Thursday, June 09, 2016

Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews With a Focus on Chapter 9: Part 9

[This is the ninth section of  a paper I wrote for the Great Plains Pastors' Conference (of Circuits 7, 8, & 9) which is titled Notes on Reading the Letter to the Hebrews With a Focus on Chapter 9. It was delivered at Bethany Lutheran College on Wednesday, May 25th
 τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν]
 

The Pervasive Literary Play Between the Preaching of the Word and Hearkening

Hearing/Faith: Promise, First Covenant, Second Covenant /Obey v. Keep v. Hearken

For if the word spoken through angels [ὁ δι’ ἀγγέλων λαληθεὶς λόγος] proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience [παρακοὴ] received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord [λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου], and was confirmed to us by those who heard [ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων]? [He 2:2-3]
The thesis in the opening passage of the Epistle is also repeated throughout the whole of the Letter by means of the choice of vocabulary. There is an overt and pervasive emphasis on God's Speaking and His People hearing/hearkening. In both the Old and the New Covenants the Word is Preached, sung, read, acted out in ceremony. There are particular liturgical rituals given by God in each of the Covenants. These are the means to which He attaches His promise as fulfilled in Christ.

We look at just a few examples in some detail to highlight the importance of a correct understanding of the speaking/hearkening dynamic that the author uses as a foundation throughout the epistle.

These are words translated into English as 1) Listen/Hear/Attend; 2) Trust/Believe; and 3)Obey/Obedience-Disobey/Disobedience.
 

English: Listen/Hear/Attend

In this list we can see that there are a wide variety of words and phrases that are used to describe the semantic idea of hearkening/listening.


NKJV (..ish)
2:1
Διὰ τοῦτο δεῖ περισσοτέρως προσέχειν ἡμᾶς τοῖς ἀκουσθεῖσιν, μήποτε παραρυῶμεν.
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
2:2
εἰ γὰρ ὁ δι’ ἀγγέλων λαληθεὶς λόγος ἐγένετο βέβαιος, καὶ πᾶσα παράβασις καὶ παρακοὴ ἔλαβεν ἔνδικον μισθαποδοσίαν,
For if the word spoken through angels [ὁ δι’ ἀγγέλων λαληθεὶς λόγος] proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience [παρακοὴ] received a just reward
2:3
πῶς ἡμεῖς ἐκφευξόμεθα τηλικαύτης ἀμελήσαντες σωτηρίας, ἥτις, ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου, ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη,
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
3:7, 15; 4:7
Διό, καθὼς λέγει τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον· Σήμερον ἐὰν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούσητε,
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice,
3:16

τίνες γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν; ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντες οἱ ἐξελθόντες ἐξ Αἰγύπτου διὰ Μωϋσέως;
For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? [Trinity 10]
4:2
καὶ γάρ ἐσμεν εὐηγγελισμένοι καθάπερ κἀκεῖνοι, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ὠφέλησεν ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς ἐκείνους, μὴ συγκεκερασμένους τῇ πίστει τοῖς ἀκούσασιν.
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
5:7
ὃς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας,
who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear,
5:11
Περὶ οὗ πολὺς ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος καὶ δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν, ἐπεὶ νωθροὶ γεγόνατε ταῖς ἀκοαῖς·
of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
12:19
καὶ σάλπιγγος ἤχῳ καὶ φωνῇ ῥημάτων, ἧς οἱ ἀκούσαντες παρῃτήσαντο μὴ προστεθῆναι αὐτοῖς λόγον·
and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.
12:25
Βλέπετε μὴ παραιτήσησθε τὸν λαλοῦντα· εἰ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι οὐκ ἐξέφυγον ἐπὶ γῆς παραιτησάμενοι τὸν χρηματίζοντα, πολὺ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς οἱ τὸν ἀπ’ οὐρανῶν ἀποστρεφόμενοι·
See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,
13:9
διδαχαῖς ποικίλαις καὶ ξέναις μὴ παραφέρεσθε· καλὸν γὰρ χάριτι βεβαιοῦσθαι τὴν καρδίαν, οὐ βρώμασιν, ἐν οἷς οὐκ ὠφελήθησαν οἱ περιπατοῦντες.
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. [Name of Jesus]


Some might wonder about the inclusion of 2:2 with παρακοὴ, which the NKJV translates as “disobedience.” This translation of παρακούω highlights a serious problem with translations that come from a theology of Glory. “Disobedience” can be a proper interpretation. However, in this case, it is not merely the legal aspects of the First Covenant which are meant. The author of Hebrews is also including the Promise. The English word “obey” is not a comfortable fit with the meaning of “listening to and holding on to a promise.”

Here it would be appropriate to note how this particular form of ἀκούω is generally used elsewhere in Greek writing and conversation. παρακούω

I. hear beside, esp. hear accidentally, hear talk of, “Δημοκήδεος τὴν τέχνην” Hdt.3.129 ; “ἀξίων λόγου πραγμάτων” Pl.Ep.339e ; “παρακήκοα νῦν ὅτι τίκτει” AP 5.74 (Rufin.).
II. eavesdrop, overhear from, “δεσποτῶν ἅττ᾽ ἂν λαλῶσι” Ar.Ra.750 ; “τι παρά τινος” Pl. Euthd.300d ; π. τινός overhear him, Luc.Merc.Cond.37 ; “π. τὸν λόγον” Ev.Marc.5.36.
III. hear imperfectly or wrongly, misunderstand, “ἀκούειν τι τοῦ λόγου, παρακούειν δέ” Arist.EN1149a26, cf. Pl.Prt.330e, Tht.195a, Phld.Mus.p.102 K., Ceb.3, Luc.Anach.31; ἑκουσίως π. D.S.30.8.
IV. hear carelessly, take no heed of, “τῆς παραγγειλάσης φύσεως” Epicur.Fr.200; “τῶν γραφομένων” Plb.24.9.1, cf. Luc.Salt.6, etc.; “τῶν ἐντολῶν” LXX To.3.4 ; “τῶν λεγομένων” Plb.7.12.9 (but “τὰ λεγόμενα” LXX Es.3.3).
2. c. gen. pers., PHib.1.170 (iii B.C.), Plb.2.8.3,3.15.2, Ev.Matt.18.17:—Pass., to be disregarded, Plb.5.35.5; “περί τινος” Id.30.20.2, prob. cj. in 23.3.3.
3. disobey, “τοῦ θεοῦ” J.AJ1.10.4 : abs., LXX Is.65.12, J.AJ1.1.4, Luc.Sat.10:—Pass., J.AJ6.7.4.
4. pretend not to hear, Plu.Phil.16, Luc Jud.Voc.2.1
So, while the gloss “disobedience” would be appropriate if the word were limited by context to the careless hearing or disregarding of a command, the context here in Hebrews 2 includes more than merely Law, it includes the Promise. See both verses 1 and 2 together above. Using the word “disobedience” prevents the reader from understanding that the verb is a verb of hearing and frames the neglect of the Gospel as if the Gospel were just another set of rules.
 

English: Trust/Believe



ESV
KJVA
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
3:19
Trinity 10
καὶ βλέπομεν ὅτι οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν εἰσελθεῖν δι’ ἀπιστίαν.
because of unbelief.
because of unbelief.
because of unbelief.
because they didn’t believe.
because of their unbelief.
because of unbelief.
4:2
καὶ γάρ ἐσμεν εὐηγγελισμένοι καθάπερ κἀκεῖνοι, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ὠφέλησεν ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς ἐκείνους, μὴ συγκεκερασμένους τῇ πίστει τοῖς ἀκούσασιν.
For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
We have heard the same Good News that your ancestors heard. But the message didn’t help those who heard it in the past because they didn’t believe.
* For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.
For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith
11:11
πίστει καὶ αὐτῇ Σάρρᾳ δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας, ἐπεὶ πιστὸν ἡγήσατο τὸν ἐπαγγειλάμενον·
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.
Faith enabled Abraham to become a father, even though he was old and Sarah had never been able to have children. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise.
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.

By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.
In set and the next we include other translations used liturgically and personally in our fellowship. The God's Word translation is what became of that project among WELS, ELS, and LCMS pastors back in the 1990s. This particular translation stands out as an egregious example. What the Greek has as passive in man is made into the work of man. But it does not stand alone. In the examples above the NIV also stands out as changing He 4:2 from a passive “hearing” meaning to an active will of man to “obey.” This is particularly awful in the context of 4:2 because the thing which is heard is the Gospel.
 

English: Obey/Obedience; Disobey/Disobedience

Now that we notice there is a problem particularly with words translated into English as “obey” when the Greek idiom is expressing “hearkening” we will look at some of the passages in these translations that use some form of “obey” and what the Greek behind the text really expresses.

Variants of ακούω Hearken, Give Ear.



ESV
AV
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
2:2
παρακοὴ
disobedience
disobedience
disobedience

act of disobedience
disobedience
disobedience
5:8
ὑπακοήν
[Easter 5]
he learned obedience
yet learned he obedience
yet He learned obedience
he learned to be obedient
he learned obedience
He learned obedience
5:9
τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ⸃
[Easter 5]
to all who obey him,
unto all them that obey him;
to all who obey Him
for everyone who obeys him.
for all who obey him
for all who obey Him
11:8
ὑπήκουσεν
[Easter 3]
By faith Abraham obeyed
By faith Abraham obeyed
By faith Abraham obeyed
Faith led Abraham to obey
obeyed
obeyed
We looked at παρακοὴ in 2:2 above. The rest are from ὑπακούω. We will comment on the verses, but first the entry on ὑπακούω from LSJ2
I. absol. to listen, hearken, give ear, Hom., Eur.
2. to make answer when called, Od., Theocr.
3. foll. by a case, to listen or hearken to, give ear to, attend to, τινός Ar., etc.; also, ὑπ. τινί Thuc., etc.
II. Special senses:
1. of porters, to answer a knock at the door, ὑπ. τινί Plat., Theophr.; ὁ ὑπακούσας the porter, Xen.
2. of a judge, to listen to a complainant, τινί id=Xen.:—but of accused persons, to answer to a charge, Dem.
3. of dependents and subjects, to submit to, τινός Hdt., Xen.; τινί Ar., Thuc.: also to yield to, comply with, τινί Plat.:—c. gen. rei, to give ear to, Xen.; ὑπ. τῷ ξυμφόρῳ τινός to comply with his interest, Thuc.:—absol. to give way, submit, comply, Hdt.
4. to answer one's expectations, to succeed, Luc.
5. metaph., αὐγαῖς ἡλίου ὑπ. to be subject to the sun's rays, Pind.

He 5:8 and 9 [Easter 5] both seem particularly problematic as “obey.” The passages in context state:
8though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience τὴν ὑπακοήν by the things which He suffered. 9And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν Him, 10called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” 11of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing ταῖς ἀκοαῖς.
The passage is very reminiscent of the content of the Farewell Discourse in John: Particularly John 15:16 “for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you,” and John 16:12-15. This is also the theme of the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, for example:
14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
In any case, Hebrew 5:9 “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey τοῖς ὑπακούουσιν Him” only really works if the semantic content of “obey” includes the idea of holding firmly to the Gospel. In each of these cases “listen to” or “hearken” would work much better. It embraces the need for obedience to the Law without obscuring the Gospel.

He 11:8 [Easter 3] is interesting, because here the word “obey” might be understood correctly in English. The context shows how God's calling was to a promise. Yet, because of the theological problems exhibited both by the sinful nature and by other poorly translated passages it might be best to just say “By faith Abraham hearkened when he was called to go out...”
 

Variants of πείθω Pass. and Med., to be prevailed on, won over, persuaded, trust, believe.

Interestingly we have the AV giving a mostly consistent and accurate translation of the variants of πείθω. Again, the issue is that “being persuaded, trusting” is based on the promise given. It is not necessarily an active obedience or in the case of the negative, an act of disobedience. Rather in the latter case it is a neglect of, a refusal to hear, or a giving up on the message proclaimed.


ESV
AV
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
3:18
ἀπειθήσασιν
[Trinity 10]
to those who were disobedient
but to them that believed not
to those who did not obey
those who didn’t obey him.
to those who disobeyed
those who disobeyed
4:6
ἀπείθειαν
because of disobedience
because of unbelief
because of disobedience
because they did not obey God
because of their disobedience
because of disobedience
4:11
ἀπειθείας
[2nd Last Sunday]
the same sort of disobedience.
after the same example of unbelief
according to the same example of disobedience
by following the example of those who refused to obey
by following their example of disobedience
so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience
11:31
τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν
with those who were disobedient
with those who did not believe,
with those who did not believe
with those who refused to obey God
with those who were disobedient
with those who disobeyed
13:17
Πείθεσθε
Remember your leaders,
Obey those who rule over you
Obey those who rule over you
Obey your leaders,
Have confidence in your leaders
Obey your leaders


He 3:18 [Trinity 10] focuses on those Israelites that did not hearken to the promise that God would defeat the Canaanites. They feared the locals more than they feared God. They lost their trust in the promise that they would inherit the rest promised to them. 4:6 and 4:11 are on this exact same point where the quotation from Ps 95:7-8 is made:
“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Disobedience flowed from this loss of trust, this loss of hearkening. But the Greek words do not point to the disobedience per se. Rather they point to the loss of confidence in the Promise.

He 11:31 discusses Rahab and the inhabitants of Jericho τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν. Rahab had faith, the rest did not. That is the contrast being made. Obedience does not factor in as a cause but as a consequence. It would be more consistent with the rest of the author of Hebrew, particularly of chapter 11 (the Faith Chapter) to translate τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν as “to those who did not believe/have faith” in harmony with the word's most natural meaning and the natural meaning in the context.

He 13:17 focuses on the administration of Word and Sacrament. It does not describe a merely temporal ruler of the secular kingdoms. Again, to be consistent with the pervasive theme of “God Speaks through His Son/We hearken to His Word” the imperative Πείθεσθε should be understood with the common meaning of πείθω: “be persuaded, trust.”
 

Odd Translations Which Reflect Nothing of the Greek

These next 5 are just odd. They all come from the God's Word translation. They all confuse Law and Gospel.


ESV
AV
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
10:9
ἵνα τὸ δεύτερον στήσῃ.
[Annunciation and
Good Friday]
He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.
He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
He takes away the first that He may establish the second.
He did away with sacrifices in order to establish the obedience that God wants.
He sets aside the first to establish the second
He takes away the first to establish the second.
This first passage, He 10:9, is particularly injudicious. The issue in this passage is the relationship between the Old and New Covenants in Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant has served its purpose. Now Christ establishes the New Covenant.


ESV
AV
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
10:17
καὶ τῶν ἀνομιῶν αὐτῶν
[Good Friday]
their lawless deeds
their lawless deeds
their lawless deeds
their disobedience against them.
lawless acts
their lawless acts.
In 10:17 one could argue that “lawless deeds” are in fact “disobedience.” However, the point of this phrase as quoted from Jeremiah 31:34 is that God would establish a New Covenant to forgive the works done against the Law under the Old Covenant.


ESV
AV
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
11:7
εὐλαβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασεν κιβωτὸν
[Easter 3]
in reverent fear constructed an ark
moved with godly fear, prepared an ark
moved with godly fear, prepared an ark
He obeyed God and built a ship to save his family.
in holy fear built an ark
motivated by godly fear, built an ark
In 11:7 the God's Word translation makes Noah the principle agent of his own rescue rather than the “godly fear.” The clear motivation in the passage is not Noah's willing obedience to God, but Noah's faith in the declaration of God: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark”


ESV
AV
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
11:23
καὶ οὐκ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸ διάταγμα τοῦ βασιλέως.
and they were not afraid of the king's edict.
and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
they were not afraid to disobey the king's order.
and they were not afraid of the king’s edict

and they didn’t fear the king’s edict.
Ironically, the Greek of chapter 11 focuses on the Saints hearkened to the Word of God. That is what faith is. This passage 11:23 also highlights the fact that we should not put our trust in or fear when we hear an earthly leader who is commanding contrary to God's Word. But, again, the God's Word translation changes the issue from faith to personal works.


ESV
AV
NKJV
God's Word
NIV
Holman
12:20
οὐκ ἔφερον γὰρ τὸ διαστελλόμενον
For they could not endure the order that was given
For they could not endure what was commanded
For they could not endure what was commanded
They couldn't obey the command that was given
because they could not bear what was commanded
for they could not bear what was commanded
This last example from 12:20 is puzzling. One could argue that the people of Israel in Ex 19-20 [Trinity 6] could not “obey” the Law God spoke to them. But the issue in Exodus and here in Hebrews is the fact that the people fell down afraid of the voice of God and begged not to hear the voice again. It is at this point in the texts of Exodus and Deuteronomy where God promises the Messiah, the Prophet.

The relevant passage from Deuteronomy should be emphasized here. It is the foundation for the opening thesis of the Letter to the Hebrews.
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’
17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. [Dt 18:15-19 Easter 2]
I believe that now we have enough contextual background to hearken to the specifics the Author conveys in Chapter 9.
ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ

Footnotes

1(LSJ) Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940. Emphasis Added. Entry at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=+%CF%80%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%8D%CF%89&la=greek#lexicon

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