Thursday, April 14, 2022

The lost

I am entirely ignorant of Hebrew and Greek, the biblical languages, and a bit leery of interpretations by those with only a superficial knowledge. I do appreciate learning from those who seem qualified. From Philip Jenkins in "Save Us, Lord, We Are Perishing!" on apollumi:
.... I want to focus on one particular Greek word that points to a critical and under-appreciated theme in the earliest Christian message. This is the verb, apollumi, to destroy (or be destroyed) utterly, to perish, or be entirely lost. In its various forms, it appears very frequently indeed throughout the New Testament – an impressive 92 instances, in fact – but a non-Greek speaker will miss those repetitions and echoes. ....

We...see that when the original authors used the same word or root time after time, they were not being shoddy wordsmiths, who did not know how to diversify their vocabulary in an interesting or creative way. Rather, they were trying very successfully to produce an inexorable drumbeat, in which even the slowest listener would discern the theme being presented. ....

Jesus warns his followers it is better that one of their limbs should perish (apoletai) rather than they go into hellfire (Matt 5.30). The disciples are to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (apololota: Matt 10.6). He who takes up the sword will perish (apolountai) by the sword (Matt.26.52). In Luke 13, Jesus warns his listeners that unless they repent, they will perish (apoleisthe). The Pharisees plot how they might destroy Jesus (apolesosin: Mark 3.6). The priests and scribes plot to destroy (apolesosin) him (Mark 11.18). In John 3.16, the one who believes in the Son shall not perish (apoletai) but have eternal life. Luke alone uses the word 28 times in its various manifestations.

When the gospels translate “lost,” you can usually assume that the Greek original is a variant of apollumi. ....

In the Greek text, that verb occurs very frequently in the Gospels, and then in the epistles, ten times in the two letters to the Corinthians alone. So frequent is it, in fact, that we might be hearing almost a code-word or slogan of that early faith, just as “the Way” denotes the correct path of Jesus’s followers. In contrast, this word for perishing – apollumi – summarizes the path of the evildoers, those who fall from the Way. They are the lost, the perishing, and Jesus’s followers plead that they do not perish thus. They plead that they might not be lost. This is the fate from which Jesus’s followers seek to be saved. And saved is the direct antithesis of “lost.” Jesus tells his followers that “whoever would save [sosai] his life will lose [apolesei] it; and whoever loses [apolesei] his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save [sosei] it.” (Mark 8.35).

We might even propose that nobody should be allowed to talk about being saved in Christianity (or use the words Savior or Salvation) without offering some inkling of what we are supposed to be saved from. ....

As so often, this early Christian language builds explicitly on the Semitic original. When Christians used apollumi, they were recalling a common Hebrew verb, which was abad, to perish or destroy. That word in turn is the root of Abaddon, Destruction. In later books of the canonical Old Testament, Abaddon is linked with Sheol, in the sense of “Hell and Destruction.” (Job 26.6; 28. 22; Proverbs 15.11, Ps. 88.11). .... (more)
Philip Jenkins in "Save Us, Lord, We Are Perishing!" April 14, 2022.

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