverted and misunderstood, in the world created by religious minds.  Where it belongs, where it becomes the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe[10] is in the real world of human sin.  I was surprised, given my religious prejudices, that Abel Ferrara and Zoë Lund had walked this ground before me in the movie she wrote and he directed “Bad Lieutenant” (1992), starring Harvey Keitel in the title role.

Bad LT was not merely a bad cop, he was a hardcore sinner, without natural affection.  Bad LT’s decadence was so demoralizing I cried out loud, “Why am I watching this?”  About that time one of the ‘B’ stories came to the forefront when Bad LT overheard a nun’s confession.

The nun had been raped on the altar in her church.  She seemed to react like any other woman might react while being raped.  She was a bit less modest in the examination room than I might have expected, but nothing so extreme that I did anything but note the fact.  Her confession, however, was totally unexpected.  A curious thing happens when someone actually believes she has been forgiven by the Sovereign God and that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.[11]

“Those boys,” she said, “those sad raging boys.  They came to me as the needy do.  And like many of the needy they were rude.  Like all the needy they took.  And like all the needy they needed.  Father, I knew them.  They learn in our school and they play in our school yard and they are good boys….Jesus turned water to wine.  I ought to have turned bitter semen into fertile sperm, hatred to love, and maybe to have saved their souls.  [Bad LT exited then and did not hear the rest of her confession.]  They did not love me, but I ought to have loved them, for Jesus loved those who were vile to Him.  And never again shall I encounter two boys whose prayer was more poignant, more legible, more anguished.”

Later Bad LT came to speak to the nun as she prayed, first prostrate then on her knees, in church.  “Listen to me, Sister,” he said, “listen to me good.  The other cops will just put these guys through the system.  They’re juveniles.  They’ll walk.  But I’ll beat the system and do justice, real justice for you.”

“I have already forgiven them,” she replied.

“Come on, Lady.  These guys put out cigarette butts on your – Get with the program.  How could you—how could you forgive these motherfu—these, these guys?  Excuse me.  How could you?  Deep down inside don’t you want them to pay for what they did to you?  Don’t you want this crime avenged?”

“I’ve forgiven them.”

“But – do you have the right?  You’re not the only woman in the world.  You’re not even the only nun. You’re forgiveness will leave blood in its wake.  What if these guys do this to other nuns?  Other virgins? Old women who’ll die from the shock?  Do you have the right to let these boys go free?  Can you bear the burden, Sister?”

“Talk to Jesus,” she said.  “Pray.  You do believe in God, don’t you? that Jesus Christ died for your sins?”

The nun left Bad LT alone in the church.  He moaned and cried out from the floor.  Then he had a vision of Jesus.  First, he blamed Jesus for His perceived absence in Bad LT’s wretched life.  But eventually he begged for forgiveness and direction.  Suddenly Bad LT became the repentant thief on the cross.  Like the thief he had only hours to live.  Unlike the thief he was free to do one more thing.  His choice, to pass on some of the mercy the Lord and the nun had shown him, was at least as interesting as David’s choices concerning his sons Amnon and Absalom.

Jacob’s household and all who were with him gave Jacob all the foreign gods that were in their possession and the rings that were in their ears.  Jacob buried them under the oak near Shechem and they started on their journey.  The surrounding cities were afraid (chittâh;[12] Septuagint: φόβος[13]) of God, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.[14]  The note in the NET reads: “Heb ‘and the fear of God was upon the cities which were round about them.’ The expression ‘fear of God’ apparently refers (1) to a fear of God (objective genitive; God is the object of their fear). (2) But it could mean ‘fear from God,’ that is, fear which God placed in them (cf. NRSV “a terror from God”). Another option (3) is that the divine name is used as a superlative here, referring to ‘tremendous fear’ (cf. NEB ‘were panic-stricken’; NASB ‘a great terror’).”

Fear – Genesis, Part 6


[1] Genesis 34:30 (NET)

[2] A note in the NET reads: “The Hebrew word translated “violence” refers elsewhere to a broad range of crimes, including unjust treatment (Gen 16:5; Amos 3:10), injurious legal testimony (Deut 19:16), deadly assault (Gen 49:5), murder (Judg 9:24), and rape (Jer 13:22).”

[3] Genesis 9:6 (NET)

[4] A paraphrase of Genesis 6:8 (NET)

[5] Genesis 6:8, 9 (NET)

[6] Genesis 35:1 (NET)

[7] Exodus 33:19b (NET)

[8] Romans 9:16 (NET)

[9] Genesis 35:2, 3 (NET)

[10] Romans 3:22 (NET)

[11] Romans 8:28 (NET)

[14] Genesis 35:4, 5 (NET)

Romans, Part 35

After the crescendo of faith and victory in Christ at the end of chapter eight, Paul’s abrupt admission at the beginning of chapter nine is disconcerting.  I am telling the truth in Christ (I am not lying!), for my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.[1]  But the sense of his great sorrow and unceasing anguish comes with its cause.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed – cut off from Christ – for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen, who are Israelites.[2]  This has become more personal to me as I reflect on the fundamentalist Christians who are my people by birth.

To them, Paul continued writing about the descendants of Israel, belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever!  Amen.[3]  While this is objectively true of Israel I grew up feeling it subjectively, that fundamentalist Christians were the true heirs of it all.  It is not as though the word of God had failed,[4] Paul continued.  What does it mean for the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe[5] when the people for whom it was prepared rejected the Gospel of Christ?

This sounds, even to my ear, like a harsh judgment of the fundamentalist Christians I call my people.  But I am taking the absence of internet chatter regarding the movie “Courageous” as anecdotal evidence.  I only found one comment from a Lutheran theologian criticizing “Courageous” for being too synergistic (not monergistic enough).  I had to look it up, too, so I won’t choose up sides and argue theological jargon.  It makes me feel a little too much like a Gentile living in the futility of [my] thinking.[6]

I will simply say that the character Adam in the movie sought to have his own righteousness derived from his own reading of the Bible as a list of rules he resolved (or, swore an oath) to keep.  Then he became a stumblingblock to others as they followed him in his defection from Christ’s righteousness.  This is clearly part of the dung[7] Paul had rejected of his past life as a Pharisee.  And the silence on the internet is deafening when compared to the outrage over the movie “End of the Spear,” when a gay Christian was hired to portray a missionary and his son.

As I have written before I didn’t see this either as I watched the movie.  We fundamentalist Christians are so accustomed to being tossed back and forth by waves of the latest spiritual fad, and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes,[8] and so dissatisfied with the lives we lead by faith alone[9] that Adam’s neo-Phariseeism seems completely right and natural to us.  We are they who maintain the outward appearance of religion buthave repudiated its power,[10] the power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead,[11] the righteousness that comes from his Spirit, his love, his joy, his peace, his patience, his kindness, his goodness, his faithfulness, his gentleness, and his self-control.[12]

For not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel,[13] Paul began to explain how the word of God had not failed, nor are all the children Abraham’s true descendants; ratherthrough Isaac will your descendants be counted.”[14]  This seemed like an ad hoc argument to me, since all the descendants of Israel (Jacob) were also descendents of Isaac his father.  But then Paul reiterated the point he had made over and over in Romans, This means it is not the children of the flesh (σαρκὸς, a form of σάρξ)[15] who are the children of God; rather, the children of promise (ἐπαγγελίας, a form of ἐπαγγελία)[16] are counted (λογίζεται, a form of λογίζομαι)[17] as descendants.[18]  This is the same distinction Paul made between those born only of the flesh and those born of the flesh and of the Spirit,[19] and those who live according to the flesh and those who live according the Spirit.[20]

And look, I am sending you what my Father promised[21] (ἐπαγγελίαν, another form of ἐπαγγελία), the resurrected Jesus told the children of promise (all descended from Israel) just before He was taken up into heaven.[22]  While [Jesus] was with them, Luke reiterated in Acts, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised (ἐπαγγελίαν, another form of ἐπαγγελία), which you heard about from me.  For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”[23]  This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it, Peter declared in his first sermon on Pentecost.  So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise (ἐπαγγελίαν, another form of ἐπαγγελία) of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear.[24]

For this is what the promise (ἐπαγγελίας, a form of ἐπαγγελία) declared: Paul continued.  “About a year from now I will return and Sarah will have a son.”[25]  Not only that, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac – even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling) – it was said to her, The older will serve the younger,” just as it is written:Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[26]  This kind of talk rubs those born only of the flesh of Adam, those who are content with their own works, the wrong way.  Paul knew that.

What shall we say then? Paul continued.  Is there injustice with God?[27]  In other words, by what right did God distinguish between Esau and Jacob before they were born or had done anything good or bad?  Too often, I have missed the point here, rationalizing that God knew what Esau and Jacob would do before they were born.  But Paul said, Absolutely not!  For he says to Moses:I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[28]  Even as He gave Moses the law that defined sin, God reserved for Himself the right to have mercy and compassion on any He chose to have mercy and compassion.  So then, Paul concluded, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.[29]

For the scripture says to Pharaoh: Paul continued to make his point doubly strong and doubly clear by declaring its inverse.  “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”  So then, God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden.[30]  Again, such talk infuriates one depending on his own works for glory, honor and salvation.  You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault?  For who has ever resisted his will?”[31]  But Paul didn’t back down (Romans 9:20-29 NET).

But who indeed are you – a mere human being – to talk back to God?  Does what is molded say to the molder, Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use?  But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction?  And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, My people, and I will call her who was unloved, My beloved.’”  “And in the very place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there they will be called sons of the living God.’”  And Isaiah cries out on behalf of Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved, for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth completely and quickly.”  Just as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of armies had not left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have resembled Gomorrah.”

Now if one reads the passage above, and suspects that he or she has been hardened by God into an object of wrath, and begins to fear rather than to mock, take heart.  You have begun to hear the word of the Lord.  He is calling you.  And the righteous prayer that justifies is near you, on your lips.  God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am![32]

Paul’s OT Quotes – Romans 9:1-20 

Romans, Part 36

Back to Justice, Vengeance and Punishment

Back to Fear – Genesis, Part 5

Back to Romans, Part 37

Back to Romans, Part 39

Back to Romans, Part 40

Back to Fear – Exodus, Part 2

Back to Antichrist, Part 1

Back to Fear – Exodus, Part 3

Back to Romans, Part 44

Back to Fear – Exodus, Part 8

Back to Romans, Part 49

Back to Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 5


[1] Romans 9:1, 2 (NET)

[2] Romans 9:3, 4a (NET)

[3] Romans 9:4b, 5 (NET)

[4] Romans 9:6a (NET)

[5] Romans 3:22 (NET)

[8] Ephesians 4:14 (NET)

[9] James 2:14-26 (NET)

[10] 2 Timothy 3:5 (NET)

[11] Ephesians 1:20 (NET)

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

[13] Romans 9:6b (NET)

[14] Romans 9:7 (NET)

[18] Romans 9:8 (NET)

[21] Luke 24:49a (NET)

[22] Luke 24:51 (NET)

[23] Acts 1:4, 5 (NET)

[24] Acts 2:32, 33 (NET)

[26] Romans 9:9-13 (NET)

[27] Romans 9:14a (NET)

[28] Romans 9:14b, 15 (NET)

[29] Romans 9:16 (NET)

[30] Romans 9:17, 18 (NET)

[31] Romans 9:19 (NET)

[32] Luke 18:13, 14 (NET); Religious and Righteous Prayer

Romans, Part 29

There is therefore now no condemnation (κατάκριμα)[1] for those who are in Christ Jesus (ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ),[2] Paul continued.  I want to list some of the things that are true for those in Christ Jesus:

In Christ Jesus…

1) …born of water and spirit…What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

John 3:5, 6 (NET)

2) …the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.

Galatians 5:17 (NET)

3) I delight in the law of God in my inner being.

Romans 7:22 (NET)

4) I know that nothing good lives…in my flesh.

Romans 7:18a (NET)

5) I want to do the good, but I cannot do it.

Romans 7:18b (NET)

6) I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want!

Romans 7:19 (NET)

7) Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.

Romans 7:20 (NET)

8) So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:25b (NKJV)

9) There is therefore now no condemnation…

Romans 8:1a (NET)

For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.[3]  All of this was achieved by God.  For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned (κατέκρινεν, a form of κατακρίνω)[4] sin in the flesh[5]

Only God knows how much sin is condemned in my flesh.  I have a general sense that while I’m preoccupied (and frustrated) with the opposition of the flesh that keeps me from the perfection I want (and think I should demonstrate by the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ)[6] less and less of the sin (that is the desire of the flesh) sees the light of day.  It is not expressed in the world.  It is confined, trapped, condemned in dead and dying flesh.

I am the resurrection and the life, Jesus said.  The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.[7]  This was a difficult saying for Martha to believe, many years before Paul wrote to the Romans.  Jesus asked her, Do you believe this?[8]  Martha’s answer was a model of tactful diplomacy, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.[9]

Jesus knew Martha’s brother was sick, but deliberately waited two more days until he died.[10]  Our friend, He told his disciples, has fallen asleep.  But I am going there to awaken him.[11]  His disciples were not eager to return to Judea.  Rabbi, they said, the Jewish leaders were just now trying to stone you to death!  [Jesus had claimed to be Yahweh, John 8:58, 59 NETAre you going there again?[12]  Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.[13]  So Jesus told them plainly that he was dead, and said, I am glad for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe.[14]

Jesus had deliberately contrived this situation as an object lesson for his disciples, but then Mary, Martha’s sister, came and fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died:”[15]

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed.  He asked, “Where have you laid him?”  They replied, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept.[16]

It was a profound moment.  Only He knows how many people He killed as Yahweh, sinners, yes, but people.  He planned the death of Martha’s and Mary’s brother.  He knew what He intended to do in the next few moments.  And yet He wept.  To say that Yahweh was not empathetic with human death would be false.  I’m particularly affected by the implications of Genesis 18, that before the omniscient, omnipresent Yahweh decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah he took physical form and walked its streets.  But there is something even more affecting about Yahweh, born of the flesh of Adam as Jesus, standing before the tomb of a friend weeping human tears from human eyes.

Take away the stone,[17] Jesus said.  Martha, ever the proper hostess, protested, Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.[18]  Jesus responded (John 11:40-44 NET):

“Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone.  Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me.  I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord[19]who will rescue me from this body of death.[20]  The ultimate condemnation of sin in the flesh is the death of the body.  The one who believes in me will live even if he dies,[21] Jesus promised everyone born of the flesh and of the Spirit.  To those who already consider themselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus,[22] who accept their new identities, with the mind [they themselves] serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin,[23] Jesus promised, the one who lives and believes in me will never die.[24]  To them the well-deserved demise of the body of death is a welcome relief, not a cause of apprehension.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death,[25] is the way the writer of Hebrews put it.  Paul concluded, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled (πληρωθῇ, a form of πληρόω)[26] in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.[27]  The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled by the righteousness of God [apart from the law[28]] through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe,[29] the love that is the fulfillment (πλήρωμα)[30] of the law,[31] the fruit of the Spirit[32] of God, in other words, to walk accordingto the Spirit.  As Jesus said, Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill (πληρῶσαι, another form of πληρόω) them.[33]

Paul continued (Romans 8:5-11 NET):

For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.  For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness.  Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.

Peter’s Way?

Romans, Part 30

Back to Romans, Part 31

Back to Romans, Part 32

Back to Romans, Part 35

Back to Son of God – John, Part 5

Back to Saving Demons, Part 1

Back to Romans, Part 45


[2] Romans 8:1 (NET)

[3] Romans 8:2 (NET)

[5] Romans 8:3 (NET)

[7] John 11:25, 26a (NET)

[8] John 11:26b (NET)

[9] John 11:27 (NET)

[10] John 11:6 (NET)

[11] John 11:11 (NET)

[12] John 11:8 (NET)

[13] John 11:12 (NET)

[14] John 11:15 (NET)

[15] John 11:32 (NET)

[16] John 11:33-35 (NET)

[17] John 11:39a (NET)

[18] John 11:39b (NET)

[19] Romans 7:25a (NET)

[20] Romans 7:24b (NET)

[21] John 11:25b (NET)

[23] Romans 7:25b (NET)

[24] John 11:26a (NET)

[25] Hebrews 2:14, 15 (NET)

[27] Romans 8:4 (NET)

[33] Matthew 5:17 (NET)

Romans, Part 26

Therefore, Paul continued, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey (ὑπακούειν, a form of ὑπακούω)[1] its desires (ἐπιθυμίαις, a form of ἐπιθυμία).[2]  This is clearly Step #2 how to experience the credited righteousness of God apart from the law,[3] namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness (πίστεως, a form of πίστις)[4] of Jesus Christ for all who believe (πιστεύοντας, a form of πιστεύω).[5]  I think the next verse amplifies how one goes about not letting sin reign in one’s mortal body, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.[6]  So I am picturing something like this:

Step #2 to experience the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.

do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires.

Romans 6:12 (NET)

By…

…not present(ing) your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness…

Romans 6:13a (NET)

…present(ing) yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.

Romans 6:13b (NET)

It sounds so simple, but there is no door marked “sin” beside a door marked “God” where I might present myself for service.  This transaction, if you will, takes place in the deepest, darkest places of an individual born from above, born of flesh and born of the Spirit,[7] moment by moment.  In fact, Paul described this individual as a house divided, For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.[8]  So then, Paul concluded in Romans 7, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.[9]

There is a cartoon image of a human being with a little devil i on one shoulder whispering in one ear and a little angel i whispering in the other.  In the center between them am I, writ large, the Master of My Fate, choosing sin or righteousness.  With this self-image I discounted the value of Step #1—to consider (λογίζεσθε, a form of λογίζομαι)[10] [myself] dead (νεκροὺς, a form of νεκρός)[11] to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus[12]—as I magnified the importance of Step #2, not to let sin reign in [my] mortal body so that [I] obey[ed] its desires.  So I set out not to break, or to keep, the laws that define sin, and unwittingly played directly into sin’s strength: the power (δύναμις)[13] of sin is the law.[14]  Had I paid more attention to faith I might have grasped Paul’s next point sooner.  For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law (ὑπὸ[15] νόμον[16]) but under grace (ὑπὸ χάριν[17]).[18]

This personification of sin was not magical thinking on Paul’s part.  What he was writing about actually becomes clearer in Romans 7.  The sin that will not master the one who believes in Jesus is nothing other than the old man that was crucified with him so that the body (σῶμα)[19] of sin would no longer dominate us.[20]  I am not refereeing a battle of wills between a little devil i and a little angel iI am the old man of sin, or I am the new man of the Spirit.  Both are in this body (σῶμα).  Both want control.  The old man was crucified by faith in Jesus Christ.  The new man was created out of nothing through faith in Jesus Christ.  Believing in Jesus Christ is far more important than anything either I, the dead and dying old man or the initially alien new man, might do.  And I am persuaded that the illusion that I am a third something choosing between them is nothing more than the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV).

Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

What then? Paul continued.  Shall we sin because we are not under law (ὑπὸ νόμον) but under grace (ὑπὸ χάριν)?  Absolutely not![21]  Paul’s reasoning here was a truism, a simple matter of definition.  Do you not know (οἴδατε, a form of εἴδω; i.e., know by seeing)[22] that if you present yourselves as obedient (ὑπακοήν, a form of ὑπακοή)[23] slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey (ὑπακούετε, another form of ὑπακούω), either of sin [the desire of the old man] resulting in death, or obedience (ὑπακοῆς, another form of ὑπακοή) [the desire of the new man] resulting in righteousness?[24]

I am convinced that words like obey, obedient, and obedience with their insistent emphasis on doing are part of the things of this world, the pride of life where I am the Master of My Fate, choosing to do the good or to do the evil.  In Greek the word translated obey is ὑπακούω, to hear under, in other words to trust.  The word translated obedient or obedience is ὑπακοή, attentive hearkening, in other words to believe.  These are other words, perhaps even better words, for faith and believe than πίστις and πιστεύω, for no one could mistake them for πίστεως μόνον (faith alone), or dead faith.  And again, this makes perfect sense if one is interested in experiencing the righteousness of God…revealed in the gospel from faith (πίστεως, a form of πίστις) to faith (πίστιν, another form of πίστις), just as it is written,The righteous by faith (πίστεως, a form of πίστις) will live.”[25]

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed (ὑπηκούσατε, another form of ὑπακούω) from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.[26]  So I ὑπακούω, hear under, trust, the word of God rather than becoming ὑπακοή to, hearkening attentively to, believing, the promptings and desires of the old man, the man of sin created in the image of Adam.  Of course I will do things.  But now those things, rather than being the acts of an actor, will flow naturally from who I hear under (trust, hearken attentively to, believe) through who I am (the new man born of the Spirit in the image and likeness of God) and then out into the world.

The writer of Hebrews described it this way: Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God.  For the one who enters God’s rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.[27]  Even the law comes into sharper focus: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,[28] not for a day of the week but for the remainder of a lifetime.  And Jesus’ word is fulfilled: But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.[29]  It also explains Jesus’ rather obstinate insistence on doing good on the Sabbath day, despite the bitterness and resentment it aroused: So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.[30]

The writer of Hebrews continued with the following warning (Hebrews 4:11-13 NET):

Thus we must make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by following the same pattern of disobedience [i.e., fearfully refusing to enter the promised land].  For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

Paul realized he had not yet explained what would be explained in the next chapter.  He recognized that his readers may misunderstand his words (Romans 6:19-23 NET).

(I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.)  For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness.  So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of?  For the end of those things is death.  But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life.  For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


[2] Romans 6:12 (NET)

[3] Romans 3:21 (NET)

[5] Romans 3:22 (NET)

[6] Romans 6:13 (NET)

[8] Galatians 5:17 (NET)

[9] Romans 7:25b (NKJV)

[12] Romans 6:11 (NET)

[14] 1 Corinthians 15:56b (NET)

[18] Romans 6:14 (NET)

[20] Romans 6:6 (NET)

[21] Romans 6:15 (NET)

[24] Romans 6:16 (NET)

[25] Romans 1:17 (NET)

[26] Romans 6:17, 18 (NET)

[27] Hebrews 4:9-10 (NET)

[28] Exodus 20:8 (NKJV)

[29] John 3:21 (NET)

[30] Matthew 12:12b (NET)