Friday, December 14, 2018

Rethinking Galatians 6:6

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
Galatians 6:6
There is one other passage of Scripture that is claimed as authority for the payment to teachers of a salary by the congregation taught.  Because a salary is a "good thing," therefore Paul enjoins amongst other "good things" the giving of a salary, contracted for, arranged and understood beforehand; so that, if it is not given afterward willingly, it can be forced by law.  It does not matter to some people how interpretations represent one Apostle to contradict another, or even the same Apostle to contradict himself, so long as a point is gained or an argument apparently answered.  The "Harmony of the Gospels" has been a fruitful theme, and has exhausted much learning in establishing the fact that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, harmonize.  A very useful work might be written in answer to those who claim to be friendly to apostolic inspiration, but who have misrepresented them by erroneous translations or interpretations of the apostolic teaching, and have made one Apostle appear at variance with another, or an Apostle at times at variance with himself.  This ought to be avoided.  That kind of interpretation and translation has encouraged sceptical tendencies, and is the last thing the friends of truth ought to be guilty of.

The passage referred to is Gal. 6:6: "Let him that is taught in the word communicate with him that teacheth in all good things."  We would translate as follows: "Let him that is taught in the word participate with the teacher in every good work."  There are two important words different in these translations.  The word "communicate" changed to "participate," and the word "things" to "work."  The word "participate" represents koinoneito in the original.  The word "things" stands for no distinct word in the original.  Agathois is translated "good things" in the Common Version.  I translate it "good works."

Now, if this passage is held to mean, as is commonly claimed, that the person taught is to pay his teacher, then Paul contradicts himself when it is compared with Acts 20.35; and Paul contradicts Peter, who wrote also to the Galatians (1 Peter 1.1), when this is compared with 1 Peter 5.3.  Such a result should be a reminder that something is wrong somewhere; not in the Apostles certainly.  Where then?  Why in the Apostle's translator or interpreter!  The translation we present makes everything and every person harmonize; and it is also in harmony with the context, and all other Scripture.  Koinoneo is "to have a thing in common, have a share of a thing with another, to take part in a thing, to go shares with, have dealings with a man"--to do an act in common with another.

Participate is a better translation in this place than "sharing" would be, and exactly represents the original.  It is not "sharing" when one gives one thing, and another some other thing in return as an equivalent.  When two or more jointly and unitedly give, they "share" in giving; when two or more jointly or unitedly receive, they "share" in receiving; but when one "gives," and another "receives" what is given, and at the same time the giver becomes a receiver of something as an equivalent, then it is not sharing in giving or receiving, for each does only one thing relating to one subject; but in sharing, two or more persons are joint in one action, do the same thing, and for one and a common object or purpose.

The word translated in the Common Version "communicate" has two ideas resulting from its use--based always on the ground idea of "sharing;" one is to "participate," the other is to "contribute;" both always in common.  The participation is a common or united partaking, and the contribution is a common or united giving.  The context has to determine which word is to be used, depending on whether something is bestowed or something is received, enjoyed, or participated in.  If the taught is to "share" with the teacher "in all good," not "of all good," the teacher is to contribute his "share" as well as the taught, and the idea commonly attached is reversed or modified.  To say the taught is to "contribute" "in all good" is not very sensible; but to say that the taught is to "participate" "in all good" is quite reasonable and in harmony with the context.  The original word is in the Common Version translated distributing (Rom. 12.13) and once communicated (Phil 4.15).  In all other instances it is partakers (Rom. 15.27; 1 Tim. 5.22; Heb. 2.14, 1 Peter 4.13; 2 John 11).

The other word is "good," something which must also be determined by the context.  The context in this instance is "burdens," verse 2; "work," verse 4; "burden," verse 5; "doing well," verse 9; and "do good" (agathon), verse 10.  "Agathos, good; since agathos merely denotes good in its kind, it serves as an epithet to all sorts of nouns, as opposed to kakos, bad in its kind.  In Homer, usually persons, especially with the action of brave.  Hence it became the usual epithet of heroes, and later was used pretty nearly equal to noble, opposed to baseignoble.  But in Attic, more usually in moral signification, goodvirtuous."  The words are en pasin agathois; "in all good," not "of all good."  The translator, with the view of supplying the noun to which the word agathois "serves as an epithet," should look to the context and not to his imagination; and the natural world to supply is "works," and not "things."  It is "work"--"doing" something that is spoken of--which is in fact the governing idea both before and after, and should therefore be supplied.  Is it better to say "do (agathois) good" things, or to say "do good works"?  Hence the person taught is not to let the teacher do all the good; but he is to share or participate with the teacher "in every good work."

The common idea is foreign to the subject and the context, and the text is made to do duty in supporting a practice otherwise plainly condemned in the Scriptures.  The form of the word is not agatha, but agathois.  The words ta agatha, as a technical expression, are explained to mean "the goods of fortune, wealth, advantages," or "good fare, dainties."  Ta agatha are said to mean "good things" (Parkhurst).  Literally, ta agatha means "the goods."  The article ta makes all the difference in that connection; like the article hoi in hoi polloi, or the English article the, in "the deep," when we intend to express sea or ocean, by that form of words; but without the article the it would simply be "deep" something, to be determined by the context, as polloi without the hoi would simply be "many" something, not the technical expression "the many," the crowd, the multitude.

Let the reader turn to Gal. 6.10, and read it with "things" or "works" or "deeds," and see which would make the better sense.  Turn also to Luke 12.18, for an instance of ta agatha; and see if the words, as well as the context, do not settle their meaning.  "I will pull down my barns and I will build larger ones; and there I will store all my produce, and my good things."  Turn also to Matt. 12.34, where we have agatha without the ta, and say whether it can be there translated "benefits" or "goods of fortune," or, strictly speaking, even "good things."  Is it not accurate to say, "How can you, being evil, speak good words"?    Words are what are spoken.  "Ideas" are expressed by words; or even "thoughts" would be a more appropriate term than "things" to supply, because of the context.  We have the very word (agathois) under discussion in 1 Peter 2.18: "Let servants be subject to their masters with all respect, not only to the (agathois) good (things) and gentle, but also to the perverse."  How perverse it would be to insist on "things" being supplied instead of "masters," the subject of observation as shown by the context!  One translator translates: "Let him that is instructed in the word share with his instructor in all good things" (Anderson).  Does that not enjoin on the teacher the obligation to allow the taught to "share" with him "in all good things," or "in all good things" which the teacher possesses?

But if it is said: "Let him that is instructed in the word share with the teacher in all good works," is it not intelligent and intelligible?  That is, the teacher should not be asked to do all the "good work," and the taught do nothing; but the person taught should unite with the teacher, or participate with him "in every good work," and not throw all the labour or burden on "visiting the widows and fatherless in their afflictions," or in visiting the sick, the needy and distressed in general, on the teacher's shoulders, but the taught ones should do their share, should work in common in this service, and not leave one, and that one the teacher, to do all.  This is largely the practice of modern times.  The people pay a man to teach them, and he is expected also to do nearly "every good work" besides: except raise the money to pay himself.  Even that work has to be done by the poor pastor at times.  Read carefully the first ten verses of Gal. 6, with this translation included, and judge whether it does not better suit the surroundings than the old one.  The words, however, expressing the injunction are to determine what it means; and do they not, as we have been at pains to show, clearly express a law different from one to support teachers.  We think they do; and doing so, they are in harmony with all other Scripture.  But "all good things" cannot be said to mean money only; although Solomon says "money answereth all things."  The taught ones ought to reciprocate, and amongst the "good things" given to the teacher, give him the lessons we have ascertained the Scriptures teach on this important subject.  They cannot do better.

--James Beaty, Paying the Pastor: Traditional and Unscriptural, p.75-80

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Very Heart of Faith in Christ

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9–10
It should now be clear that when Paul speaks in this way he is not merely making a virtue out of the necessity of his bodily and spiritual sufferings, nor is he simply attempting an ad hoc defence against the attacks aimed at his person.  What he says is to be understood in terms of the very heart of his faith in Christ, which is faith in the Crucified; and it is on this basis that his words define the fundamental meaning of his existence as Christian and apostle.  Life in Christ is life in hope, and can be comprehended only as the very antithesis of all earthly satisfaction, just as the Cross is the sign of divine life only in antithesis of all the glamour and glory of the world.  Christ's glory and the glory of this age, the wisdom of God and the wisdom of men, boasting of one's natural powers and boasting of one's weakness, are things that can never co-exist nor be made, so to speak, compatible with one another.  Paul consciously holds fast to this truth not only as a man but also in his role as an apostle; it characterises his mode of operation. 'If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ' (Galatians 1:10).  Paul carries out his work 'in weakness and in much fear and trembling' (1 Corinthians 2:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:2), and explicitly refuses to commend his testimony by means of the glamour of bewitching rhetoric or of supposedly higher wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4, 13).  It is by suffering for his congregations that he brings about their salvation (2 Corinthians 1:6).  Only so can he remain truly the apostle of his Lord, the crucified Christ, who is to the Jews a scandal and to the Greeks foolishness, but who in this human nothingness at the same time reveals to both of them the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

--Hans von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power, p. 41