Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Did Jesus Speak Greek?

The Heart Language of Jesus
Aramaic – the language of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians (cf. Ezra 4:7; 2 Kings 18:17, 26) – was adopted by the Jews during and after the 70-years’ Babylonian exile. While the majority of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, large portions of Ezra (4:8–6:18; 7:12-26) and Daniel (2:4b–7:28) appear to have been penned in Aramaic. By the time of Christ, although Hebrew continued to be used among the rabbis in Jerusalem, Aramaic had replaced pure Hebrew as the everyday vernacular of the Palestinian Jews (cf. Acts 1:19). Jesus could read and understand Hebrew (Luke 4:16-21), but he apparently spoke Aramaic (cf. Mark 5:41; 7:34; 15:34; Acts 26:14).1
Koinē Greek and the Hellenization of Palestine
The Greek term koinē, meaning “common,” is used to describe hē koinē diálektos (the common language) or the lingua franca of the 1st-century Greco-Roman world. From the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, Koinē Greek developed and spread throughout most of the Mediterranean world. It was the language of post-classical Greek literature, the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and most early ecclesiastical writers.
The Hellenization of Jewish territory started when Judea surrendered to Alexander’s forces in 332 BC and it continued under the dominance of the Ptolomies and the Seleucids through the 2nd century BC. Herod the Great, who controlled Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC, made deliberate attempts to further Hellenize the region.
Once known as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isa. 9:1; cf. Matt. 4:15), the district where Jesus spent his formative years was saturated by Greek influences. Within its borders were Hellenistic centers, such as Tiberias and the township of Sepphoris – only 6 km/3.7 miles northwest of the Lord’s hometown of Nazareth. As Jesus worked in the carpentry trade (Mark 6:3), any tradesman in the area would presumably need a working knowledge of the accepted language of commerce.
Koinē Greek was widely used in 1st-century Palestine and most of the populace appear to have been bilingual.2 Hellenistic Jews of the diaspora made frequent visits to the homeland, bringing with them Greek culture and language (cf. Acts 2:5; 6:9). Among the Lord’s immediate disciples, Andrew and Philip had distinctively Greek names, while Matthew,3 John, and Peter contributed documents to the New Testament in the Greek language.
Evidence of Jesus Speaking Greek
          Except for the transliteration of a few Aramaic words and phrases, the record of all that Jesus said has been preserved in Greek translation. Nevertheless, in his conversation with a Syro-Phoenician Greek woman (Mark 7:24-30), it is interesting to note that the term kunárion (“little dog”) was employed. There was only one word for “dog” in Hebrew and Aramaic speech, referring to an unclean animal (Lev. 11:27), viz. a dirty, mangy, flea-infested scavenger (cf. Ex. 22:31; 1 Kings 14:11; 16:4; 21:19; etc.). In the Greco-Roman world, in contrast to the Jewish aversion, dogs were common pets. There are two words for “dog” in NT Greek: (a) kuōn, equivalent to the Jewish concept and thus derogatory (Matt. 7:6; Phil. 3:2), and (b) kunárion, referring to a house dog, pet, or puppy. Jesus’ use of the latter term (Matt. 15:26; Mark 7:27), for which there is no Aramaic equivalent, demonstrates that he was apparently speaking in this Greek woman’s native tongue (see What Great Faith Looks Like).
          When Jesus stood before the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, there is no indication that an interpreter was used in the dialogue (Matt. 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-3; John 18:33-38). While Latin was the spoken-language of Rome, educated Romans used Greek as a second language and had little tolerance for those in their provinces who spoke neither Latin nor Greek.4 The most natural reading of the Gospel accounts is that Jesus and Pilate understood one another as they conversed, and the common (koinēGreek language would have made this possible (cp. Acts 21:37-40).
          Jesus lived in a Jewish environment that was controlled by the Romans and heavily influenced by Greek language and culture. Although his local vernacular was Aramaic and there is no specific reference to him speaking Greek, the evidence suggests he would also have been conversant in the Greek language.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 When Hebraisti (the Hebrew language) is mentioned in the New Testament, it most likely refers to Aramaic as the spoken language of the Hebrew people at this time (John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 20; Acts 21:40; 22:2; 26:14; Rev. 9:11; 16:16). The respective Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John employ Aramaic expressions (Matt. 5:22; 6:24; 16:17; 27:33, 46; Mark 3:17; 5:41; 7:34; 14:36; 15:22, 34; John 1:42; 20:16). Mark and John go on to translate the words into Greek, while Matthew mostly leaves these words untranslated. See Aramaic.
     2 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. 5th ed. (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1934): 26-29; cf. also D. A. Caron and D. J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005): 240, 624, 644-45; J. D. G. Dunn, The Parting of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity (London: SCM, 1991); J. M. Ross, “Jesus’ Knowledge of Greek,” IrBibStud 12 (1990): 41-47; G. R. Selby, Jesus, Aramaic and Greek (Doncaster, UK: Brynmill, 1989). In contrast to the ancient eastern convention of sitting on the floor at meals, Jesus and his disciples appear to have adopted the Greco-Roman custom of reclining (cf. Luke 7:36-37; 22:27; 24:30).
     3 See Original Form of Matthew's Gospel.
     4 Michel Dubuisson, “Some Aspects of Graeco-Roman Relations: The Attitude of Roman Administration Toward Language Use. Xenophobia and Disparaging Words in Greek and Latin,” Prudentia 15 (1983): 35-47.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Distinctive Features of 2 Peter

     As 1 Peter deals with problems from outside the church (sufferings), 2 Peter deals with problems from within the church (false teachers). In 2 Peter familiarity is shown with the writings of Paul, which are further acknowledged among “the rest of scriptures” (3:15-16).1 Because of the close association that Silvanus and Mark had with both Peter and Paul (Col. 4:10; 1 Thess. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:12, 13), one or both of these coworkers may have been responsible for sharing Paul’s writings with Peter. Second Peter also shares a literary affinity with the epistle of Jude (see below), particularly 2 Pet. 2:1-18; 3:1-3 and Jude 4-18.
Date, Provenance, and Destination
     Second Peter was obviously written after 1 Peter (cf. 2 Pet. 3:1), and in 2 Peter the apostle is preparing to die a martyr’s death (1:13-15). According to early tradition, Peter was executed in Rome during the reign of Nero (see Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.25.1-8). Nero’s persecution began around the summer of 64 and ended by the summer of 68. It is reasonable to date 2 Peter ca. 64-65. Those who wish to date the epistle much later, particularly on into the 2nd century (e.g. R. E. Brown, Introduction to the NT 767) and as late as the 120s or 130s (L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity 424-25), must account for the fact that Psa. 90:4 is quoted in 2 Pet. 3:8 without a hint of chiliastic (literal 1000-year reign of Christ) interpretation that was prevalent and wide-spread in the 2nd century (cf. Justin Martyr, Dial. 81; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 5.28.3, 23.2; Epistle of Barnabas 15.4). 
     Second Peter is simply addressed to “those having obtained an equally valuable faith with ours through [the] righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:1). Since reference is made to this being the second letter written “to you” (3:1), evidently the audience of 2 Peter is the same as the audience of 1 Peter. The document would then be intended for the “chosen sojourners of [the] dispersion” in the regions of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (see Distinctive Features of 1 Peter).
Literary Affinity with Jude
     A number of striking parallels are evident between 2 Peter and Jude, with nineteen of the verses in 2 Peter at least partially replicated in the twenty-five verses of Jude. The five possible explanations for this phenomenon are as follows:
Ø Each author wrote independently, and the similarities are either coincidental or attributable to the Holy Spirit.2
Ø Both documents came from the same author, although each is attributed to someone different.3
Ø Both used a common written source,4 which cannot be verified since the hypothetical source is not available.
Ø Peter borrowed from Jude, which appears to be the position held by most modern scholars.5
Ø Jude borrowed from Peter, which is the position advocated by this author.6
     It seems more likely that Jude borrowed from 2 Peter. Jude 17-18 appears to be a quote from 2 Peter 3:1-3 rather than vice versa. The ESV places the warning of Jude 18 in quotation marks and cites 2 Peter 3:2 in the margin. Moreover, the predictive nature of the future tense in 2 Peter 2:1-3 and 3:3 (i.e., false teachers are coming), as compared to the apparent fulfillment implied by the present tense of Jude 4, 16-19 (i.e., false teachers have come), supports the priority of 2 Peter.7
     The message of the relatively brief three-chapter epistle of 2 Peter has aided God’s people through the centuries with (a) reminders of the heavenly provision of grace, peace, and knowledge (1:1-4), (b) exhortations for spiritual growth (1:5-11), (c) confirming eyewitness testimony and inspiration of scripture (1:12-21), (d) warnings of false teachers and apostasy (2:1-22), (e) anticipating the day of the Lord (3:1-13), and (f) calling for spiritual maturation and faithfulness (3:14-18).  
     “But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; to him [be] the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:18).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation, unless noted otherwise. The reference to “some things” in Paul’s letters that are “hard to understand” (v. 16) does not necessarily mean that the writings are unclear or overly complicated; rather the subject matter itself is sometimes complex.
     2 A. Barnes says concerning this view, “no one can deny that this is possible, but is by no means probable. No other instance of the kind occurs in the Bible …” (Notes 1512).
     3 John A. T. Robinson suggests that Jude was Peter’s amanuensis in the writing of 2 Peter before he wrote his own epistle (Redating the NT 193-99).
     4 See M. Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter 50-55.
     5 See W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the NT 430-31; R. J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter 141-43; D. A. Carson and D. J. Moo, An Introduction to the NT 656-57; D. F. Watson, Invention, Arrangement, and Style 163-87. Note that many advocates of the priority of Jude build their case on the assumption that 2 Peter is pseudepigraphical. 
     6 See also C. Bigg, Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude 216-24; D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 923-24; G. N. Woods, Epistles of Peter, John and Jude 377-78. This view certainly does not discount the role of divine inspiration (see Biblical Inspiration in Perspective).
     7 See The NT Epistle of Judas.

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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Distinctive Features of 1 Peter

     The theme of 1 Peter is hope in the midst of suffering. No less than seven different words for suffering are used in 1 Peter (H. C. Thiessen, Introduction to the NT 279). The noun pathēma (“suffering”) occurs only four times (1:11; 4:13; 5:1, 9), while the verb paskō (to “suffer”) appears twelve times (2:19, 20, 21, 23; 3:14, 17, 18; 4:1, 15, 19; 5:10).
     First Peter is the only NT epistle wherein the name “Christian” appears (4:16); elsewhere in the NT only in Acts 11:26 and 26:28. D. A. Carson and D. J. Moo observe, “apart from the thanksgiving section in 1:3-9 and the ‘stone’ passage in 2:4-10, every paragraph of 1 Peter opens with a command, with theology brought in along the way to ground the command” (An Introduction to the NT 636).
Provenance and Date
     Peter sends greetings from “she who is in Babylon, chosen together with you …” (1 Pet. 5:13).1 While some have suggested that “she” is a reference to an actual woman, perhaps Peter’s wife, most interpreters understand this to be a metaphoric allusion to the collective members of the church (note KJV).It is therefore only natural to interpret “Babylon” symbolically as an allusion to Rome. As for the literal Babylon in Mesopotamia,3 there is no evidence that the church was existing there in the mid-1st century AD or that Peter or Mark or Silvanus was associated with that region. Few, if any, would consider Egypt’s Babylon as a possibility either. In late Judaism “Rome began to take on the name and many of the characteristics of Babylon as a world-power hostile to God …” (BAGD 129), and the book of Revelation indicates that 1st-century Christians understood “Babylon” as a symbolic reference to Rome (cf. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). If Nero’s persecution was looming or in its early stages at the time of writing, Peter’s reluctance to expressly identify the Christian community in Rome is understandable.
     Irenaeus stated that Paul and Peter were in Rome at the same time (Adv. Haer. 3.1.1), which corresponds to Paul’s second Roman imprisonment beginning around 64. Mark had been summoned to Rome by Paul about this time (2 Tim. 4:11) and was with Peter at the time of writing (1 Pet. 5:13). Note also there is substantial evidence that Mark’s Gospel originated in Rome or was at least intended for a Roman audience (see Mark's Audience). Nero’s persecution of Christians began in conjunction with Rome’s great fire of July 64, and since Peter directs his readers to “honor the king” (2:13-17), the epistle may have been written before the height of Nero’s persecution.
     A reasonable date for the composition of 1 Peter is mid-64, although sometime slightly (but not considerably) earlier or later is possible. Since both Galatia and Cappadocia are included in the address (1:1) and the two provinces were untied by Vespasian in 72, a date before this time is assumed. Nevertheless, those who reject Petrine authorship propose a much later date, viz. 80-95 (see L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity 274).
Audience, Destination, and Occasion
     The epistle is addressed to “chosen sojourners of [the] dispersion” in the following regions: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1) – present day Turkey. The question is whether these are geographic territories or Roman provinces (including areas where Paul had and had not preached). Probably Roman provinces are in view, as they are listed in the clock-wise direction in which the letter would be delivered. Of the places mentioned, Paul only worked in the southern region of Galatia and in Asia (as far as we know). The statement is made in 2 Pet. 3:15 that “our beloved brother Paul … wrote to you” (cf. v. 1), which is conceivably an allusion to Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and perhaps also the letters to Philemon, Timothy, and the Laodiceans (cf. Col. 4:16).
     The initial readers seem to have been predominantly Gentile Christians (cf. 1:14, 18; 2:9-10; 4:3-4) who had not been personally evangelized by Peter (1:12). The occasion of the letter is suffering (1:6; 3:13-17; 4:12-19), which could have involved one of the following scenarios:
§  A general official persecution, which does not seem to fit the context of 1 Peter. The persecution of Nero (64-68) was primarily limited to Rome and did not reach these distant provinces, while the respective persecutions of Domitian (90-95) and Trajan (97-117) were too late.
§  A local official persecution, for which there is no corroborating evidence.
§  A local unofficial persecution, which seems more likely. These Christians were apparently facing hardships such as hostility, suspicion, criticism, discrimination, mocking, and false accusations from the general populace, as were their brethren throughout the Empire (cf. 5:9).
     First Peter is just a relevant today as when it was first written. We are reminded of (a) our living hope of an eternal inheritance in heaven (1:1-12), (b) our call to obedience and holiness (1:13–2:12), (c) our duty to submit to temporal authorities (2:13-25), (d) husband-wife relations (3:1-7), (e) social relations (3:8-12), (f) faithfulness amidst suffering (3:13–4:19), (f) the role of spiritual leaders (5:1-5), (g) reliance on God for victory over evil (5:6-11), and (h) the grace and peace in Christ Jesus (5:12-14).   
     “Be humbled, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in [due] time, having cast all your anxiety upon him because with him there is concern for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 The term ekklēsia (rendered “church” in most standard English versions) is a feminine noun (cf. Eph. 5:25-27; Rom. 7:4; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2, 9), and the above interpretation is consistent with other occurrences of the word eklektos (“chosen,” “elect”) in 1 Peter (1:1-2; 2:9).
     3 Babylon in Mesopotamia was almost entirely uninhabited at the time of Diodorus Siculus (2,9,9) in 1 BC (cf. Josephus, Ant. 18.9.5-9).

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