Mr Motivator (Learning a little Greek part 6)

I have decided to learn NT Greek. Well a little of it anyway. So far I have more or less memorized the alphabet, accents, and breathings, which is more than I have managed to do previously. I have also worked out how to type in Greek for the web. So what’s next? Well I was going to learn my first verb but before I do that I think I need to get a bit more motivated.

Motivation is so important. My local school spends a lot of time motivating the children to learn and find things out. At school, when I realized that I needed trigonometry to program virtual space ships in my computer, I got 100% in my exam and took my o level a year early. I was motivated to learn. It’s the same with exercise. You need to stay motivated to keep going and achieve your goals.

The teacher in the video ( Jeff Jenkins, has a wonderful way of motivating you by starting each lesson with some biblical insight that can only be gained by knowing the Greek (or I guess a good commentary). For example the word translated “with” in John 1:1 “the word was with God”  is πρὸς “pros” which is not the typical word for “with”. Normally πμετα or αυτ is used. In 1 Cor 13:12 “face to face” is a translation of πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον. Jeff Jenkins makes the point that “pros” has more of the sense of “to” or “towards” ie when one person is as close to another person as they can be. “face to face”.

1 John 2:1 says “we have an advocate with (pros ie ‘to’) the father“. Again this unusual word is used. So it could be that in using this particular word in John 1:1 John was saying in short hand that the Word was “face to face” with God. Just as Jesus has a very close relationship with the father so he offers us the opportunity to be “face to face” with God.

I think I follow that and he could be right. I’ll check the commentaries. Shame on me I don’t have a detailed commentary on John although the brief notes in my ESV study bible say the “with” in John 1:1 denotes interpersonal relationship. “The Message of John” says of verse 1:

“‘With’ here is literally ‘towards’. Many scholars have seen an indication in this preposition of an intimate relationship between God and the Word (or, in the common conceptuality of the gospel, between the Father and the Son). A. T. Robertson suggests ‘the Word was face to face with God’. Basil Atkinson5 refers to a ‘sense of home’; ‘the Word was in God’s home’. Certainly if the wisdom motif is part of the hinterland of the logos concept there is a moving sense of intimacy expressed in Proverbs 8:22, 30: ‘The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,’ (see footnote c in niv); ‘I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence.’

This may be pressing the limits of the text, but it certainly makes clear the distinct existence of the Word with respect to God. The Word is no mere ‘emanation from God’ as in much first-century thinking.”

I kind of thought that too. It sounds good and may be there but it’s not that clear. Having said that I think the point still stands that if we didn’t look at the Greek we would get no hint of this thought at all and I don’t think we get the most out of the bible if we constrict it to the minimum it could possibly mean. We need to let the language breath and let the thoughts fly.

Here’s another one he gives.

Mark 1:10 has the heavens opening and the spirit descending. The typical word for “opening” is ανοιγω “anoygo” (forgive me for still typing it out in my badly spelled English but it may take a while to wean myself away from it.)  It occurs 76 different times but in the word σκιζω “skizo” is used in Mark 1:10 (and only 9 times in the NT) . Mark 15:38 says “the curtain of the sanctuary was split (skizo) in two“. In Acts 14:4 “the city was divided (skizo)” and Acts 23:7 “the assembly was divided (skizo)” or “there was division (skizo)” pointing towards “skizo” being a stronger more dynamic word. So Mark 1:10 is saying more than the heavens just being opened like a lift door. He could have used the word “anoygo” but he used “skizo”. It seems therefore that he is saying that they are torn open or ripped open. When Jesus was baptized and when he was crucified the barrier between us and God was ripped open to give us access. Again by looking at the Greek words there is a possible link between the two accounts at the beginning and end of Mark’s book and a stronger more forceful aspect to both.

Someone asked if in Mark 1:10 the Spirit came down “as a dove” (ie in the form of a dove) or “like a dove” in some way (ie in a kind of fluttery, dove landing in trafalgar square sort of way), ie was  the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove or not. The teacher guy didn’t know. Nor did I! The Greek seems to be “the Spirit, as (ὡς which can be “as”, “that”, “how”, “about”)  a dove, came down” so “as” seems to be the best fit. I’d have a look at a commentary but again I have no decent commentary on Mark. Looking at other uses of the word in Mark 10:15 “like (ὡς) a child“, 1 Cor 3:15 “as (ὡς) through flames” and Matt 26:39 “not as (ὡς)  I will but as (ὡς) you will”  it might be “as” or “like“. Actually even the English “as” can have the sense of “like”, ie “as fat as a tick“. I really need to get some more commentaries.

In the video I am following we are introduced to a great word:

ἀγάπη = agape = love

I think I knew that already. This is easy! I think I’m ready to tackle a real life verb!

5 B. F. C. Atkinson, The Theology of Prepositions (London, n.d.), p. 19.

niv The New International Version of the Bible (1973, 1978, 1984).


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