Words Worth Weighing
New Testament Gems to Encourage and Challenge the Twenty-first Century Christian
It is now more than a generation since the scholar William Barclay published his New Testament Words and More New Testament Words, and six years since Thomas Nelson (USA) reprinted W.E. Vine’s Reflections on Words in the New Testament. The approach of this book is for all who wish to gain insights into some of the words used in the original language of the New Testament. In particular it should be of value to those who are house group leaders, students, scholars and preachers. I am grateful to my family for encouraging me to record these insights, and especially to my grandson, Jack Morrison, for his help in designing the cover of this book.
Rather than reading it through in one go, it is best to take the sections one at a time, and allow yourself to ponder on what you have gained from each, and then to seek with God’s grace to apply what you have discovered from that reading. To that end, there is a prayer or a verse of a hymn at the end of each study. With forty sections some may like to treat it for use during Lent.
This is not a dictionary of theological terms – you will have to look elsewhere for that. Nor is it a comprehensive survey of some of the technical words used in the New Testament. It is rather a collection of some of the less common words found in its pages. In studying them and their application I have been struck by the relevance they have for contemporary discipleship, and so this book could have as a further sub-title A Guide to living the Christian Life.
Believing as I do in the inspiration of Scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:16) I have been fascinated to discover how the Holy Spirit guided its writers into using unusual words, and in some cases into coining new words, to express the great truths revealed in the Christian faith. In other cases they gave fresh nuances to words already in common use, and these are the raison d’être of this book.
It was my privilege to be introduced to classical Greek at the age of eleven. When, as an undergraduate, I was converted through the Christian Union I began a life-long interest in the Greek of the New Testament. Since then I have had the delight of teaching it to generations of theological students and now in my eighties I am still teaching it to local groups. Their interest has spurred me to explore some of the vocabulary used by the writers, and their encouragement has led me to offer it for publication.
Some of these studies were originally given as addresses to staff and to students in Oak Hill College Chapel, while others were written for a local church publication. It is my prayer that they will lead the readers into a greater understanding of God’s Word, which in turn will enable them to achieve the aim of all Christian discipleship – growth into the very likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do not merely listen to the Word (or even just read it!), and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22, NIV).
Blandford Forum, Dorset, March 2018
The Right Reverend Peter Hancock, Bishop of Bath and Wells
As I look back over my years of ordained ministry I realise how much I owe to those who have given so generously of their time and talents to help me to understand and to engage with the Bible. It was through reading the Bible as a teenager that I came to faith and in those first few weeks as a Christian I remember reading the whole of the New Testament. As I read I became aware of God speaking to me through the Holy Spirit. So began for me a lifetime of study and learning, and as I continue to open and read God’s Word I carry on discovering more about the Lord Jesus whom I seek to follow and to proclaim.
David Wheaton is one of those people to whom I owe so much. His love and knowledge of the Bible inspired me as a theological student and hearing him preach and expound the Bible has always been a privilege. In these studies he brings together a lifetime of academic study and pastoral wisdom. Each article focuses on one of the less common words of the Greek New Testament in a way that brings out their original meaning and which makes them accessible to the modern reader.
There are forty articles in this book and the intention is that they might provide a daily study for each day in Lent, either for groups or for individuals. The problem I had was that having read the first article I couldn’t stop reading and before I knew it I had read the first eight articles. That says something about the way in which these articles have been written. Each one has something to teach us. Each one has something which challenges us and each one warrants reading more than once.
David Wheaton is very clear in his hope that these articles will help us ‘to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen’ (2 Peter 3:18).
The Reverend Paul Williams, Vicar of Fulwood Church, Sheffield
In the early nineties, every weekday morning for three years began with me meeting with David Wheaton for the daily discipline of morning prayer. As we came to read the set New Testament reading, David would read and translate directly from the Greek. I would follow along with the NIV in hand. I soon began to realise then that he is a master of the Greek language. Yet, his brilliance was never used to belittle me or others. He never paraded his learning from the pulpit. He never wielded his ability in the original language to manipulate a situation. His love of the Greek came from his love for God and His Word. David wanted to know His Lord better and he wanted others to know Him too. For that reason I’m thrilled that Words Worth Weighing is now available, so that many more people can benefit from David’s lifetime of careful and considered study of the Word of God.
This book is dedicated to our parents, David and Joy Wheaton.
Our father was a truly brilliant man who loved the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New Testament and unpacking the Bible for others to understand and to enjoy.He lived life to the full and he finished well.
Our mother was his rock and his number one fan. She was the most kind and compassionate person and she was dearly loved by all.
We can never underestimate their influence over our lives.
Our father remained passionate about teaching biblical truths to the very end of his life and this book was finished just in time. It is with grateful thanks to our Aunt, Alison Brain that this book has been published.
Mary, Mark and Jo
Capturing Captivity! – aichmalotizo
If you lived in the days before gunpowder had been invented, what weapon would you be likely to use when taking someone captive? A sword would be of use only if they were within close quarters and could not outrun you! A bow might cost precious moments while you were stringing the arrow and taking aim. It would seem that the most convenient and effective weapon would be the spear, which could be hurled at once to kill or wound the fleeing person. Those who participate in the javelin contest in the Olympic Games demonstrate to what distance a well-trained person can throw the weapon. So it is interesting to discover that the Greek for ‘spear’ finds its way into one of the more graphic words that we find in the New Testament.
Aichmalotizo, to take captive, occurs three times in the writings of Paul, in Romans 7:23, 2 Corinthians 10:5 and 2 Timothy 3:6. In Ephesians 4:8 he quotes it from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). The word is derived from two roots: aichme, which means a spear, or, more particularly, the point of a spear and – alotizo would appear to come from the word halosis which means ‘taking’ or ‘capture’. So the verb has the connotation of being taken captive at spear point.
Luke (21:24) used the word in its literal sense when recording Jesus’s warnings about the fate that would befall the Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem. The noun with the same root is also used literally in Revelation 13:10 which appears to quote from the Septuagint of Jeremiah 15:2.
In his letter to the Ephesians (4:8) Paul uses this verb and its noun with the same root when he quotes the Septuagint of Psalm 68:18. Unfortunately the New International Version does not bring out the force of the original as well as the New King James Version – You have led captivity captive. It is suggested that David might have composed this Psalm to be sung when the Ark of God, which had been captured by the Philistines was brought up to Jerusalem from the house of Abinadab (2 Samuel 6). But what does it mean to lead captivity captive?
The picture is of someone who has succeeded in subduing and capturing the very forces who had set out to enslave him. This is of course especially true of what happened at the cross: just when the forces of darkness appeared to have triumphed in the death of Jesus on Good Friday, His risen appearance on the first Easter Day demonstrated His victory to the world.
When Paul quotes the Psalm in his Ephesians passage he is alluding to the contemporary scene of a Roman general being accorded a triumph. On such an occasion the victorious general or king would lead a procession of his troops through the capital city, followed by prisoners of war bearing the booty taken from their homeland – in the case of the Israelites taken to Babylon following the Fall of Jerusalem in 587/6 B.C. they would have been made to carry the vessels, furniture and furnishings of the Temple. There the trophies would have been laid at the feet of the conqueror: hence the reference you received gifts from men. So the Psalmist sees Israel’s king in a similarly victorious situation.
When Paul quotes from this Psalm to apply it to the Ascension of the risen Christ victorious over death he makes a subtle but deeply significant change of the text to you gave gifts to men! The return of the Lord Jesus to His Father in heaven is the prelude He foretold to His sending the Holy Spirit to indwell believers and endow them with His gifts (John 14:16; 16:7).
When Paul in Romans 7 describes so graphically the Christian’s tension between wanting to go God’s way (God’s law, in which he delights) and yet finding the ‘old nature’ waging war within him he uses this word. He speaks of the working of another law within his members (his agents of activity) which, he says is making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members (v.23). This is an experience familiar to all Christians: knowing the right thing to do, but failing to put it into action.
Strikingly he uses the same word in a different context to point the way to overcoming these tendencies of our sinful human nature. In 2 Corinthians 10 he is describing how in order to succeed in this spiritual warfare the Christian has weapons which have divine power to demolish strongholds. In order to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God we are, he says, to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (vv.4,5).
Paul’s advice here is so very practical. Wandering thoughts can so easily focus on sinful ideas and desires, for this is how temptations come. They then become a fixation, and there is only one way to counteract this pattern to prevent it growing into sinful behaviour. It is not possible to take them captive unless we also make them obedient to Christ. The phrase in the original is actually ambiguous as the New King James Version translates it literally as to the obedience of Christ. This could mean either that we are to recall such wandering thoughts to obey Christ (as New Revised Standard Version translates) or fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ (The Message).
This latter paraphrase reminds us that it is the Christ Who indwells us by His Holy Spirit Who alone can overcome the temptations which invade our thought life. He does this by bringing our mental activity to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ (see Colossians 3:1,2; Hebrews 12:1,2 and many other passages). We can then ask ourselves the question summed up in the WWJD formula which so many Christians find helpful today – What would Jesus do? To be able to answer that question requires a thorough knowledge of the revelation of Him contained in the Scriptures, and this can come only by regular reading and constant meditation on both Old and New Testaments. This is the only way to achieve the renewing of the mind which is the subject of our next word.
A Prayer by the hymn writer George Matheson:
Make me a captive, Lord,
and then I shall be free
force me to render up my sword,
and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
when by myself I stand;
imprison me within your arms,
and strong shall be my hand
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