The Day of the Lord (NIDNTTE)

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) (5 vols.) The phrase “the day of the LORD” (יוֹם־יְהוָה֙) in OT literature is a phrase with deep meaning and significance.  This phrase is often found in prophetic literature in the context of a significant period of time in the future.  It’s a big topic!

One resource that discusses this phrase is the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTT).  Though it is a New Testament Greek dictionary, one strength of the NIDNTT is that it also talks about the OT background of many NT words and phrases.  For example, under the heading of “day” (ἡμέρα), it includes a discussion of “day” in Jewish literature, including the Septuagint and Hebrew Bible.  It’s a pretty detailed discussion!  Here’s a paragraph from that section I found helpful.  It is a little “thick,” but it’s worth reading:

In addition, the OT contains adverbial expressions of time such as בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (“on that day,” used of the past c. 90× and of the future c. 110×) and הַיּוֹם 2 (“today,” used of the present, c. 215×). The central part of [Simon] DeVries’s monograph [called “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”] consists of a detailed examination and classification of these various passages, taking into consideration their literary form. Of theological significance is his conclusion that the function of the references to Yahweh’s day, whether in the past or the future, is to illuminate the present “today.”

“Historiography provides the model for parenesis, employing the image of revelatory event in the past to illuminate the revelatory significance of the present. Eschatology is, then, an analogical projection of the past and the present into the future, positing Yahweh’s coming action on his action already experienced” (DeVries, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, 341). Any day may become Yahweh’s day, but only those days actively become his day when he manifests himself in judgment and salvation (cf. Ps 95:7 [94:7]; Jer 28:9 [45:9]; Ezek 33:33; Mal 3:2, 4, 17–18).

Again, there’s a lot to digest in those two paragraphs.  One great sentence in the previous quote that sticks out to me is the one I’ll end with – so you can think more about it as well!

“Eschatology is, then, an analogical projection of the past and the present into the future, positing Yahweh’s coming action on his action already experienced”

The slightly edited quotes from above are taken from the NIDNTTE’s entry on the word group “day”.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Agape, Phileo, and Eros: Sorting Through The Meanings

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) (5 vols.)

I’m sure many of our readers have heard all sorts of info about the differences between three words for love: agape (αγαπη), eros (ερως), and phileo (φιλεω). I’ve heard a few of these discussions myself and they often leave me a little concerned because they aren’t always overly accurate. I could do a write-up of it myself, I suppose, but the NIDNTTE does a much better job than I could do. Here are some excerpts from the entry on love/agape (as a noun, verb, and adjective):

One should not infer that this word group has some kind of intrinsic “divine” meaning, as though the terms by themselves indicate selfless, sacrificial, pure love. In the LXX (Septuagint), for example, the verb is used of Samson’s attraction to Delilah (Judg 16:4), of Saul’s initial liking for David (1 Sam 16:21), of King Hiram’s political friendship with David (1 Ki. 5:1), of Solomon’s attachment to his numerous pagan wives (1 Ki. 11:2), of the people’s devotion to vain things (Ps 4:2 [LXX 4:3]), of the wicked’s love for unrighteousness, evil, and cursing (11:5 [10:5]; 52:3–4 [51:5–6]; 109:17 [108:17]), of the love for death that characterizes those who hate divine wisdom (Prov 8:36), of greediness for money and wealth (Eccl 5:10 [5:9]), of the rulers’ passion for shameful behavior (Hos 4:18), of the desire for a prostitute’s wages (9:1)….

It remains true that in the vast majority of its NT occurrences, ἀγαπάω is used with reference to a distinctive Christian virtue, but this fact witnesses to the significance of the theological concept, not to any positive qualities inherent in the word itself

 Here’s the section specifically on agape, eros, and phileo:

It has become commonplace—not only in popular literature but in scholarly treatments as well—to say that while English has only one word for “love,” Greek has three, each of which has a clearly distinguishable meaning: ἔρως (vb. ἐράω) supposedly has a negative connotation and indicates a desire for personal satisfaction, so that it is often applied to sexual matters (this word group is rare in the LXX and totally absent in the NT); φιλία/φιλέω (phileo) is said to be a somewhat neutral and colorless term, referring primarily to friendships and family relations; ἀγάπη and ἀγαπάω, (agape) finally, signify a self-giving attitude that seeks the best for others, even if unlovable (some of these distinctions owe much to the influential work by A. Nygren, Agape and Eros [1953]; earlier, Trench (p. 43) had argued that ἔρως and its cognates had been corrupted by the world, and “they carried such an atmosphere of unholiness about them … that the truth of God abstained from the defiling contact with them”).

This approach is problematic, however. Not only does it give an oversimplified picture of the Greek vocabulary—it is also inaccurate in several respects. To begin with, Greek has more than just three words whose use can come within the broad category of “love,” such as ἀντέχω , ἐπιθυμία, ἐπιπόθησις G2161, ἵμερος, κολλάω, πόθος, σπλάγχνον, στοργή, and others. And, of course, it is far from the truth that Eng. has only one word to express the concept of love in its various forms….

More important, it is misleading to suggest that the three Gk. words in question have inherently favorable or unfavorable meanings. As noted above (sect. 1), there are plenty of negative contexts in the LXX where ἀγαπάω is used. By the same token, ἐράω freq. occurs in positive contexts; Philo, for example, links this vb. with “good things,” “virtues,” “perseverance and temperance,” “peace,” “truth,” “wisdom,” etc. (Leg. 2.55, 80, 83; Somn. 2.40; Spec. 2.258; Virt. 1.62), and he can speak of ἔρως as “heavenly” and “divine” (οὐράνιος, θεῖος) and as the source of all virtue (Virt. 1.55). As for φιλέω, it is true enough that this vb. occurs freq. in contexts of friendship, and that often it is used in the mild sense of “to like (something)” (cf. Gen 27:4 et al.), but it can also be applied to Jacob’s strong love for his son Joseph (37:4 [= ἀγαπάω in v. 3]), to a person’s love for wisdom (Prov 29:3), to the love for parents (Matt 10:37), to God the Father’s love for the Son (John 5:20), to Jesus’ deep love for Lazarus (11:3 [= ἀγαπάω in v. 5], 36); to the Father’s love for the disciples in response to the disciples’ love for Jesus (16:27)… (etc).

One more note:

That ἀγαπάω (agapao) and φιλέω (phileo) can be used interchangeably in some contexts is certain: “I love [ἀγαπῶ] those who love [φιλοῦντας] me” (Prov 8:17 LXX, where the two terms render the same Heb. vb., אָהַב; cf. also 21:17; Lam 1:2; and Jos. Vita 1.198; LSJ cites Xen. Mem. 2.7.9); and John himself can employ these two vbs. as simple synonyms, as is especially clear from the formula “[the disciple] whom Jesus loved” (ἠγάπα in John 13:23; 21:7, 20; but ἐφίλει in 20:2). Moreover, as noted above, John sometimes applies ἀγαπάω (agapao) to negative expressions of love (3:19; 12:43), and φιλέω (phileo) to divine love (5:20; 16:27). 

The discussion is somewhat technical, I suppose, and I did edit the above quotes to make it easier to read. The point is, be somewhat wary when someone tries to give dogmatic statements about the meaning of agape, phileo, and eros!

 The above quotes are found in Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis 2014. s.v. agape.

 Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

A People for His Possession (NIDNTTE)

New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) (5 vols.)1 Peter 2:9 says But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (NIV).  The phrase: “God’s special possession” can also be translated, “a people for his [God’s] possession” (λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν).  I like how the NIDNTTE explains this Greek noun “possession” (περιποίησιν) as used by Peter:

Of special significance is 1 Pet 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession [λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, lit., ‘a people for (his) possession’].” These words are a paraphrase of Exod 19:5–6, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession [LXX, λαὸς περιούσιος]. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (cf. also Deut 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; the LXX uses περιουσιασμός in Ps 135:4 [LXX 134:4], and περιποίησις in Mal 3:17; see discussion s.v. περιούσιος G4342). It is remarkable that in his description of Christian believers Peter uses the distinctive OT language intended to emphasize Israel’s uniqueness. It is no longer a specific ethnic group but people from all races that form a new holy nation. And Peter also makes clear the purpose of this new race: “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (a loose quotation of Isa 43:20b–21).

 Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 718.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015