Judas and Jesus—A Reminder of Our Depravity (Matthew 26:25)

Here is a verse that provides and excellent example of how, oftentimes, our English bible translations simply fail to render the original Greek in the most accurate manner. Within Greek grammatical rules is a grammatical structure where if one of two Greek negatives, οὐ, is used in a question, then the questioner is expecting a “Yes” answer. Conversely, if the other of the two negatives, μή, is used, a “No” answer is expected. In the following verse under consideration, the New American Standard version gets it right, while the highly reputable English Standard version unexpectedly seems to miss it.

The setting is the last Passover Jesus will share with the twelve disciples. Among the twelve, of course, is Judas, who has already secured his booty of silver from the chief priests in exchange for his impending betrayal of Jesus (v. 15). This fact is key to understanding the importance of the Greek grammatical structure in verse 25!

Now, knowing what has occurred in earlier in verse 15, Matt. 26:25 is even more startling, when in answer to Jesus’ all-knowing statement that one of his disciples would betray him, Judas emphatically asks Jesus, “It is not I, is it, Rabbi?” — μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ῥαββι;

According to Greek usage, Judas is expecting—at least in his mind and heart—a “No” answer from his omniscient Lord. This, in spite of the fact that, shortly after “Satan entered into Judas” (Luke 22:3), he has already been paid by the chief priests for the yet uncommitted deed of betrayal. Yet, surely Judas reasonably should have known by then that Jesus, the very Son of God, would know what was in his heart. A reminder and warning to us all of our depraved condition, most clearly set forth by Jeremiah: “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

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God’s Adopted Children: Chosen “In Love” (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:29-30)

Greek compound verbs have always fascinated me, since as in English—though many people don’t recognize or appreciate them because of the words’ unfamiliar Latin origins—they carry the resultant meaning derived from the inherent meanings of the two individual Greek words now joined. Most often these Greek compounds have a preposition as part of their forms. In the verses observed here in Ephesians 1, the Greek compound verb (ἐξελέξατο) occurring in an Aorist Middle voice form meaning (along with ἡμᾶς), “He chose us for Himself,” comes from the lexical form ἐκλέγω, a compound from the preposition ἐκ (ἐξ- = out of) and the verb λέγω (to say, speak). And this “choosing” or “speaking out” occurred “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4), at which creative point in time God literally “spoke” everything into existence!

But, there’s more to this passage than simply a captivating Greek compound verb. Especially when we look at it exegetically in conjunction with another familiar Pauline passage from Romans 8. There are two other important words in verse 29 that shed light on and undergird what we have already seen in Ephesians 1. Here in Romans, we find the Greek προέγνω = He foreknew (lexical form: προγινώσκω). Of course, there’s more going on here than is analogous to a football “prognosticator” verbalizing his educated “guess” on who the winners of weekend football matches will be. There is much more going on than the physician’s “prognosis” of what the result of the major surgery will most likely prove to be. This is Divine foreknowledge, literally: “to know beforehand.” And this pre-knowing is not simply celestial crystal ball gazing, but rather a “knowing” in the sense that Adam “knew” his wife Eve. There is a true intimacy which existed in the will of God toward those whom He would choose as His own children, as members of His own household. So, in Romans 8:29, God “foreknows,” and then sets His will into full motion by “foreordaining” (προώριζεν, from: προορίζω = to predestine, foreordain) us “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Then in verse 30, the Father sets His will down as a finished act with a series of past tense Aorist verbs that form the major foundation of what bible students have come to know as the “Ordo Salutis” (“Order of Salvation”) —

“And those He predestined (foreordained), these He also called; and those He called, these He also justified; and those He justified, these He also glorified.

One final observation can now be more astutely accomplished. Many have long questioned where prepositional phrase “in love” (ἐν ἀγάπῃ) belongs in Ephesians 1:4-5. Does it belong at the end of verse 4 where “we should be holy and blameless before Him in love . . .” or, within the context of the longest continuous sentence in the New Testament) does it more appropriately belong with verse 5?

“. . . in love, He (God) predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5)

We have only to refer back to our previous discussion of Romans 8:29-30 to find the only exegetically plausible answer. Within the context in Romans, God has “foreknown” or “set his love upon” us (προέγνω) as those “foreordained to become conformed to the image of His Son” (including our “adoption,” see Eph. 1:5, above). Here, as elsewhere, the bible repeatedly serves as its own interpreter, particularly through the beauty and precision of its God-breathed language.

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God’s Forgiveness through Jesus Christ: “Each” Sin (1 John 1:7, 9)

“Arise my soul, arise, shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears;
Before the Throne my Surety stands . . .
My name is written on his hands.”(Charles Wesley, Trinity Hymnal, #223)

Most of us, as Christians, truly believe that God can and does forgive us our sin debt. But, sometimes, with some sins, we may feel like “hiding” a serious or recurring sin behind or under all the other ones that we’re fairly confident are “covered” by God’s mercy and grace. Maybe something from our past, or some particular sin from which we just can’t seem to “shake off (our) guilty fears.” Yes, it’s true from 1 John 1:7, 9 that God “cleanses us from all sin . . . from all unrighteousness.” Still, we think, “How can we ‘hide’ this ‘really big sin’ in with all the others” to convince ourselves that God forgives that one too? But, let’s look at the precise word usage from our two verses in 1 John. We’re more than accustomed to hearing the verses rendered in the following way:

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light. . . the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us fromall sin (πάσης ἁμαρτίας).” (v. 7)“If we should confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (πάσης ἀδικίας).” (v. 9)

Look at the highlighted Greek phrases that correspond to the English translations (which the New American Standard and the English Standard versions both render as above). In both instances: 1 John 1:7 and 1 John 1:9, the Greek construction utilizes a feminine singular adjective modifying a feminine singular noun. So, with full grammatical legitimacy, we can readily translate both of these phrases in an identical, more “singular” sounding, manner: ” . . . each sin (v. 7; “unrighteousness,” v. 9). Yes, when viewed as a collective group, God indeed cleanses us from “all sin (unrighteousness).” But, in an almost more convincing and comfort producing way, God specifically “cleanses us from each sin.” So, praise God, and “shake off thy guilty fears!”    

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Published in: on July 4, 2007 at 4:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Christian Love’s Crowning Touch: Loving One Another” (1 John 4:12, Greek & Latin)

Interestingly, on this Sunday of my first post, I found the Greek and the Latin complementing each other quite well as I observed during today’s worship service the Greek and Latin (side-by-side) text of 1 John 4:12b. In the context of the entire verse, Christians, obligated by the love that God has shown to us in Christ, are told that “if we should love one another, God’s love has been fulfilled/made perfect (τελειόω) in us.” The Latin Vulgate closely parallels the Greek here, using a verbal form (consummata est) from which one can easily recognize the roots of our English word “consummation.” Among the lexical Latin definitions of the root word (including: add/reckon/total/sum/make up; finish off, end; bring about, achieve/accomplish; bring to perfection; be grown) is to “put the finishing/crowning touch.” Broken down even further, the student of Latin (or English) can readily spot the basis for the English word “summit” within this Latin word. So, like water increasingly poured into a previously empty glass, or as one standing upon a mountain’s “summit,” God’s love is “fulfilled,” in us, matured to the “crowning touch” when we love one another in Christ.

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