Another: In vv 6-7 of Galatians 1 Paul accuses the Galatians of turning aside from the Gospel as preached by himself to a perverted version put about by agitators. He indulges in a little word play (which tends to get lost in translation) to make his point. He tells the Galatians (v 6) that they are substituting ‘another’ gospel for the real one, the word for ‘another’ here being heteron. Then he goes on to say (v 7) that this substituted gospel is not, in fact, ‘another’, and the word he uses here for ‘another’ is allo. This seems contradictory until we note that heteron means ‘of a different kind’, whereas allo means ‘of the same kind’. And so what Paul is telling them is that the ‘gospel’ they have received from the agitators is not merely another version (allo) of the Gospel preached by Paul but is so different (heteron) that it is something else altogether. When, in John 14:16, Jesus tells his disciples that He will send them ‘another Comforter’, He uses the word allo(n) for ‘another’ because the Holy Spirit, although different from Jesus, is like Him. Heteron enters into compound words, the best known probably being ‘heterodox’ as opposed to ‘orthodox’. ‘Orthodox’ means ‘right-thinking’ or ‘straight-thinking’ whereas ‘heterodox’ means ‘not orthodox’.
Justified: Romans is the principal source for Paul’s teaching on justification by faith, the doctrine that so influenced Martin Luther. The English word is clearly connected to ‘just’ and ‘justice’ and in this mirrors the Greek word that it translates, dikaiotheis, which (in the plural form dikaiothentes) is the first word in the fifth chapter of Romans. The base of this word, dike, is connected to a Greek verb meaning ‘show, indicate’ and comes to mean ‘that which is indicated by custom, propriety, good usage’, from which the sense of ‘just(ice)’ develops. In early Greek literature this sense is personified in a daughter of Zeus, Dike, who reports to Zeus the unjust deeds of humans. In Acts 28:4, when Paul is bitten by a snake on the island of Malta, the locals take it as an act of retributive justice by Dike on Paul for murder. In the Greek OT (Septuagint) dike, justice, is transferred to God, who is ‘just and upright’ and rewards and punishes justly. And the just person mirrors God’s justice and is ‘right’ with God. But no human being can be perfectly just or ‘right-eous’ in God’s sight because no human being can perfectly keep the law. Our ‘justification’ comes through faith in Christ, who by his total obedience to God’s will achieved the perfection of righteousness, and by his death settled for us the score for our sins. By faith in Christ we no longer inherit Adam’s sin but Christ’s righteousness. We are credited with his righteousness; it is ‘imputed’ to us. We are ‘justified’.
Truth: The Greek word for ‘truth’, aletheia, is the negative form of a word meaning ‘be hidden, concealed.’ So what is ‘true’ is what is open, clear, revealed. Lying is the most obvious sin against truth – Satan is ‘the father of lies’, Beelzebub. In the Greek Old Testament (LXX) the ‘true’ is that which is consistent, solid, faithful. Yahweh is the God of truth because of his unchangeableness, his stability and the certainty that his promises will be fulfilled. Truth is an attribute of God and therefore characterises all his words and actions. In the New Testament, ‘true’ can have its OT meaning of what is reliable, dependable, real, but theologically it refers to the truth of the Christian revelation. This revelation was, of course, expressed in Jesus, who described himself as “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In John’s Gospel aletheia occurs 25 times, the first occurring when John describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). As “the way, the truth and the life”, Jesus reveals God and expresses God and comes from God, and it is through Him that salvation lies. To accept Jesus, to follow his example and teachings is to enter the truth. In v 17 of today’s Gospel reading the Holy Spirit is described as ‘the Spirit of truth’ because He proceeds from the Father and continues the work of revelation, imparting only what He has received from the Father. He is a reliable teacher and guide. The ‘truth’ that is carried into the human heart is not just a credal statement: it is God’s living word, to deny which is to sin against the light. Aletheia is sometimes found as a girl’s name.
Reward: In Revelation 22:12 Jesus says that He is coming with His ‘reward’ “to give to everyone according to his work.”. ‘Reward’ translates the Greek word misthos, with its basic meaning of ‘wage’ or ‘payment’ due for work done or services rendered. The word can mean payment at a fixed rate, as in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16), where the first workers are hired at a denarius a day. But in other places, as here, the emphasis is on payment according to the work itself. In 1 Corinthians 3:8, Paul emphasises that although he and Apollos “are one” in the work they do, yet each will be rewarded according to his own work, which presumably includes both its quantity and its quality. The nuance here is that of ‘recompense’, which comes from a Latin verb containing the idea of ‘weighing or balancing’. The due reward is found by weighing the work done. And for the followers of Christ, there is no ‘reward’ for merely doing that which they would do anyway, such as loving their friends (Matt 5:46). Their discipleship requires more. And there is no reward for doing only what one is compelled to do (1 Corinthians 9:17-18), or for doing no more than one’s duty (Luke 17:9-10). In the end, though, as the parable of the workers in the vineyard makes clear, the gift of eternal life is of grace, not reward: a reward is what we earn; eternal life is beyond earning. ‘Reward’ comes from Old Norman French, with its cognate form ‘regard’ from Old French.
Heart: In v 27 of today’s Gospel reading Jesus instructs his followers not to “let your hearts be troubled …” We could say this in English, but we would be more likely to say, “Do not let your minds be troubled …” In ancient times, it was customary to ascribe emotions to inner organs of the body, a habit that continued into the 17th century. In Colossians 3:12 St Paul refers to ‘bowels of compassion’ (KJV), for pity, sympathy and similar feelings were deemed to be particularly located in the intestines. The diaphragm was regarded as the seat of thought – but it was the heart that embraced most comprehensively the inner life. It was the general seat of thought, will and emotion, although, as Leon Morris points out, it could veer to one or other of these according to context. Mediaeval Europe took over many features of ancient thought, especially in medicine, although details might differ. The spleen was regarded as the seat of anger, and we can still today refer to a short-tempered person as ‘splenetic’. In the 16th and 17th centuries the kidneys rather than the intestines were thought of as the seat of the affections, and are so referred to in the King James Version (where they are called ‘reins’).
Know: The primary way of acquiring knowledge is through the senses. But sense impressions have to be interpreted by the inner faculties of mind and spirit, and these may be so prepossessed by a fixed outlook that sense impressions may be misinterpreted or even ignored because they do not fit that outlook.
A frequent exhortation of Jesus is, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.’ There are many references in Jesus’ preaching and teaching to seeing and hearing, and his criticism of ‘the Jews’ in today’s Gospel reading is that they have heard and seen yet do not believe, and so do not ‘know’ or recognise who he is. The connection of ‘seeing’ with ‘knowing’ comes out in oida, one of the Greek verbs meaning ‘know’ used in John’s Gospel (although not in this passage), which is the perfect tense of a verb meaning ‘see’. The verb used in v 27 of the Gospel passage, where Jesus says, ‘I know my sheep’ is ginosco (= ‘know’, ‘recognise’). It is a verb appropriate to express knowledge acquired during the course of a relationship, such as a relationship with God. This verb is related to gnosis (= ‘knowledge’) especially the ‘special’ knowledge of the Gnostics, a heretical movement which held that the body was evil and the spirit good, and so denied Jesus’ full humanity, and ascribed salvation not to faith in Christ but to spiritual knowledge. To be ‘a-gnostic’ is to be ‘un-knowing’, especially in articles of religious belief.
Peace: In today’s Gospel reading Jesus twice bestows his ‘peace’ upon his disciples. Our English word ‘peace’ derives from pace, an oblique form of the Latin word for ‘peace’, pax – cf Pax Romana, the peace imposed by Rome upon the subject states of her empire. But Jesus must mean something more by ‘peace’ than civic law and order, ‘peace and quiet’. His meaning probably owes more to the Hebrew word shalom, a word connoting wholeness and well-being, especially the spiritual well-being flowing from a right relationship with God. The Greek word used in the Gospel for ‘peace’, eirene, gives us our English derivative ‘eirenic’ or ‘irenic’, meaning ‘promoting peace’. Eirene also gives us the girls’ Christian name ‘Irene’. This was originally the name of the Greek goddess of peace, but no doubt owed its subsequent adoption by Christians to the fact that it was the name of a saint of the Greek Orthodox Church who was also the mother of the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine VI
First-fruits: This word is a translation of the Greek word aparche, a compound of apo meaning ‘from’ and arche meaning ‘beginning, original’.
Three ideas underlie ‘first-fruits’: first in time; first in quality; and first in representation. It was common practice among the peoples of antiquity (not only Israelites) to offer the first-fruits of their fields and first-born of their domestic animals to the deity, the source of all things. In the Old Testament it is part of God’s Law as declared by Moses that the people offer their first-fruits to God in sacrifice (Deuteronomy 26:1-4). Thus, the first-fruits are set apart for consecration to God and only after that has been done are the people free to enjoy the rest of the harvest. In the New Testament, the emphasis is placed more on the third of the above ideas: the first-fruits as representatives, pledges and forerunners of the remainder. In today’s epistle reading at v 20 Paul refers to Christ as ‘the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep’, the forerunner in and pledge of the resurrection for those who will follow after. In Romans 8:23 the Holy Spirit is called a ‘first-fruit’: He serves as an assurance or earnest, an anticipation, of the glory that is in store. As Spicq puts it in his ‘Theological Lexicon of the (Greek) New Testament’, in the New Testament there is less emphasis on the setting aside of the first-fruits by way of sacrifice, and more on their representing and being a forerunner and pledge for the rest.
Basileus: This is the Greek word for ‘king’ and it occurs more than once in today’s Gospel reading. Not only in the Old Testament but among the neighbouring cultures of the ancient world the good king was seen as a good shepherd who would care for his people, an image best known to us from the 23rd Psalm. From the time when Alexander the Great adopted the title basileus in 334 BC the word was invested with great dignity and potency. It stands at the centre of a cluster of related words.
Basileia, the word for ‘kingdom’, when used in the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ – basileia tou theou – occurs more than 130 times in the New Testament and is especially important in Matthew’s Gospel, where it occurs some 50 times. The word for ‘royal’ in its feminine form, basilike, gave its name to the king’s audience chamber – the basilika – and the characteristic design of this chamber was subsequently adopted by early builders of large churches – known as basilican churches. They were distinguished by a nave that rose higher than the aisles on either side, which might be separated from the nave by a single or double colonnade.
The herb basil, the ‘royal herb’, takes its name from basilike, while basileus gives us the (male) Christian name, ‘Basil’.
The words, ‘This is the King of the Jews’ were placed on the cross in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin – the three sacred languages, according to Isidore of Seville (early 7th century AD).
Epitaph: In v 7 of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells Judas Iscariot that Mary’s act of anointing his feet was done in preparation for the day of His burial. The Greek word used for ‘burial’, entaphiasmos, has taph as its base, meaning ‘grave, sepulchre’. It is this base that enters into our word ‘epitaph’, epi meaning ‘upon’. ‘Epitaph’ means, literally, ‘upon a grave(stone)’, referring to the inscription that is customarily written upon it. In the past, epitaphs were often used as occasions for wit or moral reflections. One Latin epitaph runs: Sum quod eris, fui quod es: “I am what you will be; I was what you are.” Sometimes an epitaph will contain a Scriptural quotation by way of epitomising the deceased’s virtues. This can go wrong, as the following demonstrates:
‘Sacred to the memory of Captain Anthony Wedgwood:
Accidentally shot by his gamekeeper
Whilst out shooting:
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant”’.
Sometimes, an epitaph will acknowledge the fact that the head-stone or monument has been raised by the good offices of the deceased’s friends. This too can go wrong, as in this Scottish epitaph:
“Erected to the memory of: John McFarlane:
Drown’d in the waters of Leith:
By a few affectionate friends”
(See the Oxford Book of Death for more.)
A Word in Season