Tag Archives: Greek

The revealed life

Colossians 3  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been spending a lot of time in this passage and I want to finish by looking at verse 4. This passage has covered the believer’s past (being raised with Christ), their present (being hidden with Christ), and naturally concludes with the future promise of being revealed with Christ in glory. All these verbs (being raised, hidden, and revealed) are written in the passive voice because from start to finish, our salvation is not dependent upon ourselves, but upon the perfect, completed work of Christ. This reality should shatter all pride in our accomplishments and relieve any fear of failure on our part because none of it depends upon us.

This passage concludes the same way as all human history: Christ being revealed in glory. But the unbelievable part is that we will be revealed with Him. If the reader were puzzled by the preceding description of their life being hidden with Christ for the present, this verse describes the future revelation of Christ with their life. For the Christian, their life is hidden with Christ today, and will be revealed with Christ in the future. The wording here describes a personal connection and shared destiny with Christ: “and you with Him” (Col. 3:4). If believers share Christ’s destiny through being raised with Christ and by having their lives hidden with Christ, then we finally find out what that destiny actually is: “you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

Here we have the answer to every “why” question in the Christian life. Why yearn for the things above? Why focus intently upon the things above and not the things upon the earth? Why have we died? Why does it matter that our life is hidden with Christ? And, in light of the rest of Colossians 3, why should we put to death the earthly members within us? Why should we put on the new man? Why should we strive to honor Christ in public as well as private? Not because it will be easy—quite the opposite, in fact—but because it will be worth it. Currently, Christ is seated at God’s right hand; one day, we will appear with Him in glory (see also, Romans 8:17b). The natural response to such a gracious gift is gratitude, thanksgiving, and obedience. Thus, the instructions in the rest of Colossians are not a duty, but a delight. If we understand the free gift we’ve been given—a gift that redeems our past, directs our present, and secures our future—we will strive, with every fiber of our being, to bring glory to God.

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The hidden life

In chapter 2 of Colossians, Paul sets forth a defensive strategy for the Colossians: resist captivity (Col. 2:8-15), resist judgment and disqualification (Col. 2:16-19), and resist the elemental spirits of the world and false religions (Col. 2:20-23). Colossians 3:1-4 serves as a transition-point before Paul teaches how to go on the offensive by mortifying the flesh (Col. 3:5) and putting on the new self (Col. 3:12). This passage has some very profound implications for Christian living, and one thing that really grips me is the security that we have in Christ.

For example, Col. 3:1 says that Christ is seated. The sitting position signifies the completion of Christ’s work. This contrast between Jesus and the Levitical priests is demonstrated in Hebrews 10:11-14: the priests stand because their work is never finished; Jesus offered one perfect sacrifice—Himself—and is now seated. His work is done, there are no questions about it; His sacrifice was accepted and Christ now enjoys a seated position of honor because He has earned it. Christians never need to question whether or not they are saved because they did not save themselves. As previously discussed, we have been raised by Christ and with Christ and now share His destiny. His work is completed and He is now seated in a position of honor and glory. Christ would have the seat pulled out from under Him—marking an incomplete sacrifice for sins and unfinished work—before a Christian would lose their salvation.

Another amazing statement is found in Colossians 3:3: “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The Greek word for “hidden” here (krupto) is the root of the English word “encrypt;” in the same way that encrypted data is considered safe, so the Christian’s life is safe because it is ‘encrypted’ with Christ. Through Paul’s use of the perfect tense, we know that this “hiddenness” occurred in the past—presumably at the time of our salvation—and has ongoing effects. In the same way that someone in the witness protection program is safe because they are hidden, so the Christian’s salvation is secure because it is hidden with Christ.

Did Alex Trebek say on Jeopardy! that the New World Translation is the most accurate translation of the Holy Scriptures?

Recently, upon finding out that I’m studying New Testament Greek (aka Koine Greek), my Jehovah’s Witness coworker gave me a pamphlet called “The Accuracy of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.” The article began with this paragraph:

Recently on Jeopardy on TV…One of the questions was…What is the most accurate translation of the Holy Scriptures? No one got the correct answer, so Alex Trebek said “The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, printed by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society…

Is this true? Did this really happen? And if so, what exactly does it mean?

1. I have looked online and have not found a shred of evidence that this actually ever happened. It’s a lie. The only corroboration I could find for this was from JW websites and forums. I went to http://www.j-archive.com/ (which boasts almost a quarter-million questions) and did an advanced Google search on the site. Here are my results.

First, I searched j-archive.com to see if “Watchtower Bible & Tract Society” shows up anywhere (click here to see the results for yourself). I got one result here. However, the hint was “More common name for The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society” with an answer of Jehovah’s Witnesses; it had nothing to do with translational accuracy.

Next, I decided to search for “New World Translation” and got 0 results using quotes (click here to see the results for yourself). There was one hit where “new world” and “translation” coincided, but not as part of the same sentence:

Finally, I couldn’t find a single clip on YouTube or any other video site of this being asked. I did find a blog post about this topic going back to August of 2007, and although there had been many hateful, unconstructive comments posted by some of the readers, there has yet to be any proof offered. That’s almost half a decade and no proof. That fact leads me to believe this is a complete lie.

2. On Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek doesn’t ask questions. He provides answers and the contestants ask the appropriate question. However, according to this story, Alex asked which translation is the most accurate and later revealed the answer. Not only is there no evidence this ever happened, but the story actually disproves itself. If I told you a story about how a guy bought vowel on Who Wants to be A Millionaire?, you’d know I was lying because that’s not how the game works. It seems like this lie was carefully fabricated because, caught off guard, most Americans are likely to trust the answers they get from Jeopardy. I say “caught off guard” because this story is likely told as JW’s go door-to-door. The fact that most people are unprepared for an encounter with JW’s means that they’re unlikely to carefully define terms either…

3. If this actually did happen, what did they mean by the word “accurate”? This word requires serious discussion and careful definition before you can even begin a discussion about the most “accurate” translation of the Bible. By accurate do you mean strictly literal, word-for-word? If so, then there’s not a single ‘literal’ translation of the Greek or Hebrew into English. It would be incomprehensible, especially when you get into books like Acts or Hebrews, which have very challenging word order. And even an exact word-for-word would be inaccurate if they always used the same word because the same word can have different meaning depending upon context. For example, read John 3:5-8; the same Greek word exists for both “spirit” and “wind” in that passage but the context determines which meaning is intended. Furthermore, there are numerous Greek and Hebrew words that don’t have an exact equal in our language, such as archegos.

Or by accurate, do you mean idea-for-idea? Once again, there isn’t a translation that goes that far in all places either. For example, read Isaiah 64:6 and notice how all translations keep the euphemism “filthy rags.” That’s because they’re afraid to translate that term for the graphic image it would have conjured up in the mind of the ancient Jews: “bloody menstrual rags.” The JW’s love to claim they have the most accurate translation of the Bible, but I don’t know of any Greek or Hebrew scholars that would agree to that claim. Which brings us to our final point…

4. If this actually did happen, since when did Alex Trebek become the authority on Koine Greek? This story, true or not, doesn’t prove anything because it doesn’t actually appeal to an expert in the field of Koine Greek. The rest of the pamphlet contains excerpts from Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament. This book was written by Jason David BeDuhn, a professor who has his Ph.D. in “Comparative Study of Religions.” Once again, the JWs make the mistake of appealing to a non-expert to validate the accuracy of their Bible (aka false attribution). If you’re going to buy a house, do you seek advice from a realtor or a chef? If you want to prepare a good meal, do you seek advice from a chef or a realtor? If you want to know which translation of the Bible is the most accurate, do you seek the opinion of an expert in Koine Greek or do you ask a game show host and someone who got their degree in comparative religion?

But here’s the bottom line: whether this question was asked on Jeopardy! or not doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t prove a thing, other than the fact that it is a false attribution. The truth is, the New World Translation is not the most accurate translation of the Bible, which is why JWs have to tell lies and appeal to non-experts for their “proof.” If I were to recommend any translation, it would be the ESV for reasons I’ve mentioned before. I hope this has shed some light on a confusing topic. If you encounter this story, ask for some proof and ask how the JW’s define “accurate.”

What does it mean to be raised with Christ?

“…you have been raised with Christ…” (Col. 3:1)

It’s really easy for us to get things twisted. We read a simple phrase like the one above and perhaps picture ourselves walking alongside Christ with our arm over His shoulder as He helps us along. Perhaps something like this:

But the truth is, this is a passive verb. It’s more like “you have been raised by Christ and with Christ.” Christ is the one doing all the work. Christians are raised with Him and by Him. We’re raised with Christ in the sense that, now that He’s picked us up, He’s taking us where He’s going. We’re along for the ride! It’s really more like this:

This word is used in the Greek Old Testament to describe someone getting a donkey off the ground with its load. “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him. (Exodus 23:5)” The term used for rescuing the donkey is used to describe us in Colossians 3:1.

The most interesting thing to me is the fact that, in order to rescue us, Christ had to come down to earth to pick us up. His death on the cross was the ultimate falling down to raise us up. To save us from death, He endured death and conquered it. We are able to be raised because Christ was raised first. Acts 26:23, 1 Corinthians 15:20, and Colossians 1:18 all describe Christ as being the “first born.” Notice they all say “first” and not “only.” Christ is the first of many who will conquer death. Romans 8:29 describes Him as “the firstborn among many brothers!”

Praise be to our great Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for coming down to earth in order to lift us up to Heaven.

Heart and Mind

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col. 3:1-2).

Notice something about the text I underlined? Looks like silly ol’ Paul accidentally repeated himself, right? Not quite. These are two completely different Greek words with similar but subtly differing meanings. In the context of this passage, the term used for “seek” (zeteo) means to want or yearn for something. In other words, we are to desire or yearn for the things that are above. We are to want them with our hearts. The reason why we are to want them is simple: that’s where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Why are we to yearn for the things above? Because they are worth wanting! They are naturally desirable; in fact, they are more desirable than anything else in existence!

If the first verse tells us what to want, the second verse tells us how to want. The term used for “set your minds on” (phroneo) means to maintain a sustained, intentional focus upon the things that are above. Paul is calling his readers to radically focus upon the things above, casting aside all the concerns and cares of this world; to ignore the things of this world so as to better see an eternal reality. The best way to grow in your desire for something is to think about it. If you’re craving pizza, the more you think about it the more you want it. If you want to go see a new movie, the more you watch trailers for it and talk to people about it, the more excited you get about the movie. The word in vs. 2 is used to denote a relentless focus upon a singular goal or purpose.

In simple but profound language, Col. 3:1-2 calls us to set our hearts and our minds upon the things above. In the same way that a compass always points North, our hearts and our minds are to be unwaveringly directed upwards, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.

Never Alone

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples many things but one that popped out to me this week was His simple statement in John 16:32: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” Jesus knew He was about to be betrayed by one of His first disciples and abandoned by all the rest within hours. He knew that as soon as He was taken into custody His boldest and most enthusiastic follower—Peter—would deny Him to a servant girl.

“Yet I am not alone,” he said. Not alone? Why? Because “the Father is with me.”

We love those verses where God says He will never leave us or forsake us (like Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5, 8; etc.). We feel encouraged when we hear Jesus promise that He will be with us always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The only problem is that we don’t truly believe those verses. Not truly. We are discouragingly quick to develop spiritual amnesia and quickly forget the extravagant promises made to us.

The truth is, any time you feel abandoned, alone, companionless, deserted, estranged, forgotten, forsaken, isolated, left, lonely, lonesome, outcast, rejected, renounced, or withdrawn you have forgotten the reality that you are never alone. That feeling of loneliness is an illusion; a lie. You are not alone, for the Father is with you.

For many years I used to feel alone when I was surrounded by a crowd of people. I completely understand the feeling that no one understands you. I also know the loneliness that you feel, because no one, not even your closest friends (not even your spouse), truly understands you. And yet the desire to be understood is universal to all of us. People say things like “he just gets me” when we describe how we feel about our friends. But the truth is that no one truly understands us except for God. We know a God who knows us better and deeper than we will ever know ourselves.

For the first time in my life I do not feel alone because I’ve learned to turn to God for understanding, comfort, and companionship. He TRULY gets me! And only He will ever get me. He knows when I wake up and when I lie down. He knows my words before they are on my lips. He knows me. I can’t tell you how real this has become to me over the last few months. Leaving Alaska and the military, starting over at a new church, starting seminary. None of those people get me. They could never. The truth is, as long as God is here with me, those feelings of loneliness are an illusion. God promised to never leave me nor forsake me, He knows everything about me, and so I rest on His promise that I will always be understood and I will never be alone. I encourage you to look up for understanding and not to your left or right. You are not alone, for the Father is with you.

My favorite Greek word

I think I’ve found my favorite Greek word. It’s a special word that we don’t really have an English equivalent for, which is a shame because it’s only used four times in the New Testament and it’s only used to describe Jesus (Acts 3:15, 5:13, Hebrews 2:10, 12:12). The word is archegos (pronounced ar-khay-gos’) and it is usually translated as “founder,” “author,” or “leader” but it means much more than that.

Consider, for example, Romulus the legendary founder of Rome. An ancient empire was named after him because he was the one who founded it. In the same way, Christianity is named after Christ because it is contingent upon his life, death, and resurrection. We follow Christ and are therefore called Christians.

But this word is also used to describe someone who begins something that is the first in a series; a series which is meant to be repeated. In Romans 8:15-17, we’re told that we’ve been adopted into a family and have become fellow heirs of suffering and glory with Christ. Later, in Romans 8:29, Jesus is described as the firstborn of many brothers. Jesus, as our archegos, has set a pattern for us that we can repeat because of his death and resurrection and by the power of the Holy Spirit . In the same way that everyone who completes a marathon follows the pattern of the first marathon, we, by following the pattern of Christ, have the privilege of being called Christians.

Finally, this word is use for someone who is a leader, prince, or ruler. The archegos has a special, preeminent position. Jesus, in Colossians 1:18, is described as preeminent in everything! Philippians 2:10-11 is clear that every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee will bow, whether as friend or foe. Jesus Christ is our righteous ruler and we will have the joy of worshiping Him for all eternity.

Jesus is the way, paves the way, and shows the way to the Father. He is our archegos.

Icons and Character

There’s something that has fascinated people for centuries about the creation account in Genesis. It says that Adam was made in the image of God:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I had a hunch about something, so I did a little research into the Greek version of the Old Testament because that’s what the New Testament author of Hebrews quotes. (It’s called the Septuagint or abbreviated as “LXX”.) It turns out that in the Septuagint, the word used in this passage of Genesis is “eikón,” which is where we get our English word, “icon.” An icon is defined as “An image; a representation.” Adam was made as an icon of God, and he was meant to have children, exercise dominion over the animals, and, strangely enough, eat vegetables (Genesis 1:28-29). I have no clue what the vegetables part means, but either way something went terribly wrong and here we are still living in the consequences of Adam’s fall (Romans 5:12).

So why did I bother looking all that up? It’s because of a special word that only shows up once in the entire New Testament and it’s used to describe Christ. In Hebrews 1:3, we read that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of God’s nature. I was especially interested in the “exact imprint” part. For some reason, it caught my attention, it jumped off the page at me! As it turns out, this Greek word is not eikón, but instead it’s “charaktér.” Look familiar? It’s were we get the English word “character,” which is defined as “The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.”

If Adam was an icon that represented God, Jesus fully and flawlessly embodied God’s character, His nature! And where Adam failed to image God, Christ served as a perfect representation of God’s character. Perhaps it means nothing, but I find it interesting that the author of Hebrews quotes the Septuagint quite frequently, but chose to use a different word to describe Christ.