Archive for September, 2012

Concept of “Burden” in the OT and NT Greek Scriptures with Some Insights into the Apostolic Fathers: Part 4

The Term αἴρω

This term when employed to communicate the concept of משא attaches the nuance of lifting or raising a burden.

For example, consider Num. 4:15, 24, 47 (“the service of burden”); 11:12; Matt. 9:6; 11:29; 16:24; 27:32; Acts 4:24; Col. 2:14; 1 Jn. 3:5.

The Term ἀναφέρω

This term, to my knowledge, never translates the term משא when comparing the MT with the LXX; however, there is a conceptual parallel between the terms, and if considered, it attaches the nuance of carrying, bringing, the moving up from a lower position to a higher position of a burden, the offering of a sacrifice, or the bearing or taking up as a burden. In the NT and in the Apostolic Fathers, this mostly refers to the offering of sacrifices (literal or devotional) to God or to Christ offering himself up as the sacrifice for sins.

For example, consider possibly Isa. 53:12 (נשא); Mark 9:2; Heb. 7:27; James 2:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 13:15; 2 Clement 2:2; Barnabas 12:7; Heb. 9:28; 1 Clement 16:12, 14.

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Concept of “Burden” in the OT and NT Greek Scriptures with Some Insights into the Apostolic Fathers: Part 3

The λαμβάνω Word Group (including λῆμμα, λῆμψις, & λαμβάνω)

These terms when employed to communicate the concept of משא attach the nuance that a burden is something that is received.

For example, consider Jeremiah 23:33–36; Hab. 1:1; Mal. 1:1; Zech. 9:1; 12:1; and possibly Philippians 4:15.

The Term γόμος

This term always refers to physical cargo hauled by a beast of burden or vehicle of transport (i.e., a ship).

For example, consider Ex. 23:5; 2 Kings 5:17; Acts 21:3; Rev. 18:11.

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Quoting Bonhoeffer #10

Through such experiences, Bonhoeffer’s heart for the first time awoke to the plight of the poor and the outcast, which soon became an important theme in his life and theology. In the letter to Rossler, he touched upon this too:
Every day I am getting to know people, at any rate their circumstances, and sometimes one is able to see through their stories into themselves – and at the same time one thing continues to impress me: Here I meet people as they are, far from the masquerade of “the Christian world”; people with passions, criminal types, small people with small aims, small wages and small sins – all in all they are people who feel homeless in both senses, and to begin to thaw when one speaks to them with kindness – real people; I can only say that I have gained the impression that it is just these people who are much more under grace than under wrath, and that it is the Christian world which is more under wrath than grace [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 79].

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Concept of “Burden” in the OT and NT Greek Scriptures with Some Insights into the Apostolic Fathers: Part 2

The Hebrew term משא can mean any of the following:

    carrying (a load) as in 2 Chron. 20:25

    a load or a burden for an animal to haul as in Ex. 23:5; Isa. 46:2 or for a person in charge of transport as in 1 Chron. 15:27

    a metaphorical burden or load on someone or on someone’s soul as in Num. 11:11–17; Deut. 1:6–17, or a person who has become a burden (for various reasons) to another person as in 2 Sam. 15:33; 19:36; Job 7:20

    a double meaning with the idea of “pronouncement” combined with the previous meaning as in Jer. 23:33–38

    a pronouncement, or an oracle as in Mal. 1:1; Zech. 9:1; 2 Kings 9:25

In the following posts, we’ll begin to take a look at the Greek terms that were employed to translate this term massa.

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Concept of “Burden” in the OT and NT Greek Scriptures with Some Insights into the Apostolic Fathers: Part 1

Consider with me in the next several posts a question and the development of an answer to this question: What is the “burden” of God throughout the biblical narrative?

  • From the beginning, we learn that God desired to reveal his glory and goodness to and through the creation, especially to and through humans.
  • Following the Fall of Humanity and Creation, God’s heart continues to be the revelation of his glory and goodness to and through creation as is exhibited in his redemptive plan that involves the restoration of a chosen people for himself and the restoration of the entire creation and in his judgment upon and victory over the enemies of creation—the devil, sin, and death—as well as any part of creation that aligns itself with these enemies.
  • Therefore, God’s “burden” for the Christian is the consistent experience of a life redeemed, which is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit who applies to us the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus who experienced the glory and goodness of God through suffering and on into resurrection.
  • Thus, God’s “burden” upon Christians for the world is that we invite men, women, boys, and girls to experience the glory and goodness of God by participating in the redeemed life through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • This “burden” upon individual Christians as well as local church communities may be “received,” “carried,” “serviced” and “offered” in various ways according to God’s will, but will always maintain the essence of the previous statements.
  • Life under this “burden” cannot be reactionary or “on the spot” performance, for one will always find the “burden” too heavy when crises arise. Rather, the life under the “burden” must be consistently shaped and prepared by the grace available to us in spiritual practices and disciplines of devotion and worship [this is a concept communicated by Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines].

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Heavenly Dwelling Places in John 14:2, 23?

Hhmm . . . I find it interesting that we interpret μονή in John 14:2 as “heavenly dwelling places” but certainly cannot do so in John 14:23 . . . maybe “the Father’s house” is the Church (cp. John 2:13–22 for a possible shift of the Father’s house away from the Temple to Christ’s Body) and the “many dwelling places” are Christians in the Church [I’m not the originator of this idea BTW, but I had not noticed the use of μονή before today]. In our eager anticipation of heaven, it is true that we devalue what God has given to us in the Church.

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Quoting Bonhoeffer #9

Bonhoeffer was always thinking about thinking. He meant to see things through to the bottom, to bring as much clarity as possible. The influence of his father, the scientist, is unmistakable. But the difference between his thinking now and in the future was that now, despite his being a theologian and pastor, he didn’t mention God’s role in the process or God’s will. Still, what he said here in his diary curiously and clearly presaged the famously difficult decision he would make in 1939, trying to determine whether he should remain safely in America or sail back to the terrible Terra Incognita of his homeland. In both cases, he sensed that there was a right decision, but that ultimately it wasn’t his. Later on he would say it explicitly: that he had been “grasped” by God; that God was leading him, and sometimes where he preferred not to go [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 70].

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Quoting Bonhoeffer #8

As ever, Bonhoeffer cagily maintained a certain distance. He wished to learn from the old master, but would preserve his intellectual independence. In the end he would not choose church history. He respected that field, as he demonstrated by mastering it, to Harnack’s delight, but he disagreed with Harneck that one must stop there. He believed that picking over the texts as they did, and going no further, left behind “rubble and fragments.” It was the God beyond the texts, the God who was their author and who spoke to mankind through them, that fired his interest [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 62].

By September he made his decision: he would write his doctoral dissertation under Seeberg after all, but it would be on a subject dogmatic and historical. He would write about the subject he had begun puzzling over in Rome, namely, What is the church? It was eventually titled Sanctorum Communio: A Dogmatic Inquiry into the Sociology of the Church. Bonhoeffer would identify the church as neither a historical entity nor an institution, but as “Christ existing as church-community.” It was a stunning debut [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 63]

I myself find the way such a decision comes about to be problematic. One thing is clear to me, however, that one personally – that is, consciously – has very little control over the ultimate yes or no, but rather that time decides everything. Maybe not with everybody, but in any event with me. Recently I have noticed again and again that all the decisions I had to make were not really my own decisions. Whenever there was a dilemma, I just left it in abeyance and – without really consciously dealing with it intensively – let it grow toward the clarity of a decision. But this clarity is not so much intellectual as it is instinctive. The decision is made; whether one can adequately justify it retrospectively is another question. “Thus” it happened that I went [to Barcelona] [brackets mine] [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 70].

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Quoting Bonhoeffer #7

Metaxas quotes a friend and classmate of Bonhoeffer’s, Helmuth Goes, who “recalled feeling a ‘secret enthusiasm’ for Bonhoeffer’s ‘free, critical, and independent’ theological thinking”:

What really impressed me was not just the face that he surpassed almost all of us in theological knowledge and capacity; but what passionately attracted me to Bonhoeffer was the perception that here was a man who did not only learn and gather in the verba and scripta of some master, but one who thought independently and already knew what he wanted and wanted what he knew. I had the experience (for me it was something alarming and magnificently new!) of hearing a young fair-haired student contradict the revered historian, his Excellency von Harnack answered, but the student contradicted again and again [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 59].

Later Metaxas writes,

Besides Harnack, three other Berlin professors had decided influence on Bonhoeffer. They were Karl Holl, who was perhaps the greatest Luther scholar of that generation; Reinhold Seeberg, who specialized in systematic theology, and under whom Bonhoeffer wrote his doctoral thesis; and Adolf Deissman, who was Bonhoeffer’s introduction to the ecumenical movement, which would play such an important role in his life and provide the means by which he became involved in the conspiracy against Hitler. But there was another theologian who had a greater influence on Bonhoeffer than any of these, and whom he would revere and respect as much as anyone in his lifetime, who would even become a mentor and a friend. This was Karl Barth of Göttingen [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 60].

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Quoting Bonhoeffer #6

He attended one Armenian-Catholic service that seemed “stiff and devoid of new life.” He felt that Roman Catholicism was moving in that direction but observed that there were “many religious establishments where a vital religious life still plays a part. The confessional is an example of this.” He exalted in much of what he saw. But he did not feel led to embrace Catholicism as a convert. An acquaintance he met in Rome tried to convince him, but Bonhoeffer was unmoved: “He would really like to convert me and is quite honestly convinced of his method. . . . Following these discussions, I find I am once again much less sympathetic to Catholicism. Catholic dogma veils every ideal thing in Catholicism without knowing that this is what it is doing. There is a huge difference between confession and dogmatic teachings about confession – unfortunately also between ‘church’ and the ‘church’ in dogmatics.” He considered the union of both churches: “The unification of Catholicism and Protestantism is probably impossible, although it would do both parties much good” [Metaxas in Bonhoeffer, 56.

In my own study and experience, I have discovered three things in relation to this. First, many who leave Protestantism for Roman Catholicism are looking to experience God in a way in which they can be scholastically free and connected to the ancient faith. However, as Bonhoeffer observed, spiritual vitality is absent. Beware of dead dogma, traditions, and icons wherever they may be.
Second, don’t forget that both Protestants and Roman Catholics share the heritage of the Church prior to the Reformation. Neither one owns the previous history.
Third, a key difference between the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions is their approach to doctrine. RC’s take an expansive approach to doctrine; that is, the apostles meant for us to expand upon what was revealed to them. Protestants take an explanatory approach to doctrine; that is, the Church should explain and attempt to make clear what was revealed by God to the apostles. Of course, there is some overlap here rather thank clean line; however, the philosophies are clearly observed in each tradition.

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