Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Found an "As You Are Going!"

The idea of this blog entry comes from my devotional reading in the Greek New Testament. On Thursdays, I meet with a small group of guys during what used to be one of our chapel services. In our small group today, students were asked to fill out a Student Satisfaction Survey, designed by Noel-Levitz. The survey was designed to take 20-25 minutes of our time.

I decided to read some of the Greek New Testament (off of my phone), while I was waiting. I remembered where I had left off, having finished Matthew 9, with the great passage on missions. I began reading in Matthew 10, where Jesus names the apostles, and then sends them out (Matthew 10:5). They were to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When I got to Matthew 10:7, I thought, "Eureka! I have found it! The great lost "As you are Going!". Here is verse 7, just as I encountered it:

πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι ἤγγικεν βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

The NIV text follows the Greek word order more closely than the ESV.

As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
ESV: And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

The word πορευόμενοι is a present participle, usually translated as an -ing word. For years I have heard people assert that the Greek Commission text of Matthew 28:19-20 does not command people to Go! Usually they will identify the "go" word in the passage (πορευθέντες) correctly as a participle (though they seem not to recognize it as an aorist participle), and will state that there is only one imperative verb (make disciples), insisting that the participle (πορευθέντες) should be translated "as you are going."

As I stated earlier, I have heard this for years, usually from people who trained for the ministry at a sister school. The most recent time I heard it was over a year ago, when a prominent speaker (who trained for ministry at that school), made that same comment in a message in our chapel. I asked my boss if he could explain to me why people who studied there (have you guessed that I asked him because he went to graduate school there?) insist on making that false assertion. He speculated that it may have had to do with a very popular professor in the theology department that should have paid more attention to Greek before passing on wrong information (though he probably stated it with more grace that have I).

Concerning the Great Commission text, last year I found a document written by Daniel Wallace, author of the textbook we began using this year as our 2nd year Greek textbook. Last year, I made the article available to our 2nd year Greek students. Unfortunately, the document is no longer available on the web. If you would like to receive a copy of it, I can e-mail it to you, with the annotations I made.

As I continued reading into Matthew 11, I found another construction identical to the Great Commission structure--in Matthew 11:4:

πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάννῃ ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ βλέπετε.

No Greek translator who knows what he or she is doing would dare render that verse as follows: "As you are going tell John what you hear and see." No! The clear meaning is "Go and tell John what you hear and see."

The grammatical structure is what Wallace calls attendant circumstance. Other grammars refer to this a coordinate circumstance. Daniel Wallace describes what happens:

The attendant circumstance participle is used to communicate an action that, in some sense, is coordinate with the finite verb. In this respect it is not dependent, for it is translated like a verb. Yet it is still dependent semantically, because it cannot exist without the main verb. It is translated as a finite verb connected to the main verb by and. The participle then, in effect, “piggy-backs” on the mood of the main verb. (Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 640)

The participle "piggy-backs" on the mood of the main verb, being connected to the main verb semantically by the word and. So when a participle piggy-backs on an imperative verb, it gets imperatival force. We join them by the word and, which does not appear in the Greek text.

So, the Great Commission text does not say "As you are going . . .", but rather, "Go and make disciples . . ." Anybody who tells you differently has not read much Greek.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Joy of Inductive Discovery (Greek)

I have been reading through the Greek New Testament once a year for the past several years. I enjoy it very much, and I think it helps me be a better teacher of Koine Greek, DUH!

This year I started off with the Gospel of John (easy), then I read John's epistles (easy), and from there went back to Matthew, at which time I will read straight through the New Testament, skipping over the books previously read.

First year students of New Testament Greek learn a couple pretty common deponent verbs as vocabulary:

πορεύομαι = I go
ἔρχομαι = I go, come

Students sometimes have difficulty with the concept of ἔρχομαι being either I come or I go. Which is it? In my reading today, included in the passage was the healing of the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13). In v. 9 the centurion tells Jesus that he tells one servant to go and he goes, but to another one he says to come and he comes. Both words are used in that narrative:

καὶ λέγω τούτῳ· πορεύθητι, καὶ πορεύεται, καὶ ἄλλῳ· ἔρχου, καὶ ἔρχεται.

At least in this setting, πορεύομαι is the one meaning go, and ἔρχομαι means come. Now you ought to take this knowledge, add $3.50 to it, and be able to buy at least something at Starbuck's.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Who is "The Forgotten Man"?

Late last year I read through Amity Shlaes' book, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. The phrase "forgotten man" was used by Franklin D. Roosevelt in a radio address given on April 7, 1932, in a time of economic crisis that many say is very much like our current economic crisis. FDR said,

These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

That quote reminds me of our president's speeches during the electoral campaign, where he "made a career" of criticizing the "failed policies of the last eight years" that expect prosperity to "trickle down from the top". Rather, Obama advocates a "trickle-up" approach to economics, believing that to continue in what he calls "the failed policies of the last eight years", will result in "trickle-up pain" rather than "trickle-down prosperity". For an example of his campaign rhetoric, watch this video:

President Obama seems to fashion himself after some of our highly-esteemed past presidents: Abraham Lincoln (using his Bible in the inauguration), Franklin D. Roosevelt (see Time magazine's cover from November 24, 2008), and John F. Kennedy (see Slate magazine's article from early in campaign). Obama's (Non)Stimulus Plan (parenthetical editorial comment added for effect) shares many of the attributes of FDR's New Deal, with heavy emphasis on infrastructure spending. My father lived through the Great Depression. I'd like to pick his brain about it, but I can't because he's already in heaven. I promise I won't try to get you to eat Potato Soup, Dad. Those who lived through the Great Depression that I have polled seem to be unanimous in the belief that what brought the U.S. out of the depression was World War II, not any of FDR's policies. Shlaes' book seems to agree, and offers unemployment statistics and market values to show how FDR's policies failed:
Obama's plan indeed may help the forgotten at the bottom of the economic pile. Julio Oseguedo and Henrietta Hughes are two such people (though Ms. Hughes' request was fulfilled by the wife of Republican Representative Nicholas Thompson). The reality, though, is that it is incorrect to call the person at the bottom forgotten.

In 1883, long before FDR, William Graham Sumner of Yale University used the phrase "the forgotten man". He (correctly, I believe) identifies the middle class as the truly forgotten--that the burden for trickle-up prosperity fall upon the middle class. This quote is insightful:

As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or in the better case, what A, B, and C shall do for X. . . . What I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. He is the man who never is thought of. . . . He works, he votes, generally he prays--but he always pays. . . .

A and B are represented by the fat cats among our president's friends. Many of them evade paying taxes. Some of them even make it into our president's cabinet. Julio and others (represented by X in Sumner's quote) are helped, but it is always at the expense of C. As a member of C, I am in favor of helping X. But the reality is that the greatest help is not always in the form of a handout. The current administration seems not to understand that, as long as they can:
1) pass stimulus and bailout bills
2) print more money
3) reach into our pockets, and pass the bill onto our children and grandchildren

I don't like it. The economy is in a crisis, which is portrayed as the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Such hyperbolic rhetoric is blatantly false. FDR's New Deal did not bring the nation out of the Great Depression. Obama's New New Deal has the likelihood of taking us into the greatest economic crisis ever. Those of us who stand to suffer the most are the forgotten ones in the middle of the socio-economic pile. We are mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren, soaking them with the sins of the fathers, to the third and fourth generation. I pray to God that I'm wrong.

Thursday, February 05, 2009