The Meaning of "parousia" in Greek

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by John of Japan, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    The Greek word parousia (parousia) has important implications for the debate on preterism. In the "Some Standing Here" thread I made two points on the word from Greek linguistics. Those points have not yet been discussed there, and I thought they would make for a good thread. The meaning of the word has never been really been discussed on the BB, although asterisktom posted about it here:
    http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?p=1641526&highlight=parousia#post1641526

    If the word can mean a spiritual appearance or an unobservable appearance, then the preterists have a point. However, no preterist here on the BB has proven either one of those meanings. I'll post about (1) the contemporary usage of the word in the 1st century and the LXX, and then (2) a discourse analysis of the word in Matt. 24.

    I hope we can keep this discussion on a civil, scholarly level.
     
    #1 John of Japan, Feb 2, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2013
  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    The Normal Usage of Parousia

    The word parousia (parousia) is a completely observable, physical event in Greek. Lightning is observable (Matt. 24:27), the coming of Stephanus and Fortunatus and Achaicus was observable (1 Cor. 16:17), the coming of Titus was observable (2 Cor. 7:6-7), the coming of Paul was observable (2 Cor. 10:10, Phil. 1:26 & 2:12). In the apocryphal literature of the LXX, the word is used for physical presence in Judith 10:18 (a woman), 2 Mac. 8:12 (the army), 2 Mac 15:21 (an army with elephants before them) & 3 Mac. 3:17 (King Ptolomy Philopater).

    In other words, I have not been able to find a single provable usage of the word parousia in the literature in which the presence was not observable. Parousia refers to a physical, observable presence. Christ's coming will be observable.

    Even more specifically, "p. became the official term for a visit of a person of high rank, esp. of kings and emperors visiting a province" (entry for parousia in the BAGD lexicon, p. 630). Christ's appearing will be a physical appearing, an official visit by a king. Again, it is "a technical term for the visit of a king" (entry in Abbot-Smith lexicon, p. 347).
     
    #2 John of Japan, Feb 2, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2013
  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    A Discourse Analysis of Parousia in Matt. 24​

    What I want to do is prove that when Jesus used parousia in exchatalogical passages He meant a visible coming, not an unobservable coming (which in itself is almost contradictory).

    Consider Matt. 24, where parousia occurs four times, more than any other chapter in the Bible (though it occurs 4 times in the book of 1 Thess.). This is enough for us to use discourse analysis (a linguistic tool) to discuss what Jesus means in Matt. 24. Here are the four times:

    Mt 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

    Mt 24:27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    Mt 24:37 But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    Mt 24:39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

    First of all, note that the disciples used the term in asking Christ about His coming. There the meaning can be construed as ambiguous, since they are asking for details--they don't know how the parousia will happen. It would be a mistake in our discourse analysis to characterize the statement of the disciples at this point. However, their statement sets the stage for the usage of the term in the rest of the chapter, which will be explanatory.

    Now, note that two times the word is used of an obviously visible coming. In v. 27 it is used to comparing the coming of Christ to the coming of lightning, which is always observable. There is no such thing as invisible lightning.

    Again, the usage might be ambiguous in v. 37. However, v. 39 explains v. 37 with an unambiguous statement of a completely observable coming--the flood. Therefore, we can say that all three usages of the term by Christ are of His observable coming.

    Our discourse analysis can make one more point. Christ does not use the term (answering the disciples) until v. 27, or 24 verses later. This leads to the observation that those 24 verses are preparatory in the discourse to the explanation. They are not describing the coming of Christ itself, but events leading up to that. The implications for the preterist discussion are obvious.

    Thus, discourse analysis leads to the conclusion that the coming of Christ is fully observable. In fact, "Every eye" shall see Him!
     
    #3 John of Japan, Feb 2, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2013
  4. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    Question:
    Have you ever thought about considering the word in a redemptive-historical sense or biblical theological development of temple presence and divine space? I think the nature of what happens makes sense when we understand the flow of revelation and the development of the temple. This could be just another way to express Jesus in terms of temple speaking of the divine presence. That is why I still believe in a future coming where Jesus' presence is among us even greater than now (in the Spirit).
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    I'm a firm supporter of the current trend to use modern linguistics in Biblical hermeneutics (following Dr. Black as I'm sure you are aware). Biblical Words and their Meaning by Moises Silva, and Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation by Peter Cotterell and Max Turner are excellent on this. Also, Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, ed. by Black, is an excellent resource for understanding discourse analysis in hermeneutics.

    This means that I think the normal meaning of a literal visit of a king is the most likely one in any passage referring to the Second Coming. I believe this is what the normal, average reader would make of the passages in the 1st century Roman Empire. The normal sense makes the best sense.

    I may not understand what you are saying, but it sounds a little to me like the pre-20th century idea that koine Greek was some kind of special Holy Spirit language.

    I think there are cases where the NT may introduce a technical meaning to a non-religious term. This is something that has also been done in Chinese and Japanese Bible translation history because there were no words in Chinese or Japanese for certain theological concepts. In every case, though, the words are easily understandable in context by the average citizen.

    But where is the need for some special, extra-normal meaning for parousia? It is used so often outside of the NT that the normal meaning is the best meaning to me.

    P. S. The relevance theory of communication (Ernst-August Gutt) is applicable here, too, but I've just been called for a meal.
     
    #5 John of Japan, Feb 2, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2013
  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Relevance theory holds that a communication is understood by the listener/reader to the extent that it is relative to his culture and society. This fits right in with historical-grammaticl hermeneutics, in that we must interpret the NT in the light of 1st century Jewish culture and Roman Empire society and culture. How would a 1st century speaker understand parousia? As a normal, physical appearance or presence.

    I think my semantic analysis of the word gives plenty of evidence to that effect for parousia. Anyone who wants to disagree must give evidence from the culture and society of the day, resulting in usage of the word which proves their position.
     
  7. HankD

    HankD
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2001
    Messages:
    15,118
    Likes Received:
    319
    The preterist might argue that the destruction in Jerusalem of AD70 caused by Titus and the Roman armies was a "visible" occurrence.

    The scripture indicates otherwise...

    Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.​

    It will be the "same Jesus" (not Titus) coming in like manner (visible and descending through the atmosphere) to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14).​

    The same Jesus will return in the same way to the same place.​

    HankD​
     
  8. kyredneck

    kyredneck
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2009
    Messages:
    10,545
    Likes Received:
    272
    That's pretty much the way Gill seen it, and I question if the man had ever heard the term 'preterist' in his life:

    http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?p=1942783&highlight=Gill#post1942783

    So, “His descending through the atmosphere to the Mount of Olives”, will it be on a cloud or on a white horse or on a bolt of lightning?
     
  9. HankD

    HankD
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2001
    Messages:
    15,118
    Likes Received:
    319
    As I have consistently said: one has to be able to discern metaphor or a verbal characterization of power and glory from the literal when interpreting the scripture.

    Not that I have a better skill at that than someone else, I may, I may not.

    For that reason I try not to be overly critical of my brothers differing view. If I'm wrong the crow will go down easier.


    HankD
     
  10. Greektim

    Greektim
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 22, 2010
    Messages:
    3,143
    Likes Received:
    118
    Yeah, I don't think you understood at all what I was saying. I am thinking of the biblical theological storyline of Scripture (redemptive history) with the theme of God's tabernacling/templing presence seen throughout the pages of Scripture. Jesus' literal return to the earth would be rightly called "presence" (literal meaning of parousia) since in a very real way, Jesus represents (yet again) God's tabernacling with humanity (cf. Jn 1:14). We see the temple evolve and develop all throughout Scripture (Eden, Sinai, Tabernacle, Temple, Jesus, church, new creation) eventually in the new creation with no temple structure b/c God and the lamb are the temple (Rev. 21:22). So to affirm your linguistic approach with a redemptive-historical approach, I would argue that the best way to understand the meaning of the word is in light of the way Scripture develops the theme of God's presence with humanity. For more, cf. Beale's books or articles on the temple and God's presence (there are many).
     
    #10 Greektim, Feb 3, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2013
  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Sorry about that. You're right, I missed your point entirely.

    I think you definitely have a valid point. To bolster it, the physical body as a temple/tent is a major theme in Paul's writing.
     
  12. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Their problem if they do this is that parousia refers directly to Christ over and over in the Scriptures, never to Titus, the Roman armies or the destruction of Jerusalem.

    Amen! :thumbs:
     
  13. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    There are two problems with using any pre-20th century scholar on the meaning of a Greek word, in this case parousia, both stemming from the discovery of various secular papyrii documents around the turn of that century (which of course Gill had no access to).

    (1) In the days of Gill, scholars thought the koine Greek of the NT was some kind of special Holy Spirit language. The papyrii proved it was the usual language of everyone who spoke Greek in the 1st century. So Gill would be more likely to attach a "spiritual" meaning to parousia than a modern Greek scholar would.

    (2) The meaning of many words became more clear and precise through scholars studying how NT Greek words were used in the secular world.
    The bolt of lghtening reference teaches us that the parousia will be an event observable by all, just as lightning is, not that Christ will ride a bolt of lightening.

    I'm sure Hank won't mind me commenting on your post to him, and also he will have his own take.
     
    #13 John of Japan, Feb 3, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2013
  14. HankD

    HankD
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2001
    Messages:
    15,118
    Likes Received:
    319
    Don't mind at all John.

    HankD
     
  15. kyredneck

    kyredneck
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2009
    Messages:
    10,545
    Likes Received:
    272
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I assume from post #5 that you are in the 'Modern Linguistics' camp, and the above problems you state are actually more so with 'Traditional Hermeneutics' than with the venerable Dr. Gill:

    Modern Linguistics Versus Traditional Hermeneutics

    “An emerging field of study among evangelicals goes by the name modern linguistics. Its terminology, self-appraisal, approach to language analysis, and relationship to traditional exegesis furnish an introduction to a comparison with grammatical-historical hermeneutics. Indispensable to an analysis of modern linguistics is a grasping of its preunderstanding—its placing of the language of the Bible into the same category as all human languages and its integration with other secular disciplines—and the effect that preunderstanding has on its interpretation of the biblical text. Its conflicts with grammatical-historical principles include a questioning of the uniqueness of the biblical languages, its differing in the handling of lexical and grammatical elements of the text, its differing in regard to the importance of authorial intention, its lessening of precision in interpretation, its elevating of the primacy of discourse, its elevating of the impact of stylistic considerations, and a questioning of the feasibility of understanding the text in a literal way. Such contrasts mark the wide divergence of modern linguistics from traditional grammatical-historical interpretation.”

    I suggest you may be demonstrating the 'fallacious principle of the interpreter’s preunderstanding as the starting point of your exegesis' [pg 22]. It is your 'preunderstanding' that the parousia in these texts can be seen with the eye and touched with the hand that 'steers you away from an objective understanding of the real meaning of it'.

    Wrong. Just as lightning lights up the entire sky from the east to the west, so shall the of the Son of man be in his day, His PRESENCE will be EVERYWHERE. And it won't be visible to the eye, we have not come to a mount that might be touched.

    26 If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not.
    27 For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming [PRESENCE] of the Son of man.
    34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. Mt 24

    20 And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
    21 neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.
    22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
    23 And they shall say to you, Lo, there! Lo, here! go not away, nor follow after them:
    24 for as the lightning, when it lighteneth out of the one part under the heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall the Son of man be in his day.
    25 But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation. Lu 17

    But thanks be unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savor of his knowledge in every place. 2 Cor 2:14

    For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea. Hab 2:14

    And he shall stand, and shall feed his flock in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah his God: and they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. Micah 5:4

    So shall they fear the name of Jehovah from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come as a rushing stream, which the breath of Jehovah driveth. Isa 59:19

    For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the Gentiles, saith Jehovah of hosts. Mal 1:11

    Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Hosea 1:10

    And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah`s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. Isa 2:2

    All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. Ps 22:27

    Jehovah will be terrible unto them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the nations. Zeph 2:11

    And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Mt 8.11-12

    .....and so on.
     
    #15 kyredneck, Feb 4, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  16. percho

    percho
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    3,888
    Likes Received:
    37
    Does all of that mean that the presence of his coming has taken place and those who have been given the spirit of adoption are already currently in that also stated presence or is there a specific point in time spoken of in scripture when we are glorified with him, called the, " manifestation of the sons of God." ??

    For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
    Romans 8:18,19

    Called a few verses later, "the adoption, the redemption of our body."

    Is that same point in time spoken of by Jesus, "when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory."?

    Called following him in the regeneration? Regeneration from having been flesh born living souls unto the spiritual born sons of God.

    Kind of like Jesus. Or should I say, Just like Jesus?

    Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; Romans 1:3
    And declared the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: Romans 1:4
     
    #16 percho, Feb 4, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    This article is a condensed version of Ch. 6 in the book by Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics, which I read for a grad class in hermeneutics some years ago. Short answer: yes, I'm in the modern linguistics camp. Thomas gets so many things wrong that it would take a separate thread to deal with it all. I was convinced by Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek by David Alan Black. Thomas makes it sound like advocates of using linguistics in hermeneutics are liberal, but knowing Dr. Black personally I assure you that he is very conservative theologically.

    But my criticisms of Gill's understanding of parousia are not due to modern linguistics, but linguistics going back 100 years. In his classic grammar of 1923, J. Gresham Machen says, "The New Testament Writers have used the common, living language of the day" (New Testament Greek for Beginners, p. 6). All Greek teachers know this. Again, the Abbot-Smith lexicon of 1923 (which I quoted on parousia) was the first major lexicon to use the papyrii. Concerning resources Gill did not have, it says, "The study of vernacular texts, which in recent years received a new impetus through the discovery of vast numbers of non-literary papyri, chiefly in Egypt, has removed all doubt as to the category to which the language of the New Testament belongs. It is now abundantly clear that the diction of the apostolic writers is not a peculiar isolated idiom, characteristic of Jewish Hellenists, but simply the common speech of the Greek-speaking world at the time when the New Testament books were written" (p. vi).
    I've given clear proofs from the NT and LXX usage of the word, not based on my preunderstanding, that the core meaning of parousia is a physical presence. I'd like to see evidence to the contrary.
    We're dealing with the meaning of parousia here. Now, even in your interpretation, lightning is visible, is it not? Please tell me how then that the parousia of Christ, compared with lightning, will be invisible?
    You are mixing up two words here. "King" and "kingdom" are not synonyms. You can physically observe a king without observing His kingdom.
    I appreciate your putting this list of verses together. I rejoice in the truth of each verse. But none of them use the Greek word parousia, which is what this thread is about. (All but two are in the OT, and even the LXX does not use parousia in those OT verses.)
     
    #17 John of Japan, Feb 4, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2013
  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    Preterists often refuse to believe that parousia can mean "coming," as in the coming of Christ. Certainly it does mean "presence." However, all lexicons also have the meaning of "coming" for the word. Here are just some of the ones I have:

    "coming, advent as the first stage in presence" (BAGD, p. 629).
    "a coming, arrival, advent" (Abbot-Smith, 347).
    "the presence, coming, arrival, advent of the glorified Messiah" (Souter, 194).
    "coming, arrival" (the Friberg's Analytical Lexicon, accessed through Bibloi 8.0).
    "arrival" (Louw-Nida, accessed through Bibloi 8.0).

    Where do they get this definition? From the contemporary usage in the NT and other documents. Note these clear cases where "coming" or "arrival" is meant:

    "I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied" (1 Cor. 16:17).

    "Her coming was announced throughout all the tents" (Judith 10:18, LXX apocrypha, my translation).

    "Maccabeus, considering the arrival of the crowd..." (2 Mac. 15:21, my translation).

    Furthermore, I consider that every time the word parousia is used of Christ (and it occurs of Him many times in the NT) it means His literal, physical coming and/or presence, especially in the sense of a King's official visit, as some of the lexicons say.

    If a preterist on the BB wishes to attempt to prove some kind of spiritual presence (those who believe Jesus is now a disembodied spirit), I'd be happy to interact with them. But they must prove it linguistically, from the usage of the word.
     
  19. kyredneck

    kyredneck
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2009
    Messages:
    10,545
    Likes Received:
    272
    Question for you JoJ, why isn't 'parousia' used in the other two accounts of the Olivet Discourse?
     
  20. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,208
    Likes Received:
    192
    That's a good question, but I don't think the answer is complicated. As any competent study of the Synoptics will tell you, Matthew presents Christ as the King of the Jews, Mark presents Christ as the Suffering Servant, and Luke presents Christ as the Son of Man. Each Gospel writer, moved by the Spirit, selected the material from Christ's life and teaching which best suited his purpose for his Gospel.

    Matthew (using "king" or "kingdom" in 70 verses) was writing about Christ as King, so of course he gives the fullest account of the Olivet Discourse, it being given on the occasion of the disciples' question about the coming kingdom. Since Mark was writing about Christ as Suffering Servant, the full account of Christ as King was not part of his purpose. The same thing goes for Luke, writing about Christ as the Son of Man, fully human.
     

Share This Page

Loading...