Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's All Greek To Me

Ah, yes. How I miss the heady days of Optimus Prime and the Autobots raging against the evil forces of Megatron and his Decipticons. I miss those guys...

Anyway, I just thought I'd share some of the interesting tidbits that come out of my occasional forays into New Testament Greek.

First, courtesy of my friend Ron, did you know that never in the New Testament does the word "atonement" appear? We often refer to Christ's death on the cross as an "atoning sacrifice". But to atone is an Old Testament word that essentially means to cover over or make up for your sin. The authors of the New Testament never held that view. In the New Testament, Christ's death is a propitiation - it's a complete removal of the sins we bear - not merely a "covering over".

Second, did you know that when Jesus was transfigured on the Mount in Matthew 17, He was really transforned?

In New Testament Greek, there are four words that are used to describe changes people undergo. There are "morphoo" changes and "schema" changes. "Morphoo" changes are changes in form (think metamorphosis) whereas "schema" changes are changes in appearance only (think schematic - a figure or representation, but not the thing itself). Thus the New Testament describes changes in these four terms: Configure, Transfigure, Conform, and Transform.

So how does this apply to New Testament thinking?

In all cases except one, "schema" changes are used in a negative context. Satan "transfigures" himself into an angel of light in 2nd Corinthians and we are not to "configure" ourselves to the present age in Romans 12.

Opposite that are the "morph" changes - changes in actual form, not the appearance of it. These are always positive. In Matthew 17, Jesus was literally "transformed" (not transfigured). Paul exhorts us to be "conformed" to the image of Christ (Romans 8).

It is one thing to be changed in how you look. It is something wholly different to be changed in who you are.

When Satan transfigures himself into an angel of light, he can only "meta-schema" or trans-figure how he looks. However, his change does not reflect who he truly is. No matter how much Satan may disguise himself as an angel of light, it forever remains that - a disguise. He is still a minister darkness. He has been transfigured, but not transformed.

When Christ was changed on the mountain, we say in English that He was transfigured. But really, He was transformed. He literally became something in human form that He was not before. Paul exhorts us to "be transformed" by the renewing of our minds with that same word in Romans 12.

So what makes a transformation more than just a transfiguration? A "transformation" in the positive sense is a complete change, but it is a change that is based upon an underlying reality. Christ was transformed in body to reflect His divine nature and Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to reflect the
nature God has already given us.

To simplify the idea then, to "transfigure" or "configure" is to change how we appear to reflect something apart from ourselves. To "transform" or to "conform" is to change how we appear to reflect what God already says is true about us.

So, there you have it.

Be Ye Transformed.

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