Tools and their use in the minister's workshop

Tools for the pastor's study.

Walter F. Specht, Ph.D., is professor of New Testament, Loma Linda University.

A minister's workshop is, of course, his study—a room equipped with books, his intellectual tools. Every minister needs a den, a retreat, a room free from ordinary intrusion, where he can commune with God through prayer and the study of the Scriptures. He needs to read widely, and to keep up scholarly pursuits. Ellen White has written: "Nearly every minister in the field, had he exerted his God-given energies, might not only be proficient in reading, writing, and gram mar, but even in languages. . . . They might have done tenfold more work intelligently had they cared to become intellectual giants." 1

The minister, of course, cannot spend all his time in his study. He must not only enrich his mind and prepare sermons but must do personal work in the homes of his people. If his preaching is to meet the needs of his congregation he must find out what those needs are. The importance of this cannot be too strongly emphasized.

In his preaching he must seek to communicate the truths of revelation to the needs of the people. This means that he must use the early morning hours in becoming an expert in the Scriptures. The minister is a student, but, primarily, he is a student of the Sacred Oracles. "In real preaching, the preacher is a channel, not a source." 2 Behind the Bible is the reality of a God who spoke in past times "in fragmentary and varied fashion through the prophets. But in this final age he has spoken to us in the Son" (Heb. 1:1, 2, N.E.B.).

As a preacher the minister is to wrestle with big theological themes—with truths that matter, with truths that save. A preacher toying with minor themes has been compared to "a hippopotamus chasing a pea." 3 In order to bring the kind of messages that are needed week after week he must saturate his thinking and feeling with the Sacred Scriptures.

The most important tools in a minister's workshop are his Bible, and the books that help him to master its sacred truths. He will, of course, have his English Bible, the classic King James Version, the American Standard Version (if he can find one), the Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, and a selected number of modern-speech versions, such as The New English Bible, the Modern Language Bible, The Good News Bible, and the New International Version. Miles Coverdale, one of the fathers of our English Bible, wrote in the Preface of his version: "Sure I am that there cometh more knowledge and understandinge of the Scriptures by their sondrie translacyons than by all the gloses of our sophisticall doctours."

But the minister should not stop with these translations. The ultimate authority is in the originals. Unfortunately, few of our ministers have studied Hebrew. But those who have should consult the new edition of Kittels Hebrew Bible, called Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensis, published in 1978. Most of our ministers have had college courses in Greek, and could enrich their understanding by reading not only the NT in its original language but the Septuagint (LXX) version of the Old Testament, as well. The best Greek texts of the New Testament are the third edition published by the United Bible Societies (1975), and the latest edition of Nestle's Novum Testamenturn Graece (25th edition, 1963).

The Sentence

The basic unit of expression in a language is the sentence. A sentence, we were taught in our school days, is "a group of words expressing a complete thought or feeling." 5 It is the "verbal expression of a proposition, question, command, or request." 6 In the Bible sentences are not necessarily coterminous with verse divisions. In Paul's writings, particularly, some sentences cover a number of verses. For example, in the Greek, Romans 1:1-7 is one long sentence. In the Westcott and Hort Greek text Ephesians 3:1-12 is punctuated as one long sentence.

Sentences are of various kinds: declarative, interrogative, imperative, hortatory, or volitive. It is not always certain to which of these categories a given sentence belongs. In Greek the second person indicative and imperative plurals are exactly alike, hence in the NT the context must determine whether a declaration or a command is intended. The first verb (echete) in Pilate's command to the Jewish authorities (Matt. 27:65) could be an indicative, "you have a guard," 7 or an imperative, "take a guard." 8 The confusion between the indicative and imperative accounts for the variant translations of John 5:39: as a command, "Search the scriptures," 9 or as a declaration, "You search the scriptures." 10 Interrogative sentences often have an interrogative pronoun, adverb, or particle to indicate that a question is being asked. However, there are sentences that are clearly interrogative without the use of such words. 11 In other instances because of the absence of interrogatives there is a difference of opinion as to whether a sentence is declarative or interrogative.

It is not certain, for example, whether Jesus' sad words to the disciples in Gethsemane when He found them sleeping the third time (Matt. 26:45, Mark 14:41) should be taken as an imperative (of permission?12), "Sleep on now, and take your rest," 13 as an exclamation, "You are still sleeping and taking your rest!" 14 or as a question, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?" 15 The last of these seems to suit the words that follow, and is preferred by most recent translators. Note the rendering of the New English Bible: " 'Still sleeping? Still taking your ease? The hour has come! The Son of Man is betrayed to sinful men. Up, let us go forward; the traitor is upon us.' "

Some other passages where opinions differ on whether to take sentences as declarative, interrogative, or exclamatory are 1 Corinthians 1:13; John 14:2; Romans 8:33, 34.

The interrogative Greek particles ou (ouk, ouch) and me are often used in direct questions to indicate the kind of answer expected. The former expects an affirmative answer, 16 and the latter a negative one." Luke 6:39 (R.S.V.) illustrates both: " 'Can a blind man lead a blind man? [meti indicates that the answer expected is No]. Will they not both fall into a pit? [ouchi expects the answer Yes, as does the English translation].' " In Matthew 7:9, 10 both questions are introduced by me, expecting a negative answer, "If his son asks for a loaf, he won't give him a stone, will he? Or if he asks for a fish, he won't give him a serpent, will he?" The use of these particles are important in interpreting the questions. All of the questions in 1 Corinthians 12:29, 30, for example, are introduced by me, expecting a negative answer. Hence, the expected answer to the question "Do all speak with tongues?" as to all the other six, is No! The translators have had little difficulty in rendering questions expecting a positive answer. But questions expecting a negative answer in the standard versions are usually worded as simple questions. The minister in his workshop would do well to observe this point. When Jesus after the discourse on the bread of life asked the disciples (John 6:67), "Will ye also go away?" it is worthy of note that the question is introduced with me, "You don't wish to go away, too, do you?"

With respect to Greek sentences as a whole, one other point is worthy of consideration. Because Greek is a highly inflected language, the syntax of the words in a sentence does not depend on word order as it does in English. This means that there is far more freedom in Greek word order than in English. The word order in a sentence is at least partially determined by the emphasis the writer wishes to give to certain words. It is therefore helpful to note that a word may be put first in the sentence because the writer wishes to emphasize it. In the English translation of John 3:16 which word has the emphasis? "God"? "so"? "loved"? "gave"? "only"? or "Son"? One cannot tell from the English sentence. But in the Greek text it is clear that the emphasis is on houtos, "in this manner," "thus," "so."

Several of our standard English versions18 use italics to indicate words for which there are no exact equivalents in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, but which have been added to make the translation conform to English idiom. Unfortunately, this practice is often left unexplained in the preface or introduction. Hence occasionally one meets laypersons, or even ministers, who assume that italicized words are intended to be the most important words in the sentence. But to place emphasis on italicized words in such versions not only distorts the meaning of the sentence but can lead to ludicrous results. The classic illustration of this is in the story of the old prophet who commanded his sons, "Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him" (1 Kings 13:27).

All recent versions, except the N.A.S.B., have abandoned the practice of using italics for supplied words because it is almost impossible to carry out the practice with consistency and accuracy. 19 Dewey Beegle has concluded "that from 75 per cent to 90 per cent of the italics in the King James Version are worthless. 20 A slight rewording of many passages would obviate the need for some added words. In many other cases the supposed supplied words are an essential part of the translation implied in the original.

Determining the Meaning of Words

The first step in analyzing the meaning of a sentence is to ascertain the lexical meaning of the words it contains. Words constitute the ultimate minimal element of language which communicate meaning. Although in writing, words are made up of individual letters, these letters have no independent use except as numerals in some languages. A word is the smallest unit of language which communicates meaning, and cannot be divided into smaller independent units capable of independent use. The first step in understanding a sentence is to determine the meaning of the individual words of which it consists.

The minister who has never studied Greek and Hebrew must, of course, do his best with the English text. In reading a sentence in an English translation most of the words will have a meaning with which he is familiar. But if he is using the King James Version, the Revised Version of 1885, or the American Standard Version of 1901 he will need to make sure that he understands the obsolete words not in current usage today. 21 He will especially need to be aware of words that mean something quite different now from what they meant in 1611. To illustrate, Revelation 17:6 in the K.J.V. states that when John saw the woman sitting on the scarlet colored beast he "wondered with great admiration." In modern parlance "to admire" is to gaze on with pleasure, esteem, affection or approbation. But in 1611 admiration meant simply "astonishment, wonder, or surprise," with no connotation of approval. Conversation occurs 13 times in the K.J.V. as a translation for anastrophe. This never refers to an inter change of talk, but means behavior or mode of life. Two separate words have come down to us from Old English times as "let." One means "to allow," the other "to hinder." The second of these has died out in everyday use, but is found in the K.J.V. (2 Thess. 2:7; Rom. 1:13, cf. Isa. 43:13). "Prevent" in the K.J.V. means "to go before," "to anticipate," "to precede," rather than "to hinder" (Ps. 119:147; 1 Thess. 4:15, etc.). "Quick" has nothing to do with speed, but means living or alive (Num. 16:30; 2 Tim. 4:1, etc.). "Certify" in Galatians 1:11 means "make known." "Allow" in Luke 11:48 means "to agree with" or "approve of."

Some editions of the K.J.V. contain "A Short Glossary of Biblical Usage," based on the work of W. W. Skeat in The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, in the back of the volume that explains words that have changed in meaning or have fallen out of general use. Two helpful books dealing with obsolete and archaic words or phrases in the K.J.V. are: (1) The Bible Word Book, by Ronald Bridges and Luther A. Weigle (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1960), and (2) The Language of the King James Bible, by Melvin E. Elliott (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1967).

The minister who has a working knowledge of the Biblical languages, of course, has an advantage over the one who must work only from the English translation. At no previous time have there been such excellent tools for Bible study as today. Among the several He brew lexicons available the best are: A Hebrew and English Lexicon to the Old Testament, by Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (Oxford: Clarendon, 1955), and Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libras, by Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, 2d edition (Leiden: Brill, 1958). The former is based on Edward Robinson's English translation of the Latin Manuale of Wilhelm Gesenius, "the father of modern Hebrew lexicography." The 1955 edition was edited and corrected by G. R. Driver. The abundance of references to passages in the Hebrew Bible is a plus feature of this work. The Koehler-Baumgartner lexicon is easier to use. The third edition is in process of publication. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by William L. Holladay (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) is a shortened version of this work.

Before the effects of the discoveries of the papyri around the turn of the century and later were utilized, the best available lexicon of the New Testament in English was James Henry Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, first published in 1886, with a corrected edition in 1889. It was a translation, re vision, and expansion of C. W. L. Grimm's revision (1879) of C. G. Wilke's Clavis Novi Testamenti (1868). The study of the papyri, however, revolutionized the study of NT Greek by showing that in the main the NT was written in the vernacular Greek of common people. These discoveries were first fully exploited by Walter Bauer in his revision of Edwin Preushen's Greek- German lexicon of 1910. Bauer's augmented 4th edition of 1952 was translated and adapted into English by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich as A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957). The utilization of the new discoveries makes this the best New Testament lexicon available today. Although an abbreviated edition has been published, the more comprehensive, which includes a mine of bibliographical references, is to be preferred. A good lexicon lists the various possible meanings of a word. One must then decide which of the possible meanings best fits the context in the sentence under consideration.

The meaning of words is determined by usage. Hence, in the study of a Greek word, scholars examine its usage in all of the Greek literature. The standard lexicon covering Greek literature down to A.D. 600 is Liddell and Scott's A Greek- English Lexicon, New Edition, by Jones, with the assistance of McKenzie (Ox ford: Clarendon, 1940). After noting the meaning of a word in classical Greek, one should ask whether it has a different meaning in the later koine Greek.

To illustrate, in connection with His warning against anxiety our Lord raised the question: "and which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his helikian?" (Matt. 6:27; Luke 12:25). The older English versions, down to and including the King James Version, interpreted helikian as referring to bodily stature, in harmony with its use in classical Greek authors. Perhaps the use of cubit, a measure of length, was taken as supporting this interpretation. However, the prevailing use of the word in Hellenistic writers of the koine period was clearly in the sense of "span of life." 22 This meaning of the word is more suitable in our Lord's statement. Very few people would care to add some eighteen inches to their height, but nearly all are eager to lengthen their span of life. But instead of adding to one's life span, worry and anxiety actually shorten it. But, someone may ask, how can a cubit apply to one's length of life? Pechun (cubit) means, literally, the distance from the point of the elbow to that of the middle finger. The term in Jesus' saying is probably to be taken metaphorically for a small amount. 23 To apply a measure of length to a time of life is not as strange as it first appears, as is shown by its usage in Psalm 39: "Behold, thou hast made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in thy sight" (verse 5, R.S.V.). A number of English versions, therefore, interpret Jesus' saying as referring to one's span of life rather than to his stature. 24

Reference has already been made to the discovery of large quantities of nonliterary Greek papyri in Egypt about the turn of the century that have thrown light on many of the words of the New Testament. These documents include personal letters, tax receipts, bills of sale, marriage contracts, divorce settlements, adoptions, wills, records of legal actions, business contracts of various kinds, et cetera. 25 A few examples will show the new and vivid meaning these sources give to some New Testament words.

In carrying out the three religious exercises of fasting, praying, and alms giving, Jesus warned His followers against the ostentatious display of the "hypocrites." To do these pious acts for the purpose of gaining the praise of men means "you will have no reward from your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 6:1). The "hypocrites" who are motivated by self-praise "have their reward" (verses 2, 5, 16). The verb apechein here used was the regular technical term employed in drawing up a receipt. 26 Instead of looking forward to a heavenly possession, they have already received their reward in full. They wanted the praise of men, and they have received it. God owes them nothing in the future age. The account is closed. 27

Another term used in the business world was arrabon, a loan-word from the Semitic world used in Genesis 38:17ff. of the LXX. In the writings of Paul (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14) it is translated as "earnest" (K.J.V.) or "guarantee" (R.S.V.). Though known from classical Greek, the word is given a fresh reality by its use in the papyri as a legal and commercial technical term for a "first installment," a "down payment," that serves as a pledge of the payment of the remainder. In modern Greek the word is used for an "engagement ring." By calling the Holy Spirit the arrabon in our hearts Paul "means that the gift of the Spirit is both a fore taste and a guarantee of our inheritance, which will be bestowed later."

The term most frequently used in the New Testament for the return to earth of the glorified Christ is parousia, whose entymological meaning is presence, but, which, by extension, came to be used for the coming or arrival resulting in presence. From Hellenistic writers and papyroiogical sources we learn that the word was used from Ptolemaic times onward for the official visit of the king or officer of high rank. Special taxes were levied to pay the cost of the parousia, and to provide a costly crown for the distinguished visitor. By contrast our Lord at His parousia will present to His followers a "crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:8), "a crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4), "the crown of life" (James 1:12). 28

Thus from various sources new light has come on the meaning of the language of the Bible. There are two words in the Greek New Testament for "life": zoe and bios. Bios is used of everyday life in its functions and durations. It is also used for the means by which earthly life is sustained, specifically of property. Hence in 1 John 2:16 alazoneia tou biou, rendered "pride of life" can well mean "pride in one's possessions." 29 The N.I.V. translates the verse: "For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world."

Early in the history of the Jerusalem church the need for a more careful supervision of the business affairs of the Christian community became apparent. The apostles proposed the selection of seven men to fill this need, for they argued, " 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables'" (Acts 6:2, R.S.V., diakonein trapezais). What kind of task does the expression "to serve tables" indicate? Most readers of the story naturally regard these tables as dining tables. The Greek word trapeza can mean a dining table, but the word was also used for a moneychanger's table, and hence for a bank. In Luke 19:23 the R.S.V. translates the word as bank: "Why then did you not put my money into the bank?" 30 To serve tables could mean as Goodspeed translates, "to keep accounts," 31 or to have the general financial administration of the Christian community. 32 This seems the most likely meaning: "It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God's word in order to handle finances."

The NT lexicographer must not only study secular writings. The religious vocabulary of the New Testament was molded to a great degree by the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint. Hence the Bible student who would fully understand and appreciate the Greek of the New Testament must study the LXX. N. T. koine is not simply the everyday Greek of an Eastern people in the first Christian century; its religious vocabulary derives ultimately, not from the Greek world, but from the Hebrew world of the OT through the medium of LXX Greek.33

It is necessary therefore to consider the extent to which the meaning of Greek words has been modified by Hebrew OT ideas. Did the writers of the NT use Greek words in ways that differed from ordinary non-Biblical Greek? If so, one will need to look at the meaning of the underlying Hebrew word, and its translation, before determining its sense in the NT.

For example, what is the meaning of the word psuche, usually translated "soul" in the NT? In the LXX psuche is used to translate the Hebrew nephesh. This word too in the older English versions was translated "soul." But the English word "soul" "frequently carries with it overtones, ultimately coming from philosophical Greek (Platonism) and from Orphism and Gnosticism, which are absent in nephesh]." 34 The New Jewish Version of the Torah has abandoned "soul" as a translation for nephesh, except in passages in Deuteronomy in which "heart and soul" are used in juxtaposition (chaps. 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 12:15; 30:2, 6, 10). 35 The word stands for the life principle or living being. It has been rendered as "person" (Gen. 46:25), "creature" (Gen. 1:20), "desire" (Ex. 15:9), "feeling" (Ex. 23:9), even "corpse" (Num. 19:11). It also may represent a form of the personal pronoun (Gen. 12:13; Deut. 4:9; 12:15, et al.).

The regular translation of nephesh in the LXX is psuche. Concerning these two words Snaith has written:

The great difference between Greek ideas and Hebrew ideas is that the Greeks came to think of the psuche as being something in itself, and as continuing after death, whereas the Hebrews did not think of nephesh in this way. At death the nephesh ceased to exist, and while the Hebrews did speak of Sheol as the abode of the dead, yet there was no real life there, no nephesh, not anything, and the whole idea was negative. It follows, therefore, that since the word "soul" in the English translations stands for the Hebrew nephesh, there is not one single instance in the Old Testament where the word "soul" should be thought of as that which survives death... .

The New Testament follows the Septuagint and uses the word psuche as referring to something which is connected with this life only, and not with any life after death. ... If, therefore, the belief in the immortality of the human soul is held to be a Christian doctrine, then it should be realized that it is not a biblical doctrine. 36

In many passages in the New Testament it is most probable that "peace" (eirene) is to be interpreted in the Semitic sense of shalom, a comprehensive term for total well-being, including health and prosperity. Certainly when Jesus said to individuals He had helped, "Go in peace'' 37 He had this Semitic meaning in mind. The same is true of the formula of greeting, "Peace be unto you." 38 In his letters Paul combines the Greek epistolary greeting, chairein, in a Christianized form, charts, "grace," with the Hebrew salutation "peace" (shalom).

Other Greek words whose meaning was modified by their use in the LXX are: ekklesia, "church," nomos, "law," parabole, "parable," christos, "anointed one," to name but a few. Some of these words as the Christians used them must have sounded a bit strange to the native Greeks who had never read the Old Testament.

Concordances and Their Use

The ultimate meaning of a word in a passage of Scripture must be determined by its usage by a particular writer as compared with its usage in all the Bible. For this reason a concordance is a basic tool for the study of the meaning of words, for it enables one to trace the usage of a word in all of Holy Writ.

A concordance is an alphabetical index of the words in the Bible with citations of the individual passages in which they occur. Several concordances to the English Bible have been published, among which Cruden's is well known. But the two best and most complete for the King James Bible are Robert Young's Analytical Concordance, 22d American Edition (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1955), and James Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (New York & Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963).

The distinctive features of Young's are:

1. The arrangement of the occurrence of each English word under its Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek original.

2. "An Index-Lexicon to the Old Testament," indicating the various ways (and the number of times for each) in which the Hebrew and Aramaic words of the Old Testament are translated.

3. "An Index-Lexicon to the New Testament," showing the various ways (and the number of times for each) in which the Greek words in the New Testament are translated.

The 1955 edition also contains a supplement by William F. Albright on "Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands."

Strong's is unexcelled for its completeness—every word in the K.J.V. is listed. Although the English words are not arranged according to the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek originals, each has a code number referring to the "Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary" for Old Testament words, or the "Greek Dictionary" for New Testament words. It also has a Comparative Concordance, containing an index of the words that differ in the Revised Version and the American Standard Version from those in the King James Version.

Five years after the publication of the Revised Standard Version John W. Ellison, by the use of the Univac I computer at the offices of Remington Rand, Inc., was able to produce Nelson's Complete Concordance of the Revised Standard Version (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1957). Although this concordance was exhaustive it was not analytical, i.e., it did not arrange the English words under the original they translated.

For those who can work directly with the Hebrew Bible and concordance there is the Israeli reprint of Salomon Mandetkern's Veteris Testament! Concordantiae Hebraicae Atque Chaldaicae, 3d edition (Tel Aviv: Schocken, 1967). For the Greek Old Testament, Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath's A Concordance to the Septuagint, 2 vols. (Graz: Akademische Druck-und Verlagsanstalt) is still indispensable. For the New Testament there is W. F. Moulton and Alfred Geden's A Concordance to the Greek Testament, 3d edition (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1957).

We are to study the Bible for ourselves. "All need to be independent Bible students." 39 "With divine help we are to form our opinions for ourselves as we are to answer for ourselves before God." 40 The concordance is a reference tool that can liberate one from bondage to commentaries, and enable him to become an independent Bible student. A humble Baptist farmer, William Miller, became a profound Bible student by the use of an English Bible and Cruden's Concordance.

We have already mentioned its use as an important tool in the study of the meaning of important words. An analytical concordance such as Young's makes it possible for one who lacks a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek to examine to some extent the original words behind a translation. For example, in studying the subject of prayer, he can discover that the verb "pray" is used to translate fourteen different words in the original seven of them Hebrew, two Aramaic, and five Greek—each with its own connotation.

The most obvious use of a concordance is in locating passages one wishes to use by recalling a significant word contained in it. It also serves in finding parallel passages that may throw light on a passage being studied. By the use of a concordance one can bring together the total teaching of the Bible on a given topic, such as angels, repentance, resurrection, baptism, the Holy Spirit, or the Second Advent. It can enable one to collect all the passages dealing with the life and character of a Biblical personality. Likewise the significance of geographic places in redemptive history can be investigated. These are some of the uses one has for a concordance.

Theological Dictionaries

In addition to lexicons and concordances there also are several theological dictionaries for the study of Biblical words. The most comprehensive for the New Testament is the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (9 vols.), edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1974). An Index Volume (vol. 10 of the set) compiled by Ronald Pitkin was published in 1976. This expensive set of volumes is a mine of information for those who have a working knowledge of Greek. There is also The New International Dictionary of Theology, edited by Colin Brown, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976-), which is easier for English students to use. For the Old Testament the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, edited by Botterweck and Ringgren (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974-), is appearing in English as a translation from the German. It is useful to those who have a knowledge of Hebrew. A knowledge of the Bible languages is not required for the use of A Theological Word Book of the Bible, edited by Alan Richardson (New York: Macmillan, 1951), or J. J. von Allmen's A Companion to the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958).

The Syntax of the Sentence

But a knowledge of the meaning of the words is but the first step in analyzing the thought of a sentence. One must also study the relationship of the words to one another in the sentence. The branch of grammar which concerns itself with the way words are put together to form sentences is known as syntax.

Every complete sentence has two members: a subject and a predicate. 41 These two members act as foci around which the sentence as an ellipse revolves. 42 Hence it is necessary to identify the subject and its modifiers and the predicate and its modifiers. There is a law of concord between the subject and the predicate: "A finite verb agrees with its subject in number and in person." 43 All who have studied Greek, however, are aware that in that language a neuter plural subject may take a singular verb. 44 This fact may have a bearing on interpretation. In Revelation 16:16, for ex ample, the K.J.V. reads: "And he [God] gathered them [the kings of the earth] together into a place called in the He brew tongue Armageddon." Verses 13 and 14, however, indicate that it is the three unclean spirits issuing from the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet that are engaged in gathering the whole world to the battle of the great day of God. Verse 15 is in the nature of a parenthetical warning. No subject is expressed in the sentence of verse 16, but it is evidently carried on from verse 14. That subject is "spirits" (pneumata, neuter plural) though the verb "gathered" is singular. Hence modern versions uniformly translate, "they gathered them," rather than, "He gathered them." 45

In a highly inflected language like Greek the nouns, pronouns, and adjectives have case endings, which express the relations of these words to one another and to other parts of the sentence. In English we express these relations by the position of words in the sentence and by the use of prepositions. The subject and its modifiers must, of course, be in the nominative case. In some sentences where the grammar may be ambiguous in English a study of the Greek brings clarity and certainty.

At the Last Supper our Lord gave His disciples the cup of wine with the command, "Drink ye all of it" (Matt. 26:27). In this rendering it is not possible to tell whether "all" modifies "ye" or "it." Were they commanded to drink all the wine? Or, did Jesus enjoin all the disciples to drink from the cup? There is no ambiguity in the Greek, in which the word for "all," pantes (a nominative masculine plural), modifies the subject "ye," not expressed, but clearly contained in the second-person plural of the verb. More recent English versions have removed the ambiguity by such renderings as, "Drink ye from it, all of you."

The modifiers of the subject may include the article, another substantive (usually in the genitive case), an adjective, or even a prepositional phrase. Obviously it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the syntax of all of these. Two are worthy of brief notice, however, because of their vital bearing on exegesis, viz., the article and the genitive case.

There are passages where the use or non-use of the article has a definite bearing on exegesis. It is well known that the translators of the K.J.V. were loose and inaccurate in their handling of the article. (See the illustrations in the appendix.) They were evidently influenced by the Vulgate in Latin, which has no article, definite or indefinite.46 At the same time it must be recognized that it is difficult to translate the exact shade of meaning implied by the use or non-use of the definite article.

When a Greek writer does not use the article he may wish to emphasize the nature or quality of the person or thing about which he is writing. Many years ago Moulton asserted: "For exegesis, there are few of the finer points of Greek which need more constant attention than this omission of the article when the writer would lay stress on the quality or character of the object." 47 Thus in John 6:68 one misses the point by translating, "Thou hast the words of eternal life." Just, "words of eternal life," or "words characterized by eternal life," would be better. Similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 5:5 the emphasis is not on "the children of light," or "the children of day." They are "light-kind of children" and "day-kind of children." They are people who belong to the light and to the day.

A. T. Robertson argued convincingly that when two substantives in the same case are connected by kai ("and"), the first being articular, and the second an arthrous, the two are in apposition.48 Thus, in the common idiom, "the God and Father," 49 or "the Lord and Father," 50 the two epithets refer to one person. The same is true of the parallel idiom, "the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (R.S.V.). 51 The same idiom is found in 2 Peter 1:1, "Our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (R.S.V.). The K.J.V., however, translates the latter as "God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," and the A.S.V. has "God and the Saviour Jesus Christ," both making the reference to two persons. Likewise in Titus 2:13 the K.J.V. and the A.S.V. both have "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Robertson holds that in both these passages grammar demands that the reference be to one person. 52 Nigel Turner is not sure that the grammar is that decisive at this period of Greek. 53 However, besides the grammatical considerations, he notes that "God and Saviour" was in use in this period as applied to the Roman emperors. "What more natural than that Christians should have appropriated it on behalf of their own Lord Jesus, their only potentate, their lord of lords, their king of kings?" 54

The Genitive

For exegesis the genitive relation ex pressed by the genitive case in Greek and the construct state in Hebrew is of prime importance. It covers a wide range of relationships beyond the English possessive. A noun in the genitive in Greek, or in the construct state in Hebrew, may be used as an attributive, appositive, epexegetic, partitive, subjective, objective, et cetera, of the noun that it modifies. Perhaps the clearest and most useful categories are the two distinguished as "subjective" and "objective." 55 When Paul writes, "the love of Christ controls us" (2 Cor. 5:14, R.S.V.) does he mean Christ's love for us (subjective), or, our love for Christ (objective)? The distinction between the two is not made on the basis of grammatical form, but is a matter of interpretation based on the context and the general teaching of the Scriptures. In some instances either interpretation makes sense, and the author may have had both in mind as in the example just cited. 56 In 1 John 4:9, however, the context indicates that in the phrase "the love of God," the genitive, "of God," is to be taken as a subjective, i.e., the love God exercises for human beings. On the other hand, in 1 John 5:3, "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (R.S.V.), the identical phrase, "the love of God," refers to man's love for God (objective genitive). The context demands that the opening words of the Apocalypse, "The revelation of Jesus Christ," be interpreted as, "The revelation given by Jesus Christ" (subjective). Is the phrase, "the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 1:2, 9; 12:17; 19:10; 20:4) to be taken as a subjective genitive, the testimony Christ Himself bears, or as an objective genitive, the testimony to Jesus borne by His followers? Are some occurrences of the phrase in the Apocalypse to be interpreted as subjective genitives, and others as objective genitives?

How should translators of the Bible handle the genitive constructions? Should they seek to determine the kind of genitive used in a given passage, and translate it accordingly, or should they simply render it by the prepositional phrase using "of" regardless of the con text? In general formal versions, such as the K.J.V., R.V., A.S.V., R.S.V., and N.A.S.B., have rendered genitives by a prepositional phrase with "of." Versions following the method of "dynamic equivalence" have frequently tended to interpret genitives. Neither procedure is entirely satisfactory in every instance. The average reader is unaware of the wide range of meanings the genitive construction expresses, and is therefore not prepared to make an intelligent judgment regarding a particular genitive. The translators are better equipped to make such decisions. On the other hand translators are human and have fallible judgments, and may interpret a given genitive incorrectly.

But to translate some genitives by a prepositional phrase introduced by "of" may in a number of instances lead the reader to make a wrong interpretation. It is probably for this reason that even the formal translations mentioned above have interpreted a number as objective genitives. In Obadiah 10, to give an OT example, "for the violence of your brother" is rendered in the K.J.V. as, "For thy violence against thy brother." According to Mark 3:14, 15, Jesus gave the disciples, to give a literal rendering, "authority of the unclean spirits" (cf. Matt. 10:1). The formal versions interpret this correctly as "authority over unclean spirits." If one were to translate the genitive of Luke 6:12 by an "of" phrase the rendering would read, "he spent the whole night in the prayer of God." The formal versions give it as "prayer to God." Again, according to Mark 11:22, Jesus admonished the disciples to "Have faith of God," which the formal versions render, "Have faith in God." Perhaps the most striking example of all is the translation of Matthew 12:31, "the blasphemy of the Spirit will not be forgiven," as "the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven" (R.S.V.). According to John 18:29, Pilate asks the Jews, "What accusation of this man do you bring?" meaning, of course, "What accusation against this man do you bring?" (See Matt. 1:11, 12; John 17:2; Acts 4:9; Heb. 9:8; 10:19 for other examples where the K.J.V. interprets.)

The genitive of apposition is another category important for interpretation:

From an exegetical point of view, especial attention is to be paid to the "epexigetic" genitive or genitive of ap position (i.e., in which the substantive added to the genitive is in reality an ap position denoting the same person or thing as the substantive to which the genitive is attached, as in the English usage "city of Rome").57

Thus, in Matthew 12:39 and Luke 11:29 "the sign of Jonah" does not refer to a sign given by Jonah, or to Jonah, but the sign which was Jonah. "The temple of his body" in John 2:21 means the temple which was his body. In Acts 2:38 the "gift of the. Holy Ghost" is not a gift given by the Spirit, but the gift which is the Spirit Himself. "The crown of life" in Rev. 2:10 is to be interpreted as justification consisting in life. "The earnest of the Spirit" (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5 cf. Eph. 1:13, 14) means the earnest or guarantee which is the Spirit. 58

The Tenses

The inflection of the verb indicates its tense, voice, mode, person, and number. The most important of these is the tense. Bible translators have difficulty in rendering the tenses of the original languages of the Bible, because they do not correspond to those in English. In Hebrew the prominent idea in the tenses is not time, but the state of the action, whether completed, incomplete, or continuous. The time of the action must be determined from the context. The primary aspect of Greek tenses is also not time, but kind of action (aktionsart). Three kinds of action are distinguished: (1) punctiliar (momentary), (2) linear (durative or iterative), and (3) perfective (complete).

"Understanding of Greek tenses," writes Nigel Turner, "is a key to many difficulties in New Testament exegesis." 59 In his first Epistle the apostle John boldly asserts: "No one who abides in him [Christ] sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:6, R.S.V.); "He who commits sin is of the devil" (verse 8); "No one born of God commits sin; for God's [Greek his] nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God" (verse 9). These statements seem to contradict 1 John 2:1, ". . . but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." In this pas sage, "does sin" is a translation of hamartete, the second aorist tense of hamartano. 60 The aorist tense would mean "to commit an act of sin." In 1 John 3:6, 8, 9, however, the present tense is used suggesting continuous action, "to go on sinning" or "to live a sinful life." John does not mean that a child of God cannot commit a single act of sin, but he does assert that he cannot go on living a life of sin. 61 He cannot make a practice of sinning or live in sin. Several recent versions have sought to set forth this idea in the translation of 1 John 3:9. 62

The perfect tense in Greek "denotes that the action of the verb is regarded as complete at the time of speaking, and that its results are regarded as still existing." 63 "The reference of the tense is thus double; it implies a past action and affirms an existing result." 64 It is well to keep these definitions in mind when reading perfect tenses in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (R.S.V.) the apostle Paul emphasizes the central historical truths that stand at the center of the Christian faith: Christ's death, His burial, His resurrection, and His appearance to early Christian witnesses. "Christ died [apethanen, aorist tense] for our sins." "He was buried [etaphe, aorist passive]." "He was raised [egegertai, perfect passive]." "He appeared [ophthe, aorist passive]." Why does the apostle insert a perfect tense in the midst of his recital of historical events? Evidently he wants to emphasize the truth that our Lord not only was raised from the dead but that the results of that act still remain. He is still our risen Lord.

The evidence that Jesus was not a crucified malefactor, but a living and exalted Lord, changed Paul from a persecutor of the church to a bold preacher of the faith he formerly tried to destroy. The risen Christ appeared to him on the Damascus road and called him to be a witness for Christ to all men of what he had seen and heard (Acts 22:15). Hence he could later assert his apostolic authority: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1, R.S.V.). It is worthy of note that in both of these passages his vision of Jesus is pictured by the use of the perfect tense, hedraka. That vision had permanent results for him. Not only had he seen Jesus but his apostleship testified to the abiding effect that experience had upon him.

Whether one works from the original languages or from an English version, it is important to identify correctly the various parts of speech and their function. A wrong interpretation of a passage may be due to a failure in this regard.

For example, there seems to be a common misunderstanding of the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:27: "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." Many sincere church members have absented themselves from the Lord's Supper because of a feeling of their unworthiness. But this statement says nothing about the worthiness or unworthiness of the communicant. No one could ever partake if the invitation were put on that basis. "Unworthily" (anaxios) is clearly an adverb and has to do with the unworthy manner in which the more prosperous members of the Christian community in Corinth were partaking of the sacred meal. The fact that it is an uncommon adverb may have contributed to the misunderstanding.

What is at issue here is not the moral quality of the communicants, but their attitude, which was contrary to the gospel. 65 What is needed for many of our people is the urging of the old Scottish pastor, "Take it, it's for sinners!"

Grammatical Tools

For the study of the syntax of Biblical passages an abundance of grammatical tools is available. The standard systematic Hebrew grammar is A. E. Cowley's English rendering of E. Kautzsch, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910). There are several works dealing exclusively with He brew syntax, such as R. J. Williams', An Outline of Hebrew Syntax (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967).

The two most comprehensive works of recent origin dealing with New Testament Greek are Robert Funk's English edition of Blass-Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), and the three volumes of Moulton's Grammar of New Testament Greek, the third of which, produced by Nigel Turner, deals with Greek syntax (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1963). A. T. Robertson's A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 5th ed. (New York: Harper's, 1923), is still of great value. Several beginning and intermediate grammars have been built on these three major works.

Among shorter grammars with fresh insights one should mention Maximilian Zerwick's Biblical Greek, English Edition by Joseph Smith (Rome: Biblical Pontifical Institute, 1963), and C. F. D. Moule's An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: University Press, 1953). A brief summary is given in A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek, by H. P. V. Nunn (Cambridge: Cam bridge University Press, 1951).

The Context

After the word and the sentence the next larger unit of a piece of writing is the paragraph. "A sentence is a group of words dealing with a single thought; a paragraph is a group of sentences dealing with a group of related thoughts." 66 "Related" is an important word in this definition, for the paragraph consists of a collection of sentences that have a unity because they develop a single topic. This is an important matter to keep in mind in the study of the Bible.

The reader of the K.J.V., or the recent N.A.S.B., is familiar with the way in which the text is chopped up into verses, as though they constituted independent units of thought. The present verse divisions in our New Testament were made in the sixteenth century in a Latin NT by Robert Stephanus, who was planning a concordance. They first appeared in English in the Geneva Bible of 1560. Fifty years later the classic King James Version was arranged according to these divisions. The verse numbers are a use ful means of reference, but the verses must not be regarded as separate entities of thought unrelated to precedent or subsequent statements. To help one see this point it is well to use a version in which the text is arranged in paragraphs.

This brings us to a consideration of the import of the context of a statement of Scripture. By the context we mean the written environment of the statement—that which precedes and that which follows. The exegesis of a sentence of Scripture must be in harmony with the context in which it is found. The immediate context is the paragraph. Because a paragraph deals with a single topic, a sentence within it must be understood in the light of that topic.

When one reads 1 Corinthians 2:9 by itself he will probably think of the future kingdom of glory, which God offers the redeemed: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." But when one considers the paragraph (verses 6-13) in which the verse is found, a different understanding emerges. The passage is not discussing the future in heritance of the saints, but the present mysteries that God reveals to those who love Him. No human eye has seen or ear heard, or heart conceived the wisdom of God's truth, but God has made it known through the Spirit. "For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (verse 10).

One needs to observe the transitional words and phrases as the writer, in this case Paul, moves from one thought to another in developing the topic of the paragraph. Note in the paragraph the following: "Howbeit," "yet," "but," "for," "even so," "now," "also." One must interpret verse 9 as a part of the argument or train of thought that is being presented. This is especially important in such carefully-thought-out documents as Paul's letters.

In some portions of Scripture, such as the Proverbs, the context may not be of great help in exegesis. Much of the material in Mark consists of short, compact units. In such cases the context beyond the immediate pericope may contribute little to the understanding of a sentence, but usually the old dictum still holds, "A text apart from its context, is a pretext."

The larger context would include the entire book in which a statement occurs. It is helpful to consider the bearing of the author's ways of thinking and characteristic style on a sentence being studied. What does the author say about the thought of the sentence elsewhere?

Ultimately, the context of a statement of Scripture includes the entire Bible.

One needs to consider it in the light of other passages bearing on the same subject. The context is the entire canon. The Westminster Confession of Faith eloquently sets forth this principle:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.67 

When we say that Scripture interprets Scripture we mean that, as Ramm has pointed out:

The whole of Scripture interprets the part of Scripture and thus no part of Scripture can be so interpreted as to deform the teaching of the whole Scripture.

Thus incidental references cannot be made pillars of truth. 68

He also refers to the "hermeneutical circle":

The whole of Scripture can be learned only by interpreting it part by part. . . . Yet no part can stand in isolation from the whole. So the interpreter must go the circle from part to whole and whole to part.69

Not many tools outside the Bible itself can be suggested for the study of con textual relationships. The contents of the book in which the passage occurs must be thoroughly mastered. In locating pas sages in other parts of Scripture marginal references given in some Bibles are helpful.

The Historical and Geographic Setting

John Wycliffe, the late fourteenth-century Reformer, set forth the following sound principles for Biblical interpretation: "It shall greatly help ye to understand Scripture, if thou mark, not only what is spoken or wrytten, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth." 70 The emphasis he gives to the historical and geographic setting of a document is recognized by nearly all Bible students as valid.

It is helpful to reconstruct as far as one can the authorship, destination, time, and circumstances that lie behind a piece of writing. Hence, we need to ask who wrote it? to whom? where? when? why? It is helpful also to become familiar with the home environment of the author and those for whom he is writing. The document was written to people living in a specific geographic environment with their own customs and ways of thinking. The figures of speech such as metaphors and similes were also used to communicate to a specific environment.

The type (genre) of literature used should also be considered. Is the writing poetry or prose? Does it contain an ex tended metaphor (allegory) or an ex tended simile (parable)? If the passage is poetry it must be interpreted in the light of the characteristics of Semitic poetry. The genre must therefore be carefully considered.

The way of life of ancient peoples—their culture—is reflected in the Bible. "An understanding of the customs of those who lived in Bible times, of the location and time of events, is practical knowledge." 71 The topography and climate of Palestine is part of the back ground of the Bible. How can one understand the spiritual application of the expression "the early and latter rain" without some knowledge of the climate of Palestine, where the early (former) or autumn rain72 began the rainy season in late October or November, and the latter or spring73 rain concluded it in March or April.

The seven main agricultural crops of Palestine were wheat, barley, olives, pomegranates, grapes, figs, and dates. It is helpful to know how grain fields were sown, how the plowing was done after the sowing, how the grain was cut with a sickle, 74 how the threshing was done on the threshing floor, and the grain winnowed. 75 The method of grinding flour and making bread is also of interest. It is likewise informative to know about ancient viticulture, and the gathering of grapes into wine vats, where the grape juice was pressed out by being trampled with the bare feet.

The Bible becomes more real and more meaningful if one understands the weights and measures, the kinds of money employed, and the methods of reckoning time. In preparation for the Second Advent our Lord admonished, "Let your loins be girded" (Luke 12:35). To understand and appreciate what this means one must know something of the dress of New Testament times in Pales tine. To be girded means to be ready for immediate and energetic action. But what does it mean to "gird up the loins of your mind" (1 Peter 1:13)? What was sackcloth,76 and what significance did the wearing of it have?

The psychology of people in Bible times differs quite radically from ours. The bowels were regarded by them as the seat of strong emotions, such as love and compassion. Hence, when Joseph saw his full brother Benjamin in the land of Egypt, we are told, "his bowels did yearn upon his brother" (Gen. 43:30). The apostle Paul urged Philemon, "Refresh my bowels in the Lord" (Philemon 20). In these and similar instances we would today use the term "heart." The same applies to the word "reins," an antiquated word for kidneys, which were regarded as the seat of affection. In one of Jeremiah's "confessions" he says to God of the wicked, "thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins" (Jer. 12:2). Likewise, the wise man expresses his joy at having a wise son, "My reins shall rejoice, even mine" (Prov. 23:15). Even the liver is men tioned at least once as the equivalent of our heart: "My liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people" (Lam. 2:11).

For an understanding of the geo graphical and historical backgrounds of Bible times and the culture and customs of its people a host of valuable tools is available:

1. Geographies and Atlases. The Israeli archeologist, Yohanan Aharoni, has produced The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography (Philadelphia: West minster, 1967). Another study of the land of Palestine is D. Baly's Geography of the Bible: A Study in Historical Geography (New York: Harper & Row, 1957). Several good atlases are available, including The Westminster Historical Atlas, by G. E. Wright and F. V. Filson (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956), Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah's The Macmillan Bible Atlas (New York: Macmillan, 1968), and L. H. Grollenberg's Atlas of the Bible (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1956).

2. Archeology. Here only a few of the numerous books available can be listed. 77 The standard reference work covering one hundred years of archeological excavations is the Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 4 vols., edited by Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1975). The bearing of archeological discoveries on Biblical passages is presented from a liberal point of view by Gaalyah Cornfield and D. N. Freedman's Archaeology of the Bible: Book by Book (New York: Harper & Row, 1976). W. F. Albright's, The Archaeology of Palestine (Baltimore: Penguin, 1961) is an excellent paperback bargain. Although limited in scope, Jack Finegan's The Archaeology of the New Testament (Princeton: Princeton ' University Press, 1969) is the best for the NT. To keep up on outstanding discoveries, the minister may wish to subscribe to one or both of the following journals: The Biblical Archaeologist edited by David Noel Freedman (published by the American Schools of Oriental Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts), and The Biblical Archaeology Review, edited by Hershel Shanks (published by the Biblical Archaeology Society, Washington, D.C.).

3. Bible Histories. W. W. Hallo and W. K. Simpson have produced an excellent outline history of the ancient Near East as a background for Old Testament study, entitled The Ancient Near East: A History (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971). John Bright's A History of Israel, 2d ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972), is useful, but must be used critically. For the institutions and culture of Israel, Roland De Vaux has produced the excellent work Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, 2 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962).

The political, economic, social, and religious background of New Testament times is highlighted by the documents collected by C. K. Barrett in New Testament Background: Selected Documents (New York: Harper & Row, 1956). For the history of the period we should also mention F. V. Filson's New Testament History: The Story of the Emerging Church (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1964), F. F. Bruce's New Testament History (London: Thomas Nelson, 1969), and George B. Caird's The Apostolic Age, Studies in Theology (Naperville, 111.: Allenson, 1955).

4. Introductions. For the Old Testament one of the outstanding critical introductions is O. Eissfeldt's The Old Testament: An Introduction (New York: Harper & Row, 1965). The conservative point of view is presented in R. K. Harrison's Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), and G. L. Archer, Jr.'s, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 2d ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1974). For the New Testament the moderately critical position is presented by P. Feine and J. Behm's Introduction to the New Testament, 14th ed., by W. G. Kiimmel (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966). The conservative viewpoint is set forth in Donald Guthrie's New Testament Introduction (Chicago: Tyndale, 1961-65) and Barker-Lane-Michaels' The New Testament Speaks (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).

Bible Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

The most comprehensive recent works in this area are The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols., edited by George A. Buttrick (New York: Abingdon, 1962), brought up to date by the Supplementary Volume, edited by Keith Crim (1976), representing the critical point of view, and The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 vols., edited by Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), written from a conservative perspective. Among the several one-volume dictionaries, the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, by Siegfried H. Horn (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1960), is one of the best. A revised edition was published in 1979.

Bible Commentaries

After the minister, by the use of appropriate tools, has done his own basic exegetical work on a passage, he should compare his results with commentaries. Some commentaries are strictly exegetical, others are largely homiletical, while others combine the two approaches. Commentaries of the exegetical type should be consulted first, and those based on the original languages should be preferred. The Bible student wants to know, first of all, what a passage meant when it was written to its original readers. Later he will seek to determine what it means today, and how its message applies to present-day human beings.

It is assumed that every minister has access to The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. It is expected also that he owns the basic volumes of the Ellen G. White writings, such as the Conflict of the Ages Series, Christ's Object Lessons, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, to mention but a few. The Ellen White writings should not be used as a substitute for independent Bible study, but, in view of their authority as a special message from God, they will serve as a check on one's interpretation and a stimulus to spiritual understanding. Even though there may not be a detailed verse-by-verse exposition, one will find a vivid reconstruction of the historical background of passages, a highlighting of the message they contain for the times in which they were written, and an interpretation and application of their meaning for today.

In addition to the volumes in the Conflict of the Ages Series, which cover the whole of Biblical history, The SDA Bible Commentary has included references to other Ellen White books at the end of the comments on each chapter. The first volume of the Comprehensive Index contains a "Scripture Index," listing the whereabouts of passages that are quoted, explained, or alluded to in Mrs. White's writings. At the back of each volume of the commentary there are "Ellen G. White Comments" arranged by chapter and verse from unpublished manuscripts and articles from various journals. In 1957 these were published separately as Vol. 7-A of the Commentary set. No Adventist minister can afford to ignore these helps.

At the 1974 Bible conferences in North America, Don Neufeld made the following significant suggestions regarding the use of Ellen White's writings:

It is important when using her writings as a too! to note carefully in any given instance in what way she is using Scripture. Is she giving an exegesis? Is she drawing lessons for our own time? Is she making an incidental allusion? Is she, using literary license, merely borrowing words without reference to their meaning in their context?78

In using Bible commentaries one should be aware of the theological persuasion of the author or authors. Does the commentary represent a radically critical position, or an extremely rightwing conservative one? One should also note the date when it was produced. The understanding of Bible passages has been greatly enhanced by archeological discoveries, manuscript discoveries, comparative semitics, et cetera. This does not mean one should not read older commentaries, but they will need to be checked. All conclusions of commentators need to be carefully examined and weighed.

A large number of commentary series have been published. It is well known that the quality of individual commentaries within a series varies widely. Hence one may wish to purchase only the best within a series. From the conservative, evangelical point of view one of the best series today is the New International Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans). The New Testament part of this series is nearing completion, and some of the earlier volumes in it are being rewritten. Only a few volumes of the Old Testament part of the series have appeared. These include The Book of Isaiah (3 vols.) by E. J. Young, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by L. C. Allen, and the Book of Deuteronomy by P. C. Craigie. Another briefer series by conservatives is the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963-1969), and the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Chicago: Intervarsity, 1964- ). Another is The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, 6 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964- 1966). The commentaries in the Old Testament Library Series are written by internationally known scholars of varying degrees of liberalism. For critical and philological study, several volumes of The International Critical Commentary are still unsurpassed. These are only a small sample of the wealth of commentaries available.

Interpreting Honestly

In all his study and use of Scripture, the minister is under solemn obligation to deal honestly with the Sacred Scriptures. He would do well to follow Paul's example, who declared: "I disown dis graceful, underhanded ways, I refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's message. It is by the open statement of the truth that I would commend myself to every human conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2, Goodspeed). Ellen G. White warned:

We must be careful lest we misinterpret the Scriptures. . . . Do not overstrain the meaning of sentences in the Bible in an effort to bring forth something odd in order to please the fancy. Take the Scriptures as they read.79

Let us be careful to use the Scriptures honestly. Do not twist them even to de fend what you regard as the truth. No ultimate good can come to the Advent message by using unsound methods in advocating it.

There has never been a time earlier in history when the Bible student had available such marvelous tools to assist him in delving into the teachings of Scripture. Let us use them carefully, relying on the Spirit to guide us in our search for truth. Let us not neglect the spiritual insights available through the writings of the messenger of God sent to enlighten His people in these last days of human history.


1Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 194.

2 Halford E. Luccock, In the Minister's Workshop, p. 11.

3 Ibid., p. 42.

4 For an account of the more important recent versions and an attempted evaluation see Kubo and Specht, So Many Versions, and their pamphlet, Which Version Today?

5 Norman Foerster and J. M. Steadman, Jr., Writing and Thinking, p. 6.

6 The Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. IX, p. 468.

7 K.J.V., A.S.V., N.A.S.B., Weymouth, Williams.

8 Goodspeed, T.E.V

9 K.J.V.

10 R.S.V. and most modern interpreters.

11 See Matt. 13:28, 51; Luke 13:2; John 7:23; 13:6; Acts 2J:37, etc. See A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 1175.

12 H. E. Dana, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 176.

13 K.J.V., R.V., A.S.V., 20th Century, Weymouth, Montgomery, Knox.

14 Jerusalem Bible, see note.

15 R.S.V., N.A.S.B., M.L.B., N.E.B., Goodspeed, Moffatt, Phillips, Norlie, Beck, Barclay, Amplified, N.I.V.

16 Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon, pp. 594f.; Blass-Debrunner-Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, Par. 427.2.

17 Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, op. cit., p. 519; Blass-Debrunner-Funk, op. cit.

18 This practice began with the Geneva Bible and is found in the K.J.V., R.V., A.S.V., and N.A.S.B.

19 See the detailed discussion in Walter F. Specht, "The Use of Italics in English Versions of the New Testament," Andrews University Seminary Studies, Vol. VI (1968), No. 1, pp. 88-109.

20 Dewey M. Beegle, God's Word Into English, p. 115.

21 See Bible Words That Have Changed in Meaning, Luther A. Weigle, ed.. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1955.

22 Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 279; Bruce M. Metzger, "The Language of the New Testament," Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VII, p. 54.

23 Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 1402.

24 R.V. (margin), A.S.V., R.S.V., N.A.S.B., M.L.B., Goodspeed, N.I.V., 20th Century, Jerusalem, T.L.B., T.E.V.

25 The bearing of these on NT lexicography is available in The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated From the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources, by James Hope Moulton and George Milligan.

26 Adolf Deissmann, Light From the Ancient East, pp. ll cf. George Miliigan, Here and There
Among the Papyri, pp. 68f.

27 J. C. Fenton, The Gospel of St. Matthew, p. 98; Hermann Hanse, in TDNT, Vol. II, p. 828.

28 Deissmann, op. cit., pp. 368ff.

29 Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, op. cit., pp. 34, 141.

30 See Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, Lexicon. Trapezites was the usual word for banker.

31 Frederick W. Danker, Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study, p. 134.

32 G. H. C. Macgregor, in IB, Vol. IX, p. 89; Kirsopp Lake and Henry J. Cadbury in The Beginnings of Christianity, Vol. IV, p. 64; F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 128.

33 J. W. Wevers, "Septuagint," IDE, R-Z, p. 277.

34 N, W. Porteous, "Soul," IDE, R-Z, p. 428.

35 Harry M. Orlinsky, Notes on the New Translation of the Torah, pp. 26, 59, 60, 86, 105.

36 Norman H. Snaith, "The Language of the Old Testament," IB, Vol. I, p. 230.

37 Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; 8:48; cf. James 2:16.

38 Luke 24:36; John 20:19, 21, 26. Hebrew, Shalom lakem.

39 Ellen G. White, Medical Ministry, p. 102.

40 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 598.

41 Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, p. 255.

42 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 396,

43 Smyth, op. cit., p. 258.

44 Blass-Debrunner-Funk, op. cit., par. 133. See for example Matt. 10:2.

45 Compare Ps. 2.

46 See A. T. Robertson, Grammar, p. 756.

47 James Hope Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. I, Prolegomena, p. 83.

48 A. T. Robertson, Grammar, pp. 7851; The Minister and His Greek Testament, pp. 61-68.

49 Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 15:24; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 5:20; Phil. 4:20; 1 Thess. 1:3; 3:11, 13; James 1:27.

50 James 3:9 (R.S.V.).

51 2 Peter 2:20; 3:2.

52 The Minister and His Greek New Testament, p. 64.

53 Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights in the New Testament, pp. 15, 16.

54 Ibid.; Moulton-Turner, Grammar, Vol. Ill, pp. 181f.

55 Maximillian Zerwick, Biblical Greek, par! 36.

56 Ibid.; Moulton-Turner, Syntax, p. 210.

57 Zerwick, op. cit., par. 45.

58 Ibid.; Moulton-Turner, Grammar, Vol. Ill, pp. 214f.

59 Nigel Turner, op. cit., p. 150.

60 Hamartano, literally means, "not to hit," or, "to miss" the mark.

61 Robertson, The Minister and His Greek New Testament, p. 100; Turner, op. cit., pp. 150f.

62 See 20th Century, Williams, Montgomery, N.A.S.B., Barclay, T.E.V., N.I.V.

63 H.P.V. Nunn, A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek, par. 96.

64 Ernest De Witt Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek, par. 74.

65 Werner Foerster, in TDNT, Vol I, p. 380.

66 Foerster and Steadman, op. cit., p. 261.

67 Chapter 1, section 9

68 Bernard L. Ramm, "Biblical Interpretation," in Baker's Dictionary of Practical Theology, p. 105.

69 Ibid.

70 Cited by Wilbur M. Smith in Profitable Bible Study; p. 38.

71 Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents and Teachers, p. 518.

72 Deut. 11:14; Joel 2:23.

73 Job 29:23; Prov. 16:15; Jer. 3:3; Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; Zech. 10:1.

74 Jer. 50:16; Joel 3:13.

75 Isa. 28:27; Judges 6:11; Ruth 2:17; 2 Sam. 24:18, 24; Hosea 10:11; Deut. 25:4, etc.

76 Gen. 37:34; 2 Sam. 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 19:1; Dan. 9:3; Jonah 3:5.

77 Don F. Neufeld, "The Use of Tools in the Study of the Bible," North American Division Bible Conference 1974, p. 19.

78 For a fuller discussion of the latest books on archeology by a competent archeologist see the two articles by Lawrence T. Geraty, "New Books on Biblical Archeology," in the Ministry, July, 1975, pp. 22, 23, and August, 1975, pp. 36, 37.

79 Ellen White, MS 30, 1904; "Elmshaven Leaflets," Vol. 2, No. 1, "Preach the Word," p. 10.

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Walter F. Specht, Ph.D., is professor of New Testament, Loma Linda University.

April 1980

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