Plutarch, on Patrons and Clients

By this more imposing title he distinguished the senate from the populace; and in other ways separated the nobles and the commons,–calling them patrons, and these their clients,–by which means he created wonderful love and amity betwixt them, productive of great justice in their dealings. For they were always their clients’ counsellors in law cases, their advocates in courts of justice; in fine, their advisers and supporters in all affairs whatever. These again faithfully served their patrons, not only paying them all respect and deference, but also, in case of poverty, helping them to portion their daughters and pay off their debts; and for a patron to witness against his client, or a client against his patron, was what no law nor magistrate could enforce.

Plutarch, “Romulus”

This quote could be very interesting in light of the situation in 1 Corinthians.

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Book tease: God Language and Scripture, Moises Silva

It is approximately the year 2790. The most powerful nation on earth occupies a large territory in Central Africa, and its citizens speak Swahili. The United States and other English-speaking countries have long ceased to exist, and much of the literature prior to 2012 (the year of the Great Conflagration) is not extant. Some archeologists digging in the western regions of North America discover a short but well-preserved text that can confidently be dated to the last quarter of the twentieth century. It reads thus:

Marilyn, tired of her glamorous image, embarked on a new project. She would not cultivate her mind, sharpen her verbal skills, pay attention to standards of etiquette. Most important of all, she would devote herself to charitable causes. Accordingly, she offered her services at the local hospital, which needed volunteers to cheer up terminal patients, many of whom had been in considerable pain for a long time. The weeks flew by. One day she was sitting at the cafeteria when her supervisor approached her and said: “I didn’t see you yesterday. What were you doing?” “I painted my apartment; it was my day off,” she responded

The archaeologists know just enough English to realize that this fragment is a major literary find that deserves closer inspection, so they rush the piece to one of the finest philologists in their home country. This scholar dedicates his next sabbatical to a thorough study of the text and decides to publish an exegetical commentary on it, as follows:

We are unable to determine whether this is an excerpt from a novel or from a historical biography. Almost surely, however, it was produced in a religious context, as is evident from the use of such words as devoted, offered, charitable. In any case, this passage illustrates the literary power of twentieth-century English, a language full of wonderful metaphors. The verb embarked calls to mind an ocean liner leaving for an adventuresome cruise, while cultivate possibly alerts the reader to Marilyn’s botanical interests. In those days North Americans compared time to a bird — probably the eagle — that flies.

The author of this piece, moreover, makes clever use of word associations. For example, the term glamorous is etymologically related to grammar, a concept no doubt reflected in the comment about Marilyn’s ‘verbal skills.’ Consider also the subtleties implied by the statement that ‘her supervisor approached her.’ The verb approach has a rich usage. It may indicate a similar appearance or condition (this painting approaches the quality of a Picasso); it may have a sexual innuendo (the rapist approached his victim; it may reflect subservience (he approached his boss for a raise). The cognate noun can be used in contexts of engineering (e.g., access to a bridge), sports (of a golf stroke following the drive from the tee), and even war (a trench that protects troops besieging a fortress).

Society in the twentieth century is greatly illumined by this text. The word patient (from patience, meaning “endurance”) indicates that sick people then underwent a great deal of suffering: they endured not only the affliction of their physical illness, but also the mediocre skills of their medical doctors, and even (to judge from other contemporary documents) the burden of increasing financial costs.

A few syntactical notes may be of interest to language students. The preposition of had different uses: causal (tired of), superlative (most important of all), and partitive (many of whom). The simple past tense had several aoristic functions: embarked clearly implies determination, while offered suggests Marilyn’s once-for-all, definitive intention. Quite noticeable is the tense variation at the end of the text. The supervisor in his question uses the imperfect tense, ‘were doing,’ perhaps suggesting monotony, slowness, or even laziness. Offended, Marilyn retorts with a punctiliar and emphatic aorist, ‘I painted.’

Readers of Bible commentaries, as well as listeners of sermons, will recognize that my caricature is only mildly outrageous. What is wrong with such a commentary? It is not precisely that the ‘facts’ are wrong (though even these are expressed in a way that misleads the reader). Nor is it sufficient to say that our imaginary scholar has taken things too far. There is a more fundamental error here: a misconception of how language normally works.

– Silva, 11-13

Why I Love Hebrew: Janus Parallelism

  • The flowers are seen in the land,
  • The season has come for (pruning//singing)
  • The turtledove’s voice is heard in the land


– Song 2:12
The zamir does double duty referring backward to the flowers, meaning “pruning,” and forward to the turtledove, meaning “singing.” Hence, Janus Parallelism.

Exercises in Missing the Point…

This almost made me fall out of my chair when I read it. On this sentence in Titus 3:

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”
(Titus 3:8 ESV)

William Mounce has this to say:

The discussion flows smoothly from one thought into the next. ταυτων, “these things,” refers back at least to the creed in vv 5-7, but there is little in those verses that warrants the use of the strong διαβεβαιουσθαι, “to insist emphatically.” It is the Cretan’s poor behavior that is causing the problem.

Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 452

Does he mean this nothing in verses 5-7?

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(Titus 3:5-7 ESV)

Isn’t that the whole purpose of the Pauline gospel pockets laced throughout the pastoral epistles? To form the basis of obedience. Insist on the gospel, and good works will follow!

Arcing: a tool to read good and not use the Bible like a magic book

Germaine to other discussions:

John Piper:

It was a life-changing revelation to me when I discovered that Paul, for example, did not merely make a collection of divine pronouncements, but that he argued. This meant, for me, a whole new approach to Bible reading. No longer did I just read or memorize verses. I sought also to understand and memorize arguments. This involved finding the main point of each literary unit and then seeing how each proposition fit together to unfold and support the main point. (Biblical Exegesis: Discovering the Meaning of Scriptural Texts, pg. 18, my emphasis)

If you want to learn this method of biblical interpretation (which works especially well in Pauline texts), there is now a website devoting to the art of biblical arcing.

HT: Johnathon Bowers

Confessionism: The Misuse of I John 1:9

Thought this was an excellent article (click to read) on the misunderstanding many in our circles have relating to I John 1:9. His argument tends to be more theological but thorough exegesis backs up the conclusions! Here’s a selection. . .

“Now, consider the implications of adding the work of confession for ongoing forgiveness with the data we presently have. If something more is required for forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness (a state required for heaven), then the believer is in a dilemma. What if he fails to confess some sins? What if he fails to confess one sin? Is he unforgiven and not cleansed from all unrighteousness? This is not what propitiation and the continual immediate cleansing from sin by the blood assert. Must we add to what God has so completely accomplished? Isn’t Christ’s death and the application of His blood enough? Doesn’t this additional requirement diminish the cross by making my naming of a sin, each sin, a prerequisite to forgiveness?”