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The 500th Anniversary year of Erasmus’ Edition of the Greek New Testament: Three Reasons Why It Matters Today
Summary of today’s post:
Today’s post celebrates a major milestone in the history of Bible translation and study of the Greek New Testament. On March 1, 1516 a scholar named Desiderius Erasmus (pictured above) became the first man in history to have published a printed edition of the Greek New Testament. The publication of Erasmus’ edition of Greek New Testament in 1516 celebrates its 500th anniversary this year. This particular post reflects on three reasons why Erasmus’ edition is practically significant today.
Below is a sample picture from a page in the 1516 edition which includes Matthew 1 in both the Greek (left column) and Latin (right column). Photo derives from pintrest.com
Three reasons why Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament ought to cause celebration over God’s Word today
Dr. Nick Needham, a lecturer in church history at Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland and Minister of Inverness Reformed Baptist Church in Inverness, Scotland, comments on the significance of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament for the Reformation:1
“The Renaissance rediscovery of Greek, coupled with the “ad fontes” (back to the sources) drive toward the sources of Christianity, resulted in Erasmus’ printed edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516. This was a bridge across which many students traveled from Renaissance into Reformation.” (Table Talk Magazine, October 2016, page 9).
Below are some reflections on three reasons why this major milestone in the history of the Biblical text captures why Christians ought to celebrate the Bible today.
1. Erasmus’ motive for publishing His Greek New Testament celebrates the need for God’s word
Authors Mark Galli and Ted Olsen mention a quote from the preface of Erasmus’ 1516 edition of his Greek New Testament. The quote captures Erasmus’ motivation and desire to meet what he deemed the need for everyone to have access to God’s Word:2
“Would that the farmer might sing snatches of Scripture at his plough and that the weaver might hum phrases of Scripture to the tune of his shuttle, that the traveler might lighten with stories from Scripture the weariness of his journey.”
These words remind us that we need God’s Word. We need to celebrate the fact that God used men like Erasmus’ to meet that need. But notice a second reason as to why this major milestone of Erasmus’ Greek text is cause for celebration of God’s Word…
2. Erasmus’ publication of his Greek New Testament caused increased access to God’s Word
So what spawned from this monumental achievement worked forth by God through Erasmus’ herculean efforts? Most if not all Biblical scholarship of the 16th century centered on the Latin text of the Vulgate, which had been used by the Roman Catholic church for over a millennium. Very few scholars knew the Greek of the New Testament, since such knowledge could only be acquired through study of the few available medieval Greek manuscripts. The figure below is an example of such manuscripts (the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1):
With the advent of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament, more people could gain access to the text behind the Latin Vulgate. His publication was an achievement for its day. By consulting what was then available to him (half a dozen or so Greek manuscripts), Erasmus’ put together the first printed critical edition of the Greek New Testament. Subsequent editions of the Greek New Testament would for sure reflect improvement as scholarship would advance. Still, Erasmus’ publication marked a watershed moment in the history of the Biblical text.
Erasmus’ text dawned a new era in the study of the Greek New Testament that would result in future editions of the printed Greek New Testament produced by later generations of scholars for public consumption. One prime example was the edition of the Greek New Testament produced by French printer Robert Stephanus. Bible specialist Dr. Donald L. Brake notes how Stephanus’ edition relied heavily upon Erasmus’ text:3
“It was the French printer Robert Stephanus who standardized the text of Erasmus. In 1546 and 1549, he printed two very small editions of the Greek New Testament based upon Erasmus.”
Stephanus is a very important figure not only in the history of publishing, but also in the history of the English Bible. Stephanus was the man responsible for introducing verse divisions, a feature which generations since his time have found invaluable in navigating the Biblical text. His 1550 edition of Greek New Testament, based largely on the text of Erasmus, included the famous verse numbers which would appear in our English Bibles.
Photo below is derived from pinterest.com. This is a page from Mark 1:1-8. Note the verse numbers in both columns of the text..
Events and persons such as these were used by God to make access to God’s Word more easier than ever before.
3. Erasmus publication of His Greek New Testament enabled recovery of the Biblical Gospel
Not only did the later Martin Luther find his insights into the doctrines of justification by faith through the study of Erasmus’ text, but that same text became the base for Luther’s translation of the German Bible. Dr. Nick Needham, mentioned at the beginning of this post, quotes Luther and then comments on how he gleaned insights from Erasmus’ text:4
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’, He meant that the entire life of believers should be a life of repentance. The word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of repentance – that is, confession and satisfaction – as administered by the priests’.
Dr. Needham then makes the following observation:5
“Luther here appeals to the Greek word for “repent”, which, on account of the Latin Vulgate translation ‘peontitentiam agite’, ‘do penance’, was previously understood as referring to the sacrament of penance. (Table Talk, October 2016 page 9)
The German translation of the New Testament by Martin Luther served to spread the flames throughout Germany, causing the common people to have access to a Bible in their own language that was based on a fresh translation of the Greek. Erasmus’ Greek New Testament filled a necessary gap for the deepening need for God’s Word and provided greater access to it.
In addition to these two thoughts, we can note how men like Martin Luther were able to recover the Gospel – with specific reference to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.6 This doctrine in effect declares that at saving faith, God declares the sinner “innocent” with respect to the condemnation of the Law of God. Additionally, justification credits the sinner the righteousness that Jesus Christ achieved in His perfect life, death and resurrection. It would be Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament that would be instrumental in lighting the way for the beginnings of Reformation.
Today we considered the significance of the 500th anniversary of the publication of Erasmus’ edition of the Greek New Testament. We discovered three reasons why what he did was used by God to impact history and contemporary culture:
A. Erasmus’ motive for publishing His Greek New Testament celebrates the need for God’s word
B. Erasmus’ publication of his Greek New Testament caused increased access to God’s Word
C. Erasmus’ publication of His Greek New Testament enabled recovery of the Biblical Gospel
1. Dr. Nick Needham. Article: “A Century of Change”. Table Talk Magazine. October 2016, page 9.
2. Mark Galli and Ted Olsen .”131 Christians everyone should know”. Kindle Edition.
3. Dr. Donald L. Brake. A Visual History of the English Bible. Baker Books. 2008. Page 232
4. Dr. Nick Needham. Article: “A Century of Change”. Table Talk Magazine. October 2016, page 9.
5. Dr. Nick Needham. Article: “A Century of Change”. Table Talk Magazine. October 2016, page 9.
6. So why the emphasis of “faith alone” in Luther’s formulation of the doctrine? Unlike the Medieval and contemporary Roman Catholic Church’s view of justification, which declares that although faith is necessary, yet it is not sufficient by itself – justification by faith alone captures the Biblical emphasis that we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Rome taught and still teaches that justification not only requires faith, but also the additional participation of the sinner in the sacramental system of the Roman Catholic church (namely baptism, confession, doing penance and participation in the mass).
1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (Scrivner’s Greek New Testament)
1 εαν ταις γλωσσαις των ανθρωπων λαλω και των αγγελων αγαπην δε μη εχω γεγονα χαλκος ηχων η κυμβαλον αλαλαζον
1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (NASB)
1. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 και εαν εχω προφητειαν και ειδω τα μυστηρια παντα και πασαν την γνωσιν και εαν εχω πασαν την πιστιν ωστε ορη μεθιστανειν αγαπην δε μη εχω ουδεν ειμι
2. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 και εαν ψωμισω παντα τα υπαρχοντα μου και εαν παραδω το σωμα μου ινα καυθησωμαι αγαπην δε μη εχω ουδεν ωφελουμαι
3. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4 η αγαπη μακροθυμει χρηστευεται η αγαπη ου ζηλοι η αγαπη ου περπερευεται ου φυσιουται
4. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.
Today’s post features the first four verses of the so-called famous “love chapter” of the Bible – 1 Corinthians 13. I am sure for anyone who has ever attended a wedding, 1 Corinthians 13 is either mentioned or used as a base text for the wedding sermon. Most people conceive of 1 Corinthians 13 extolling the virtues of human love. In as much as one could draw out a few applications pertaining to human love, the manner of love discussed in 1 Corinthians 13 is not-so-much human love as it is Divine. God’s love is the featured love in this text. His love, expressed through the Christian’s exercise of their spiritual gifts, marks the chief theme of Paul purpose in writing 1 Corinthians 13. If readers would prefer to skip the foregoing textual discussion of 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 in the English and Greek text, they can do so and go right to the closing remarks and application section of today’s post.
Textual commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 in Greek and English
Certain textual features of these first four verses (see the colored portions in the Greek and English texts above) will bear out this conclusion. To begin, when people begin to read 1 Corinthians 13:1, they are met with the curious mention of :
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…” (NASB)
The blue conditional particle “if” in the Greek text εαν (e-av) begins a type of conditional clause in Greek (i.e if-then statements) that is called a “third-class conditional statement”. In short, in most cases, whenever we see this type of statement with this particular conditional particle (i.e “if” = εαν ) combined with what is called a “subjunctive verb” (verbs which present “possible” situations, normally translated with the word “might” or “may”), then we can take the author to be referring to some sort of hypothetical situation. The Apostle Paul uses such a verb (the green verb μη εχω = not have ) in presenting a hypothetical situation of “what if, say, one were able to speak with the tongues of men and angels”. The negative particle μη (may), translated “not”, is also used in sentences that negate subjunctive verbs in the Greek. All of these particular features are smoking guns for what is a series of hypothetical statements set up by Paul to communicate a form of “hyperbole” or “overstatement” to drive home the point of the need for God’s love in the exercise of the gifts.
We then focus our attention on the word “love” (αγαπην) in verses 1-3, and compare it to the same word translated “love” in verse 4 ( η αγαπη ), we notice the purple word “η” (“hay” = the nominative, singular definite article, translated “the”). For the purpose of good English, most English translations leave this definite article untranslated. Yet, when we see the word for love without the definite article in the first three verses, and see the definite article placed with the noun for love in verse 4 (which is a nominative feminine singular noun), an otherwise seemingly small point of grammar brings out the type of love discussed in the text.
In Greek, whenever a noun doesn’t have a definite article (i.e “the”), we call such a word “anarthorous” (i.e “without the article). In general terms, nouns without their definite articles in Greek can either refer to a general, non-specified person, place or thing (i.e a noun), or, the absence of the article can be stressing the “quality” or “essence” of the noun in question. In other words, Paul’s use of the word for “love” in the first three verses appears to be referring to a particular “quality” of love, rather than plain-old love in general.
Whenever we come to 1 Corinthians 13:4 and see the word “love” with its attendant definite article (“the”), we see the identification of the particular, quality of love discussed by the Apostle. This use of the definite article is what scholars call the “monadic” use, which simply means “one-of-a-kind” type of love. The grammar of 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 is intentional on Paul’s part in conveying the special quality and uniqueness of the love communicated in the chapter.
Moreover, in all four verses, the word for “love” is placed in the very front of all the sentences or clauses in which it appears. Such a placement of a noun at the front of a Greek sentence is called “fronting”, indicating some sort-of emphasis on the author’s part. In normal Greek sentences, the verb is placed first, followed by its subject (i.e the “doer” of the action). In the cases we encounter the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:1-4, the noun is “fronted”, communicating the special quality of this love.
Closing thoughts and applications
The aim of today’s post was to explore 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 in Greek and English. We noted how Paul sets up literary devices in the first three verses to communicate how useless it would be to achieve great virtuous and societal feats apart from God’s love. If such love is not exercised by the Christian, not only will extraordinary efforts be deemed ineffective, but their service to God in the so-called “ordinary” events of every-day life will fall short. We discovered how God’s love expressed through the Christian’s Spirit-given gifts is like a river flowing through an otherwise dry-river bed. If we think about it for just a moment, God’s love flowing through the Christian ought to impact others around them. In so far as spiritual gifts are vital, without God’s love in conjunction with our own – we will end up not achieving His purposes.
Usually in the spring of every year, various sorts of documentaries or reports will appear that claim the discovery of some “new Gospel”. These particular documents are presented as those candidates that did not “make-the cut” into the canon of the New Testament. In recent years the world of scholarship and popular media alike have introduced the public to such documents as “The Gospel of Thomas” and “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” and more recently “The Gospel of Judas”.
In 2006, National Geographic did an extensive documentary on this text, with a panel of scholars offering a translation of the document. CNN had recently produced a documentary that explored six ancient objects or documents that promised to either expose the search for Jesus as a matter of faith, fact or a fraud. The so-called “Gospel of Judas” was included as one of the alleged ancient sources. The aim of this post is to offer an evaluation of the Gospel of Judas, as well as to introduce the reader to the document, its history and discovery.
Our overview of the Gospel of Judas will include identifying what exactly the Gospel of Judas is all about. As will be seen, the so-called “Gospel of Judas” is not a “Gospel” in the strictest sense of the definition nor does it contain any “good news” pertaining to salvation, Jesus’ work on the cross nor resurrection. As a final note, surveying such ancient literature as “The Gospel of Judas” can provide an apologetic for showing how one can distinguish between the historically reliable canonical 1st century Gospels of the New Testament in contrast to the 2nd and 3rd century forgeries like the Gospel of Judas.
An overview of the Gospel of Judas
Key terms to know
Before we get to the Gospel of Judas itself, two key terms need to be defined that enable the reader to better understand the particular worldview being espoused in the Gospel of Judas. First, the Gospel of Judas is part of a larger collection of documents called “The Nag Hammadi Documents” or “Codices”. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives an apt description of these documents: “An entire library of papyrus documents was accidently discovered by peasants North of Luxor, Egypt, in 1946. These manuscripts were written in the Sahidic dialect of the Coptic language (Coptic is an Egyptian language utilizing Greek letters). The leather covers in which they were wrapped probably account for their excellent preservation. The find included 13 codices (a codex was the precursor to our modern day book) with nearly 1,000 pages. They have been dated to the third and fourth centuries A.D.”
The second term that the reader needs to be familiar with is the ancient worldview called “Gnosticism”. To avoid a lengthy discussion, Gnosticism is a combination of paganism, sometimes Jewish mysticism, mixed with vestiges of Greek Philosophy and smatterings of Christian thought. Gnostics are so-called due to their insistence on possessing a secret form of knowledge (“gnosis”) that enlightens and sets the devotee free from reliance upon the physical realm.
Gnosticism denies the reality of the One true living God of the Bible and instead posits a series of non-personal manifestations or “emanations” coming from up above. Moreover, Gnosticism viewed the material realm as evil and the immaterial, ethereal realm and knowledge of it as the supreme goal of life. When combined with particular modified doctrines of Christianity, denial of the Bible, the full Deity and humanity of Jesus, the need for blood atonement and ultimately sin results.
Brief description of the Gospel of Judas and its study over the past several decades
With the Nag Hammadi collection and Gnosticism briefly defined, we can now consider what exactly we are dealing with when we speak of “The Gospel of Judas”. Dr. Norman Geisler on page 307 of his book: “A General Introduction to the Bible”, notes the following about the Gospel of Judas, which he dates to the late second century (150 years after Jesus and Judas): “This gospel was known to Irenaeus and Epihanius (c 315-403), Bishop of Salamia. The product of an antinomian Gnostic sect, it may have contained “a Passion story setting forth the ‘mystery of betrayal’ and explaining how Judas by his treachery made possible the salvation of all mankind.”
Gnostic literature expert Marvin Meyer oversaw the production of an English translation of the 13 documents collectively known as the Nag Hammadi Codicies in his book entitled: “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures”. Among the collection is the so-called Gospel of Judas (called by the technical designation “Codex Tchacos 3”). He notes in his introduction to the document: “Thus Judas is not designated, pseudonymously, as the author of the gospel. Rather this is the “Gospel About Judas” or even the “Gospel for Judas,” and his relationship to Jesus and his role in the story of the last days of Jesus are the focal points of the gospel.”
All of the scholars contributing to this English translation do not hide their critical evaluation of the inspired, canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Marvin Meyer and another contributing scholar of the field, Elaine Pagels, express their opinion about the Nag Hammadi documents in the introduction: “For more than fifteen hundred years, most Christians had assumed that the only sources of tradition about Jesus and His disciples are those contained in the New Testament, especially in the familiar gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Suddenly, however, the discovery of over fifty ancient texts, most of them Christian, demonstrated what the church fathers had long indicated: that these gospels are only a small selection of the many more gospel traditions and gospels….”.
Among the thirteen documents in the collection, the “Gospel of Judas” (known by its technical name “Codex Tchacos”) had been nearly destroyed not so much by age as by its poor storage arrangements following its discovery. Through the 1970’s the document was stored in a freezer, with some of its pages being mutilated. In the 1980’s and 90’s not too much work was done on the document. It has only been in the last decade that so-much information has come forth about this document to the general public.
As this blogger read-through of the “Gospel of Judas” in Marvin Meyer’s “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures”, the following main points were found.
1. First, The Gospel of Judas was not authored by Judas nor written in the 1st century. Rather, the work is a 2nd to 3rd century piece of literature attributed to a heretical Christian group called the Gnostics.
2. Secondly, whoever composed the document aimed to portray a series of fictitious conversations between Judas and Jesus (we may do future posts that bear out the details and contents of the Gospel of Judas’ portrayal of these alleged dialogues).
3. Thirdly, concerning the overall point of the document, a tale is told of Judas Iscariot being exonerated from his historic infamy as the one who betrayed Jesus to be judged and crucified. The Gospel of Judas paints Judas in a contrasting light from the Historical Four Gospels. Per this second/third century Gnostic Gospel, Judas is not a villain, but a hero.
Closing thoughts for today
Therefore, the identification of the so-called “Gospel of Judas” demonstrates already that the document cannot possibly be placed in the same class as the four Gospels. In future posts we may look again at this document by noting two further areas:
1. The Gospel of Judas is not a never-before seen document.
2. Concluding remarks on the place of the Gospel of Judas for understanding Jesus Christ today.
So why study a document that is non-authoritative and not inspired scripture? Once we see an example of a document posing as a record of Jesus’ life and words, we can better discern a fraudulent example from the genuine articles that are the four gospels. Such a study shows what typically entails a legendary account (namely embellishment of the details, importing of second and third century Gnostic thinking into a so-called first century setting and a switching of the focus from Jesus to a secondary figure). Such observations can equip us in answering critics who accuse the four Gospels of New Testament as being fictional literature.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (Greek Text)
Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.
4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (English Text – NASB)
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.2 You know that when you were pagans,you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Today’s post features the Greek and English texts of 1 Corinthians 12:1-7. The theme of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is that of God’s supernatural gifts, with 1 Corinthians 12:1-7 introducing the subject. How is it that God, by the Person of the Holy Spirit, acts as the Agent of the gifts? What are the gifts themselves? What exactly is Paul trying to convey when he states that he does not want his readers to be ignorant of them (see 1 Corinthians 12:1). Such questions are answered in these verses.
As we saw in our last post, Paul is using the spiritual gifts as an apologetic to contrast the gross paganism of his readers’ past with what ought to be their present walk with the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 12:2 the Greek text describes the idols once worshiped by the Corinthians as
“πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα” or “to the mute idols”. Anytime we are looking to translate from the Greek to English, it is helpful to compare other English translations. In this particular instance, the prepositional phrase that we have laid out in red letters contains an the attributive adjective “τὰ ἄφωνα”, which is describing a particular feature or trait of these various deities once worshipped by the Corinthians. The New Living Translation renders this adjective as “speechless”. The Holman Christian Standard Bible takes this adjective to be describing the essence of the idol. In other words, the meaning per the HCSB would be that it doesn’t merely describe a trait of the idols, but more so gets to the essence of what these idols are with its rendering: “that could not speak”. It is interesting to note that the NASB seems to had somewhat softened
“τὰ ἄφωνα” from its rendering of “dumb” in the original 1977 edition to the now different rendering of “mute” in the present 1995 Update. Point being, the idols could offer nothing for their devotees, due to the fact they had no life and thus were non-existent. No gifts. No grace. All performance. These elements characterize what Paul is bringing out about the Corinthians’ lifestyle before salvation.
When we come to 1 Corinthians 12:3, we find the contrast in Biblical Christianity of having the God-given ability to “speak” certain things. We read in that verse: “and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
The Greek text has for the associated red letters of its text (the words behind “can say” of the NASB), “δύναται εἰπεῖν”. The phrase itself is what we call in the Greek a “complementary infinitive phrase”, entailing a present active middle third person singular verb δύναται, which speaks of possessing inherent ability or power within oneself. The verb is the kind of verb that requires an infinitive (i.e a verbal noun) to “complement” or complete its verbal idea. In other words, no one is able to do what? In this instance, the aorist active infinitive εἰπεῖν completes the thought begun by δύναται and gives us the resultant meaning of “is able to say” or, as the NASB renders it, “can say”. This phrase is included to again show the living character of Christianity, which includes the notion of the true and living God verbalizing by the Person of the Holy Spirit (who is Himself truly and fully God) through the Christian their confession of faith that Jesus is Lord.
These observations move us on to 1 Corinthians 12:4, where Paul speaks of “gifts” , or as the Greek text renders: “χαρισμάτων” (i.e charismata). Some readers may recognize this word to be very closely related to the term we use to describe particular groups of modern-day Christians we call “charismatics”. Such believers are called such due to their emphasis on the centrality of the spiritual gifts. In reality, every Christian is “charismatic” in the more strict sense of the word, since the Holy Spirit has gifted every believer with some sort of spiritual gift.
The Lexham Theological Wordbook defines this word
χαρισμάτων as follows:
“χάρισμα (charisma). n. neut. something graciously given; a gift. Something that is freely given on account of favor and kindness. This noun is related to χάρις (charis, “grace, favor”) and refers specifically to the result of gracious giving or action. In the NT, God is usually the one who gives such gifts, and his gifts include spiritual gifts for equipping the church (e.g., 1 Cor 12:4), a person’s special calling (e.g., 2 Tim 1:6), and God’s gift of salvation through Christ (e.g., Rom 5:15–16; 6:23; 11:29).”
The standard Greek dictionary (i.e lexicon) edited by Henry George Liddell is a valuable resource for tracing the meanings of Greek words not only in the New Testament literature, but also in other Greek writings outside of the New Testament. In its various articles that traces this word’s etymology (i.e its history and lineage of use back to its root meaning), Liddell offers this definition of our word in question:
“χάρισμα, ατος, τό, (χαρίζομαι) a grace, favour: a free gift, gift of Gods grace, N.T.”
These word studies suggest that the spiritual gifts by their very nature are the manifestations of God’s gracious, supernatural empowering of His people by the Person and work of the Third Person of the Trinity – The Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:7 validates our observations by the phrase
“ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος” = “the manifestation of the Spirit”. Other English translations give the following renderings of this illuminating phrase:
1. New Living Translation – “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”
2. God’s Word Translation – “The evidence of the Spirit’s presence is given to each person for the common good of everyone.”
3. The NASB, ESV, KJV, NET Bible, Berean Bible, and several other English translations render this phrase as “the manifestation of the Spirit”.
Today we considered 1 Corinthians 12:1-7 in Greek and English. We discovered through our brief study of several English translation and the underlying Greek text that Paul’s chief concern is to make known the truth of God’s supernatural gifting of His people. What applications can we draw from this study? Let me suggest three:
a. Understanding one’s spiritual gifts as a Christian can increase one’s awareness of God working personally in their life, as well as how He, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, desires to use them to bless others.
b. God not only calls Christians to do His will, but also gives them the grace to carry out His will by way of the gifts.
c. It is good to be reminded of the fact that the gifts exceed the Christian in terms of what they could ever hope to achieve by themselves, while realizing that God is always greater than the gifts. The gifts point us to the Giver.
1 Corinthians 12:1 (NASB) Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.
1 Corinthians 12:1 (SBL Greek Text) Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν.
Today’s post will feature the English and underlying Greek texts of 1 Corinthians 12:1. The Apostle Paul is writing his first letter to a troubled church that is in need of order, instruction and answers. Corinth was a cultural center of Greco-Roman influence in a region known as “Macedonia”. The map below highlights where Corinth is located relative to Macedonia, as seen in the center of the following picture: