“Secret” in Paul’s Letters: Rom 11:25; 16:25

This study continues the survey of occurrences of the word musth/rion (“secret”) in the New Testament, most of which are found in the Pauline letters. Previously, I discussed the references in 1 Corinthians; here I turn to a pair of verses in Romans.

Romans 11:25; 16:25

I begin with Romans 16:25, the beginning of a doxology (vv. 25-27) which is often thought, by many critical commentators, to be a secondary addition, and not part of the original letter. However, there can be little doubt that verse 25 reflects genuine Pauline thought, such as we find in 1 Corinthians 2 (cf. the previous study):

“And to the (One who is) empowered [i.e. able] to set you firm, according to my good message [i.e. Gospel] and the proclamation of Yeshua (the) Anointed, according to the uncovering of the secret kept silent for times (and) ages (past)…”

The phrasing in v. 25b is similar in thought (and expression) to 1 Cor 2:7. Here, however, two points are emphasized:

1. The secret (musth/rion, myst¢¡rion) is parallel to, and essentially synonymous with, the Gospel (eu)agge/lion, euangélion), which is further defined specifically as “the proclamation [kh/rugma, k¢¡rygma] of Jesus Christ”. This can be seen by an examination of the structure of this part of the sentence:

    • the one empowered/able to set you firm
      • according to [kata/] the good message [eu)agge/lion]…
      • according to [kata/] the uncovering of the secret [musth/rion]…

2. Two additional details are given regarding this secret: (a) it has been kept silent [sesighme/nou] for long ages past, and (b) it is now being uncovered (a)poka/luyi$, from the verb a)pokalu/ptw, “remove the cover from”). This “uncovering” of the secret is specifically parallel with the “proclamation” of the Gospel. Paul does not quite use this language in 1 Corinthians; rather he simply says that he and his fellow ministers are now speaking this secret, i.e. making it known, which generally amounts to the same thing. To the extent that this secret has been “uncovered” it has been done so by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:10).

Interestingly, Paul typically uses the noun a)poka/luyi$ and verb a)pokalu/ptw in relation to the appearance (revelation) of Jesus at the end-time (2 Thess 1:7 [and note 2:3, 6, 8]; 1 Cor 1:7 [and 3:13]; also Rom 1:18; 2:5; 8:18-19); though, more properly, it refers to any (personal) manifestation of Christ (cf. Gal 1:12, 16; 2 Cor 12:1), etc. It can also refer generally to anything communicated (a prophecy, etc) to believers through Christ or the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 14:6, 26, 30; Gal 2:2; Phil 3:15; also Eph 3:3). Perhaps most notable are those passages which indicate that faith, righteousness, salvation, etc., have been revealed (“uncovered”) in the person of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:23).

In Romans 11:25, the word musth/rion (“secret”) is used in a special context, but one which, significantly, takes us back to the saying of Jesus in Mark 4:11 par:

“I do not want you to be without knowledge, brothers, (regarding) this secret—that you should not be (going) [along] in your own mind(-set)—that the rock-hard (attitude) from part of Israel has come to be (so) until the (time) in which the filling/fullness of the nations should come in.”

From our vantage point, Paul’s syntax (read literally) could easily obscure the point he is making; the central declaration is as follows (paraphrasing):

“this secret is: that the hardness of part of Israel has occurred (only) until the full number of Gentiles should come in (to faith in Christ)”

This statement (and what follows down through verse 32) represents the climax of a long and complex line of discussion by Paul in chapters 9-11, where he attempts to explain an issue dear to his heart: why it is that many of his fellow Jews have failed (or have been unwilling) to accept Christ and the Gospel message. This is something Paul dealt with all throughout his missionary work. We find fierce opposition to Paul and his co-workers throughout the book of Acts (esp. in chapters 13-21), during which time he began to turn his attention toward preaching to Gentiles (non-Jews)—cf. Acts 13:46-47; 18:6; 28:28. Something of his own fiery reaction to this can be found in 1 Thess 2:14-16 (a passage which must be read and handled with great care). Jewish Christians continued to oppose certain aspects of Paul’s teaching, or offered rival doctrines and sources of authority to Paul’s own—cf. throughout Galatians, and especially in 2 Corinthians 10-13. What is especially notable is that we find, in Paul’s addressing of the issue (at the end of the book of Acts, 28:26-27), the same Scripture (Isaiah 6:9-10) cited by Jesus in Mark 4:12 par (cf. the discussion in my previous note). It is possible to trace a line of interpretation and development:

    • Mark 4:12 par—God has blinded/hardened the people (Israel) so they cannot understand the “secret of the Kingdom” disclosed in Jesus’ parables, etc
    • John 12:40—This blindness/hardness of the people (Israelites/Jews) has resulted in their failure (and/or unwillingness) to accept and trust in Jesus
    • Acts 28:26-27—The blindness/hardness of Jews has forced Paul to turn his missionary efforts to non-Jews (Gentiles), who are coming to faith in Christ
    • Romans 11:25—This blindness/hardness was brought about by God for the specific purpose of bringing (the full number of) Gentiles to salvation

The first three of these passages cite Isa 6:9-10 directly; it is only implied, one can assume, in Romans 9-11. This narrows the focus of at least one aspect of the “secret(s) of God” and the “secret(s) of the Kingdom”, but one which was of fundamental importance to early Christians (especially Paul). It is perhaps hard for believers today—particularly those in the Western nations—to appreciate how intense this issue was in the early Church. The first generation of Christians, including most (if not all) of the apostles, was predominantly Jewish. The problem at first involved how non-Jewish believers should be included within the Church, and, it seems clear, there was much heated debate on the matter, which we can now glimpse vividly (if only partly) by reading Acts 10-11, 15, 21, etc, and Paul’s argument running through Galatians. By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Romans (mid/late 50s), many more Gentiles had come to believe in Christ, with congregations springing up all of the Greco-Roman world. A major theme, and purpose, of Paul in Romans was to make a fundamental statement on the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ. This was given theological (and soteriological) formulation, in various ways, throughout chapters 1-8; in chapters 9-11, there is a stronger eschatological emphasis. Commentators continue to struggle on just how one should interpret (and apply) the logic and force of Paul’s argument(s) in Rom 9-11 (cf. my earlier article in the series The Law and the New Testament); it must be studied and treated carefully, lest we too miss out on this aspect of the “secret of the Kingdom”.

The Speeches of Acts, Part 4: Acts 3:11-26

Acts 3:11-26 represents the third speech in the book of Acts, and the third given by Peter. Just as the speech in Acts 2:14-40 follows the Pentecost narrative (with the miraculous manifestation of the Spirit) in 2:1-13, so this speech follows the narrative in 3:1-10: the healing of the lame man at the ‘Beautiful Gate’ of the Temple precincts. In analyzing the previous two speeches, I laid out a basic pattern for these sermon-speeches—Peter’s speech in 3:11-26 shows some variation, but it can still be outlined according to the same pattern:

    • Narrative introduction: verse 11, which joins the narrative in vv. 1-10; it is phrased somewhat awkwardly, and the Western recension (Codex D) is noticeably different. The majority text reads:
      “And (with) his [i.e. the healed man] holding firmly (onto) Peter and John, all the people ran together toward them upon [i.e. in/at] the columned porch called “Solomon’s”, (in extreme) wonderment”
    • Introductory Address (verses 12-16), which includes:
      (a) A kerygmatic statement, vv. 13-15 and
      (b) An application to the current situation, v. 16
    • Citation from Scripture (verses 17-18)—there is no central Scripture quotation, though two passages will be cited in the Exhortation below; here, however there is reference to the fulfillment of Scripture, which also serves to open the Exhortation.
    • {Exposition and Application—there is no exposition of a central Scripture citation}
    • Concluding Exhortation (verses 19-26), with kerygmatic elements (vv. 20-21) and two embedded Scripture citations:
      (a) Deuteronomy 18:15, 19 + Leviticus 23:29 (vv. 22-23)
      along with a joining verse emphasizing the fulfillment of prophecy (v. 24)
      (b) Genesis 22:18/26:4 (v. 25)
      Followed by a concluding declaration (v. 26)
    • Narrative Summary (4:1-4)—this leads into a second narrative block (4:5ff)

There are thus two main sections to the speech: the Introductory Address (vv. 12-16 + 17-18) and the Concluding Exhortation (vv. 19-26). Each of these will be examined in detail.

Introductory Address (Acts 3:12-16)

The Address (v. 12)—Peter uses the same vocative form as in the Pentecost speech: “Men, Israelites!” (cf. 2:22, also v. 14, 29). This is followed by a pair of rhetorical questions:

(For) what [i.e. why] do you wonder upon this? or
(for) what [i.e. why] do you stretch (to look) [i.e. look intently] to us?
—as though by (our) own power or good reverence/respect [i.e. religious conduct, piety] we have made this man to walk around

Peter starts from the crowd’s wonderment at the miracle and seeks to shift the focus away from he and John (the workers of the miracle) to the power behind the miracle. This leads right into a—

Kerygmatic statement (vv. 13-15)—here I will break out and comment on each element:

o( qeo\$ “The God of Abraham, [the God] of Yitschaq [i.e. Isaac], [the God] of Ya’akob [i.e. Jacob]—the God of our Fathers”—this is a solemn, fundamental way of referring to God (YHWH) in an Israelite/Jewish context (v. 12), cf. Exodus 3:6, 15 etc.

e)do/casen “has given esteem/honor (to)”—the verb doca/zw is typically rendered “give glory, glorify”, and is used in the New Testament almost exclusively in the traditional religious sense of giving glory/honor to God. It is also used of believers being honored/glorified (Rom 8:30; 11:13; 1 Cor 12:26), but, somewhat surprisingly, is almost never applied directly to Jesus (cf. 1 Pet 4:11; Heb 5:5; Rev 15:4 for qualified references). It is used of Jesus only in the Gospel of John (Jn 7:39; 12:16; and by Jesus himself in 8:54; 11:4; 12:23; 13:31-32; 16:14; 17:1, 4-5, also 14:13) and here in the book of Acts. Outside of the Gospel of John, Jesus’ glorification is tied specifically to his resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God the Father in heaven (cf. Lk 24:26, 1 Tim 3:16, etc)

to\n pai=da au)tou=  )Ihsou=n “his child Yeshua”—pai=$ is fundamentally a child, but often specifically refers to a servant (who would typically be young). It is used of Jesus only in the early Gospel preaching in Acts (3:13, 26; 4:27, 30), being derived from the Old Testament (LXX), especially the “Servant Songs” of (Deutero-)Isaiah, e.g. Isa 42:1; 49:6; 50:10; 52:13. The specific idea of the child/servant being “glorified” likely comes via Isa 52:13.

o^n u(mei=$ me\n paredw/kate kai\ h)rnh/sasqe “whom you gave along and denied”—the verb paradi/dwmi (“give along, give over”) is the used typically of Jesus’ betrayal—he is “given over” into the hand of wicked men (the Jewish/Roman leaders)—and marks the beginning of the process that would lead to his death. Ironically, in the context of Jesus’ Passion, the verb a)rne/omai (“refuse, deny”) is primarily used for Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus—is this an indication that the speech is authentically Petrine?

kata\ pro/swpon Pila/tou kri/nanto$ e)kei/nou a)polu/ein “according to the face/presence of Pilate (in) that one having judged to loose him from (bondage) [i.e. set him free]”—Pilate’s role was preserved in the early kerygmatic formulae, as can be seen in Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28 (cf. also 1 Tim 6:13), and was retained even into the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. Pilate’s desire (or willingness) to free Jesus became a particular point of emphasis in Christian tradition over time, a development which, perhaps, can already be glimpsed in the Gospels (cf. especially Lk 23:4, 14-15, 22, 25).

u(mei=$ de\ to\n a%gion kai\ di/kaion h)rnh/sasqe “but you denied the holy and just One and asked (that) a murdering man be given (as a) favor/gift to you”—the particle de/ relates to the particle me/n in verse 13, i.e.: “on the one hand, you gave over and denied…before Pilate…, on the other hand, you denied the holy and just One and (even) asked that a murder be given to you (instead)!” Barabbas is not mentioned by name, but simply referred to (probably for dramatic effect) as a “killing/murdering man”. The substantives “Holy One” (o( a%gio$) and “Just/Righteous One” (o( di/kaio$) are relatively rare titles for Jesus, here indicative of the very earliest Gospel preaching. The same pair of adjectives was used of John the Baptist in Mark 6:20. For relevant examples from the LXX, see Gen 6:9; 2 Kings 4:9; Psalm 106:16; Sirach 44:17, etc.

to\n de\ a)rxhgo\n th=$ zwh=$ a)pektei/nate “and the leader of life you killed off”—the expression a)rxhgo/$ th=$ zwh=$ is somewhat difficult to translate, a)rxhgo/$ (arch¢gós “one who leads first”) either in the sense of originator (sometimes rendered “author”) or pioneer (i.e. one who leads the way). The latter is almost certainly meant here—not so much “author of life” (i.e. one who causes or brings it about) but rather one who leads the way (“into life”). That the genitive construction is intended to be understood this way, compare e.g. Jn 5:29; 2 Macc 7:14 (LXX), where the context is resurrection, as here. The idea that Jesus is the “first to rise” (i.e. the “firstfruits”) is well attested in early Christian proclamation (cf. Acts 26:23; 1 Cor 15:20-23; 1 Clement 24:1). There is likely also a connotation of “chief” (or “ruler”) in the term a)rxhgo/$ as well, judging by its use in Acts 5:31. In Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2, the word there may be more properly understood as “author/originator” (“author of salvation”, “author of our faith”); and note also the reference in 2 Clement 20:5.

o^n o( qeo\$ h&geiren e)k nekrw=n ou! h(mei=$ ma/rture/$ e)smen “whom God raised out of the dead (ones), of which we are witnesses”—a fundamental piece of Gospel proclamation, here in climactic position. The importance of the apostles and other contemporary believers as witnesses of the resurrection (that is, of the resurrected Jesus) is emphasized in Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 5:32; 10:41; 13:31.

Application to the current situation (v. 16)—the Greek syntax of this verse is extremely awkward, leading to any number of theories such as mistranslation or variant translation from an Aramaic source. C. F. D. Moule, according to the theory that Acts was left in unfinished form, offers the interesting suggestion that drafts of several different sentences were present and (accidentally) combined (cf. the UBS/Metzger Textual Commentary [2nd ed.] pp. 270-2). Rendered literally, the majority text reads (explanatory gloss in braces):

“And upon trust/faith in his {Jesus’} name, this one {the healed man} whom you behold and know—his {Jesus’} name has made firm/strong, and the trust/faith which through him {Jesus} has given to him {the healed man} this wholeness in front of you all”

Central Reference to Scripture (3:17-18)

This short passage joins the introductory address to the main Exhortation in vv. 19-26. With two pieces:

(a) An appeal to the crowd in response to the kerygmatic statement of vv. 13-15. The emphasis is on the people’s ignorance—they did not realize what they were doing in their opposition to Jesus:

“And now, brothers, I see [i.e. realize/know] that according to lack of knowledge [i.e. ignorance] you acted even as your leaders [oi( a&rxonte$] (did)”

For this theme of ignorance, see also Acts 13:27; 17:30; 1 Cor 2:8, and also the logion (missing from key early MSS) in Luke 23:24.

(b) A statement that the sufferings of Jesus were the fulfillment of Scripture revealed by God beforehand through the Prophets. This is a common and popular theme in Luke-Acts—cf. Lk 24:26, 46; Acts 17:3; 26:23.

Concluding Exhortation (3:19-26)

Verse 19: “Therefore change (your) mind/understanding [i.e. repent] and turn (back) upon (God) unto [ei)$, but pro$ in some MSS] the wiping out/away of your sins”

The two verbs metanoe/w (“change [one’s] mind/understanding”) and e)pistre/fw (“turn [back] upon, return”) appear frequently in the early Gospel preaching in Acts (2:38; 5:31; 9:35; 20:21; 28:27), and are used together in Acts 26:20; cf. also Acts 11:18, 21; 14:15; 17:30. The verb e)calei/fw (“wipe out”) is unusual in this context; the much more common expression is “release [a&fesin] of sins” as in Acts 2:38.

Kerygmatic/Eschatological declaration (vv. 20-21)—note the parallelism, with emphasized phrases in italics:

    • How as [i.e. so that] seasons of refreshing might come from the face/presence of the Lord,
      • and he might set forth from (himself) the (one) prepared/appointed beforehand to you, (the) Anointed Yeshua,
    • whom it is necessary (for) heaven to receive until the times of restoration of all (things),
      • which God spoke through the mouth of his Holy Ones from (the) Age, (the) Prophets

It is also possible to view vv. 20-21a as a chiasm:

    • Seasons of refreshing
      • from the face/presence of the Lord
        • Jesus to be sent forth
      • present in heaven (at the right hand of God)
    • Times of restoration

Let us examine the parallel expressions (in italics above):

kairoi\ a)nayu/cew$ (kairoi anapsy¡xeœs). The first word is the plural of kairo/$, which seems to relate fundamentally to the idea of measure—i.e. of a particular or definite point, either in a spatial or temporal sense. Temporally, it came to have the meaning of “the proper time”, “the right/decisive moment”, “an opportune time”, and so forth. A general match in English is the word “season”, and so it is often translated. However, it is partially synonymous with xro/no$ as well (see below). The noun a)na/yuci$ is derived from a)nayu/xw (“make cool again” or “breathe again”), often with the sense of “recover, refresh (oneself), find relief”, etc. The noun usually translated “soul” (yuxh/) is related to yu/xw (“cool, blow, breathe”). The noun a)na/yuci$ only occurs here in the New Testament (also in the LXX Exod 8:11), with the verb used in 2 Tim 1:16; a similar noun a)na/pausi$ (“rest [again]”) appears in Matt 11:28-29, etc. The expression kairoi\ a)nayu/cew$ could be rendered attractively (and fairly literally) in English as “time to breathe again”.

xronoi\ a)pokatasta/sew$ (chronoi apokatastáseœs). Xro/no$ is a common word for time, often, as here, a fixed measure or point in time (similar to kairo/$, “[opportune] time, occasion, season”); the plural xro/noi can also refer to a long period of time. The noun a)pokata/stasi$ is derived from a)pokaqi/sthmi, “to set (something) down [or make it stand] from (where it was [before])”, i.e. “restore, re-establish”; hence the noun is typically rendered “restoration, restitution”. Occurring only here in the New Testament, a)pokata/stasi$ (along with the related verb) became a technical eschatological term in early Christianity, at least partly due to the use of the verb in the LXX of Malachi 4:6 [3:24] (cf. Mark 9:12; Matt 17:11). The verb also is used in reference to the restoration of Israel/Judah (from exile) in the Prophets (Jer 16:15; 24:6; Ezek 16:55; and cf. Acts 1:6).

Interesting is the idea of the imminent but clearly future sending of Jesus as the Messiah (“Anointed”). This may help explain the use of xristo$ earlier in Acts 2:36—there it is stated that God made Jesus to be “Anointed” (Xristo$), following the resurrection. We are accustomed to think of Jesus as the Messiah/Christ in a more general sense, related to his divine nature (as Son of God) and role as savior (through his atoning death); here, however, we may see preserved an earlier (Jewish Christian) emphasis—of Jesus as the Anointed One who will (soon) come at the end time to restore “all things” and usher in the Kingdom and Judgment of God. The concept of the restoration of “of all things” (pantw=n) is probably derived from eschatological passages such as Isa 65:17; 66:22; cf. also 1 Enoch 45:4b-5; 4 Ezra [2/4 Esdras] 7:75, etc; and New Testament passages such as Rom 8:19-22; Rev 21-22.

Scripture citations (vv. 23-25)—Here the Scripture is not central to the kerygma, but rather is at the heart of the concluding exhortation. Note the interesting way these are combined and interconnected in short space:

    • Deuteronomy 18:15, 19 (+ Lev 23:29?)—Jesus as the Prophet to Come
      • All of the Prophets announced these days beforehand
      • You are the offspring (“children”) of the Prophets and the Covenant
    • Genesis 22:18/26:4 (also 12:3)—promise to Abraham that through his offspring (“seed”) all the families of earth will be blessed

The first citation is drawn from Deut 18:15-19 (also quoted in Acts 7:37), identifying Jesus as the Prophet “like Moses” whom God will raise up. In Judaism at the time of the New Testament, there was the expectation of an eschatological (end-time) Prophet who would appear before the great day of the Lord; there were two patterns to this figure—(1) Elijah (based on Mal 3:1; 4:5-6) and (2) Moses (based on Deut 18:15-19). Later Christians have tended not to think of Jesus in terms of an (Anointed) Prophet of the end-times, but it was much more prominent in early belief and tradition (on this, see Parts 2 and 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”). The second citation, with the emphasis on Jesus as the promised “seed” of Abraham, is more familiar to us today, by way of Paul’s writings (cf. Gal 3-4).

The Jews in the audience are referred to as: (a) “sons of the Prophets”, and (b) “(sons) of the Covenant”. The first expression was used as a technical term in the Old Testament (<ya!yb!n+h^ yn@B=) to describe someone who was a member of the Prophet class or order (1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, 15). Peter, however, uses it in an ethnic and spiritual sense—Jews will truly be sons of the Prophets if they hear and accept Jesus (the Great Prophet), v. 23. The second expression (“sons of the Covenant”, in Hebrew tyr!B=h^ yn@B=) does not occur as such in the Old Testament (cf. Ezek 30:5), but the underlying idea is present throughout, with the emphasis of faithfulness, of belonging to the Covenant God made with Israel and the Fathers (especially Abraham, v. 25). For the equivalent of this expression in Judaism of the period, see the Qumran texts 1QM 17:8; 4Q501; 4Q503 7-9; also CD 12:11 and Ps Sol 17:15.

Concluding declaration (v. 26)four kerymatic elements are repeated here: (1) God having raised (a)nasth/sa$) Jesus from the dead, (2) Jesus as the child (or servant, pai=$) of God, (3) turning back to God (here turning away from [a)postre/fein] sin), and (4) the release/forgiveness of sin (here implied). The unique detail in this verse is the idea (echoed from vv. 20-21) that God will send forth Jesus to bless (eu)loge/w) his people (that is, those who hear and accept the Gospel proclamation). This blessing, of course, is connected back to the citation from Genesis 22:18/26:4.

Previously in this series I have mentioned the critical view that the speeches in Acts are largely the creation of the author (trad. Luke); I also observed that is better (and more accurate) to hold that, while the speeches as we have them are part of a literary work (and so reflect much Lukan style and vocabulary), they certainly preserve core features of the early apostolic preaching. This can be seen in Peter’s speech in Acts 3:11-26 by the use of numerous expressions, as well as terms and titles for Jesus, that are not at all common in later Christian writing. In summary, I cite some notable examples:

  • Terms and titles for Jesus—child/servant (pai=$), holy one (a%gio$), just/righteous one (di/kaio$), leader of life (a)rxhgo\$ th=$ zwh=$), prophet (profh/th$), and also Anointed (xristo$, i.e. of the future/coming Messiah).
  • Other unusual or significant expressions—God “glorifying” Jesus (v. 13), the formula of the disciples as witnesses of the resurrection (v. 15b), faith specifically related to the name of Jesus (v. 16), forgiveness of sin expressed as “wiping out” (v. 19), that God will send forth Jesus (as end-time Messiah, v. 20, 26), the expressions “seasons of refreshing” and “times of restoration” (vv. 20-21), the citation of Deut 18:15-19 applied to Jesus as end-time Prophet (v. 22-23), the expressions “sons of the Prophets”/”sons of the Covenant” (v. 25), Jesus as the “seed of Abrahram” (v. 25).

The Speeches of Acts, Part 3: Acts 2:14-40 (continued)

This is the conclusion of a study on Peter’s Pentecost sermon-speech (Acts 2:14-40) which I began in Part 2 of this series, examining the structure of the speech and the Scripture passage (Joel 2:28-32 [3:1-5 Heb]) cited in the first section. In this part, I will look at the next two sections, using the same methodology.

Scripture Citation #2: Psalm 16:8-11 [LXX 15:8-11]

The Text.—The quotation from Psalm 16:8-11 matches the Greek (LXX) version [15:8-11], which is itself a reasonably accurate translation (into Greek idiom) of the Hebrew (MT). It may be useful, however, to compare (literal/glossed) renderings of the Hebrew MT and LXX/Acts side by side (translation of such ancient poetry being truly just an approximation):

MT Psalm 16:8-11

“I have set YHWH to (be) in front of [i.e. before] me continually,
for (indeed) from my/his right-hand I will not be made to slip/swerve.
For thus is my heart joyful, and my liver twirls/leaps for joy;
(yes) even my flesh dwells unto safety/security.
For you will not leave/deliver me unto Sheol,
you will not give your good/faithful (one) to see (the) Pit.
You will make me know the path of life,
(and the) filling/fullness of joys (at/by) Your face,
the pleasant (thing)s by Your right-hand constantly.”

LXX Psalm 15:8-11 / Acts 2:25-28

“I saw the Lord before in my eyes [i.e. in my presence] through all (things/times),
(in) that he is out of [i.e. from/on] my right-hand (so) that I should not be shaken.
Through this my heart was of a good mind [i.e. was merry] and my tongue jumped for joy,
but yet also my flesh will put down (its) tent [i.e. dwell/rest] upon hope,
(in) that you will not leave my soul down in Hades and will not give your Holy (One) to see thorough ruin/decay.
You made known to me (the) ways of life,
(and) you will fill me of a good mind [i.e. with happiness/joy] with your (presence) before my eyes.”

The Exposition/Application.—Here we must consider two portions: (a) the kerygmatic statement in vv. 22-24 which leads into the quotation, and (b) the exposition which opens the next section of the speech (vv. 29-31). I will treat the kerygma of vv. 24 below; here note the exposition from the next section (vv. 29-31)—Peter makes three points which can be grouped together as a triad:

    • The Psalmist (David) died (i.e. completed/finished his life) and was buried—indeed his tomb is still known (v. 29)
    • David was a prophet (literally, a foreteller) and knew that “out of the fruit of his loins” an heir will come to sit on his throne (v. 30)—primarily a reference to 2 Sam 7:11b-14, which came to be a prime Messianic passage.
    • As a prophet, David foresaw the resurrection (lit. standing up [again]) of the Anointed [i.e. Messiah, Jesus] (v. 31)—here specifically Psalm 16:10 is cited again.

Originally Psalm 16 was a (personal) lament by the Psalmist (trad. ascribed to David), expressing trust in the faithfulness of Yahweh (identified with El)—in contrast to Canaanite gods/idols—with a strong affirmation of his own devotion to God. Verses 8-11 represent the conclusion of the Psalm—the Psalmist finds continual joy and security in God’s presence, even to the point of trusting that YHWH will not abandon him to the grave (i.e. the ‘Pit’ or Sheol). This latter reference is somewhat ambiguous, but it does seem to express the idea that the author of the Psalm will not experience death, at least not permanently. Subsequently in Judaism and early Christianity, this would have been understood in terms of resurrection.  And it is the resurrection of Jesus that is primarily in view for Peter (and the author of Acts), as indicated by the repeated citation of verse 10 in Acts 2:31. In this interpretation, the Psalmist (David) speaks not of himself, but prophetically of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Notably, the Greek verb e)gkatalei/pw (literally, “leave down in…”, but also understood generally as “leave behind, abandon, forsake”, etc) was uttered by Jesus on the cross in Mark 15:34 / Matt 27:46; and this no doubt helped establish the connection between Psalm 16 and the death/resurrection of Jesus.

Kerygmatic statement/formulae.—There are two statements to note: (a) in verses 22-24, part of the introductory address which leads into the citation of Psalm 16:8-11, and (b) verses 32-33, which are part of the introductory address of the next section (leading into the citation of Psalm 110:1). Verses 32-33 are addressed below; here let us examine briefly verses 22-24, which begin with the exhortation “hear these words…”:

    • V. 22: “(of this) Yeshua the Nazarean, a man presented from/by God unto you with works of power and wonders and signs which God did in your midst, even as (you your)selves know”
      • V. 23: “this one, by the marked will/purpose and foreknowledge of God, given out through the hand of lawless (ones), fastening (him) to (the stake) you took (his life) away”
      • V. 24: “whom God made stand up (again), loosing the pains of death, according to (the fact) that there was not power to hold him firmly under it”

I regard these verses as an example of early Christian kerygma (Gospel proclamation), using formulaic phrases, terms, and images which would stand out and be easy to remember and transmit. Here they are still rough and fresh, but over time such statements would take on a cleaner form (which could be used in early hymns and liturgy; for possible examples, cf. Romans 1:2-4; 1 Tim 3:16). I discussed some of the Christological aspects of the language and terminology here in an earlier article.

Scripture Citation #3: Psalm 110:1 [LXX 109:1]

The Text.—The quotation from Psalm 110:1 is virtually identical to the Greek (LXX) version [109:1]:

Ei@pen o( ku/rio$ tw=| kuri/w| mou Ka/qou e)k deciw=n mou,
e%w$ a*n qw= tou\$ e)xqrou/$ sou u(popo/dion tw=n podw=n sou.
“The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit out of [i.e. from/by] my right-hand,
until I should set your enemies (as something) under-foot [i.e. a ‘foot-stool’] for your feet’.”

The only difference is the first definite article (o() for ku/rio$ (i.e. “[the] Lord”), which is omitted in some manuscripts.

The Exposition/Application.—Psalm 110:1 follows on the citation of Psalm 16:8-11, with a definite continuity of thought: just as Ps 16:8-11 refers to God not leaving his Holy One down in Hades to see ruin/corruption—implying the resurrection—so with Ps 110:1 we see the result and after-effect of the resurrection—Jesus exalted (as Lord) to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven. This is stated clearly in the kerygmatic statement in vv. 32-33 (see below), but decisively in verse 36, which serves as both exposition and kerygmatic declaration. In its original context, Psalm 110 was probably connected with the coronation or inauguration (enthronement) of the king. Much like Psalm 2, this Psalm refers to the king in exalted, ‘divine’ language, very much in keeping with ancient (Near Eastern) ideas of kingship. In Hebrew, it reads: “(An) utterance of YHWH [hw`hy+] to my lord [/wda* i.e. the king]…”; translations which render both hwhy and /wda by “Lord”, as in the Greek, obscure the sense of the original. Of course, this very ambiguity lies at the center of the early Christian view of Jesus as “Lord” [ku/rio$] (see below). I would divide the Psalm as follows:

    • Declaration (utterance/oracle) of YHWH—”Sit at my right-hand…” (verse 1)
      • Promise by YHWH of (divine) power/victory over the king’s enemies (verses 2-3)
    • Declaration (oath) of YHWH—”You are a priest…” (verse 4)
      • Promise of the king’s power/victory over the peoples, in terms of YHWH’s judgment against the nations (verses 5-6)
    • Concluding declaration of YHWH’s establishment of the king’s rule (verse 7)

It should be noted that much of the vocabulary and syntax of this Psalm remains obscure, with verses 4 and 7 being especially difficult to interpret. However, there can be no doubt that early Christians saw in this Psalm (as in Psalm 2) a reference to Jesus’ exalted/divine status. The fact that verse 1 was already cited by Jesus in early Gospel (Synoptic) tradition (Mark 12:36-37 par) may have contributed to the association, even though the exact meaning and force of the question Jesus asks is not entirely clear (and continues to be debated). Hebrews 1:13 apparently cites Ps 110:1 in the context of Jesus’ pre-existent nature and status as God’s Son (Heb 1:2-3ff), according to orthodox belief. But here in Acts, Ps 110:1 is applied specifically to Jesus’ exaltation to God’s right hand in Heaven following the resurrection, which is somewhat problematic for orthodox Christology, for it could be taken to mean that Jesus had a position at God’s right hand only after (and as a result of) the resurrection/exaltation. This was discussed in an earlier note; and see also my article on Adoptionism. For more on this idea, cf. below on Acts 2:36.

Mention should also be made of the obscure and highly enigmatic reference to “Melchi-zedek” in Ps 110:4—the entire verse, in context, is extremely difficult to interpret, with a wide range of scholarly suggestions available. Be that as it may, Christians applied this specific reference from the Psalm to Jesus as well—most famously in the seventh chapter of Hebrews (Heb 7). For more on this, cf. Part 9 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”, along with a related study on the idea in Hebrews.

Kerygmatic statement/formulae.—There are two statements which should be noted: (a) verses 32-33, following the exposition of vv. 29-31 and prior to the citation of Ps 110:1 in vv. 34-35, and (b) the climactic declaration in verse 36. Here is the statement in vv. 32-33:

“This Yeshua God made to stand up (again)—of which we all are witnesses—(and) therefore he was lifted high to the right [lit. giving] hand of God, and receiving the announcement [e)paggeli/a, i.e. promise] of the holy Spirit (from) alongside the Father he poured this out—(of) which [also] you see and hear.”

In some ways this continues the kerygmatic statement from vv. 22-24, which summarizes Jesus’ earthly life and ministry up to the moment of resurrection; now is described the resurrection (and post-resurrection appearance[s], “of which we all are witnesses”), the exaltation to God’s right hand in Heaven, and the sending of the Spirit (which Jesus receives from the Father). There can be little doubt that such credal summaries were an important part of early Gospel preaching and proclamation (kerygma). The climactic declaration in verse 36 is, however, especially striking:

“Therefore let all the house of Yisrael safely/certainly know that God made him (both) Lord and Anointed—this Yeshua whom you put to the stake!”

Here we have the two titles most widely used and applied to Jesus in the early Church—”Lord” (ku/rio$) and “Anointed” (xristo/$, i.e. Messiah/’Christ’). It would seem the implication here is that both titles apply to Jesus as a result of the resurrection and exaltation, which, again, is somewhat problematic from the standpoint of orthodox Christology. Also difficult is the statement that God made (e)poi/hsen) Jesus Lord. I have discussed these points in some detail in an earlier note.

Now all that remains is to examine, briefly, the—

Concluding Exhortation (2:37-40)—This can be divided as follows:

  • Narrative description of the crowd’s reaction (37a), along with a question from the crowd to Peter (37b):
    Reaction—”And hearing (this), their heart was pierced (through) and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles…”
    Question—”…What should we do, men, brothers?” (note the echo of the introductory address in v. 29)
  • An exhortation to repentance by Peter (vv. 38-39)—this, too, reflects the kind of formulaic expression which would have been common in early Gospel preaching. Note that repentance (lit. “change [your] mind/understanding”) and baptism are “upon the name of Yeshua (the) Anointed [i.e. Jesus Christ]” and “unto the release [i.e. forgiveness] of your sins”—both very common and familiar early Gospel phrases. To this is added something else truly distinctive: “and you will receive the (free) gift of the holy Spirit”. The motif of the Spirit as “promise” (e)paggeli/a) is emphasized again as well, blending in the traditional image of the “promise of God” to Israel (to Abraham, David, etc); in keeping with the context of the Pentecost narrative, this promise is to other Jews (specifically those in Judea/Jerusalem, “to your offspring”) and to both Jews and Gentiles among the nations (“to the ones unto a distance [i.e. far off]”). The final phrase “as (many) as the Lord our God should call toward (himself)” may be an echo of Joel 2:28b [3:5b Heb], which was not included in the citation of vv. 17-21.
  • A concluding exhortation, where it is stated that Peter “witnessed thoroughly/throughout” (diemartu/rato) with many other words and “called (them) alongside” (pareka/lei), saying “save (your)selves from this twisted/crooked generation!”

February 8: 1 Peter 4:6, 17, etc

In the previous note, I discussed the use of the verb eu)aggeli/zomai in 1 Peter 1:12, 25; today, I want to look at two more occurrences of the eu)aggel- word group in chapter 4 of that letter, before surveying briefly the remaining occurrences in the New Testament.

1 Peter 4:6, 17

The noun eu)agge/lion occurs in verse 6, part of a section of ethical instruction and exhortation with a strong eschatological emphasis. For the author (Peter), like nearly all early Christians, it was believed that the end was imminent (“the completion/end of all [thing]s has come near”, v. 7a), and the Judgment by God close at hand. The final Judgment is certainly in view in verse 6, as we read in verse 5: “…(they) shall give forth an account to the (One) holding readiness to judge the living and the dead”. We find in verse 6 the difficult phrase “the good message was brought even to the dead”, which has tripped up many commentators (cf. the earlier notice in 3:19). The main point to note, however, is that the Judgment of all humankind is to be based on the (Gospel) message of Jesus. Even more significant is that life (for the dead) in the Age to Come (i.e. eternal life) is dependent on the Spirit, which can only be bestowed on persons following reception of the Gospel message. Note the me\nde/ contrast:

    • “(on the one hand) they should live in the flesh according to man [i.e. as human beings]”
    • “(on the other hand) they (should live) in the Spirit according to God”

The same Judgment context, and implicit contrast between those who do and do not accept the message of Jesus, is present in verse 17, were the noun eu)agge/lion occurs:

“(it is) the time of the beginning of the Judgment from the house of God; and, if it is first from us, what (then) is (its) completion for the (one)s unpersuaded by the good message of God?”

The expression “good message of God” is familiar from Paul’s letters, where it occurs several times (Rom 1:1; 15:16; 1 Thess 2:2, 8-9), and was doubtless traditional by the time this letter was written (c. 60 A.D.?). What is unique about this usage in chapter 4 is how thoroughly the eu)aggel- word group is identified with trust in Jesus within the specific eschatological context of the last Judgment.

The Remainder of the New Testament

The eu)aggel- word group is entirely absent from the Johannine writings (Gospel and Letters), but it does occur twice in the (Johannine) book of Revelation—the verb in 10:7, and noun and verb together in 14:6. In 10:7, it is possible that the verb eu)aggeli/zomai is being used more or less in the general sense of bringing good news—in this case, the “good message” involves, not the Gospel per se, but the final eschatological mystery of how/when God will bring the current Age to an end. The dual use of noun and verb in 14:6 is especially dramatic, as would be appropriate for the scene:

“And I saw another Messenger taking wing [i.e. flying] in the middle of the heaven(s), holding the good message of the Ages, to deliver as a good message upon the (one)s sitting [i.e. dwelling] upon the earth, and upon every nation and offshoot and tongue and people…”

Probably the technical sense of eu)aggel- as the (Christian) preaching of the Gospel is more in view here; however, the message is still primarily eschatological (not evangelistic), which can be obscured by translating the expression eu)agge/lion ai)w/nion as “eternal Gospel”, rather than more literally as “good message (of the) Age(s)”—i.e. the good news that the Ages of humankind are coming to an end, and that the New Age of God is being ushered in.

The occurrence of the verb eu)aggeli/zomai in Hebrews 4:2 and 6 is interesting in the way that the Christian meaning is read back into the more general sense (i.e. bringing good news). This is done in the context of paraenesis—ethical/religious teaching—involving the interpretation and application of Scripture (a common preaching technique, then as now). Believers in Christ had the “good message” of Jesus proclaimed to them, and yet are being warned of the danger of falling away. To emphasize this point, the example of the Israelites in the time of the Exodus is brought forth:

“indeed we are (one)s having the good message (declar)ed (to us) even as it also (was) to those (person)s; but the account [lo/go$] (which was) heard did not benefit those (person)s, not having been mixed together with trust/faith by the (one)s hearing.”

The rather complicated syntax in the second half of the verse is a roundabout way of saying that hearing the Gospel preached has to be accompanied by genuine trust from the person hearing in order to have its saving effect. The verb eu)aggeli/zomai is used again in the same context in verse 6.

Finally, we should note three occurrences of the noun eu)aggelisth/$. The common Greek noun eu)a/ggelo$ (“good messenger, messenger of good [news]”) does not occur in the New Testament at all, but only eu)aggelisth/$, which is derived from the verb eu)aggeli/zomai, and thus means “one bringing/declaring a good message”, emphasizing the action of bringing or announcing the message. Even so, this noun is rare, being used just three times, and in relatively late writings: Lukan narration in the book of Acts (21:8), 2 Timothy 4:5, and Ephesians 4:11. Second Timothy and Ephesians are often considered to be pseudonymous by commentators; whether or not this is correct, it is unlikely that either letter was written prior to the early-60’s A.D. The book of Acts was probably written c. 70-80 A.D.

In all three passages, eu)aggelisth/$ appears to be used in the established Christian sense of a specific ministry role, or position, within a group of believers (or congregation)—i.e., one who is specifically devoted to, and gifted in, preaching the Gospel message. The absence of this noun in the undisputed letters of Paul, and in the rest of the book of Acts, makes it unlikely that it was widely used prior to the 60’s A.D. It is possible that 2 Tim 4:5, if genuinely Pauline, represents the earliest surviving use of the noun, which was a word essentially coined by Christians. I am not aware of any occurrence prior to the 1st century, nor in any contemporary non-Christian context.

February 7: 1 Peter 1:12, 25, etc

Having discussed Paul’s use of the eu)aggel- word group in the previous notes, it is necessary to supplement that discussion with a brief survey of occurrences in the letters where authorship is disputed. After this, we will survey the remainder of the New Testament evidence.

Usage in the disputed Pauline Letters

Colossians and Ephesians are often regarded as pseudonymous by many critical commentators. For my part, I consider Colossians to be authentically Pauline (on objective grounds), without any real reservation; however, I must admit to a little doubt in the case of Ephesians, where there appears to be more evidence for unusual wording and the development of (Pauline) thought and expression. In any case, the noun eu)agge/lion occurs twice in Colossians, in expanded expressions:

  • Col 1:5—”the account of the truth of the good message” (o( lo/go$ th=$ a)lhqei/a$ tou= eu)agge/liou):
    “…through the hope th(at is) being laid away for you in the heavens, of which you heard before in the account of the truth of the good message th(at is com)ing to be alongside unto you, even as it also is bearing fruit in all the world…” (vv. 5-6)
  • Col 1:23—”the hope of the good message” (h( e)lpi\$ tou= eu)agge/liou):
    “…if (indeed) you remain (well-)founded upon the trust and settled (down), and not being stirred over (away) from the hope of the good message which you heard, th(at) is being proclaimed among every (creature) formed (by God) under the heaven…”

It is possible that this reflects a development of the Pauline mode of expression. Certainly it is a more expansive kind of statement than we typically see in Paul’s letters, though rooted in his own style and vocabulary. For the expression “truth of the Gospel”, see Gal 2:5, 14; “hope of the Gospel” does not occur elsewhere in the letters, but cf. Rom 5:2ff; 8:24-25; Gal 5:5; 1 Thess 1:3, etc. The phrasing in Col 1:5 is quite close to Eph 1:13, and involves the critical questions of authorship and the relationship between the two letters. The noun eu)agge/lion itself occurs four times in Ephesians (1:13; 3:6; 6:15, 19), and the verb eu)aggeli/zomai twice (2:17; 3:8). Even scholars who believe Ephesians is pseudonymous must admit that it is derived and inspired by authentic Pauline tradition and expression:

  • Eph 1:13: “the account of the truth, the good message of your salvation”; cf. Col 1:5 (above). Vv. 13-14 represents a more systematic theological formulation.
  • Eph 2:17: “he [i.e. Jesus] brought the good message (of) peace to you the (one)s far (off), and (also) peace to the (one)s (who are) near”. This statement utilizes traditional language (cf. Acts 10:36 and the prior note), and does not reflect the technical Christian meaning of eu)aggeli/zomai as “preach the Gospel”.
  • Eph 3:6 and 8. The first half of chapter 3 (vv. 1-13) presents a detailed summary of Paul’s view regarding his role as minister of the Gospel (to the Gentiles), fully in keeping with what is expressed in his other letters, though not in such a clear and systematic manner as we find here. Verse 6 states concisely the Pauline doctrine that Gentile believers are heirs together (and equally so) to the promises God made to Israel, which are fulfilled for believers in Christ. This takes place “through the good message” (dia\ tou= eu)aggeli/ou). In verse 8, Paul declares once again that he was appointed by God “to bring the good message”.
  • Eph 6:15 and 19, where we find two developed Pauline expressions: “the good message of peace” (v. 15) and “the secret [musth/rion] of the good message” (v. 19, cf. Rom 16:25; Col 1:26-27, and earlier in Eph 3:6.

The Pastoral letters are also generally considered to be pseudonymous by critical scholars (and even some traditional-conservative commentators). The greatest doubt surrounds 1 Timothy (which has the largest concentration of unusual vocabulary and expression), while, in my view, 2 Timothy appears to be authentically Pauline (on objective grounds). The noun eu)agge/lion occurs 3 times in 2 Timothy (1:8, 10; 2:8) and corresponds entirely with Paul’s usage of the word. The expanded expression in 1 Timothy 1:11 is more unusual: “…the good message of the splendor of the blessed God”.

1 Peter and the rest of the New Testament

The eu)aggel- word group occurs 12 more times in the New Testament: the noun eu)agge/lion twice (1 Pet 4:17; Rev 14:6), the verb eu)aggelizomai seven times (Heb 4:2, 6; 1 Pet 1:12, 25; 4:6; Rev 10:7; 14:6), and the derived noun eu)aggelisth/$ three times (Acts 21:8; Eph 4:11; 2 Tim 4:5). The largest concentration (4) occur in two passages of 1 Peter.

1 Peter 1:12, 25

1 Peter 1:3-12 is essentially a single long introductory sentence, climaxing in verse 12, with the key declaration that the death and resurrection of Jesus (and its saving effect) was first revealed to the Prophets, and then subsequently made known to people (believers) through the Gospel:

“…the(se thing)s which now were given up as a message to you through the (one)s bringing the good message to you [in] the holy Spirit…”

The parallel between Prophets and Apostles (i.e. preachers of the good message) was traditional in early Christianity, with both groups seen as uniquely inspired, moved by the Spirit. There is similar traditional language used in the next section of the letter, the exhortation in vv. 13-25, which concludes with an important expository sequence:

  • The declaration in verse 23:
    “your trust and hope (is) to be unto God {v. 21}…having come to be (born) again, not out of decaying seed, but (out of seed) without decay, through the living word [lo/go$] of God (that is) also remaining (in you)”
  • The paraphrased quotation from Isa 40:6-8 in vv. 24-25a, which ends with a similar statement:
    “…but the utterance [r(h=ma] of the Lord remains into the Age” (cf. Isa 40:8b)
  • The statement in verse 25b identifying the eternal “word of the Lord” with the “good message” proclaimed by the apostles:
    “and this is the utterance being brought as a good message unto you”

In the previous note, I argued that the words lo/go$ (“account”) and r(h=ma (“utterance”) were more primitive, earlier terms for the Gospel message than eu)agge/lion. In Acts 10:36-37a, where the early message (kerygma) is proclaimed during Peter’s sermon-speech to the household of Cornelius, both of these words are used in tandem, along with the verb eu)aggeli/zomai, just as we see here; indeed, the declaration in vv. 36-37a introduces the Gospel. The use of eu)aggeli/zomai there does not refer to the preaching of the Gospel in the technical sense used by early Christians. We are, perhaps, closer to that here; certainly, there is distinct theological (interpretive) development at work. We may be able to trace this development by working backward in the syntax of this passage:

    • the eternal, undecaying seed which brings new life for the believer; this “seed”, which dwells and grows in the believer is elsewhere identified with the Spirit (of God and Christ)
      • this seed is identified as the living “word” [lo/go$] of God
        • it is part of the eternal creative power associated with the spoken word (“utterance”, r(h=ma) of God
          • lo/go$ (“account”) and r(h=ma (“utterance”) were both terms used by the first Christians to refer to the proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma)
            • the early/first preaching of the message of Jesus by the apostles, bringing “good news” (vb. eu)aggeli/zomai)

The occurrences in 1 Peter 4:6, 17, and the rest of the New Testament, will be discussed in the next daily note.