The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Deeper Dive 6:
Verb Voices and Violent Versions
Copyright © 20221
Matthew 11:12 —
A Thorny Translation Challenge
As we have seen, Matthew 11:1-19 is that wonderful passage in which Jesus teaches about John the Baptist.3 First, He sends a message of encouragement to the imprisoned John. Then Jesus uses the opportunity to point the crowd to John’s fulfillment of the prophecies in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 (the latter being the “Elijah prophecy”).
Matthew’s account of the events and teaching that day is very clear — except for one verse that has proven to be something of a thorny challenge to translate and interpret. That verse is Matthew 11:12—
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”
What makes it “thorny”? Because the translation — and therefore the interpretation — of the Greek in this verse allows for surprisingly different meanings. We’ve just read the New American Standard rendition of Matthew 11:12, which represents one school of thought.4
But what about other respected translations that render the first phrase as the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing or the second phrase as the passionate eagerly claim it for themselves? What’s going on here?
Verbs Have Voice. (Who Knew?)
When we think of verbs, in English or any other language, we’re primarily concerned about their meaning and their tense (i.e., whether they are relating action in the past, present, or future). Then there’s how the verb is interacting with the subject.
- Is the subject doing the action? That is, is the verb active? The man drives the car. A grammar teacher would say that the verb is in the active voice.
- Or is the subject being acted upon? That is, is the verb passive? The car is being driven. Here the designation would be that the verb is in the passive voice.
- New Testament Greek, unlike English, has a third voice form, where the subject acts on itself or acts on its own behalf. The autonomous car drove itself around the parking lot. And this permutation is called the middle voice.
Ah, but there’s a catch! In Greek, the conjugation forms of the middle and passive voices usually appear the same. I don’t want to “Greek out” on you, but it might help to see what translators are up against. Consider the simple verb lúō / λύω / I loose. The singular conjugation of the active voice is distinct and so can’t be confused with another voice:
|1st person||λύω||lúō||I loose|
|2nd person||λύεις||lúeis||You loose|
|3rd person||λύει||lúei||He / she / it looses|
But the middle and passive voices look identical for this same verb lúō:
|1st person / Middle||λύομαι||lúomai||Middle: I loose for myself|
|1st person / Passive||λύομαι||lúomai||Passive: I am being loosed|
|2nd person / Middle||λύῃ||lúē||Middle: You loose for yourself|
|2nd person / Passive||λύῃ||lúē||Passive: You are being loosed|
|3rd person / Middle||λύεται||lúetai||Middle: He/she/it looses for himself / herself / itself|
|3rd person / Passive||λύεται||lúetai||Passive: He/she/it is being loosed|
How does a translator tell them apart? Partly by context and partly by trying to discern the author’s meaning. The translators’ challenge here can be seen in the alternative renderings of the original Greek in the marginal notes of modern translations.5
There are three basic translation options available for Matthew 11:12, based on how the translators deal with the voice of the verb. I will call the choices Passive Voice #1, Passive Voice #2, and Middle Voice.
Passive Voice #1 (Suffers Violence):
I’m going to list some, but not all, of the English translations which opt for passive voice #1. And with every translation listed here, hold your final judgment until you’ve read the section on Middle Voice.
- Christian Standard Bible (csb): has been suffering violence
- King James (kjv): suffereth violence
- New International Version (niv): has been suffering violence
- The English Standard Version (esv): has suffered violence
- Revised Standard Version (rsv): has suffered violence
- New Revised Standard Version (nrsv): has suffered violence
- Here the New American Standard Bible (nasb) lines up with the other translations already mentioned: the kingdom of heaven suffers violence. But see what the nasb margin reveals as we consider Passive Voice #2.
Passive Voice #2 (entered / taken by storm):
- J. B. Phillips renders the phrase as the kingdom of heaven has been taken by storm. Here again, the action is happening to the kingdom of heaven, and thus the verb is passive.
- This is similar to the rendering in Lavender’s New Testament: “…the kingdom of the heavens is entered with burning zeal.” Both Phillips and Lavender opt for the passive voice, without marginal recourse to the middle-voice option.
• nasb: In the margin, the translators offer another passive voice option — is forcibly entered.
- The International Standard Version (isv) renders the phrase this way: the kingdom from heaven has been forcefully advancing.
- The New Century Version (ncv) gives us the kingdom of heaven has been going forward in strength.
- So only two translations offer this middle-voice option? Not so fast! Most translations listed in Passive Voice #1 above offer this middle-voice translation (in their respective margins) as an alternative to their passive voice “first choice”:
- csb: has been forcefully advancing
- niv: has been forcefully advancing
- esv: has been coming violently
- rsv: has been coming violently
- nrsv: has been coming violently
So Is It Passive or Middle?
By their marginal notes, translators make it clear that the reading of the passage could go either way. Burton Scott Easton sums up the challenge in this way:
Difficulty is offered… by the very obscure passage Mt 11:12 parallel Lk 16:16 [sic]. Both Matthew and Luke contain the verb [βιάζεται, biazetai], but this form may be either a middle, “presses violently,” “storms,” or a passive, “is forced.” Matthew, in addition, contains the adjective biastai, but whether this is a term of praise, “heroic enthusiasts,” or of blame, “hot-headed revolutionaries,” is again a problem. Nor can it be determined whether the words “from the days of John the Baptist until now” are meant to include or exclude the work of the Baptist himself. The difference in wording in Matthew and Luke further complicates the problem, and, in consequence, scholars are widely at variance as to the proper interpretation. “The Baptist has fanned a new Messianic storm of ill-advised insurrection,” “the Pharisees have shamefully used forcible suppression of God’s teachers,” “the Kingdom of God comes like a storm and is received by those who have used drastic self-discipline,” are instances of the differing explanations proposed.6 [emphases mine]
Another Factor at the Root of the Challenge
Which way do we understand Matthew 11:12, and why does it matter? It matters because it affects how we perceive Jesus’ introduction of the second prophecy, the Elijah prophecy, of Malachi 4:4-5, at the end of Matthew 11:10-14.
What’s at the root of the challenge? Well, we’ve already seen half of the problem — determining which verb voice to use. The other side of the issue is how we treat two vocabulary words in Matthew 11:12 which are often negative or violent.
Matthew 11:12 presents us with two very strong and usually negative words:
- Our first word is βιαστής (biastēs) — strong, forceful,7 and therefore (functioning as a substantive8) a strong or forceful man; a violent and impetuous man;9 a violent man, one who uses force.10 One scholar describes it as “an extremely rare word… the βιαστής is the violator, the man of force who achieves his desires by theft.”11 The word only appears once in the New Testament — here in Matthew 11:12.
- Our second word is the verb βιάζω (biázō) or (in its alternate lexicon form) βιάζομαι (biázomai).12 It can mean variously to use force or violence; force a way for oneself or enter forcibly; make its way with triumphant force;13 overpower by force, press hard.14 This word only appears twice in the New Testament — here Matthew 11:12 and in Luke 16:16.
You’ll notice that the root, βία (bía), is shared by both words. Bía can mean strength or force or strength in violent action.15 While the word bía doesn’t appear here in Matthew 11, it does occur three times in the New Testament, and in each of these passages it means violence. For instance, the Temple Guard arrested the Apostles in the Temple without bía (Acts 5:26); the Roman soldiers carried Paul up the steps of Fortress Antonia in Jerusalem because of the bía of the mob (Acts 21:35); and the stern of Paul’s storm-tossed ship, aground on a barrier reef, was smashed apart by the bía of the waves (Acts 27:41). There is one other bía-related word, occurring only once in the New Testament (in a rather strategic verse!) that we’ll consider in a bit.
Can We Determine the Voice by Context?
Now that we’re a bit more familiar with the vocabulary of Matthew 11:12, let’s return to the verb-voice problem. You see, the middle- and passive-voice forms of biázō, our verb meaning to do violence, to be forceful, look exactly the same in the Greek text — biázomai. Only context can tell us which voice is meant; and sometimes even the context leaves us in doubt!
That’s why the translations of Matthew 11:12 differ so much. One group of earnest scholars and translators wrestles with the Greek and says, “Hmm. It must be the passive voice. The Kingdom message was suffering violence. John had been imprisoned, something of which we’re reminded here in the context of Matthew 11:2-19. And Jesus’ life and liberty were in constant danger because of the jealous Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Jesus knew He would eventually be put to death. So these ‘violent men’ who ‘take it by force’ are the enemies of the Messiah, His message, and His messenger. A subset of Jesus’ followers could even be included among the ‘violent men.’ Believing that the Kingdom was to be the here-and-now earthly ruling of Messiah, at one point some of these followers were ‘intending to come and take Him by force16 to make Him king’ (John 6:15). Therefore these could be counted among the ‘violent’ or ‘forceful men.’ It all adds up.”
A somewhat smaller, though equally earnest and sincere group of scholars and translators, takes up the issue, but from a different viewpoint and mindset. They “voice” a different opinion. “No, we don’t think what you’ve told us ‘adds up.’ In Matthew 11:12, we think the verb βιάζεται is middle voice. Everything was carrying on quite normally — ‘the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John’ (verse 13). ‘From the time of John the Baptist until now’ (verse 12) the Kingdom has been proclaimed — Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! — by John and Jesus. Their forceful message and ministry had electrified and polarized the Jewish people. So we should translate this as ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven makes its way with triumphant force.’ This also fits the context of the immediate passage better: Jesus is about to say (in verse 14) that John fulfills the Elijah prophecy of Malachi 4:5. There was probably never a more ‘forceful’ proponent of God’s message than Elijah. And such a strong message requires a forceful — not violent, but a hold-nothing-back — response and effort.”
So, is it passive or middle voice? Usually the immediate context (i.e., trying to understand our verse in light of the surrounding verses) helps us. But in this instance, the immediate context leaves us stalemated between the two voices. We must go elsewhere for more help, and since the verb biázomai is only used in one other New Testament passage, we must go there — Luke 16:16.
The Context of Luke 16:16
For the record, let’s examine Luke 16:16 in its immediate context, then investigate how it nestles into the entire chapter. In Luke 16:15-17, we read—
15And He said to them [i.e., the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. 16The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. [There’s the verse under investigation, and “forcing his way” represents our verb biázomai.] 17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.”
Where does this passage fit in the greater context?
- Just prior to this chapter (it’s unclear if it had been minutes, hours, or days before Luke 16:1), Jesus taught the Three Parables of the Lost — the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son (a.k.a. “The Prodigal Son”) — in Luke 15.
- In 16:1-9, Jesus then relates the parable of the unrighteous steward. That leads Him to share about…
- …how important it is to be faithful with “unrighteous wealth,” the faithful stewardship of another’s possessions in order to be entrusted with one’s own (vv. 10-12).
- The Lord then brings home the point of this focus on wealth and stewardship by plainly stating one of His most counter-cultural teachings: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13). This absolute, uncompromising teaching, along with its stinging rebuke, earned Jesus the derision and scorn of the listening Pharisees, “who were lovers of money” (v. 14), and felt they had perfected a theologically acceptable way to serve both gods.
All of that precedes our passage. What follows it?
- In Luke 16:18 Jesus speaks counter-culturally again (perhaps still with the Pharisees in mind), this time against the increasingly popular attitude toward divorce. Instead of ameliorating its evil, He makes a black-and-white case for divorce being a violation of the Seventh Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). It’s another final, no-compromise, absolute stand in the face of religious relativism.
- Speaking of no-compromise finality, nothing tops the finality of death and final judgment. Jesus’ teaching in the chapter ends up with the story17 of “the rich man and Lazarus” (vv. 19-31). It’s as though Jesus was saying to His religiously high-ranking listeners, “There is a final accounting18 of your love of money in the afterlife. Are you certain you want to continue following Mammon?”
So, what light does this greater context shine on our text, on our verb biázomai and its voice? Follow along:
- In the Luke 15 Parables of Lost Things, the love of God for the lost is clearly proclaimed.
- In the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward, a man is confronted with the reality of judgment (16:1-12), which (however imperfectly) causes him to re-evaluate his perception of earthly resources and how our interaction with them has eternal consequences.
- For the sake of His love for the Pharisees, Jesus points out to them in verse 13 that it is impossible (not merely “difficult”) to serve God and Mammon (the latter being the Aramaic word for riches or possessions).
- When the Pharisees scoff at this notion that God has absolutes, and that they can’t have their proverbial “cake and eat it, too” (v. 14), that they can’t have the best of both what the world and God’s Kingdom have to offer, Jesus exposes their ungodly, compromised, rationalized “theology” with this indictment: “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (v. 15).
Now we come to our key text, Luke 16:16, in which Jesus is setting up a stark contrast to religious “business as usual” — “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John….” It’s as though Jesus were saying, “A spiritual ‘sea change’ has occurred. Before John the Baptist came on the scene, you esteemed outward conformity and creedal orthodoxy, thinking that was all that God required. But God knows your hearts, and your compromise and hypocrisy are detestable in His sight. So He sent John on the scene to confront your heart-state.”
“Since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached….” How long John (and after him, Jesus) proclaimed, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” we don’t know. But it was an empowered message that cut deeply, and exposed the heart condition of its hearers, bringing about a profound sense of conviction. At the heart of the message was the demand of “the first and great commandment,” namely, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words… shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6).
In order to respond to the Kingdom message this thoroughly, a deep change of heart and mind — in other words, repentance — had to occur, a transformation deep within. As God put it through the prophet Joel,
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”19
Now return to the Lord your God…
The proclamation of God’s kingdom was a heart-deep challenge requiring an all-out, 110%, now-or-never response: “Everyone is forcing his way into it.” (There’s the verb under investigation: “forcing his way,” the translation of biázomai.)
Greek scholar Joseph Thayer says of this verb that “a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought for with the most ardent zeal and intensest [sic] exertion.… to get a share in the kingdom of God by the utmost earnestness and effort.”20 Another eminent Greek scholar, Marvin R. Vincent, applies this same idea back to the “violent men” of Matthew 11:12—
“Christ speaks of believers. They seize upon the kingdom and make it their own. The Rev[ised Version translation], men of violence, is too strong, since it describes a class of habitually and characteristically violent men; whereas the violence in this case is the result of a special and exceptional impulse.21 [emphasis mine]
It sounds like the old King James translation captures the spirit of Jesus’ words: “since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” But we can go to an even older English translation of Luke 16:16, the old Bishops’ Bible of 1568,22 which was the foundation of the King James translation. The Bishops’ Bible says,
The lawe & the prophetes [raigned] vntyll Iohn, and sence that tyme, the kyngdome of God is preached, & euery man stryueth to go in.
My, how English orthography has changed! Let’s render that with modern spelling, shall we?
The law & the prophets [reigned] until John, and since that time, the kingdom of God is preached, & every man striveth to go in.
I have bolded that phrase striveth to go in because it evokes another passage in which Jesus reports and exhorts the all-out effort of heart necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. In response to a specific question — “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” (Luke 13:23) — Jesus’ reply was as follows in verse 24:
“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
We have dealt with Luke 13:24 at length in chapter 4,23 involving ourselves in a detailed study of that verb for strive — agonízomai (ἀγονίζομαι) — and its shades of meaning — to agonize, strive athletically, strain, fight, run, struggle, compete, race, labor earnestly. When we lay that exhortation from Jesus about striving alongside this word — “the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it” (Luke 16:16) — it sheds light on what it means to be forcing one’s way into the kingdom.
Whether striving athletically in near agony or forcing one’s way into the Kingdom, the requirement is a hold-nothing-back effort and commitment. The same idea of total, radical commitment is the focus of Jesus’ parables of the treasure in the field (Matthew 13:44) and the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46).
A Passionate, Non-Violent Conclusion
Perhaps now we can return to our “problem text” of Matthew 11:12 and see it in the light of the greater context of Jesus’ teaching, and with our new understanding of the middle- and passive-voices challenges of biázomai, along with the corroborating insights of Greek scholars like Thayer and Vincent. Do you remember our initial reading? —
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence [biázomai], and violent men [biastēs] take it by force.”
If the verb biázomai is middle voice, that is, if the subject is acting on itself or doing something on its own behalf, then a reading like the kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing makes sense with all we have learned. And we have seen in the marginal notes that most modern translations would allow this.
If the verb biaźomai is passive voice, that is, if it is receiving the action, that, too, is acceptable; but we needn’t accept the rendition of “suffers violence” as the only option. Indeed, in light of the other passages we’ve studied, this translation seems to be in discord with Jesus’ other words. Vincent prefers to translate it as
“is forced, overpowered, taken by storm. Christ thus graphically portrays the intense excitement which followed John’s ministry; the eager waiting, striving, and struggling of the multitude for the promised king.”24
This dovetails nicely with what Thayer says about those “violent men”:
I promised to save until the last thing one more point about βία (bía), the root word of our verb and noun. I’ve done so because the passage in which it occurs has to do with God’s wonderful “violence,” and it can shine a helpful back-light on the biázomai and biastēs of Matthew 11:12. Here’s the surprise usage, in a passage you know by heart:
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent (βιαίας28 / biaías) rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:1-2)
The Holy Spirit came as a violent rushing wind? Most of us are probably more settled on translations that render our adjective as mighty or strong. What does all this have to do with John the Baptist? Messiah’s forerunner, a man filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, preached his God-given, heart-preparing message in the Spirit’s power. That same Spirit came (according to John’s promise that Messiah would come as the Spirit-baptizer) on Pentecost. He didn’t come as a “puff” of air or a gentle zephyr; He rushed into that Upper Room as a strong, mighty, powerful — if you will, violent — wind. That same force empowered the Church for decades.
This same Spirit, though not yet sent from the Father by the Risen Son, bore witness “from the days of John the Baptist” to the kingdom message being preached by Jesus. It stirred in men and women a no-holds-barred, must-have-it-at-all-costs response to God’s call, and they pressed into His Kingdom with fervor.
“The kingdom of heaven suffers violence”? “The violent take it by force”? These renderings seem inadequate within the scope of what we’ve learned of bía, bíaios, biázomai, and biastēs. Now, too, we’re in a slightly better place to understand middle and passive verb voices. Having weighed the translations carefully and prayerfully, I believe that Lavender’s29 translation of Matthew 11:12 makes the most sense:
And from the days of John the Baptizer until now the kingdom of the heavens is entered with burning zeal, and the passionate eagerly claim it for themselves.
With these words and ideas in Matthew 11:12, Jesus introduces the Malachi 4:5 “Elijah prophecy” and applies it to John in Matthew 11:14.
- This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger; copyright © 2022 by Jim Kerwin. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from New American Standard Bible (nasb) Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. www.lockman.org ↩
- Cover: Detail from Mathias Grünewald's altarpiece Crucifixion-scene painting for a church in Isenheim, France (c. 1515). Courtesy of Wikipedia, but copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. The Latin phrase in the “crook” of John's arm declares, “Illum oportet crescere me autem minui,” the Vulgate reading of John 3:30 — “He must increase, I must decrease.” ↩
- In chapter 4, Jesus Reveals John in Malachi ↩
- Falling in on this side of the debate are other well-known translations like the English Standard Version (esv) and the New International Version (niv), along with the venerable King James Version (kjv), and its older forebears, the Bishop’s Bible and the Geneva Bible. ↩
- Whether the notes are in the margin or center column or in the footnote section of your Bible’s pages, the notes exist to inform the reader that another word or phrase could have been used in the translation of a given verse. ↩
- This article (under the heading violence, violent) comes from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: 1915 edition, J. Orr, Editor. (Albany, OR: Ages Software). I have bolded the words middle and passive because they are important for the discussion which follows. ↩
- A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti translated, revised, and enlarged by Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D. (New York: American Book Company; 1889); s.v. βιαστής. Hereinafter, let’s refer to this simply as “Thayer.” ↩
- A substantive is a word or phrase that functions as a noun in a sentence. Consider the phrase “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The words free and brave, which by themselves would be adjectives, function as nouns. Free what? Brave what? Free men and women, brave men and women, of course. So free and brave “take on the substance,” as it were, of the modified noun phrases free men and women and brave men and women.
Thus in Matthew 11:12, the adjective for strong, forceful functions as a substantive, that is, it stands in for the phrase strong men or forceful men.
- A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1996, c1979); s.v. βιαστἡς. Given the very long title, and the fact that the work and translation are attributed to W. Bauer, W., Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker, let’s abbreviate this work elsewhere by the acronym BAGD (for Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker). ↩
- Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) by James Swanson (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997); s.v. βιαστὴς. We will designate this as Swanson from this point forward. ↩
- Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-1976), edited by Gerhard Friedrich, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich. This quote comes from volume 1, page 614, s.s.v. βιαστής, s.v., βιάζομαι. ↩
- Βιάζω (biázō) is the present active indicative first-person singular form of the verb. Normally, this is the verb-form which lexicons (Greek-word dictionaries) use when finding a word alphabetically. However, biázō hardly ever appears in the present tense, even in classical (i.e., pre-New Testament) Greek. So there are lexicons that use the first-person singular middle / passive form of the word — βιάζομαι (biázomai). But the discussions of this word all center around the third-person singular middle / passive form of the word — βιάζεται (biázetai). ↩
- BAGD, s.v. βιάζω ↩
- A Greek-English Lexicon “with a revised supplement” (New York: Clarendon Press, 1995) by H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, H. S. Jones, & R. L. McKenzie. Since McKenzie was a reviser, the shorthand for this work is usually LSJ (for Liddell, Scott, and Jones). ↩
- Thayer, s.v. βία ↩
- The verb for force (ἁρπάζω / harpázō) in John 6:15 is somewhat different from the verb (βιάζω / biázō) under consideration, but one can see that it shares an underlying root — ἄζω (ázō). ↩
- We call it a story, rather than a parable, because we lack the scriptural warrant for the latter description. For all we know, this Second Person of the Trinity may well be relating an actual interaction in Hades of which He had been personally aware. ↩
- Pun intended. ↩
- The “rending” — ripping apart — of one’s garments from the collar area to mid-chest (the place of the heart) is an ancient custom, and is frequently referred to in the Old Testament. See Genesis 37:29,34; 44:13; Numbers 14:6; Judges 11:35; 2 Samuel 1:2,11; 3:31; 13:19,31; 15:32; 2 Kings 2:12; 5:8; 6:30; 11:14; 19:1; 22:11,19; Ezra 9:3,5; Job 1:20; 2:12; Isaiah 36:22; 37:1; and Jeremiah 41:5. This rending signified grief, for instance because of the death of a family member. As a show of grief, rending was also the custom when a family member left the faith, as well as when a copy of the Scriptures was destroyed by enemies. In addition, it was considered the proper response when one heard blasphemy, as with Matthew 26:25 and Acts 14:14. But, like so much else, this outward display of grief could be just that — an outward show, rather than the true state of one’s soul. Hence in our quote from Joel, God is saying, “Show Me that you are grieved over your sins not by ripping your clothes, but by tearing your heart.” ↩
- Thayer, s.v. βίαζω ↩
- Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word Studies in the New Testament on Matthew 11:12 (1:64). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. ↩
- Revised in 1572 ↩
- Jesus Reveals John in Malachi ↩
- Vincent, loc. cit. ↩
- That is, Matthew 11:12. It was common up until the early Twentieth Century to render the chapter number of a reference in lowercase Roman numerals. We reproduce this to show that we are quoting Thayer exactly. ↩
- Βιασταί (biastaí), the plural form of βιαστῆς (biastēs), is how the word actually appears in the Greek of this verse. ↩
- Βιάζεται (biázetai) is the third-person plural form of the verb βιάζομαι (biázomai) ↩
- The lexical form is βίαιος (bíaios). Once again, there is our root bía (βία). ↩
- Malcolm L. Lavender, Lavender’s New Testament, A Literal Translation of the Robinson-Pierpont Majority Text, copyright © 2015 R. L. Lavender. (LavendersNewTestament.com) ↩