Category Archives: Hebrew & Greek

Resources to help you study the Bible in the original languages.

Bible Study in Ephesians #2 – Featuring BibleWorks 9

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In my first post in this series, I promised that I would be continuing a word-study on prognosis, following up on my findings shared previously. I still plan to do that, but today want to move forward with a look at Ephesians 1:1. These posts feature wonderful Bible software called BibleWorks (version 9), provided to me gratis by the nice people at BibleWorks. I’ve talked about BibleWorks before, but let me just say again that it has no equal when it comes to serious study of the Bible in the original languages. New for me, however, is that for the first time in my life I’m using a Mac computer (11″ MacBook Air and OS X Snow Leopard). BibleWorks is only available for Windows, but I installed it on my Mac by first installing Windows XP on VirtualBox and then installing BibleWorks via disc images transferred across my home wi-fi network (the MacBook Air has no cd/dvd drive).

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Paul’s letter to the Ephesians opens with these words,

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus…

(Ephesians 1:1 ESV)

Continuing in my little series of posts showing how to prepare a Bible study in Ephesians featuring software from BibleWorks, the place to start is at the beginning. And in this first verse there is enough material to fill an evening of discussion. Right off the bat, if people read this wrongly, there could be a pretty serious pressure of guilt piling up. I see a potential source of guilt in two words, “saints” and “faithful”.

As most people know, if they have been attending church for any significant amount of time, the word, “saints” means “holy ones” (Greek, hagios, a word that also means “holy” when used as an adjective). So if I’m sitting in a Bible study and we read this verse, I immediately could be forgiven for thinking this might not include me. After all, I’m anything but holy, if “holy” means I’m perfect in all my ways like God is perfect in all His ways. What does “holy” mean anyway? Let’s look it up in BibleWorks. The Louw-Nida lexicon module gives the definition, “pertaining to being holy in the sense of superior moral qualities and possessing certain essentially divine qualities in contrast with what is human – ‘holy, pure, divine’.” If this is what holy people are like, then this letter is not for me. But let’s keep reading.

The other word I mentioned as a source of guilt is the word, “faithful”. Why? Because if I judge myself, in almost every area of life, I cannot truly say I have been faithful. I have disappointed myself repeatedly and failed to live up to my own standards time and time again. Isn’t that what most people mean by “faithful”? But what does the Louw-Nida lexicon in BibleWorks say about the Greek word for “faithful” (Greek, pistos)? “Trusting” or, “trustworthy”. Well those are two entirely different meanings aren’t they? If the Paul uses the word “faithful” in verse 1 to address people who are “trustworthy”–those who set the bar really high—again, I’m not sure if this letter is for people like me. But if Paul uses the word “faithful” in verse 1 to refer to people who are “trusting”, well then, that absolutely describes me. For the reason that it’s precisely because of the fact that I know I’m not “holy” and I know I’m not entirely “faithful” that I simply have to depend on Jesus altogether—I trust in Him, not in myself.

In that case, it would be good if we could determine how exactly Paul is using the word “faithful” here in Ephesians 1:1. We get a pretty big clue to what Paul means when we see the very next words, “in Christ Jesus”. That is, Paul is writing to people who were “faithful in Christ Jesus.” Paul uses that same phrase, “in Christ Jesus”, 46 times in his New Testament letters and seven times in Ephesians alone. (Just highlight the Greek phrase, en Xristw Iesus right-click on it and click “search for phrase”.) We can, it’s fair to say, learn what Paul means by the phrase by reading how he uses it elsewhere. Especially if he uses the phrase repeatedly in this same letter. And seven repetitions shows that for Paul, in Ephesians, this phrase is something of a theme!

  • Ephesians 1:1 – “faithful in Christ Jesus”
  • Ephesians 2:6 – raised up and seated “with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
  • Ephesians 2:7 – “kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”
  • Ephesians 2:10 – “created in Christ Jesus”
  • Ephesians 2:13 – “in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have been brought near”
  • Ephesians 3:6 – “partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus”
  • Ephesians 3:21 – “to [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus”

The theme to note, in all the uses of the phrase “in Christ Jesus” throughout the book of Ephesians (actually all are in the first 3 chapters!) is that none of the occurrences put the focus on what we do for Jesus, but on what Jesus does for us. These seven uses of “in Christ Jesus” are almost like a list of benefits Christians obtain in and through Jesus Christ. Leaving the first occurrence for the moment, we read that 1) we are raised up and seated in the heavenly places, 2) shown kindness by God, 3) created, 4) brought near to Christ, His people and His promise (c.f. Eph 2:12), 5) partakers of the promise, and 6) glorifying God!

In light of how the phrase, “in Christ Jesus” is used in those 6 places in Ephesians 1-3, how odd would it be to interpret “faithful in Christ Jesus” in verse 1 as somehow describing people who have proven themselves dependable, worked really hard, or lasted to the end on their own effort! No, the words “faithful in Christ Jesus”, then, must mean either a) that these people have been made faithful by Christ Jesus, or b) that these people have had faith in Christ Jesus. Remember that one of the two meanings of the Greek word for “faithful” in Ephesians 1:1 is “trusting”. So it would be too much of a stretch then to argue that Paul is writing to a self-made, proven, tested, independently trustworthy people. Consider the context of three of those “in Christ Jesus” verses (2:6, 7 & 10):

…even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.(Ephesians 2:5-10 ESV)

As always, context is the best interpreter in trying to understand the Bible. And this context teaches us that Paul is not writing to people who had to prove themselves to God in order for Him to accept them, but to people who were dead (spiritually) but “made alive” and shown grace by God, without having earned anything and with no right to expect His favour; who were “by grace…saved through faith”, “not of [their] own doing” but as “the gift of God”, and “not as a result of works” of their own, but so that they might do “good works”.

Following the logic of Eph 2:5-10, therefore, it is very likely that when Paul talks about those who were “faithful in Christ Jesus” in Eph 1:1, his meaning should be understood as those who were “trusting in Christ Jesus”. That is the essence of faith in Ephesians: to trust in Christ Jesus. Because Eph 2:8 shows that all the benefits we Christians receive from Jesus are “not [our] own doing” but “the gift of God”. So in fact, we are Christians because of God’s gift—because of God’s grace.

Finally, we see that Paul, the writer, himself considers his own role as an apostle to be likewise the result of what Jesus Christ did for him:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” (Eph 1:1)

The BibleWorks master cross-reference list, gives Galatians 1:1 as a cross-check, which reads, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…” This is no surprise for you if you know the story of Paul’s call to be an apostle, found in Acts 9. For at the same time Jesus Christ called Paul to be an apostle (lit. “a sent-out” missionary and representative of Jesus), Paul was also converted. Acts 9 is the account of Paul’s call and his conversion. The same is true, we find, for all Christians, through a careful study of Ephesians 1:1. We are converted not as a result of anything we do or decide, but “by the will of God” and through the work of Jesus Christ. And every benefit we receive through God’s rich grace, we receive “in Christ Jesus.” There is a call to obedience; there is a call here for Christians to be faithful and do good works (Eph 2:10). But this faithfulness is not the condition of our salvation and call; it is the result of our salvation and call. Doesn’t that take the pressure off?

Bible Study in Ephesians #1 – Featuring BibleWorks 9

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BibleWorks 9 - Focus On the Text

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Throughout the Fall so far, I’ve been leading our church care group in a study through the book of Ephesians, using BibleWorks 9 to prepare myself with some in-depth study of the book passage by passage. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to post a handful of articles demonstrating how I use BibleWorks to prepare for Bible studies.

In our care group discussion this week, we took a break from Ephesians and dealt with the question one of kids posed about predestination and free will. We talked about the implications of the Bible’s teaching that God is sovereign over everything (yes, I mean everything). As discussion went back and forth, lots of questions came up (are we just robots? is God responsible for sin? does it matter if we try to live morally? etc.), and one verse that proved helpful was Acts 2:23.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

Some people argue that God foreknows things, like when someone commits murder, but does not plan such things. This verse says otherwise. Notice the words in verse 23, “definite plan and foreknowledge”. This means God had a plan and foreknew the outcome. I think it is fair to say that the highest peak of all human sin and evil in history was the event of the crucifixion of the sinless Son of God. So if that particular murder was the culmination of both God’s foreknowledge and His “definite plan”, then the same logic can be applied to every lesser act of sin and evil in history. Particularly since Jesus died “for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3). If God planned and foreknew Jesus’ crucifixion, then surely it is illogical to conclude that He planned and foreknew Jesus’ death but not the sins for which Jesus died? Would God have planned Jesus’ death if it might have turned out to be unnecessary? What if no one had sinned? Would God have cancelled His plan for Jesus to die? Ahhh… but Jesus’ death was not only according to God’s plan, but also according to God’s foreknowledge. So God knew when He made His plan (speaking humanly) that people would sin and that Jesus’ death “for sin” would therefore be necessary.

But why then did God just simply plan for people NOT to sin at all? Or why, if God foreknew that people would sin, did He create them anyway? Well, He did foreknow, and He did still create people. So the only remaining question is, “did God plan for people to sin?” We have seen that pushing the question back in history does not actually avoid the implication: If God planned for Jesus to die for sin, He therefore also planned to create people who sinned. And if He planned to create people who sinned, He planned to send His Son to die for our sins. And therefore, He planned for Jesus’ to die “for sins” before people sinned; before He created people; before He created anything.

Out of curiousity, I did a BibleWorks search on the Greek word, prognosis, translated in Acts 2:23 as “foreknowledge”. My bet was that most uses of this word in reference to God’s foreknowledge would show in context that God’s foreknowledge was also according to His plan. This is important to establish as we begin to look into Ephesians, since that little book kicks off with a bang on the subject of Divine predestination and sovereignty. How we interpret “predestination”, “foreknowledge” and “election” in Ephesians 1 will influence much of what we understand in later chapters.

Prognosis occurs twice in the New Testament as a noun (Acts 2:23 and 1 Pe 1:2). I found this out by using the BBW “search on Lemma” tool. This gives me all occurences of the root of the noun, regardless of case, etc. So does the use of prognosis in 1 Peter 1:2 support the thesis that God’s foreknowledge is rarely mentioned aside from His plan and purpose?

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Reading carefully, you can see that the phrase in verse 2, “according to the foreknowledge of God” is modifying the nominal phrase, “elect exiles”. In other words, Peter is saying that the “exiles” are “elect… according to the foreknowledge of God”. The word “elect” in both Greek and English refers to God’s choice, His election. So God “chose” the exiles “according to His foreknowledge”. The presence of the idea here that God was choosing and electing people proves that God had a purpose and plan and that His foreknowing was not merely passive in 1 Peter 1:1-2.

But to carry the point further, there is a possible objection here that needs to be answered. Some might want to argue that God’s choice here is the cart being pulled along by the horse of God’s foreknowledge. In other words that God looked into the future, saw what these exiles would do, want, choose, believe, etc., and thefore chose them for their future obedience. Fair enough: the words “according to the foreknowledge of God” can definitely be taken that way. But–and this is a big but–if we read more carefully in verse 2 we see that this cannot be the case: notice the words, “…for obedience to Jesus Christ”. That is, these exiles to whom Peter wrote were “chosen”, “according to God’s foreknowledge” “for obedience to Jesus Christ”. The purpose, or at least one of the purposes, in the mind of God behind His choice and foreknowledge was that these exiles would one day be obedient to Jesus. So their obedience to Jesus cannot have been the ground of God’s choosing and electing of them, but rather God’s choice and election of them has to be the ground and cause of their future obedience.

This is really the crux of the debate between Arminius’ doctrine of salvation and Calvin’s. It is the question of whether God foreknows and predestines and elects those whom He knows will one day follow Christ, or foreknows, predestines and chooses people thus causing them to become obedient to follow Jesus. Both theologians believed in predestination, both believed in foreknowledge and election. Arminius argued that the obedience of Christians that God foresaw is the ground of God’s election. Calvin argued that God’s election is the ground of Christians’s eventual obedience. Because His foreknowledge was with purpose and plan. So far in Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2, we see that Calvin’s is the more biblically faithful interpretation of these passages.

In my next post in this Ephesians / BibleWorks 9 series, I will examine the contexts of some other passages where prognosis occurs in its verb form in the New Testament, to see if my thesis can be supported in general and not just in one or two passages.

The Apostolic Fathers (in Greek & English!)

I saw this today and immediately added it to my Amazon wishlist. I have access to much of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers in Greek, but my skill in Greek isn’t enough to help me read them well without an English translation. Moreover, the exerpts I have come across in English translations often leave a bit to be desired… either because they don’t include enough context or because I wonder about the quality of the translation. Now, with this book, I can double check the original and read a good English translation in order to unlock the wealth of insight found the in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Praise the Lord!

Here’s the blurb from Amazon’s “Product Description”:

Following last year’s publication of his thoroughly revised translations in The Apostolic Fathers in English, 3rd ed., a leading expert on these texts offers a thoroughly revised and redesigned bilingual edition, featuring Greek (or Latin) and English on facing pages. Introductions and bibliographies are generous and up to date. In the textual apparatus, existing notes have been revised and expanded, and well over 200 new notes have been added. This handsome and handy one-volume, thin-paper edition, with ribbon marker, will be an essential resource for students and scholars and a joy to book lovers.

An Excellent Supplement to Nestle-Aland!

I love my little Nestle-Aland27 Greek New Testament. It’s compact size and handy lexicon makes it an ideal tool for quick reference. But around a year ago I read a short essay by the editors of a newer resource for Greek NT geeks. The essay, actually a foreword to The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, helped me to understand why some scholars still insist that the “older is better” bias to manuscripts might not be all it’s cracked up to be. While I love the ESV and NASB and appreciate the accuracy of the so-called “modern translations,” I have found The New Testament in the Original Greek to be a very helpful addition in my own sermon preparation. In the apparatus it shows very simply where it differs from the Nestle-Aland. In the margin, it shows the major existing variances within the very large and rich complex of the Byzantine textual tradition. But as a readable book it is brilliant: its pages are larger than the compact Nestle-Aland, its paper is much brighter, its font is crisp and attractive. In more than a few instances I’ve even concluded that its rendering of a verse is more accurate than the preferred reading of the Nestle-Aland. I heartily recommend it for every preacher greatly concerned with accuracy. It’s also included in BibleWorks under the abbreviation “BYZ”.

The Online Bible Software for PC

The Online Bible is a powerful software package combining a Bible study interface with a massive built-in library of Bibles, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, books, maps, devotionals, references and original language lexicons.

You can get the software as a download for no cost, or purchase a cd-rom.

Click here to check out the translations, commentaries and other free modules we recommend for the Online Bible program. More links to download hundreds of books and commentaries at no cost are also included on that page.

The Online Bible is, in my opinion, the best Bible study software available. There are several reasons for saying this:

  • The program and hundreds of add-on books, commentaries, dictionaries and Bible translations are available at no cost as Internet downloads. Competitors’ products, like Logos, E-Sword, or Nelson’s are costly just for the basic programs, and then charge additional fees for the options you will want to use. While it is true that the Online Bible add-on modules are “public domain” and either free from copyright, or free to distribute with permission from the authors/publishers, this is not a disadvantage. As a pastor, I have a large library of more current commentaries and other Bible study tools. But I rarely need anything other than the resouces available on the Online Bible. Just because a particular commentary is new, does not mean it is necessarily an improvement over older, classic works, such as John Gill’s “Expositor,” or Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament. For advanced original language research in the Old and New Testaments, I use BibleWorks. You can find BibleWorks available for purchase through the Online Bible storefront. But unless you are able to read Greek and Hebrew, the Online Bible has everything you need for personal study, sermon preparation, Bible college studies or even seminary studies not requiring advanced linguistic research.
  • The “Add-on Material List Update” tool, listed above, is a fantastic way to keep current with the latest user-made and officially produced modules ranging from books to Bibles. Best of all, these updates are free!
  • The search engine built into the Online Bible program is second-to-none. You can perform simple or complex searches easily and quickly in no time.
  • Because the Online Bible has been around for so long, making it one of the longest surviving Bible software packages, it has a very large following of loyal users. These users frequently produce their favourite Christian books, theological works, commentaries, etc., into Online Bible format, and make them available at no cost to the whole user community. As far as I know of, this is unheard of with other Bible software products.
  • The Online Bible has, for a long time, worked closely with Answers in Genesis and the team at what is now Creation Ministries International to provide a wide range of quality creation and science literature available to Online Bible users. These books are free and can provide Christian lay-people with up-to-date scientific arguments and evidence for the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible.
  • I have been using the Online Bible program on a weekly basis since early in 2000. I have never encountered a serious software glitch. Program updates have been released regularly and frequently to resolve technical issues that were unknown to me. The program has just been getting better and better as these new updates have included user-requested features and tools to improve the product.

BibleWorks 7

If you’re serious about being able to work with the best Hebrew and Greek texts, all the major English translations, a wide variety of other language editions and resources, including the Westminster Standards, a whole range of lexicons, diagramming tools and other textual helps, then BibleWorks is for you! I’ve never been a fan of the OTHER software that was promoted at Seminary: the Logos system. It seems with them that the module you want always costs a little bit more. But I’ve been thrilled with BibleWorks from the first day I started using it. And when a new version comes out, existing customers can upgrade for a very reduced price! Check out their website at http://www.bibleworks.com.