Early Christianity and Classical Culture: Comparative Studies in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe

By Abraham Johannes Malherbe | Go to book overview

DISTINCT LEXICAL MEANINGS
OF AΠAPXH IN HELLENISM, JUDAISM AND
EARLY CHRISTIANITY

David E. Aune


Introduction

Despite the many treatments of

which have appeared in lexical reference works, the semantic problems presented by the usage of this term in the New Testament have not yet been satisfactorily resolved. Three specific problems may be mentioned at the outset. First, though the term in the NT and early Christian literature is used only of people, is used of people just twice in the LXX (Pss. 77:51; 104:36), both in a non-cultic context, though lexical discussions rarely take account of this fact. However, is often used of people in a literal sense in Hellenistic usage, suggesting that terms like were part of the living, developing language of native Greek speakers. It is methodological problematic to focus exclusively on Graeco-Jewish usage as a context for understanding the semantics of NT and early Christian lexemes. Second, most commentators are convinced that is used figuratively or metaphorically in the NT and early Christian literature with the sole exceptions of Rom 11:16 and Did. 13:3— 7. A close analysis of the contextual meanings of however, does not support this assumption.

Third, lexical discussions of

by Biblical scholars have been often flawed by inaccuracies. Some lexical discussions of by NT scholars, particularly those with a primarily theological agenda, for example, have claimed that the term is used of people in the LXX. Consider the following statement by Alexander Sand:1

The LXX is likewise familiar with

as a concept in sacrificial
vocabulary (Exod 23:19; 25:2; 36:6; Lev 22:12; Deut 12:6, 11, 17; 18:4; 26:2,
10; Ezek 44:30). In this context it has to do with the flawless first-fruits of
natural products, the firstfruits of human beings [emphasis mine], animals,
and plants (in Ezekiel several times denotes a piece of farm land

1 Alexander Sand, “

EDKT 1.116.

-103-

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