Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do Not Rebuke an Elder

     The American Standard Version translates the first part of
1 Timothy 5:1 in this way, "Rebuke not an elder." This reflects
the policy of the ASV translators to be as literal as possible, and
to use one English word for one Hebrew word in the O.T., and
one English word for one Greek word in the N.T. when possible.
This policy has inherent problems of its own, though one scholar
wrote the following about the ASV, "So far as English versions
are concerned, the reader who wants an accurate word for word
translation has in the Revised Version or American Standard
Version the best of its kind that is ever likely to be provided."
(Bruce, F.F.,  The Books and the Parchments, page 235) I
wholeheartedly concur with Bruce's assessment of the ASV. The
ASV has no equal as  far as the modified  literal  approach  to
translation is concerned.

     What does the word "elder" mean in 1 Tim. 5:1? It translates
the Greek presbutero, dative masculine singular of presbuteros.
Presbuteros is used in a number of ways in the New Testament.
It  may  refer  to  members of  the Sanhedrin (presbuterous ton 
Ioudaion, elders of the Jews) Luke 7:3; the 24 members of the
heavenly court (hoi eikosi tessares presbuteroi) Revelation 5:8;
men  who were appointed  to  preside over and   shepherd  local
assemblies  of  Christians  (tous presbuterous tes ekklesias, the
elders  of  the congregation) Acts 20:17 ;1 Timothy 5:17-19; and
those  who  are   advanced  in  life  (hoi  presbuteroi, old  men)
Acts 2:17.

     The meaning of "elder" in verse 1 is "old man." We can be
certain that this is correct because of the "contextual indicators."
There is an antithesis which exists between "an elder" who is to be
exhorted "as a father," and "younger men" who are to be exhorted
"as brothers" (neoteras hos adelphous). So, "elder" (presbuteros)
is used in contrast to "younger" (neos). Whatever "elder" means,
"younger" is the opposite, and whatever "younger" means, "elder"
is the opposite. Furthermore, Paul continues by contrasting "elder
women as mothers" (presbuteras hos meteras), and exhorting
"younger women as sisters" (neoteras hos adelphas). The "elder"
of verse 1 denotes the same thing as "elder women" of verse 2,
except for the distinction in gender. "Younger men" likewise
denotes the same thing as "younger women" excepting the gender
distinction. Also, there is a parallelism which exists between "elder"
of 1 Timothy 5:1, and the language of the same apostle elsewhere.
In Titus 2:2, Paul exhorts Titus that he, in speaking sound teaching,
inform "aged men" (presbutas) of their duties, and "aged women"
(presbutidas) of their duty to teach the "young women"
(tas neas, vv. 3,4).

     We find the same use of "elder" by the apostle Peter. "Likewise,
you who are younger (neoteroi), be subject to older ones
(presbuterois)" (1 Pet. 5:5). Note again the antithesis between
"younger" and "elder."

     What is the significance of the injunction "do not rebuke an
elder" expressed by the negative imperative (me epiplexes)?
May we not "rebuke" all who are in error, and who persist in sin
or rebellion against God, whether young or old? According to
other texts we may (Matt. 18:15-18; Lk. 17:3-4; 1 Tim. 5:20;
2 Tim. 4:2). So, why does the Holy Spirit through Paul, so
emphatically  say  to  Timothy  "do not  to  rebuke  an  elder"?
The key is in the word "rebuke." It is not the same word used in
2 Timothy 4:2.

     The word used in 2 Timothy is epitimao. Contextually, epitimao 
means "to censure  and  render a sharp rebuke" by the teaching of
the word. "Rebuke" in 1 Timothy 5 is from the Greek epiplesso
which means to reprimand, to strike (verbally), to assault with
abusive speech, to chastise with words, to reproach or denounce.
In the context, Paul informed Timothy about proper conduct
among believers, which he as an evangelist must practice. One
of the orders given to Timothy was, "Don't let anyone look down
on you because you are young..." (1 Tim. 4:12; NIV2011). This
entailed  treating  old men and old women with respect. An Old
Testament text contains the concept, "You shall stand up in the
presence of  the  elderly, and  show  respect for the elderly and
revere your God; I  am  Yahweh." (Lev. 19:32) Timothy was to
show respect for  the elderly, and not lash out with harsh words,
but have a tongue tempered by love and gentleness.

     Instead of the phrase "Rebuke not an elder," as in the ASV,
the recent versions say, "Don't criticize an older man" (Simple
English Bible), "Never be harsh with an elder" (New English Bible),
"Never censure an older man harshly" (James Moffatt Translation),
"Do not sharply rebuke an older man" (NASV), "Do not speak
harshly to an older man" (NRSV), "Do not reprimand an older
man" (McCord's New Testament Translation), "Do not rebuke
an older man harshly" NIV. This shows why it is important to
study from more than one translation. Comparative translation
study opens up vast opportunities for spiritual growth!

     The expression "Do not rebuke an elder" does not restrict or
forbid the younger from correcting the older brothers in the Lord
who err, but it does teach that there is a proper way to do it. And,
the way  is  not  by  ridicule and  harshness,  but  "as fathers and
mothers," that is, with genuine concern and kindness, attempting to
win them by snatching them out of the devil's grasp!

Copyright 2011                                   

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Son of Man

     The phrase "son of man" (ben adam) is an idiom. It is used approximately
107 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is found 93 times in Ezekiel 2:1-47:6. In
each instance ben adam is literally translated in the Septuagint with the Greek
phrase huios anthropou.

     Yahweh called the prophet Ezekiel "son of man" in order to focus on the
prophet's humanity. It is equivalent to saying "O man," or "mortal" (NRSV)
Ezekiel is a human being in contrast to the Sovereign, eternal God, the creator
of all. Yahweh is not "a son of man" (ben adam) that he should change his
mind." (Num. 23:19) God is not a mortal or a human being. Yahweh spoke to
the nation of Israel, the people of God,  through Ezekiel, a human being, a man
of the same class as those to whom he prophesied.

     In one of the Aramaic portions of the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel
spoke of one like "a son of man" (kebar enas) who came "with the clouds
of heaven...to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him
was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and
languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which
shall  not  pass  away, and  his  kingdom one that  shall not be destroyed."
(Dan. 7:13-14; ESV) Bar enas emphasizes the humanity of the person
described  by  Daniel. He  is  like a "son of man", that is, a member of the
genus human being.

     The idiom  "Son of Man" (huios anthropou) occurs more than 80 times
in the Greek N.T. It  is found 14 times in Mark, 30 in Matthew, 25 in Luke,
12 in John, 1 in Acts, and  it  is used  with homois in Rev. 1:13 and 14:14.
Jesus is the "Son of Man" in that he was "made like his brothers in every
respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the
service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." (Heb. 2:17;
ESV) But, there is more.

     As the "Son of Man" the Father has given him authority to execute judgment.
(Jno. 5:27) The Son of Man is identified with Yahweh. He is the "I Am." (Jno.
8:58; Ex. 3:14; Isa. 43:25) The Son of Man came down from heaven to be the
atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. (Jno. 3:13; 6:62) He is "the Lamb
of God;" the perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity. (Jno. 1:29) The suffering
of the Son of Man is connected with the figure of the righteous servant of Yahweh
in Isa. 52:13-53:12. "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth."
(1 Pet. 2:22) He was conceived in and born of a virgin (Mat. 1:23; Lk. 1:27,34)
Acknowledging the Son of Man will lead to being acknowledged in the presence
of the Father. (Mat. 10:32) "The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost."
(Lk. 19:10) The angel reminded the disciples at the empty tomb, "that the Son of
Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and rise on
the third day." (Lk. 24:7) He who was the Word in eternity "became flesh" and
died for the sins of the human race. (Jno. 1:14) He has received his kingdom,
glory, and honor, and he sits at the right hand of God. (Dan. 7:13-14; Heb. 1:3;
1 Pet. 3:22)

     Jesus is the "Son of Man" in that he was the perfect human being, truly human,
the ideal human being, the par excellent  human  being;  a  descendant  of  David
according to the flesh. (Mat. 22:42; Rom. 1:3) The "Son of Man" is the Messiah!

Copyright 2011