Posts Tagged Ephraim Syrus

Finding Faith in Samaria

John 4:4–42 records Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Although the woman had come to the well for water (John 4:7, 15), after her conversation with Jesus, she leaves her water jar, returns to the town, and tells the people there to “come see a person who told me all the things that I have done. This one is not the Messiah, is he?” (John 4:29; δεῦτε ἴδετε ἄνθρωπον ὃς εἶπέν μοι πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησα, μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός;).1 Others from the town then come, presumably following the woman, to see Jesus (John 4:30, 39–40). Even before the group reaches Jesus, however, many in it have believed in him based on the woman’s report (John 4:39–40a). At the group’s request, Jesus stays with them two additional days, and upon hearing his own teaching, the group believes all the more (John 4:41–42a).2

Earlier, the woman had expressed the expectation that, when he arrived, the Messiah would teach the Samaritans (John 4:25).3 Although the woman expresses uncertainty about how far Jesus’ messiahship will seem viable to the other townsfolk, her perception of his behavior at least seems to make this claim not unreasonable for her (John 4:26, 28–29).4 Still more striking is the townsfolk’s reaction when Jesus teaches them directly: “we ourselves have heard, and we believe that this one is truly the Savior of the world” (John 4:42b; αὐτοὶ . . . ἀκηκόαμεν καὶ οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ὁ σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου).5 In so doing, these Samaritans recognize the particular shape in which the salvation that originates with the Jews has come,6 even when notable figures among the Jewish leadership themselves have difficulty with Jesus in this respect (cf. John 3:1–21; 4:21–24; 9:110:19).7


1. Cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 34.1 (NPNF1, 14:117).

2. See also Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003), 627.

3. Cf. John 4:17b–18, 29a; Augustine, Serm., 51.2 (NPNF1, 6:422–23); Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 33.2 (NPNF1, 14:115); Origen, Comm. Jo., 1.6 (ANF, 9:300).

4. Cf. BDF, §427.2; cf. NASB95 and NET, sub. loc.; Chrysostom, Hom. Jo., 33.2, 34.1 (NPNF1, 14:116, 118).

5. Cf. Ephraim Syrus, Hymns on the Nativity, 3 (NPNF2, 13:230).

6. Keener, John, 627.

7. The phrase “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24; ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ) may include a hendiadys (Keener, John, 615–18). Or, the two objects of the preposition “in” (ἐν) may be “separate . . . but epexegetically related” (Andreas J. Köstenberger, John [Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 156n50). In either case, because of the close connection that John 4:23–24 proposes between “spirit” and “truth,” “truly” (John 4:42; ἀληθῶς) in the mouths of the Samaritans may well situate them as or among the “true worshipers” (John 4:23; ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταί) of the Father in that “hour [that] is coming and now is” (John 4:23; ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , ,

No Comments

Faithful Rahab

Foster Bible Pictures 0084-1 Rahab Helping the...

Rahab Helping the Two Israelite Spies (Image via Wikipedia)

After assuming leadership over Israel (Josh 1:10–18), Joshua commissions two men to survey Jericho and the surrounding area (Josh 2:1a). Rather tersely, then, the menוילכו ויבאו בית־אשׁה זונה ושׁמה רחב וישׁכבו־שׁמה (Josh 2:1b; went and entered the house of a prostitute, whose name was Rahab, and they lodged there). For onlookers, such an action might not have been unusual in itself,1 but by some means or other, the king became aware of these Israelite’s intent to survey Jericho ahead of some forthcoming military action (Josh 2:3).

Even before the king’s messengers had arrived, however, Rahab had apparently become aware that they were coming and hid the Israelite spies (Josh 2:4a, 6). While the spies are hiding (Josh 2:8),2 Rahab engages them in a brief exchange that solidifies both her promise of protection to them and their promise of the same to her and her family on certain conditions (Josh 2:9–14). When Rahab describes the background for her actions, she twice acknowledges Jericho’s broad recognition of יהוה’s greatness (Josh 2:9, 11a) because of what he had recently done for Israel in helping them against other peoples they had encountered before arriving at Jericho (Josh 2:10, 11b).3 Yet, only in Rahab’s case is this fear of יהוה said to translate into חסד (Josh 2:12; kindly) acts,4 to which the spies respond חסד ואמת (Josh 2:14; kindly and faithfully; cf. Josh 2:17–20; 6:22–23, 25).

Rahab thus constitutes an example of one who both hears the report about יהוה’s mighty deeds and rightly credits that report, δεξαμένη τοὺς κατασκόπους μετʼ εἰρήνης (Heb 11:31b; receiving the spies with peace; cf. Heb 4:2). Yet, alongside Abraham (Jas 2:21–23), James sets forth Rahab as an example of one who is ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦται . . . καὶ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον (Jas 2:24; justified from works and not from faith only; cf. Jas 2:25–26). It is difficult to assess whether James sees Rahab’s deception of the king’s men (Josh 2:3–5) as an endemic component of her kindness toward the spies (cf. Josh 2:14) or as deception that יהוה presumably forgave within the context of her faith in him (cf. Gen 20:1–13; 26:6–11).5 What is clear, however, is that, in Jas 2:14–20, δικαιοῦσθαι ἐκ πίστεως μόνον refers to something like “being justified for fine words while sitting on one’s hands.” Fine words acknowledging יהוה’s greatness Rahab certainly does have (Josh 2:9–13), but James holds her forth as an example because her fine words, as faithful words, are a genuine testimony of one piece with her ὑποδεξαμένη τοὺς ἀγγέλους καὶ ἑτέρᾳ ὁδῷ ἐκβαλοῦσα (Jas 2:24; having received the messengers and sent them out by another way).6 Indeed, in so doing (cf. Josh 6:25), Rahab the sinner received the Israelite men and kept them from harm,7 and thus, Rahab came to stand in the line of the Israelite man who receives sinners and keeps them from harm (cf. Matt 1:5; Luke 15; John 9:110:18).8


1. Bird, “The Harlot as Heroine,” Semeia 46 (1989): 128; Keil, Joshua, 26.

2. First Clement 12 (ANF, 1:8); Keil, Joshua, 27, regard Josh 2:8 as a reference to the spies’ going to sleep. Yet, because the preceding context says that the men had gone to the roof to hide (Josh 2:6), Josh 2:8–14 might be understood as a flashback or as Rahab’s later discussion with the men in which she discloses convictions she had already held (cf. McCartney, James, 171).

3. Chyrsostom, Hom. Heb., 27.3 (NPNF1, 14:487–88), suggests that the spies themselves brought to Rahab the news of what יהוה had done for Israel. If such were the case, then their possible communication of this news to others also might have been the reason that they attracted such unfavorable attention and that the king became aware of their presence at Rahab’s house. Yet, such a reading would present a difficulty with Joshua’s original commission of the men to perform their reconnaissance חרשׁ (Josh 2:1; secretly).

4. Cyril of Jerusalem, Paen., 9 (NPNF2, 7:10); Ephraim Syrus, The Pearl, 7.1 (NPNF2, 13:299), suggest Rahab as a model of Christian repentance. See also Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 87.5 (NPNF1, 8:421–22); Cyprian, Epist., 75.4 (ANF, 5:398); Jerome, Epist., 52.3 (NPNF2, 6:91).

5. Augustine, C. mend., 32 (NPNF1, 3:495–96), strongly prefers this later possibility.

6. Cf. 1 Clem. 12 (ANF, 1:8); Ambrose, Fid., 5.10.127 (NPNF2, 10:300); Beale, New Testament Biblical Theology, 520–22.

7. Westcott, Hebrews, 377.

8. Cf. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 264–74.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

So Then You Also Were Made to Die

In Rom 7:1–6, Paul appears to draw on Num 5:11–31 as a metaphorical way of characterizing the Christian community’s history.1 While her husband lives, the wife’s involvement with another man would make her liable to the charge of adultery from her current husband. From this charge, the wife would also become liable to the ritual of Num 5:11–31, and the serious consequences that it would entail if she had indeed committed adultery (Num 5:21–22, 24, 27–28).2

Such would also have resembled the situation for those whom Paul addresses in Rom 7:1–6 but for one thing: they have “put[] off the old man [and] walk not in the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the spirit” (cf. Rom 6:6; 7:1, 4, 6).3 Having become unlinked from τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας (Rom 6:6; the body of sin; cf. Rom 7:24), they have become united with τὸ σώμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Rom 7:4; the body of the Messiah). Because of the old person’s death,4 they do not have the fruit that comes from an accurate accusation of adultery (Rom 7:1, 5; cf. Num 5:21–222427–28).5 Rather, in union with Messiah Jesus, they have the fruit of righteousness, which is pleasing to God, and of eternal life (Rom 6:12–23; 7:5).6


1. Barrett, Romans, 127; Cranfield, Romans, 332–33; Dunn, Romans, 359–60; Moo, Romans, 411–12; Osborne, Romans, 168; Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom,” JSNT 79 (2000): 97.

2. Numbers 5:11–31 suggests that only the wife would undergo the ritual (Ephraim Syrus, On Our Lord, 6 [NPNF2 13:308]; cf. Jerome, Epist., 55.3 [NPNF2 6:110]). Yet, Prot. Jas. 16 (ANF 8:364–65), has Mary and Joseph both drink water from the priest’s hand. Because they both “return[] unhurt,” they are both cleared from wrongdoing in Jesus’ conception (see Prot. Jas. 15 [ANF 8:364]).

3. Jerome, Epist., 69.7 (NPNF2 6:146); cf. Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 112.5 (NPNF1 7:417); see also Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom”; Tertullian, Marc., 5.13 (ANF 3:456–59); contra Origen, Comm. Matt., 12.4 (ANF 9:451–52).

4. Cf. Sanday and Headlam, Romans, 171–72; Thielman, Paul and the Law, 196–97; Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 196; Wright, “Letter to the Romans,” 558–59; see also Barrett, Romans, 127–28; Barth, Romans, 231–34; Bruce, Romans, 144–45; Chrysostom, Hom. Rom., 12.7.1–6 (NPNF1 11:418–20); Dunn, Romans, 363, 365, 368; Moo, Romans, 413; Rehmann, “The Doorway into Freedom,” 102. Chrysostom, Hom. Rom., 12.1–4 (NPNF1 11:418–19), suggests that, in Paul’s scenario, both the husband and the wife die (Rom 7:1–4). In Chrysostom’s reading, because the wife has also died, her resurrection to be united with her new husband leaves her so much the freer from her previous spouse’s claims on her.

5. Cf. Augustine, Faust., 11.8 (NPNF1 4:182); Augustine, Serm. Dom., 1.14 (NPNF1 6:17); Tertullian, Mon., 13 (ANF 4:70).

6. Augustine, Grat., 15 (NPNF1 5:450); Augustine, Tract. Ev. Jo., 3.9 (NPNF1 7:22).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

, , , , ,

No Comments

The Anointed One

von Carolsfeld, Jésus est oint à Béthanie

Julius von Carolsfeld, Jésus est oint à Béthanie¤

In his Dialog with Trypho, 86, Justin Martyr suggests that οἱ βασελεῖς πάντες καὶ οἱ χριστοὶ ἀπὸ τούτου μετέσχον καὶ βασιλεῖς καλεῖσθαι καὶ χριστοί (all the kings and messiahs had, by this one [= Messiah Jesus], a share in being called both kings and messiahs [i.e., anointed ones]). Yet, Matt 26:6–13 (cf. Mark 14:3–9; Lk 7:37–39John 12:1–8) seems to ask its readers to connect Jesus to messiahship via a rather surprising route—namely, by an unnamed female character (France, Matthew, 361; Keener, Matthew, 618; Thiemann, “The Unnamed Woman,” ThTo 44.2 [1987]: 183–86; cf. John 12:1–8; Barrett, John, 2nd ed., 409; Gundry, Matthew, 522; Kõstenberger, Theology, 232–32; Lightfoot, Commentary, 2:341; Platt, “Ministry,” ThTo 32.1 [1977]: 30–32). Irrespective of whether this unnamed woman understands the full significance of her action, including how Jesus connects it to his upcoming burial (Matt 26:12),* Jesus’ response to the disciples’ objection (Matt 26:8–13) clearly vindicates the woman’s actions also in connection with the proclamation of τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦτο ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ (Matt 26:13; this gospel in the whole world; Coakley, “The Anointing at Bethany,” JBL 107.2 [1988]: 243, 249, 255; Ford, “Matthew 26:6–13,” Int 59.4 [2005]: 401; Thiemann, “The Unnamed Woman,” ThTo 44.2 [1987]: 183–86; cf. Matt 24:14; 28:18–20). Jesus thus sets the woman’s memorial in the context of her fitting, if perhaps dimly anticipatory, recognition of his soon-coming death and all of the messianic significance with which he himself viewed that sacrifice (Matt 16:13–28; Ephraim, On Our Lord, 47 [NPNF2 13:326–27]; Keener, Matthew, 618).


* I.e., even in the event that, from the woman’s perspective, πρὸς τὸ ἐνταφιάσαι με (Matt 26:12; toward my preparation for burial) indicates only the result of her action as Jesus interprets it and not also her purpose, to whatever extent, in the action when she performed it (BDF, §402.5; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 611).

¤ In relation to Matthew’s description of the scene, von Carolsfeld’s woodcut contains at least the adaptation from Jesus’ reclining at table (Matt 26:7; cf. Mark 14:3) to his sitting on a stool.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

,

No Comments