Word Study #142 — You, You-all, and Each of You

April 25, 2012

This is really more of a grammar lesson than an actual word study, but the word “you” is so badly misunderstood in what passes for New Testament teaching, that I think “you all” will soon see why it is needed. The problem in this case is not teachers with an axe to grind, or deliberate distortion of the text. The culprit in this error is the English language itself. This subject is one where Elizabethan English, if rightly understood, does a better job of translating than “modern” versions. The reason is that, unlike any other language I have encountered, modern literary English makes no distinction between singular and plural in the second person pronoun, “you.” Speakers of other languages do not have this problem to the same extent.

In older English, it was easier: “ye, your, and you” indicated plurals, while “thou, thine, and thee” were singular in reference. They were not, as some suppose, an indicator of status or reverence, but simply of how many people were being addressed.
Since modern convention makes no such distinction, however, native speakers of English tend to read most occurrences of “you” as if they were individually addressed, whereas in the vast majority – more than twice as many – of the New Testament references, the word is in fact plural – addressed to a group, not an individual.
In the PNT translation, (available for free download on this site), I have attempted to remedy this problem by using “you all” for the plural, substituting an italicized “you” where multiple “you all’s” would seem too much for non-southern readers.

The Greek language, like most others, makes very clear distinctions. In English translations, however, the word “you” has been used for both singular (su, sou, soi, se) and plural (humeis, humon, humin, humas) pronouns. A plural “you” addressed a group of people, as a group, a unit. If the individual members of a group were intended, hekastos humon, “each / every one of you”, was used. This is seen in 12 of the 77 uses of hekastos (each, every) in the New Testament. Consequently, there was no confusion on the part of the original readers or writers, as to the intention of a speaker or reporter.
In addition to the over 1000 uses of the singular pronoun, and nearly 2200 of the plural (I really don’t think you wanted me to list them all!), a subject is also clearly expressed in every verb form. So one must also distinguish between “you” and “you all” when there is no pronominal subject in evidence. Here too, plurals predominate.

By this time, those of you who, like my dear husband of 50 years, “hated grammar” in grade-school, will be asking, “SO WHAT??? Who cares???”
As pointed out repeatedly in Citizens of the Kingdom, it makes a huge difference in one’s understanding of function and responsibility in the Christian brotherhood!

Our being designated as “the light of the world” (Mt.5:14), “the salt of the earth” (Mt.5:14), “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Cor.3:16,17; 6:19), and “the Body of Christ” (I Cor.12:27), are all plural. NONE of this is talking to or about individuals. “This little light of mine” is NOT a Scriptural idea! If the Kingdom doesn’t happen together, as a corporate entity, it doesn’t happen at all!

Likewise, most instructions are given in the plural. There are, of course, some things that have to be relegated to individual effort. Interpersonal activity mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, for example (Mt.5:22-37) – relating to a brother, to one’s wife, to an abuser, to a court of law – is, and must be, one’s own responsibility, and is addressed in the singular.
But notice how Jesus shifts back to the plural, when turning to the treatment of “enemies”.
If all alone and isolated, I were expected to figure out how to offer genuine love to a person who has considered me an enemy, and to good to those who hate, or have abused me, I would often give up in despair. But this monumental assignment is addressed in the plural! It is a group project!
So are all the “blessings” in the Beatitudes, and the vast majority of Paul’s instructions to the churches. What is totally impossible for an individual, while it may still be difficult, becomes possible in a mutually supportive brotherhood! That is Kingdom living! Together, we can do and be far more than any of us could ever do or be alone.

Now, this is not to disparage individual accountability. That’s where the twelve occurrences of hekastos humon , “each one of you”, come in. One’s initial commitment to Jesus and his Kingdom is clearly an individual matter. However much we might wish it to be otherwise, no one can make that momentous decision for another. From Peter’s first sermons (Ac.2:38, 3:26) all the way to Jesus’ warning to the compromising folks in Thyatira (Rv.2:23) about the results of their behavior, individual responsibility is not negated.
Every person is also responsible for making his own contribution to the worshiping group (I Cor.14:26), as well as to the relief of suffering brethren (I Cor.16:2), and earlier in the same letter (1:12) “every one” is scolded for their divisive following of strong personalities instead of the Lord Jesus.
“Each one of you” is responsible for marital love and care (Eph.5:33), for remembering, observing and propagating Paul’s teaching regarding faithfulness (I Thes.2:11, 4:4) and for loving each other (II Thes.1:3).
“Each of you” is admonished (Heb.6:11) to demonstrate the “same eagerness, in confidence, hope,” and (v.10) generosity, “until the end.”

However, if you sift carefully through the gospels, you will also find some surprises. I will simply list a few, without comment. You can work on them with a group of brethren. (Please share your observations!)
Mt.7:7 – all 6 verbs are second person plural in form. Those in v.8 are third person singular.
The same is true in the parallel passage in Lk.11:9-10.
Mt.21:22 – both verbs are second person plural.
Jn.3:7 – the first “you” is singular, but the second is plural!
Jn.14:13,14; 15:7, 16; 16:23,24,26 – The pronouns and second person verbs are all plural.
Even these few examples show that there is intended to be a lot more corporate, mutual involvement than we are accustomed to assuming. There are similar surprises in the epistles.
You can easily sort out more of these, using either the PNT mentioned before, or better yet, get yourself a Greek interlinear New Testament, where each word is identified for you. They are easy to recognize: if a word identified as “you” has 2 or 3 letters, it is singular; if it has 4 or 5, it is plural. I have included more grammatical information in the appendix to Translation Notes.

And remember that except for the “pastoral epistles” (Timothy, Titus, Philemon), all of Paul’s epistles, Hebrews, and the letters of Peter, James, Jude, and the first letter of John, are uniformly addressed to congregations, or perhaps clusters of congregations, not to individuals, although some include personal notes.

Paul describes the desirable balance in I Cor.12:27: “You all (pl) are the Body of Christ, and individually, parts of it.” This is elaborated in chapter 7 of Citizens of the Kingdom.
May “each of us” , and “you /we all”, faithfully do our part – together!

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Word Study #141 — The “Sin” Question

April 21, 2012

“Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage!” (Gal.5:1, KJV)  There! I did it!  A quote from the “traditional translation”!  And what’s more, I feel like shouting it at top volume every time someone in a “church service”, contemporary, liturgical, or anything in between — starts expounding on how “we all sin every day”, and need to “confess” stuff that we can’t even imagine, let alone “remember”!  If that isn’t “bondage”, I don’t know what is!

This subject has been addressed in chapter 3 of Citizens of the Kingdom, and in word studies # 3, 5, 7, 23, 27, 34, 88, 120, 121, and 128, where you will find more detail on some aspects of the question, but I’ve been asked to do a “stand-alone” treatment of the topic, so here goes.

By now, you all surely know that my first question is, “What did JESUS say?” But before we turn to that, it is necessary to sort out the vocabulary.  The confusion in “Christian” circles surrounding the idea of “sin” results from the perverse decision of translators to use that designation for three nouns, two verbs, and one adjective for all of which they actually use the word “sin” in the text, and the even more perverse choice of interpreters and doctrine-writers to add to the mix six more concepts which were never even translated “sin”, but which they include in their definitions. And that doesn’t even count the completely spurious decision of the NIV translators to render “flesh” (#85) as “sinful nature”.
Remember please, as we have noted before, that English (and most other) translations were made many centuries after “doctrines” were codified, and were highly influenced by the positions of their sponsors!

In the exercise of sorting terminology, Trench’s Synonyms of the New Testament is more helpful than the classical lexicons, since classical writers did not express any “theological” orientation with these words, but simply referred to failed purpose, errors of various kinds, character faults, or neglected responsibility.   Trench has arranged the words in a sort of “order of seriousness” that may contribute to understanding.
Hamartia and hamartema, the most commonly used in the New Testament, are the most benign of the group.  Classically they referred to missing a mark, or failing to grasp a concept.  Homer used it when one of his heroes hurled his spear and missed.  Thucydides used the verb form, hamartano, of getting lost on a journey, and Aristotle used it of trying for results beyond one’s capability. None of these had any ethical baggage.  There may have been a very serious mistake, even one with dire consequences, but it was an honest mistake or failure.
Classical writers used asebeia (ungodliness) or adikia (injustice) if they intended ethical implications.  Strangely, although both of these appear in the New Testament, neither was ever rendered “sin.”
Agnoema  (ignorance of what one should have known) appears only three times (Lk.23:24, I Tim.1:13, and Heb.9:7).
Hettema (neglecting a duty, failing to render what is owed) appears only twice (Rom.11:12, I Cor.6:7).
None of these four are ever translated “sin” — by anyone except preachers!

Anomia (15x) and paranomia (1x), on the other hand, referred specifically to lawbreaking.  These were usually rendered “iniquity” or “unrighteousness”, and consistently involved a deliberate (not inadvertent) offense.
Parakoe (disobedience — see #27 and 88), was also deliberate, and only occurs three times (Rom.5:19, II Cor.10:6, Heb.2:12)
Parabasis (overstepping a line), appearing only 7x, also referred to lawbreaking, and is usually rendered “transgression”.
Paraptoma, “falling when one should have stood upright, a false step, slip, or blunder; defeat, transgression, trespass”, is rendered in the New Testament 8x “trespass”, 6x “offense”, 2x “fall”, 2x “fault”, and 4x “sins”.  It seems usually to have a sense of a deliberate act, although there is a possibility of a “bad choice” in Gal.6:1 and Jas.5:16.  The reference in James, please note, is the only place where it is connected with “confession” to a group, and that is for the purpose of mutual prayer for healing, not a ceremonial incantation.  The consequences of paraptoma are clear — death! — Eph.2:1, 2:5, Col.2:13, as well as 5 times in Romans 5.

Translators using the same label for all the hamartia-related words as well as paraptoma, which is an entirely different concept, and the inclusion of all these other words in the same indictment (by assorted individuals whose employment and reputation depends upon the acceptance of their harsh verdict by their hearers / readers) have herded that hapless audience into precisely the “yoke of bondage” that our brother Paul warned against in the opening quotation!  There is no reference in either gospels or epistles that demands continual, repetitious, corporate or individual “confession of sins” whether accidental or deliberate, real or imagined!  The single admonition in I Jn.1:9 is in the midst of his encouragement to keep on working at faithful living — acknowledging errors and moving on — by the power of the Lord Jesus!

John the Baptist had “repentance” and “confession of sins” as a major part of his message (Mt.3:6, Mk.1:4-5, Lk.3:3), prior to baptism.  Remember that Paul had to correct major flaws in the dissemination of John’s message in Ephesus (Ac.19:1-7).  The writer to the Hebrews (6:1-3), while acknowledging these as foundational, urges the readers no longer to dwell on the “elementary” parts of the Christian message, but to go on to maturity!  To “grow up”!
Notice also that in response to the Pharisees’ challenge that “only God can take away sins” (the lexical meaning of aphiemi, usually erroneously rendered “forgive” — see #7), Jesus did not argue that point, but simply declared that such authority is his — present tense — and related it to his identity:  not to his death, not to the cross, and not even to his resurrection (Mt.9:2-6, Mk.2:5-10, Lk.5:20-24).  And they got the point — they charged him with “making himself equal to God” — which of course, he was / is!  John the Baptist also referred to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:28) — also in the present tense.  Continuing to wallow in one’s supposed “sinfulness” is a direct insult to the One who has taken it away!

Jesus did indeed warn those who refused to acknowledge him (Jn.8:21,24,34) that in doing so, they were rejecting the only remedy.  But this was not addressed to his followers!  In fact, when Peter referred to himself as a “sinful man”, (Lk.5:8), Jesus ignored that designation completely, and simply invited him to join in the Kingdom work.  Others were critical of the folks that Jesus “hung out” with, who were on their list of “sinners” — publicans (Mt.9:10-11, 11:19, 21:32; Mk.2:15-16, Lk.5:27-30);  a woman of shady reputation (Lk.7:37), and others.  Later accounts add Gentiles (Gal.2:15), and people ignorant of God (Rom.5).  James includes a brother who has turned away (5:20), a person who refuses to do the good that he knows (4:17), or rich folks whose selfishness trumps brotherly sharing (4:8).  So yes, the term can be applied to a brother’s wrongdoing — but these are clearly exceptions, not expectation.  And Jesus never used hamartolos to label ANY of his own people!  Why, then, do we?
Even Paul, whose letter to the Romans is so frequently sliced and diced to “prove” doctrines of “sinfulness”,  (1) applies the term only to those who choose to oppose Jesus’ message, and (2) uses it only in the past tense of himself and his brethren.  He takes particular pains in the first three chapters to point out that people chose to ignore what God had revealed to them.  It was not their “original condition” at birth!  And in Rom.6:17, Eph.2:1-5, Col.1:13-14 and elsewhere, he vividly contrasts the “death” (which characterizes life before commitment to Jesus’ Kingdom and is attributed to both hamartia and paraptoma)   with the resurrection life shared by the believer with his new Master!

Of course, “new life” does not mean instant or automatic maturity (See #13).  Hence all the admonitions to get about the business of growing up!
Deciding to learn a musical instrument does not make you an instant virtuoso.
Devotion to a sport does not make you an automatic star.
And commitment to the Lord and his Kingdom never did confer instant “perfection”
All involve identical requirements to come to fruition.
— Focus — a single-minded, even fanatical, determination to bend every effort toward the goal
— Guidance — from teachers, coaches, more experienced “players”, and fellow-aspirants
— Practice — diligent, consistent, and conscientious.
But none of these are enhanced by self-flagellation over every blunder.  Errors need to be corrected, not merely “confessed” or “mourned”.  One’s course may need frequent adjustments, or even at times reversals.  Here is the beauty of the provision alluded-to earlier, in Jas.5:16 and Gal.6:1.

But “He (God) has rescued us from the power [ authority] of darkness, and transported us into the kingdom of the Son of his love!  It’s in him that we have the redemption — the taking away of failures [sins]” (Col.1:13-14).

Thanks be to God!


Word Study #140 — Angels and Messengers

April 6, 2012

When it comes to people’s overactive imaginations being passed off as “Christian teaching”, it would be difficult to find a more blatant example that the purported “study” of “angels”.
From the superstitious Pharisees protesting to their Sadducee opponents at Paul’s trial (Ac.23:9) “But what if a spirit or angel spoke to him?”, through the Renaissance paintings of fearsome, robed apparitions, or later depictions of kindly, protective, effeminate-looking beings in shining garments and halos, or assorted 13th to 20th century amalgamations of Dante and Milton with oddly distorted and combined snippets of Old Testament references, or ubiquitous fat pink cherubs, to modern supernatural speculation and cheap (or expensive) jewelry, one can find some sort of “angel” to suit nearly any predilection or decor! Most of these bear little if any resemblance to either accurate semantics or New Testament reality.
Now, please take a deep breath between your shouts of “Heresy! Heresy!”, and let’s ask our perennial question: “But what does the (New Testament) TEXT say?” We will not even try to cover it all.

The answer, as usual, starts with the vocabulary. Like many of the nouns we have considered, aggelos probably started life as the participial form of a verb: in this case, aggelo, “to carry or deliver a message,” and its derivatives aggelia and aggelion, both translated “message” or “news.” In turn, the aggelos was the carrier of a message – any message – from anyone, to anyone. Oddly, the occasional, often facetious request , “Be an angel and …(do something)” may be closer to the actual meaning of the word than most of the “teaching” you have heard! Put most simply, a verb describes action; its participle or noun counterpart refers either to the doer of that action, or at times, its result. The word says nothing whatever about the character, pedigree, or DNA of the message-bearer, let alone his/her/its appearance, origin, or ultimate destiny.
Classically, one of the most common tasks of a messenger/aggelos was to report on the progress of a battle (remember Marathon?). It was even used of birds or other artifacts of augury! The focus was uniformly on the delivery of necessary information – not the means or agent of that delivery – the report, not the reporter.

That this continued to be the case in the first century is obvious in the use of aggelos not only for supernatural apparitions, although there certainly were such (Mt.1 and 2, Lk.1 and 2, and elsewhere), but also of prophets (Mt.11:10, Mk.1:2, Lk.7:27), the messengers sent by John the Baptist to Jesus (Lk.7:24), the disciples commissioned and sent out by Jesus (Lk.9:52), and even the spies hidden by Rahab in Jericho (Jas.2:25), who were all clearly human. In such cases, traditional translators usually fell back on the correct word, “messenger”, after having used the transliteration, “angel” in places where they had decided (although the writers had used the same word) that a message was delivered by some sort of supernatural being. (Twice, they translated apostolos as “messenger”, presumably because they were unwilling to confer the “title” (their own creation) of “apostle” upon the individuals involved. (See W.S.#41, and remember that Jesus had forbidden the use of titles!)
Reference is also made to the agents of Satan as “messengers/aggeloi” (II Cor.12:7), but NOT, as some insist, to Satan himself.
Jesus also makes a particular point that aggeloi are not omniscient (Mt.24:36).

The folks on the ground at the time were not always as certain about the identifications as were those traditional translators. Notice Peter’s confusion when he was delivered from prison (Ac.12), and the gathered prayer group’s response to Rhoda’s announcement of his arrival. They thought she was seeing ghosts! Notice also that Luke’s initial resurrection account (24:4) speaks of “two men”, although later (v.23), the traveling disciples referred to “a vision of angels [messengers]”.

The confusion of modern readers is probably largely due to their perverse preoccupation with assigning titles and/or job descriptions to individuals , rather than focusing on the more necessary (and scriptural) concern that a message be delivered! Again, the status vs. function orientation rears its ugly head. Please see chapter 8 of Citizens of the Kingdom, as well as the end of chapter 13.
Notice, please, that the messenger is never the originator or the author of a message: merely its transportation. In fact, it probably doesn’t matter who the messenger is: only that he faithfully delivers the word entrusted to him, or performs his assigned task. This is the case whether the originator of the message is God (Lk.1 and 2, Ac.10), another person (Lk.7:24, Jas.2:25), or even Satan (I Cor.12:7, Mt.5:21). The latter, incidentally, is said to have messengers/angels, but never to be one – “fallen” or otherwise!

The tasks of messengers are greatly varied. An aggelos may be assigned to reap a field (Mt.13:39), to gather the Lord’s people (Mt.24:31, Mk.13:27), to prepare the way for Jesus (Mt.11:10, Mk.1:2, Lk.7:27), to care for him in the desert (Mt.4:11, Mk.1:13) or in the garden (Lk.22:43), to precede his arrival at a preaching destination (Lk.7:52), to stir the healing waters in a pool (Jn.5:4), to carry questions to Jesus from his cousin John (Lk.7:24),to deliver the joyous news of his resurrection (Mt.28:2, Lk.24:23, Jn.20:12), or to accompany his return in glory (Mt.16:27, Mk.8:38, Mt.25:31, Lk.9:26)! And that is only in the gospels!

I have deliberately chosen not to differentiate between the translations of “angel” and “messenger”, because they represent the same word. To the writers, there was only one idea.
They did not seem to care whether the “messenger” was natural or supernatural – why, then, should we?

Do you think the apostles cared, or asked for some sort of heavenly credential, when the prison doors opened and they were directed to go back and continue preaching in the temple (Ac.5:19)? Peter (Ac.12) thought he was dreaming, but followed the messenger who released him the second time. And Stephen’s account of Moses’ experience (Ac.7:30-38) refers alternately to “the Lord” and “the messenger/angel of the Lord”, while he quotes the “voice” as self-identifying, “I AM the God of your fathers!” Similarly, aggelos and pneuma (see #52 and 53) are interchanged in the encounters between Cornelius and Peter (Ac.10), Philip and the Ethiopian (Ac.8:26), and the Pharisee/Sadducee argument in Ac.23:8-9. These, being used interchangeably, are clearly related, but not equated.

The epistles add insight. The first two chapters of Hebrews are quite explicit in repeatedly asserting the superiority of Jesus over any sort of messenger/aggelos. Indeed, in 1:6, “all God’s messengers” (natural and supernatural?) are instructed to “worship him!” and in chapter 2, it is clear that Jesus voluntarily and temporarily assumed a lower position, only for the purpose of destroying death, and breaking its power. Does it matter, whether the roll-call of the celebrants in his eventual glory includes different categories of the faithful, or simply synonyms (12:22)? I don’t think so!

Both Peter (I Pet.3:22) and Paul (Rom.8:38) also assert Jesus’ superiority over messengers; the latter even declaring that “we” (his people) “shall judge angels/messengers”(I Cor.6:3)!

Paul’s admonition to the Colossian church (Col.2:15-19, but especially v.18), is extremely relevant today, to folks who are as inclined as their earlier brethren to become fascinated with all sorts of mythological beings, thinking to supplement their “knowledge”or status, and prone to give them more credence than the Lord himself! Paul repeatedly warned both Timothy and Titus (I Tim.1:4, 4:7; II Tim.4:4, Tit.1:14), to avoid such myths – both Jewish and pagan. The healthy growth of the Body depends upon Jesus alone!

The “messengers” who are the primary actors in the Revelation, following instructions from “voices”, “the throne”, or “the altar”, emptying jars, blowing trumpets, and relaying information to John, are most likely supernatural beings; it is not always clear to John – or his readers – whether he is hearing from the messengers or from Jesus himself. But here, too, he is strictly advised that the messenger is not to be worshiped (22:8).

So – who / what is an aggelos?
Perhaps the writer to the Hebrews said it best: “Aren’t they all just officiating spirits, sent to take care of those who are inheriting God’s deliverance?” (Heb.1:14)

It seems as if, when the Lord has one of his human servants available, and something needs to be communicated or done, he sends that available person as a “messenger.”
But if there is no one handy – no problem – he also has an ample supply of supernatural servants.And if his message gets through, or the job is done, it really doesn’t matter who does it!

This realization can delightfully enhance our perception of our brothers and sisters, as well as any other aggelos that is sent our way – as well as our own sense of responsibility.
Have you seen or heard from an aggelos lately?
Have you been one?


Word Study #139 — Quiet, Silence

April 3, 2012

This study was supposed to supplement #136, but the intervening subjects were more pressing. So please review that one as a prologue to this subject. For words that are so rarely used in the New Testament, these have received an inordinate amount of attention, primarily among those who want to demand the “subordination” of others. This study is neither an offensive nor a defensive weapon. I don’t have a dog in that fight. My advocacy, as you should have seen by now, is for the mutuality of both attitudes and behavior in the Kingdom. As we have seen, the “submission” called for in the New Testament is first to Jesus and his Kingdom, and secondly to one another – an entirely mutual situation.

We are concerned here primarily with four different words, which have sharply different connotations, but which are similarly translated in traditional versions, . Three of them are used 11x each, and the fourth (and harshest) only 8x. Distinguishing among them is critically necessary for understanding.

Hesuchazo, with its counterpart, hesuchia, is the most gentle of the terms, and always voluntary. Trench connects it with prautes – great strength under strict control – which we have treated in #78, “meekness”. L/S defines hesuchazo/hesuchia as “at rest, tranquil, calm”, as well as ‘being at rest from warfare.” Bauer adds “abstaining from work on the sabbath”. Thayer contributes “minding one’s own business, not meddling in the affairs of others.” It describes the tranquility of life deeply desired by the beleaguered, persecuted disciples addressed in I Thes.4:11, II Thes.3:12, I Tim.2:2, and the cessation of arguments (Ac.22:2, Lk.14:4, Ac.11:18), including, (amusingly) Ac.21:14, where his companions gave up on trying to change Paul’s mind!

Remember these contexts when you encounter hesuchia in Peter’s advice to sisters (I Pet.3:4) and when Paul, writing to Timothy, uses the same word both in admonition to the whole group (I Tim.2:2) and in describing women’s participation (v.11,12). In v.11, it is paired with hupotasso – see #136 – and in v.12 it is contrasted to authentein – a word used only once, and referring to a violent coup d’tat. This would suggest that it is orderly courtesy, rather than any form of exclusion, that is in view.

Next along the spectrum is probably sipao – L/S “to keep silence at the behest of another, to keep a secret, to gesture rather than speaking.” Most of its New Testament uses involve stopping a protest or argument (Mk.3:4), Mark’s version (4:39) of Jesus commanding the wind and sea to “be still”; or insisting that another “calm down” (Mt.20:31, Mk.10:48, Lk.18:39). It is also used of Jesus’ refusal to reply to situations that were an obvious trap (Mt.26:63, Mk.14:61), and the disciples’ being too embarrassed to reply (Mk.9:34) to him about their dispute. In contrast, Jesus uses it to encourage Paul in a vision not to be intimidated into silence (Ac.18:9), and retorts to his critics (Lk.19:40) that if they succeed in silencing the children’s praises, the very rocks will take up the cry. In no instance does sipao require, demand, or request the silence of any member of a faithful brotherhood. Gabriel’s word to Zachariah in Lk.1:20 is simply a statement of fact – not at all a “curse” as some imagine.

Sigao / sige, on the other hand – L/S “to whisper, to keep a secret, to be silent (as both a positive quality and as a fault!), to be mystical or unknown”, while used in some parallels with sipao, especially in the gospels (Lk.9:36, 29:26) and Acts (12:17, 15:12,13; 21:40), appears in several other contexts as well. Paul uses it in Romans 16:25 of the revelation of God’s intention to include the Gentiles having been “kept secret (doesn’t say by whom) since the world began”. John, in Rv.8:1, marvels that “there was silence in heaven for half an hour!” in contrast to all the rejoicing that had been going on.
Of particular interest, in view of frequent controversy among some church groups, are the three occurrences of sigao in I Cor.14. It has been common for a “leader” to choose one of these as a flag to wave or a cause upon which to take a stand – the choice depending whether he prefers to forbid (1) the use of prayer in tongues (v.28), (2)the exercise of prophetic gifts on the part of everyone in a congregation (v.30), or (3) the participation of women (v.34), and ignore any of which he approves. But sigao is not about prohibitions!!! The same word is used in all three situations. Paul’s concern is an orderly meeting, where “all may learn, and all be encouraged”(v.31), and where an outsider may see the Kingdom in action (v.25). This requires that each of the mentioned contributions be carefully and considerately controlled, but not summarily forbidden. This becomes abundantly clear if you read the whole chapter, rather than selected, isolated “verses”. The instructions are to facilitate and regulate, not to prevent, participation. Please refer to the treatment of I Cor.14 in the Translation Notes, for a more detailed discussion.

Finally, less frequently used, and much more abrupt, phimao can be a peremptory demand that someone “Shut up!!”. L/S points out that the derivation of the word is the use of a muzzle or any device to keep the mouth of an animal shut! This is borne out in I Cor.9:9, and I Tim.5:18.
Phimao
was Jesus’ command in exorcising demons (Mk.1:25, Lk.4:35), and used together with sipao in quieting the storm (Mk.4:39). Matthew conveys a sense of satisfaction (22:12) when Jesus bested the Sadducees at their own game of intricate arguments (he “shut them up!”). And Peter (I Pet.2:15) advocates achieving a similar victory over critics by exhibiting indisputably excellent behavior. Matthew (22:12) also uses it to represent the stunned speechlessness of an intruder upon being discovered unprepared, at a feast.

So there you have it. Four discrete words: each has its own “flavor”, and each has its usage confined to a rather narrow range of situations and relationships. We need to take care not to confuse them, or to assume any coercive tone among fellow disciples seeking for faithfulness. The mutuality described in both these studies (136 and 139), and the coaching / encouragement described in #138, can occupy our attention much more productively than can exclusionary efforts. Only together can we become a credit to the Kingdom.