Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Why did Jesus breathe on his disciples? (John 20:22)

When Jesus arose from the dead, he appeared to his remaining apostles, one of whom recorded the following:

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:19-23, NKJV).

The apostles were not to receive the Holy Spirit until the Lord was glorified (John 7:39), and he was not glorified until after he had ascended into heaven (John 16:7; 17:1-5). The apostles were instructed to wait in Jerusalem for about ten days after Christ’s ascension in order to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:1-12; 2:1-4). 

When Jesus breathed on the apostles in John 20:22, he did not say, “You have received …” [perfect indicative] or “You are receiving …” [present indicative], but rather, “Receive [aorist imperative] the Holy Spirit.” This statement instructs the apostles to be receptive to the Spirit when he comes, but it does not specify when he came. Why, then, did Jesus breathe on them? John did not see fit to explain it, but there are at least a couple of plausible explanations. 

Before breathing on these men, Jesus showed them his pierced hands and side (John 20:20). Luke’s account (24:36-49) reveals that when Jesus appeared to the apostles (to give the Great Commission) and said “Peace to you,” they were frightened, thinking he was “a spirit.” Jesus then showed them his crucifixion wounds to prove he was alive and in the flesh. John not only mentions the Lord showing his wounds but adds that he also breathed on them (20:19-23), perhaps to verify that he was really alive.

Since “breath” in the Bible corresponds to life (cf. Gen. 2:7; Mark 15:37), it may be that Jesus was also illustrating the life-giving nature of the apostles’ mission. In the previous verse the Lord had given them a commission, and in the subsequent verse he identified forgiveness of sins as part of their work. The gospel began to be preached, resulting in sins forgiven, and the Great Commission was launched when the Holy Spirit was received by the apostles on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41). 

Mark and Luke’s record of the crucifixion state that Jesus “breathed his last” (Mark 15:37, 39; Luke 23:46), a common idiom for physical death. Both Matthew and John describe the Lord’s death as, “he gave up his spirit” (Matt. 27:50; John 19:30). Perhaps John wanted to emphasize to his readers that Jesus’ last breath on the cross was not his final breath. There was more to come by the sending of God’s Spirit and beyond.

--Kevin L. Moore

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Thursday, 18 February 2021

Recommended Tools for Biblical Word Study

Plethoric word-study tools are available in print and in digital format but not all are of equal value. A number of sources are outdated, incomplete, insubstantial, and/or replete with inaccuracies. “Most free computer shareware falls into this category, which is why it is made available free of charge!” (C. L. Blomberg, Handbook of NT Exegesis 138 n. 52). 



I. Multiple English TranslationsFormal Correspondence Versions (a) ESV, NASB/U, NKJV; (b) ASV, KJV, RSV; Optimal/Dynamic Equivalence Versions (a) H/CSB, T/NIV, NRSV; (b) McCord, NET. 


II. Exhaustive Concordance: alphabetically lists each word in the English Bible with corresponding Hebrew or Greek terms, citing all scripture references where the word occurs.

·      James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010): based on the KJV or NASB, with a reference number corresponding to the underlying Hebrew or Greek term defined in the back. Other reference tools use the Strong’s numbering system for convenience. 

·      Edward W. Goodrick and John R. Kohlenberger III, eds. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999).

·      Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Rev. ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982).

·      It is most helpful to use a concordance that matches the Bible version you are using.


III. Expository Dictionary: a cross reference from key English words in the Bible to corresponding Hebrew and Greek words, with brief definitions and sample scripture references.

·      W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).

·      William D. Mounce, Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).


IV. Bible Encyclopedia and/or Dictionary: numerous articles about the language, customs, and literature of Bible lands, archaeological discoveries, historical and religious environments, et al.

·      John McClintock and James Strong, eds. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, 8 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968-70).

·      James Orr, gen. ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980); revised, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed. (1989).

·      Chad Brand and Eric Mitchell, eds. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Rev. ed. (Nashville: Holman, 2015).


V. Free online sources:

·      Blue Letter Bible – free online reference library with a variety of Bible study tools <Link>. 

· – a website designed to allow easy reading, listening, studying, searching, and sharing of the Bible in many different versions and translations, including English, French, Spanish, and other languages <Link>. 




I. Interlinear: the biblical text with a literal English translation of each word. 

·      Jay Patrick Green, Sr., The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-Greek-English (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005).

·      J. D. Douglas, ed. The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1990). 

·      The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, 1982).

·      Arthur L. Farstad, Zane C. Hodges, et al., eds. The Majority Text Greek New Testament Interlinear (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007).  

·      John Schwandt and C. John Collins, eds. The ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament (Crossway, 2006). The English translation is the main text with corresponding Greek words underneath.


II. Lexicon: provides a fuller definition of each word in the Hebrew Old Testament or Greek New Testament with sample references from the Bible and related literature.

·      Harold K. Moulton, ed. The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978): lists and identifies various forms of Greek words and helps to locate the lexical form.

·      Barbara and Timothy Friberg, Analytical Concordance of the Greek New Testament—Lexical Focus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981).

·      Joseph Henry Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers, 1889); coded with Strong’s numbering system (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996).


III.  Free online sources:

·      Bible Hub – digital library including topical, Greek and Hebrew study tools, concordances, commentaries, dictionaries, and devotionals <Link>. 




I. Hebrew and Greek Texts:

·      Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1990).

·      Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th ed. (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 2012). Available online <Link>.

·      UBS The Greek New Testament, 5th ed. (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 2014).

·      Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont, The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform 2005 (Southborough, MA: Hilton, 2005).

·      Barbara and Timothy Friberg, eds. Analytical Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981).


II. Lexicon:

·      Francis Brown, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955).

·      BDAG – Walter Bauer, F. W. Danker, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, eds. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); BAGD (1979 ed.).

·      Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (New York: UBS, 1989).


III. Hebrew/Greek-English Concordance: provides the location and concise meaning of each word in the Hebrew Old Testament or Greek New Testament.

·      John H. Sailhamer, A New Concordance of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984).

·      Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint, 2nd. ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).

·      George V. Wigram, The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance and Lexicon, Rev. Jay P. Green (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1982).

·      Moulton and Geden Concordance to the Greek New Testament, 6th ed., I. Howard Marshall, ed. (London: T&T Clark, 2004).


IV. Dictionary:

·      Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-76).

·      Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT), 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975-78).


V. Digital Sources:

· – up-to-date academic biblical texts, including Hebrew OT, Greek NT, LXX, and Latin Vulgate. Free at <Link>.

·      Logos Bible Software – a digital library including extensive resource linking and linguistic analysis for studying the Bible in English translation and the original languages.

·      Accordance Bible Software – a Bible-study program centered on the biblical text with additional Bible-related sources, study tools, commentaries, dictionaries, and a cross reference system.


--Kevin L. Moore


Related PostsBiblical Word StudyWhen the Greek NT is Translated into English


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Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Biblical Word Study

Word study is important, as words are the fundamental mechanism for conveying thought. But a single word does not function independently and is of little communicative value apart from a broader context. Therefore, the aim of word study is to try to understand what the inspired author was seeking to convey by his use of a particular word in a particular context.1

Selecting Which Words to Study2

It is not practical to do an in-depth study of every single word in a lengthy text, but certain words ought to capture our attention more than others. Here are some basic guidelines for word-study selection: 
·      Words that are central to the passage, without which the message would lose its meaning, purpose, or emphasis; e.g. “love” in John 21:15-19, or “faith” in the 11th chapter of Hebrews.
·      Repeated words, indicative of a theme or special emphasis; e.g. “blessed” in Matt. 5:1-12, or “conscience” in 1 Cor. 8:7-12; 10:25-29, or “comfort” in 2 Cor. 1:3-7.
·      Figures of speech, wherein word pictures convey a meaning beyond the literal sense; e.g. “bread” in John 6:35, “light” in John 8:12, “door” in John 10:9, etc.
·      Words that are unclear or difficult; e.g. “phylacteries” in Matt. 23:5, or “not under bondage” in 1 Cor. 7:15, or “vessel” in 1 Thess. 4:4.

As exegetes our job is not to determine the meanings of biblical words but to contextually discover the meanings as originally intended.3 Let us also be aware, “as important as word studies are, it is very doubtful if profound understanding of any text or of any theme is really possible by word studies alone …. semantics, meaning, is more than the meaning of words.”4 In our next post we will list a number of recommended word-study tools.

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Gordon D. Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors. 3rd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2002): 79.
     2 See J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012): 167-70; also Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Rev. ed. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006): 109-10.
     3 Duvall and Hays 163.
     4 D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996): 64.

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Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Measuring the Heavenly City in Revelation 21:16?

In Revelation 21 the heavenly city is measured with a gold reed: “The city lies foursquare [‘cubic in shape,’ ISV], its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal” (ESV). The term “stadia” is the plural form of the Greek stádion, approx. one-eighth of a Roman mile, or 607 feet, or 185 meters. In modern-day westernized dimensions, 12,000 stadia would equate to around 1,380 miles or nearly 2,221 kilometers.

Since heaven is a spiritual realm infinitely beyond our ability to conceptualize from a purely materialistic perspective, imagery from the physical world has to be used in the highly symbolic book of Revelation to allow some degree of insight into an otherwise inexplicable reality. The symbolism, therefore, should not be taken literally. This includes numbers and measurements.

The size of the city is not calculated in American miles or British kilometers but according to Greek-measurement figures. The number 12,000 is the combination of 12 (symbolizing God’s people, cf. 21:2, 14) x 1000 (representing, from a human vantage point, something extensive, indefinite, yet complete, cf. 20:4, 6). Thus “12,000” describes the heavenly home of God’s people as more than spacious enough to accommodate all the saved (cp. 7:5-8; cf. John 14:2). 

Heaven is not and cannot be a physically literal city with exact measurements of precise distances (1 Kings 8:27; 1 Cor. 15:50; Col. 3:1-2). From an earthly architectural point of view, a square-cube city is nonsensical, and the incredible lengths of the dimensions are mind-boggling. And that’s the point. Heaven cannot be adequately described with earthly concepts or with literal measurements. If the ancients considered the cube as the most perfect of all geometric forms (cf. 1 Kings 6:20), heaven is depicted as a realm of perfect (also enormous) proportions. 

--Kevin L. Moore


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