Meno is a word of very frequent
occurrence. Its simple meaning is “abide” in the sense of
“dwell, or stay, in a house”. It is commonly used in this sense in
the gospels. “Zaccheus, today I must abide at thine house” (Luk
19:5). “The servant abideth not in the house for ever” (Joh 8:35).
And so on — lots of them.
From here the meaning moves on to the idea of
“remaining, or continuing an existing condition”. Eg “Labour
for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (Joh 6:27).
“Let her remain unmarried” (1Co 7:11). “Let brotherly
love continue” (Heb 13:1).
From these simple ideas there springs the deep
spiritual meaning which makes “abide” one of the key words in
Joh’s gospel and epistles: “close spiritual fellowship”, the
result of being in the same “house” with the Father and the Son and
the brethren. It is a fellowship which has an abiding, lasting quality —
it goes on and on, world without end, Amen.
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the
Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God....God is love, and he
that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1
Joh 4:15,16). “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it
abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me”
(Joh 15:4). The reader of Joh is never far away from this pregnant word. Yet
Paul never uses it in this sense.
Meno has got itself augmented with
nearly every preposition in the language; in some cases the new meanings are
Hupomeno means “to continue
in hardship or suffering”. Mostly, the AV very beautifully translates
“endure”. This is usually just right. “He that shall endure to
the end, the same shall be saved” (Mat 24:13). “If ye endure
chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons” (Heb 12:7). The
translation, twice in 1Pe 2:20, “take it patiently”, hardly conveys
the right idea.
When Jews from Thessalonica stirred up opposition
in Berea also, the brethren, anxious for Paul’s safety, sent him on to
Athens, “but Silas and Timotheus abode (hupomeno) there
still”, putting up with the trouble, enduring the persecution, but the
narrative does not indicate by one word what they had to put up
Somewhat surprisingly, the same word comes in the
story of the boy Jesus at Jerusalem for his first Passover: “he tarried
behind in Jerusalem” (Luk 2:43). Here the idea probably is: “he
hung on”, unwilling to leave the holy city, with its wonderful
associations and spiritual opportunities.
Another instance calls for slight correction.
“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2Ti 2:12). But
it is not suffering which guarantees reward, but the right enduring of
The noun which goes with hupomeno —
hupomone — is all but once translated “patience”. But
in modern English this word presents a picture of placid waiting and tranquil
inactivity, whereas hupomone really suggests the notion of
tenacious hanging on and grim clenched-teeth endurance. Every occurrence of the
word needs re-scrutinizing from this point of view.
The modern idea of patience is more in evidence
in anameno, the one occurrence of which speaks of “waiting
for his Son from heaven” (1Th 1:10). But even here there is something of
endurance, as the two occurrences in LXX show. “Thou art the God of my
salvation; on thee do I wait all the day” (Psa 25:5).
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen
thine hear: wait, I say, on the Lord” (27:14).
Epimeno means, quite literally,
“stay upon”, and accordingly in the AV appears as “continue,
abide” and especially “tarry”. All the 18 occurrences are
straightforward except perhaps Phi 1:23,24: “I am in a strait betwixt two,
having a desire to depart (ie go away into retirement for the study of Scripture
and the experience of “revelations from the Lord”) and (so) to be
with Christ: which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh (ie
continue a personal active presence in the ecclesias) is more needful for
you.” So Paul, the aged, who would dearly have loved to
“retire” (as everyone does nowadays as a matter of course), hung on,
giving his converts assurance of his continuing care: “I know that I shall
abide (meno) and continue (parameno — prolong
my stay) with you all” (v 25).
There is a terribly important lesson to be
learned from the next word in this family: emmeno. AV translates
it rather tamely “continue”, but “stay in” gives
the idea more exactly. “They continued not in my covenant”
(Heb 8:9). Especially Acts 14:22: “exhorting them (the new disciples) to
continue in the faith”, ie to stay on regardless of all
discouragements. This is also the idea in most of the LXX passages, where it is
used on confirming a vow (Jer 44:25) or standing firm in an undertaking (Dan
12:12; Deu 27:26).
It is not easy to see why Jesus, bidding his
apostles “wait for the promise of the Father (the Holy
Spirit)” in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), should use another meno
compound: perimeno, “wait around”, when
meno itself or one of the others already discussed would appear to
be as good. The solitary OT occurrence of perimeno in
Jacob’s prophecies to his sons (Gen 49:18) doesn’t help much:
“I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord”. The apostles’
obedience to their Lord’s command is neatly indicated by mention of how
they “stayed put” (katameno) in the house of the upper
room (Acts 1:13).
Parameno seems to carry the idea of
prolonging a stay or visit — as in Phi 1:25, already cited. This is
certainly the idea in 1Co 16:6, where Paul considers the possibility of spending
the approaching winter in Corinth.
There is a nice emphasis about James’ use
of parameno in his figure of the mirror: “But whoso looketh
into the perfect law of liberty, and so continueth (ie instead of a
casual glance, a protracted gaze) — this man shall be blessed in his
doing” (Jam 1:25).
In prosmeno the prefix very neatly
implies abiding for the sake of continuing face to face with someone. Jesus
insisted that the multitude must be fed because they had “stuck to
him” into the third day (Mat 15:32). When Barnabas encountered the first
Gentile converts in Antioch, he exhorted them to “stick to the Lord”
(Acts 11:23) — this, whatever else.
In 1Ti 5:5 Paul picks out one of the essential
characteristics of a true widow in Christ as one who “continueth in
supplications and prayers” — sticking to her person-to-person
contact with the Lord.
But in 1Ti 1:3 Paul had a different kind of
person-to-person contact in mind. “I besought thee to abide still
at Ephesus — that thou mightest charge certain not to teach a
different doctrine.” And timid Timothy needed the exhortation, for
prolonged encounters of this kind were not at all what he
Diameno sometimes emphasizes
continuance without end: “They (the heavens and the earth) shall perish,
but Thou remainest” (Heb 1:11). And similarly in several of the
psalms: “His name shall continue as long as the sun” (Psa
72:17). “The fear of the Lord endureth for ever” (Psa 19:9).
Those who mock the promise of Christ’s return confidently assert that
“all things continue as they were from the beginning of the
creation” (2Pe 3:4). Such people need reminding that “the foolish
shall not stand in thy sight” (Psa 5:5).
In a more limited sense, diameno
describes an experience more long-lasting than might have been expected.
“Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations,”
Jesus said to the eleven (Luk 22:28). And the deaf and dumb Zacharias beckoning
and “remaining (continuing) speechless” provides a vivid
picture of the old man’s desperate and persistent attempts to
The antithesis presented by these two words comes
three times in 2Co 5:6,8,9; and these are the only occurrences. So what is
called for here is the explanation of a decidedly tricky
The key to the situation lies in recognizing that
here, as in 1Co 12 (often) and 1Co 10:16,17 and Eph 1:23; 2:16; 4:4,12,16;
5:23,30 and Col 1:18; 2:17,19; 3:15, “body” signifies “the
body of Christ, the ecclesia”.
Then what did Paul mean by “at home in the
body, and absent from the Lord”. There is here an indication of the
tension which must often have existed in the mind of Paul, and which is not
unknown in the experience of men a good deal smaller than Paul — the
desire to go into retirement and seclusion in order the better to enjoy the
spiritual stimulus and satisfaction which Bible study and the Truth in Christ
can impart. In Paul’s case, it could mean more than this — the
enjoyment of personal (not mystical) fellowship with Christ through the
“visions and revelations of the Lord” which at times he was
privileged to experience.
But as long as Paul was busy and active in the
ecclesias (“at home in the Body”), such blessings were necessarily
cut to a minimum. At such times especially Paul walked by faith, and not by
sight (2Co 5:7).
The apostle’s own much stronger inclination
was the other way — to be “absent from the Body” (in
retirement from his heavy ecclesial responsibilities), and so free to be
“at home (in a very real personal fashion) with the
However, Paul accepted life as it came. He was
content for Christ to decide how his life and activities should be spent.
Accordingly, he made it his ambition, “whether present or absent”,
for his life to be such that in the Last Day he would be “well-pleasing
This view of the passage may be queried on the
grounds that in the very next verse (v 10) the word “body” is used
in a literal sense. But this is by no means obvious. Let the italics in AV be
The literal reading is: “in order that each
one may receive the through-the-Body things according to (?) what he did whether
good or bad.” If the capital B be allowed here, the passage seems to
stress the importance of a man maintaining his personal link with the Body of
But if “body” is read, then there is
an altogether lop-sided emphasis on what a man has done. Yet are not
words and thoughts every bit as important?
In an admittedly problematic expression, it would
appear to be by no means certain that the physical body is referred to here.
Certainly the notion of receiving in a resurrection body the Lord’s
approbation or reprobation is not to be read here.
Seven times the AV translates apeimi
as “be absent” — as in 1Co 5:3: “Absent in body,
but present in spirit.” This is the straightforward meaning. Then why not
exactly the same idea in Acts 17:10?: “The (Thessalonian) brethren
immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither
went (absented themselves!) into the synagogue of the Jews.” The
implication seems to be that after the Jewish uproar in Thessalonica, the
brethren from that city who accompanied them to Berea were unwilling to chance
more Jewish hostility in the synagogue. So, undeterred, Paul and Silas went off
to the synagogue by themselves.
In the NT this word means, nearly always,
“acceptable to God”. Three Greek words come in this sense quite
often: dektos and its more emphatic cognate euprosdektos
and another not dissimilar word euarestos.
The first two are mostly equivalents of the
Hebrew words ratzah, ratzon, which normally have reference to
acceptable sacrifice or to one of the Jewish feasts when sacrifice was specially
The first meaning is obvious in 1Pe 2:5:
“Ye also....offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable (euprosdektos)
to God by Jesus Christ.”
And in Rom 15:16 Paul uses the figure of himself
as a priest ministering at an altar and offering up as a gift to God a multitude
of Gentile converts: “....that the offering up of the Gentiles might be
acceptable (euprosdektos), being sanctified by the Holy
Acts 10:35 is interesting as being a modified
quote of Pro 12:22 LXX (the Hebrew is distinctly different). But why did Peter
say “he that worketh righteousness is accepted with
him” (note the idea of sacrifice in v 4), when LXX has “worketh
faith”? Wouldn’t this have served Peter’s purpose even
better? Was he adjusting his language so as not to offend “them of the
circumcision” who were with him?
This is also one of the meanings attached to
euarestos. So in Phi 4:18 Paul uses two of them together for
emphasis: “The things which were sent from you are an odour of a sweet
smell, a sacrifice acceptable (dektos) well-pleasing
(euarestos) to God.”
In two places dektos is used in NT
quotations of OT passages. In the synagogue at Nazareth the Lord read from Isa
61 about “the acceptable year of the Lord”, where there is one
allusion after another to the Year of Jubilee. Jesus was proclaiming the time of
release from sin.
Similarly, 2Co 6:2 quotes Isa 49:8:
“Behold, now is the accepted time.” Again, the primary reference is
to Hezekiah’s Passover and the great deliverance which took place then.
But in the NT that dektos time was the Passover when Jesus died,
thus inaugurating a new and continual Passover which is all deliverance.
The euarestos passages fall into
two groups which seem to overlap.
As with the other two words there is often
well-defined allusion to acceptable sacrifice: “....that ye present your
bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God...” (Rom 12:1, alluding
to Lev 1:4). “God....working in you that which is wellpleasing
(euarestos) in his sight” (Heb 13:21) comes immediately
after an allusion to “the blood of the covenant”.
There is also another clear-cut meaning which has
been largely lost sight of. Euarestos is used in LXX as equivalent
to Hebrew hithhalek, walking with God. This word is used with
reference to Enoch (Gen 5:22), and in LXX and Heb 11:5 it becomes: “he
pleased (euarestos) God”. LXX treats Gen 17:1; 6:9; Psa
56:13; 116:9 in the same way (but, strangely enough, not Isa 38:3). So it may be
taken as fairly certain that the idea of “walking with God” was in
Paul’s mind when he wrote Rom 14:18; 2Co 5:9; Eph 5:10; and Tit 2:9. And
this may well be true of Rom 12:2; Col 3:20; and Heb 12:28; but it is in these
three places where the two ideas of acceptable sacrifice and walking with God
seem to overlap.
“This is good and acceptable before
God” comes twice in 1Ti (1Ti 2:3; 5:4). This word means
“welcome”. The verb (apodechomai — 6 times) and
the noun (apodoche — twice) always carry this meaning. But
the adjective, apodektos, is marvellously like the word for paying
tithes. Then was Paul deliberately making a play on words here? —
suggesting that prayers for those in authority (1Ti 2:3) and care for aged
parents (1Ti 5:4) are a fine form of tithe-paying for those not under the Law of
The word dike means a decision in a
court case, but only one of its four NT occurrences carries precisely that
meaning — the chief priest pressing Festus for a decision against Paul in
Jerusalem (Acts 25:15). In the other instances the reference is to God’s
judgment against wickedness — Sodom and Gomorrha suffering the
“vengeance” of eternal fire (Jude 1:7), the enemies of the
faithful being “punished” (suffering judgment) with
everlasting destruction from the Lord’s presence (2Th 1:9), and the pagan
assessment of Paul with a viper fastening on his wrist: “vengeance
(of the gods) suffers him not to live” (Acts 28:4).
Antidikos means the other fellow in
the court case. Hence, in the parable, “agree with thine adversary
quickly, lest the judge....” (Mat 5:25; Luk 12:58). And, in another
parable, the widow appeals persistently to the unprincipled judge: “Avenge
me of mine adversary” (Luk 18:3).
But now what about 1Pe 5:8?: “Your
adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may
devour.” JWs and such are put in rather a fix to explain what court-case
the devil they believe in might want to prosecute. The word suggests very
pointedly the activities of malicious accusers (Jews?) laying information
against Christians, hoping to get them thrown to the lions in Nero’s
persecution. Read in this way, the word antidikos makes sense;
Pathema means so obviously this,
that there is only one verse where it is differently translated; and that one
place does present a problem: “the motions of sins, which were by
the law, did work in our members” (Rom 7:5). Here, NIV, as much baffled as
King James’ men, attempts a paraphrase: “the sinful passions aroused
by the law were at work in our bodies”. Perhaps Paul was using a genitive
of origin or cause here, meaning: ‘the mental afflictions and struggles
provoked by our sins’. This is a fairly likely meaning; but how to
translate it adequately by one word is no easy matter.
A closely related Greek word occurs in Acts
26:23: “that Christ should suffer (pathetos)”
is intended to stress that the Christ foretold by the prophets was to be one
capable of, or subject to, suffering.
One would expect that pathos would
also have a close association with suffering, yet in fact it has a distinctly
different idea behind it, as the three examples clearly show:
“God gave them up unto
vile affections” (Rom
lust of concupiscence” (1Th
Again, From Above
When Jesus told Nicodemus he must be “born
again”, did he really mean that, or did he mean “born from
above”? The word anothen is ambiguous, and can be read
either way. From the Pharisee’s reply it is evident that he chose to
understand “born again”. There can be little doubt, however, that
the Lord was emphasizing a new birth “from above”. His words about
being “born of the Spirit” surely settle that. Indeed, it is not a
little doubtful whether anothen means “again” in any
NT passage. There is no missing the meaning in some places. The seamless robe of
Jesus was “woven from the top throughout” (Joh 19:23). The
veil of the temple was rent “from the top to the bottom” (Mat
27:51). “Every good and every perfect gift is from above”
(Jam 1:17; and so also in Jam 3:15,17).
In other places the meaning is not quite so
clear. The leaders of the Jews knew Paul “from the beginning
(anothen)” (Acts 26:5). Is this a correct translation? Or
did Paul mean that Jews from the highest rank (from above) knew him as full of
Gal 4:9 is inadequately translated: “How
turn ye to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye again desire to be in
bondage from above(palin anothen)?” — that is,
under religion imposed from above by external authority, the
In the introduction to his gospel, Luk asserts
that he had “perfect understanding of all things from the very
first” (Luk 1:3). Did he mean that he had been in contact with Jesus
from the earliest days? Or did he mean that his information came from the
highest authorities (eg Luk 1,2 from Mary herself)? Or was he claiming direct
guidance and inspiration from heaven, ie from above?
The preposition anti can be easily
misunderstood — for the simple reason that it has come over into modern
English with a somewhat altered meaning. “Antipathy” and
“Anti-Evolution Society” suggest opposition, but this is not
implicit in the word. We in the United Kingdom are not against those kindly New
Zealanders (God forbid!) just because they live in the Antipodes. And there is
no quarrel at all between logs and anti-logs. They help each
The correct notion is rather that of one thing in
the presence of and yet over against another. The people across the road are
anti-you, but not against you (so one hopes). Anti-Christ is not necessarily
hostile to Christ, but is there set over against Christ, the false in the
presence of the true.
It is easy, then, to see how anti
has as its commonest meaning the idea of “instead of”.
“Archelaus reigned in the room of his father Herod” (Mat 2:22).
“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” —
“Of his fulness have all we received, and
grace for (anti) grace” (Joh 1:16). There can now be an end
of vagueness here. The word “fulness” steers the mind to the Glory
of God in the Tabernacle (v 14). One of the dominant uses of “grace”
in the NT is for “forgiveness of sins”. Thus “grace anti
grace” means: the true and full forgiveness in Christ, as against
the typical forgiveness which the Mosaic system foreshadowed so fully. Hence v
17: “The law was given through Moses, but true grace came by Jesus
Misunderstanding is also to be avoided in such
passages as Mar 10:45: “The Son of man came....to give his life a ransom
for (anti) many.” The mistaken notion usually read into
these words is: “a ransom on behalf of many” — this in an
attempt to avoid the idea of substitution: “one dying instead of
many”. Instead of this, try: “one sacrifice instead of many
(sacrifices — as under the Law)”. There is now no
Pantokrator means literally: the
One who rules or governs all. This is the LXX equivalent for Shaddai
and for Sabaoth. The first of these throughout Genesis
means the God of fruitfulness and blessing (from shad, breast).
Hence it is there associated with the Promises. There are many impressive
examples. In the NT, “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev
19:6) celebrates Promises fulfilled. Hence this title in 2Co 6:18, referring
back to the Promise to David (2Sa 7:11).
But through most of the rest of the OT,
Shaddai (Pantokrator) is clearly used in the sense of God the
Destroyer, the Judge (from shadad, destroy). This in Job and
Psalms especially. But see also Joel 1:15. Hence also in the NT: “The
wrath of Almighty God” (Rev 19:15) and “Armageddon....the great day
of God Almighty” (Rev 16:14).
Also the frequent divine title Lord of hosts is
turned into Greek as Ho Kurios pantokrator — the hosts of
angels, the hosts of Israel, the hosts of the redeemed, all of these.
Out of this summary, which suggested meaning is
to be seen in Rev 21:22?
Thusiasterion is that on which one
offers a thusia, a sacrifice or offering. Accordingly, it may
describe either the altar of burnt offering or the altar of
But in the only place where the NT refers to a
pagan altar — “I found an altar with this inscription: To the
Unknown God”(Acts 17:23) — a different word, bomos
(that to which one ascends), is employed. The LXX is not consistent in
There are three very expressive Greek words which
are very difficult to differentiate.
Ekplesso seems to carry the idea of
bewilderment (“foolish”: Ecc 7:17).
Existemi suggests wits paralysed.
It is the word used by the family of Jesus to describe his eccentric behaviour:
“he is beside himself” (Mar 3:21).
Ekstasis (related to the preceding)
is a trance (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). Thus it pictures those who are
“pop-eyed” with astonishment.
All of these are used with reference to the
amazement provoked by Jesus. It is, of course, to be expected that
people’s surprise at witnessing his miracles should call for vigorous
dramatic description. But it is itself sur-prising that the teaching of
Jesus should have created as big a sensation as his wonderful
His parents were amazed to find their
twelve-year-old boy talking without embarrassment with learned doctors of the
law (Luk 2:48). The multitude who heard the Sermon on the Mount, the crowd in
the synagogue at Capernaum, and his townsfolk in the synagogue at Nazareth (Mar
1:22; 6:2), the Passover pilgrims hearing his disputation with scribes and
Pharisees (Mat 22:33) — all of these listened and stared with
astonishment. There is one special example of shock to the Twelve by what the
Lord taught — “how hardly shall they that have riches enter the
kingdom of heaven.... easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a
needle” (Luk 18:24,25).
When it is considered how sensational so many of
the Lord’s miracles were, one is left wondering why the astonishment of
the beholders is mentioned in certain particular instances: the healing of the
demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mar 1:27: these people at Capernaum were
always being surprised, but not converted); the palsied man let down through the
roof (Luk 5:26: the same synagogue); the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mar
5:42: Capernaum again); the blind and dumb man (Mat 12:22: Capernaum!). The
fisher apostles were just as flabbergasted by the miraculous draught of fishes
(Luk 5:9: at Bethsaida-Capernaum), as they were later at their Lord’s
walking on the water and stilling the storm (Mar 6:51). Two other miracles
creating outstanding bewilderment were the healing of the epileptic boy (Luk
9:43) and that of the deaf and dumb man (Mar 7:37). Last of all there was the
final cleansing of the temple — or was it the Lord’s stout
proclamation of a temple thrown open to all nations (Mar
The resurrection of Jesus was the supreme
occasion for astonishment, yet this is mentioned only twice. The women
encountering the angels “trembled and were amazed” (Mar 16:8). And
the two on the way to Emmaus told how infectious this amazement was: “Yea,
and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at
the sepulchre....” (Luk 24:22).
Another group of correlated words still has to be
considered: thambos, thambeomai, ekthambeomai. The last of these,
more emphatic than the others, very often implies fear — the women at
sight of angels at the tomb (Mar 16:5,6), and, probably, the people beholding
the glory in the face of Jesus (Mar 9:15); cp. also Dan 7:7, LXX. Then what of
Mar 14:33: Jesus “sore amazed” in Gethsemane? This cannot be fear.
The use of ekthambos to describe the amazement of the crowd seeing
the lame man leaping and cavorting in the temple court (Acts 3:11) shows that
fright is not a necessary ingredient of this word. But what was it which made
Jesus “sore amazed”? This is one of the lesser unexplained mysteries
of the gospels.
Thambos and its verb are always
associated with fear in LXX, and also, certainly, in the account of Saul’s
conversion: “he trembling and astonished” (Acts 9:6), but
there is nothing of this in any of the other examples. Indeed in several
instances the synoptists take their choice between these and the words
Anoint, Blot out
There are two main words, with their compounds,
Classically, chrio has the idea of
“smear” or “daub”. This comes out in the use of
epichrio for the Lord’s smearing of mud on the eyes of the
blind man (Joh 9:6,11). The same idea is there in the exhortation to Laodicea to
“anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see” (Rev 3:18),
an allusion back to the blind man just mentioned? — only here the word is
enchrio, suggesting that the ointment be rubbed well
However, in the Bible, chrio and
its highly important derivative christos lose the idea of
smearing, and take on the notion of anointing for some holy office. In the OT
(LXX) it is used often for the anointing of priests especially and the
dedication of the equipment of the sanctuary, less often of the anointing of
kings (eg Saul, David, Solomon) and on at least one occasion regarding the
office of prophet: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord
hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek....” (Isa 61:1). Cp.
also Elisha: 1Ki 19:16.
In all these OT examples the Hebrew original is
mashiach, whence Messiah.
Out of five passages, chrio is four
times used of the anointing of Jesus. In each of these the emphasis is on
declaring him to be Christ (Luk 4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb
How daring, then, for Paul to use this word with
reference to himself and his fellow-preachers! But he does so only because he
recognizes Christ at work and themselves as humble instruments in that work:
“He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is
God” (2Co 1:21: a link with Luk 4:18 — “anointed to
preach” — is not difficult). In the next verse Paul alludes to the
gift of the Spirit as the anointing oil (only he changes the figure): “Who
hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our
Similarly the apostle John twice refers to the
gift of the Spirit as an “anointing” (chrisma: 1Jo
2:20,27). Here the allusion (see context in both places) may be to Spirit gifts
of interpretation and “discerning of spirits”, or it may be to the
Spirit’s guidance given them through the apostles; it is difficult to be
Aleipho is used where the anointing
does not signify an appointing to office as prophet, priest or king. Hence it is
used of the anointing of Jesus (Luk 7:38,46; Joh 12:3), and of the anointing of
the sick by the apostles (Mar 6:13; Jam 5:14).
The more emphatic exaleipho is the
equivalent of OT machah, used of wiping a dish (2Ki 21:13),
euphemistically of the appetite of a whore (Prov 30:20) and of the blotting out
of a man’s name from remembrance (Exo 17:14; 32:32; cp. Rev 3:5). But in
the NT there is significant use of this word not with respect to a man’s
sins but to the “handwriting of ordinances” (Col 2:14) which makes
his sin evident!
Specially important is the use of exaleipho
with reference to the “anointing out” of the sins of Israel
on the Day of Atonement through the splashing of sin-offering blood on the mercy
seat: “I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions” (Isa 43:25;
44:22; and cp Jer 18:23; Psa 69:28). This, for certain, is the allusion in Acts
3:19: “Repent ye therefore....that your sins may be blotted out, and that
there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (reference to
the high priest returning from the Holy of Holies to bless the people).”
There is a long list of reasons why it should be concluded that the healing of
the lame man and this ensuing discourse should be regarded as taking place on
the Day of Atonement.
That sordid imprecation uttered against David:
“Let not the sin of his mother be blotted out” (Psa 109:14), was
probably spoken with reference to the trial of jealousy detailed in Num 5:
“The priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out
with the bitter water” (v 23). The suggestion that has been made, that
there was some truth in this beastly insinuation regarding the mother of David
(and Jesus), does not deserve a moment’s consideration, any more than the
other imprecations spoken in that psalm against the Lord’s
Not only the anointing out of sins is signified,
but also of the misery which is the outcome of those sins: “God shall wipe
away all tears from their eyes.” The Lord found this worth repeating twice
from Isa 25:8 (Rev 7:17; 21:4).
There is just one occurrence of the word
murizo (from muron, myrrh). Whereas John’s
records uses aleipho (Joh 12:3) for the anointing of Jesus, the
Lord himself preferred murizo because of its associations with the
embalming of a corpse: “She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the
burying” (Mar 14:8).
The NT’s standard word for
“answer” is apokrinomai. Occasionally this is
intensified with another prefix, giving it a somewhat hostile flavour:
“answer back”. Appropriately four out of five of its OT occurrences
come in the book of Job!
In the NT Rom 9:20 is interesting. In the middle
of the exposition of Paul’s doctrine of election comes the objection
“Why then doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?”
To this Paul’s main reply is: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that art
answering God back?” Who are you, to argue against God? He is the potter,
you and Pharaoh are only clay.
In the three NT occurrences it is always the arm
of the Lord, meaning, of course, His open dramatic effective action in bringing
help to those in need. And in each place there is allusion back to some OT
= Exo 6:6.
= Isa 53:1.
= Psa 118:15 (Heb chayil =
In many places in psalms and prophets the same
idea, of divine intervention on behalf of His people, is very
The NT has four words to signify
“ask” or one of the synonyms of that verb. All of them are used
frequently. It is no easy matter to sort out the different inflexions of meaning
which these carry, but the effort is worthwhile because of the finer nuances of
meaning which can then be traced in not a few places.
Aiteo expresses the idea of
petition, asked by an inferior of a superior. This very clear implication of the
word puts Trench (“New Testament Synonyms”) in rather a flap
because of Martha’s appeal to Jesus: “I know, that even now,
whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (Joh
11:22). Trinitarian Trench does not like the implied notion that Jesus was not
of equal status with his Father, and therefore he expresses himself somewhat
scornfully about Martha’s lack of spiritual insight. But, indeed, if the
apostle John felt equally disapproving, would he have included this in his
1Jo 5:16 is a very problematical passage using
this word aiteo. One problem arises from lack of nouns to the
verbs. “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he
shall ask (Jesus), and he (the Father) shall give him (Jesus) life for
them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he
(Jesus) should beseech (God) for it.”
Erotao seems to have two distinct
It is used as equivalent of the English “enquire”.
Thus, “Jesus asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I
the Son of man am?” (Mat 16:13). And in reply to the Pharisees’
interrogation about his own authority, Jesus replied: “I also will ask
you one thing...” (Mat 21:24). Similarly, concerning the
disciples’ mystification: “Jesus knew the disciples were desirous to
ask him. Do ye enquire (seek) among yourselves of that I said, A little
while and ye shall not see me....?” (Joh 16:19), to be followed by the
assurance: “In that day ye shall ask me nothing (erotao,
question, enquire)....Whatsoever (understanding) ye shall ask
(aiteo, petition) the Father in my name, he will give it
But this word is also used often as
equivalent to “beseech”. It describes importunity: The
Syrophoenician woman pleading on behalf of her daughter (Mar 7:26); the rich man
begging that his five brothers be warned (Luk 16:27). In this sense, often
enough. It is rather surprising, then, to find it used of Jesus
“praying Simon” to let him use the fishing boat as a pulpit
— a measure perhaps of how hard-pressed Jesus was by the crowd (Luk
5:3,1). And it is equally surprising to find Pharisees more than once
beseeching Jesus to accept their hospitality (Luk 7:36; 11:37). Mere
Pharisee hypocrisy? And in Joh 14:16 this supposedly Trinitarian gospel throws a
spanner in the Trinitarian works with this word of Jesus: “I will pray
(beseech, beg) the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter...”,
with reference to what could be expected at his ascension to
Eperotao is the same as
erotao with the intensive prefix epi added to it.
Accordingly, it means either (a) specially earnest enquiry, (b) an insistent
pressing interrogation, or (c) enquiry with a certain legal formality about it
— in this respect not Maredly different from punthanomai
Women chattering during the service about matters which
provoke their interest are bidden pursue this earnest seeking from their
husbands at home (1Co 14:35). It is this word which describes the eager thirst
for knowledge on the part of the boy Jesus as he heard the learned elders in the
temple and “asked them questions” (Luk 2:46). Somewhat
remarkably, the same word comes in Mar 8:23 to describe Jesus’ healing of
the blind man by stages: “he asked him if he saw aught”. The
word implies a special eagerness on the Lord’s part in the performance of
this miracle. The symbolism here helps to explain. When a lawyer came
“tempting Jesus”, asking the question: “Which is the great
commandment in the law?” (Mat 22:35), by using eperotao the
narrative acquits him of hypocrisy or evil purpose.
there is no good meaning behind the summary phrase at the end of that day of
debate in the temple: “No man durst ask him (press upon him) any
more questions” (22:46). The same word describes the eagerness of the
Pharisees to bring about his discomfiture: “He was demanded of the
Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come” (Luk
Pilate’s questioning of Jesus (Mat 27:11),
and the high priest’s interrogation of the apostles (Acts 5:27) both seem
to give to eperotao a certain flavour of legal procedure. Yet not
necessarily (there being another word for this: see below), for in both of these
places it may be the intense feeling or strong pressure of these worldly men
that is being described.
Lastly, punthanomai very clearly
describes (a) the question put by a superior to his inferior, and (b) akin to
this, the formal legal enquiry.
It is the word used of the nobleman enquiring of his servants
the precise hour of his son’s recovery (Joh 4:52), of the prodigal’s
older brother asking for explanation of the unexpected celebration (Luk 15:26),
and of the Roman soldier sent by Cornelius enquiring, as of one of an inferior
race, the way to Simon Peter’s house (Acts 10:18) — yet it is also
Peter’s word, as from the Lord’s representative, when meeting
Cornelius: “I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for
me” (Acts 10:29).
The “legal enquiry”
aspect of punthanomai is readily discernible: the chief priests
cross-questioning Peter (Acts 4:7), the Roman captain and Felix making enquiry
about Paul (Acts 21:33; 23:19,34). But it is somewhat startling to find the same
word used of Peter’s eagerness to identify the traitor Jesus had spoken
about: “Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him (to John), that he should
ask who it should be of whom he spake” (Joh 13:24). Peter doubtless
wished not only for inquisition but also summary condemnation of the guilty
The only problem that arises regarding this verb
and noun (ekdikeo, ekdikesis) is whether they always mean just
that, or whether there is a milder, more impersonal meaning: “do
justice”. Rom 13:4 might seem to fall into this category: “he (the
ruler) is....a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Yet
what might be impersonal administration of justice in a human ruler is a very
personal anger — “wrath” — in an Almighty God who sees
His laws being flouted. And the context also suggests vengeance: “Dearly
beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto the wrath (of God):
for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom
There can be no doubt about the meaning of the
Lord’s prophecy of the horrors of A.D. 70: “these be the days of
vengeance” (Luk 21:22). Israel had violently rejected the Son of God, and
continued to do so; and the Father was angry.
The parable of the importunate widow, a problem
to our translators, ceases to be a problem when the context is allowed to do its
work. The second half of Luke 17 is all about the Second Coming; and Luk 18:8
rounds off with: “when the Son of man cometh...” Then is there not
here a plain directive to apply the intervening parable to the Second Coming? In
that case, who is the widow? — Israel or the new Israel? The former,
doubtless: Isa 54:5-8; Lam 1:1 (ct Mat 28:20; Heb 13:5).
For centuries Israel has seen herself
undeservedly (sic) bereft of help and at the mercy of her enemies. To the
Jews their God has seemed like an unjust judge, callously heedless of
their needs and their rights. Only when Israel turns to God in a persistent
importunity not to be gainsaid will there be response to their plight.
“And shall not God (then) avenge his own elect, they crying day and night
unto him, he being (hitherto) long-suffering (with their persecutors) regarding
them? Then (when they are importunate) he will avenge them speedily.
Nevertheless, when the Son of man (the Messiah: Dan 7:13) cometh, shall he find
faith (in God’s power to save) in the Land?” — implying: Only
in a small remnant.
In the parable, the widow cries: “Avenge me
of mine adversary” (Luk 18:3), and this is right. But the Revisers,
missing the point of the parable and uneasy about a widow crying for vengeance,
have turned it into: “Do me justice” (RV mg.). The RSV has
“Vindicate”. NEB: “Demanding justice”. But the AV is