Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Syntax Guide by Irons

A SYNTAX GUIDE FOR READERS OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT by Charles Lee Irons [Grand Rapids MI, Kregel Academic, 2016] 629 pages.

This is a syntax guide, not one consisting of a manuscript variants. It does not deal with variants, although a few significant ones are pointed out. He generally accepts the critical text—the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece—as written.  Facts about this guide:

1.       Its purpose is to providing brief explanations and syntactical and translation features of the text.

2.       The notes are brief and concise and in some cases limited.

3.       It is not written to compete with or replace larger works on the subject.

4.       It is designed to encourage the reading of the Greek text.

5.       The translation is from taken from the modern translations, not the King James Version. A weakness I believe.

6.       It endeavors to show various ways the Greek text, especially particles and preposition can be taken.

7.       He admits that he uses at times his own terms for the usual ones (p. 10).

8.       A helpful index is included at the end, to show where certain parts of speech are used in the text (i.e. accusative, etc).

9.       He refers to additional resources in some text.

In using it with the Greek text, first I must acknowledge that the critical text is not my first choice of the Greek texts (although I used it at times). In going though John here are some personal observations:

·         It generally was helpful as a guide. But is more of a quick reference.

·         It was too concise at times with no resources given for those who want more explanation of the options (cf. Jn 1:3). Although He does give options without comment. Which is normally the case.

·         Those verses in which additional information is pointed to are older works, omitting the newer ones [i.e. Mounce].

·         However, it does touch on the key issue of syntax with various degrees of help.  

Much of what I found is already available in other works and/or a good lexicon. While this work may be helpful to the beginning Greek student, it fails to be ready helpful or meet the needs of the more advance student or Pastor. At times, it is difficult to understand. If you have Wallace, Mounce, or even good exegetical commentaries, I would past on this volume. In my opinion it is not needed, nor does it fully meet it purpose.

I was given a review copy by the publisher Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Studies in Colossians #32

Practicing Christian Living at Home 3:18-4:1

During the time of Paul, a typical household consisted of relationships between husband and wife; parents and children; and family and slaves (servants). The section explodes suddenly into the context of the epistle without the marks of a transition from what went before in the text. It marks a switch from that spiritual family to the physical one.[1] It has been inferred that this has been borrowed from outside sources and Christianized.[2] It seems that most hold that the background is the Roman household code.[3] This may be, but so what? There are common areas of ethics in the world. However, there seems to be no clear consensus as to the background of the injunctions. They are not Christianization of worldly ethics, if anything they are an overlapping of ethics.

This section of responsibility. Gromacki points this out clearly:
Corporate oneness (ein) position does not abrogate individual responsibility and function. Racial, social, and sexual distinctions remain, even though there is equality in Christ.[4]
Responsibility begins at home. The home is the oldest institution on earth. It was established in the garden before the fall with Adam and Eve.

This section consists of three subsections centered around members of the household: (1) Wives and husbands, (2) children and fathers, and (3) slaves and masters. A number of things can be observed:
  • Each section deals with a member of a household.
  • In each case Paul deals with the secondary member first and then the one in authority.
  • This Colossians 3:18-4:1 is one self-contained unit with three pairs of reciprocal exhortations.[5]
  • It is a series of admonitions addressed to six members of the household.
  • They deal with mutual or reciprocal obligations,[6] and are not one- sided.
  • Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is an parallel to these admonitions.

Wives and husbands 3:18-19

This subsection is made of two commands—one to wives, the other to the husbands.
  • To the wives: “be subject to your husbands as is fitting the Lord” (3:18). The word subject is a compound word mean to arrange under. It carries the idea of submission or subordinate, but not subjection. This has nothing to do with women being inferior to man. It is in the middle voice, indicating a voluntary act by the wives. As an imperative it could be translation “freely submit yourselves.” It is a military word where the soldiers are under order or directions of an officer.[7] To Paul, submission between husband and wife is a two-way street. The great example is in sexual relations where one is not to forbid the other, rather is to grow out of mutual consent (1 Cor. 7:3-6). Dunn makes an important observation “that wives and not women generally who are in view” in contrast to 1 Cor. 14:34.[8] However, Scripture does not warrant that women are to be subject to all men. This passage qualifies the submission in two ways:
First, it is restrictive in that it is dealing exclusively with the husband-wife relationship.
Second, although authority is the underlining principle, it is not an overbearing authority over the wife. It is a voluntary acceptance of authority on the part of the wife, not an enforced one by the husband. There is no evidence that submission to Christ is a forced submission.
The means or basis of the exercise of submission by the wife is not controlled by the husband, but the Lord. It is governed by “as is fitting in the Lord” (3:18). We should note the following observations:
First, it notes the object of appropriate submission is the Lord. The word fit or fitting is a compound word in the Greek (aneko) made up of the words up and come, therefore to come up to, that which is becoming, or what is proper. It speaks of a standard, in this case the standard behavior of the wife.
Second, it marks the manner of submission to the husband and the will of God.  Campbell clearly notes:

It is of course understood that believing wives are to arrange themselves under their husbands not to do that which is contrary to the will of God (cf. Acts 4:9).[9]

The submission to the standard of Christ outweighs the wrongful authority or commands of the husband.
Third, it speaks of the idea of duty.
 Fourth, it disarms the idea to behave in accordance with the common social order, but goes beyond that to the higher order of the Lord.

  • To the husband: “love your wives and do not be embittered against them” (3:19). This injunction is not in contrast to the above injunction, but given a counterpart with it. The implication is that submission is gained by love. There is a natural connection between the two. This injunction to the husband is twofold—positive and negative.
First, the positive: “love your wives.” The word for love is the Greek word agapao, the highest form for love. Campbell gives us five ways in which the word is used in the New Testament:[10]
1.       There is a direct correlation between love and the willingness to forgive (cf. Luke 7:47).
2.       Love causes one to give of himself for the others, even to the point of death. It is a sacrificing love (cf. John 3:16), We could call it a Calvary love.
3.       Love is not transient but permanent (cf. John 131).
4.       Love shows itself in grace and mercy (Eph. 2:4).
5.       Love disciplines and trains a person to be more like the Lord (Heb. 2:6).
He goes on to note:
As we apply these meanings to the husband’s relation to his wife we have something that is very tangible.  Husbands who love their wives will always be ready to forgive them, to give themselves for them, to be steady and unchangeable in their love, to show mercy toward them, and to help train them to be more like the Lord.[11]
Love is to be continuous and enduring in all circumstances. It is to be eternal in quality. It forgives, cleanses, and sanctifies. It is the love of Christ for His Church (Eph. 5:26-27).
Second, “do not be embittered against them (3:19). The word embittered means sour, bitter, or harsh. It is a word which reflects a sinful inclination (cf. Acts 8:23). The conjunction “and” which connects the two injunctions, is an exegetical conjunction, giving a meaningful example of what love entails. Paul instructs us “to put away” all bitterness (Eph. 4:31). Notice in the context this is put away by forgiveness (Eph. 4:32). Paul is arguing that bitterness is overcome by love and the power of the Holy Spirit, which is displayed by forgiveness. The practice of which is to begin with our relationship with our wives. There is no room for harshness in our relationship with our wife, others, and the church.

To be continued…

[2] E. Glenn Hinson, “The Christian Household in Colossians 3:18-4:1,” REVIEW AND EXPOSITORY, Electronic media, date unknown.  
[3] Dunn, NIGTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 244; THEOLOGY OF PAUL, [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 1998], 666-667; Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 294-296; Harold W. Hoehner, EPHESIANS: AN EXEGETICAL COMMENTART, [Grand Rapids MI, Baker, 2002], 720-729,
[4] Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 146.
[6] Barclay, DSB: COLOSSIANS, 192.
[7]  Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 147.
[9] Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 159.
[10]  Ibid, 160.
[11]  Ibid, 160,

Thursday, November 10, 2016



The providence of God is active (cf. Prov. 21:1). God is continually active in His creation and the affairs of men. This is to keep creation in existence and to rule and overrule within the outworking of His will in creation (Eph. 1:11). The act of fulfilling His will in the world involves preservation, concurrence, government and intervention. Now God enters the world directly in the person of His Son, the Son of Man. Geldenhuys observes: “Throughout the centuries God had so led the course of history that everything was now prepared for the coming of His Son.”[1] Paul calls this the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4). It refers to the right time. It has commonly been indicated that God used the Roman Empire to bring about the right conditions. Rome provided universal peace; a highway system that provided access to all parts of the empire; a universal language (Greek); and a widespread monotheistic message by a worldwide system of Jewish synagogues. Judaism was a protected religion. All of this prepared the way for the Son of Man to come and spread His message worldwide. Luke 2:1-20 breaks down into three subsections (1) the birth, 2:1-7; (2) the angelic visit to the Shepherds; and (3) the shepherds visit and testimony. 

There are three parts to this paragraph: the setting in history (2:1-2); the journal to Bethlehem (2:3-5) and the birth of Jesus (2:6-7). The climax of the paragraph is fulfillment of the birth of Jesus, the Son of Man. The phrase “in those days” ties chapter 2 with chapter 1 of Luke.

Luke, the historian, marks accurately the time of this event. The historical setting is revealed by three things:

  • Augustus was the Roman ruler (29 BC to 14 AD).[2] History tells us that his original name was Octavian. He was adopted by Julius Caesar, and eventually became Caesar. He began the line of Julio-Claudian line of emperors, which ended with Nero. He was a very effective ruler, uniting it and his rule brought efficiency, prosperity, great era of construction across the empire, and a strong standing army. He is credited in saving the empire by his defeat of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra thereby becoming the founder and expander of the empire in 27 BC. He was a man of power and absolute authority of a monarch, but maintained the appearance of a republican form of government.  The name Augustus means exalted one.
  • The Roman census (2:1). There is debate about when such census took place. Bock calls it “the most significant historical problem in the entire Gospel.”[3] We know that Rome declared such records started in 6 AD and be retaken every 14 years. 6 AD would be too late for these events recorded by Luke.  Some feel Luke was wrong and mixed it up with the one in 6 AD. This is highly questionable for two reasons: (1) Luke was a first century man and would know that the census in 6 AD, would not be the one taken around the birth of Jesus. (2) It is likely he would have known of an earlier one living so close historically to the event. In fact, we do know a of census in other parts of the empire during this time including the neighboring county of Egypt [see in ancient history of Tacitus]. “There are distinct traces that such a census took place,” observes Farrar.[4] Augustus is known to have instituted a census during this period. It is not unreasonable think that this decree concerning the whole world would include Palestine although the historical documentation is lost in the halls of history. Such decrees were made for taxation, oaths of allegiance, citizenship, or military conscription.
  • A more difficult part of the problem is the governship of Quirinius over Syria (2:2). We know for sure that Quirinius was governor in 6-7 AD, but that is about 10 years after the birth of Jesus. This begs the question, was Luke wrong about the timing of the census and the governship? We do know he had a long distinctive career in the service of Rome that dates back to at least 12 BC.[5] Thus, Quirinius had an active administrative role from before Jesus was born. The answer to the dilemma is not clear.  There are basically two perspective answers to this problem:[6]
    • First it is exegetical in nature. The phrase “the first census taken” has the Greek word protos primarily means first in time, chief, but can mean prior. Thus, it is possible to translate it before the census. It refers to a census earlier than the one of Quirinius, and not even related to him; although that is unlikely due to the context.
    • Second, Quirinius was either governor or acting governor during the last days of Herod. Some claim that the inscription Lalpis Tiburtinus refers to Quirinius. Although that is debated. Between 4-1 BC, he was believed to a legate and suggested that part of his responsibility was to administer the census. There is a gap in governorships during that time. However, some see him as the chosen administrator of the Census that dates back to 6 BC. This makes it possible for an earlier census conducted by Quirinius.
The census was the motivating factor for Mary and Joseph’s going to Bethlehem (2:3-5). There are three elements to the paragraph: requirement (v3), residence (v4), and registration (v5).

  • Everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city” (2:3). This statement reflects the requirement for taking the census. People were to report to their ancestral home. Rome rarely required this, but there were occasions where this happened. However, this was more custom among the Jews and was practiced since earliest time (cf. 2 Sam. 24). It was a necessity to do so, especially if one still owned land there. Geldenhuys says it may have been necessary because it was “possible that Joseph and Mary knew that according to Micah 5:1 the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and that both accordingly decided to go there.”[7] The census paved the way both by its requirement and timing for the fulfillment of God’s Word.
  • Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house of David” (2:4). This declares the following: (1) Joseph and Mary were up to this time living in Nazareth. (2) Joseph’s ancestral home was Bethlehem, the city of David. This was 90 miles from Nazareth. (3) Joseph was a member of the royal household of David. Joseph going to Bethlehem denotes that he was obedient both to the government and to the Word of God (cf. Rom. 13:1). Bethlehem means house of bread. It was in the house of bread that the bread of life was born (cf. John 6:28-29).
  • “In order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child” (2:5). It is clear that the trip was one made by Joseph and Mary. Mary came with Joseph, not because she had to register with Joseph for women were not required to register. Mary came probably came along because (1) They had been apart for some time when she went to be with Elizabeth. (2) They were married. The text has them still engaged, but most feel that it was used because Mary was still with child and the marriage had not been consummated (cf. Matthew 1;24-25). The element of her virginity is continued in this statement. (3) The event indicates that Mary was in advanced state of her pregnancy.
During this time, “While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was not room in the inn” (2:6-7). How long after their arrival is not clear but it was early since they were still staying in the stable. The birth is simple stated: “she gave birth.” Jesus’ birth was a mystery— eternal, yet born (cf.  John 8:58); a miracle—He was God/man (Phil. 2:7); and it was a marvel—He was rich but became poor (2 Cor. 8:9). Yet, Luke understates the greatness of the coming of Christ with the simple statement of fact. He is writing from the perspective of a historian, not a theologian. He gives us the historical fact. In the Greek, it is aorist infinitive communicating a single act.[8] Jesus birth was:

  • A natural and normal birth. It was the conception that was the miracle.
  • Jesus was her firstborn son. This indicate the first among others. It implies that Mary and Joseph had other children, as we are informed in other scriptures [Luke 8:19-20; Matt. 12:46-47]. Jesus was the firstborn denoting He had the rights of the firstborn, including the legal and regal rights. Jesus had to be the firstborn to inherit the Messianic rights.
  • The newborn was wrapped in swaddling clothes, which was custom in those days. These were strips of cloth used to wrap babies, especially their limbs to keep them straight so they would grow correctly.
  • It is early in the arrival to Bethlehem that the event occurred. They had no time to fin another accommodation, rather than that of the stable. For there was no room in the inn. Tradition says this was a cave (goes back to Justin Martyr, 100-160 AD; and Origen, 184-253 AD). An "inn" (Gr. katalyma) could have been a guest room in a house (cf. 22:11-12), or any place of lodging. Private residences were divided into two parts: a family residence and another section for the animals, which would have a feeding manger.[9] It is possible that it was a family inn or residence where this took place. If so, the house was overcrowded and they had to stay in the animal section or stable.
  • The innkeeper is presented in tradition as being a mean and heartless person. However, scripture does not match that portrayal.
  • Time of the year is not clear in the text. Tradition gives the date as December 25th, but that is debatable. The fact is that it is not given in Scripture.

[1]  Novel Geldenhuys, NICNT: LUKE, 99.
[2]  See S. Angus, A.M. Renwich, “Roman Empire and Christianity,” THE INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYPLOPEDIA (known as ISBE), [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 1988], 4:207-221. R.B. Edwards, “Rome,” DICTIONARY OF JESUS AND THE GOSPELS, [Downers Grove IL, InterVarsity Press, 1992], 710-715.
[3]  Darrell L Bock, BECNT: LUKE 1:1-9:50, Excursus 2, 903.
[4]  F. W. Farrar, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. LUKE, [Cambridge, University Press, 1905], 62.
[5]  Darrell L Bock, BECNT: LUKE 1:203.
[6]  Ibid, 907-909,
[7]  Norval Geldenhuys, NICNT: LUKE, 101.
[8]  R.C.H. Lenski, THE INTERPRETATION OF ST. LUKE’S GOSPEL, [Minneapolis MN, Augsburg, 1946]. 123.
[9]   Thomas L Constable, NOTES ON LUKE, [electronic media,, 2015 edition], 42.