Category Archives: Two Year GNT

‘Love’ and Discipleship in the Gospel of John

Here’s a question for you: Does the use of “love” in John match the use of “hate” in Luke?

That is far too broad (and probably inaccurate) a question to ask. My question is specifically about John 21:15-17, in which Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

As explored in my last post, in Luke 14:26 μισέω (“hate”) is used as a term of renunciation, renouncing one’s family as the foundation of security, belonging, and living and taking on Jesus as that foundation instead. In this sense, to hate my family means not that I harbor psychological hostility toward it, but that I no longer belong to/with my family, but belong to/with Jesus.

With this in mind, my question is: Since “love” is usually regarded as the opposite of “hate,” does Jesus’ question in John 17 have anything to do with the call to discipleship? Is this three-fold question of love a way of reinstating Peter as a disciple after he denied Jesus three-fold? Does “love” in this context mean the opposite of what “hate” means in Luke 14? In other words, does “love” in John 17 mean “proclamation of loyalty and belonging” while “hate” in Luke 14 means “renunciation of loyalty and belonging”?

I’ll be barking up this tree for the next week or so. Stay tuned.


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‘Hate’ and Following Jesus in Luke 14

When it comes to his teachings about discipleship, Jesus says some pretty difficult things. In Luke 14, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters — and even himself — he is not able to be my disciple” (14:26).

This statement seems to contradict ‘nicer’ things said by Jesus, such as: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:47), or “And just as you would wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31).

Why this talk of hating? Μισέω is typically translated as “hate.” According to BDAG, μισέω can also mean, to “disfavor, disregard in contrast to preferential treatment” (BDAG 653 §2; cf.Matt 6:24, Lk 16:13, John 12:25, Rom 9:13). (LSJ doesn’t give any sources in support of this un-preferential treatment.) In I. Howard Marshall’s opinion, μισέω “is usually said to have its Semitic sense, ‘to love less’” (Marshall, 592; cf. Gen 29:31-33, Deut 21:15-17, 2 Sam 19:7, Prov 13:24, Isa 60:15, Mal 1:2, Rom 9:13, 1 John 2:9). This is detectable in Matthew’s parallel: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37-38).

In this way, μισέω isn’t a psychological hostility, but a renunciation, a disowning, or rejection (Marshall, 592; TDNT IV, 690). As a person chooses to follow Jesus, to become his disciple, he or she must sever the natural connections and obligations he or she has toward father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters, and to renounce even himself/herself. According to Bonhoeffer, “By calling us [Jesus] has cut us off from all immediacy with the things of this world. He wants to be the centre; through him alone all things shall come to pass” (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 95). Such a separation would be extremely disorienting. As Carson Brisson comments,

These words enter a cultural setting in which an individual was primarily defined, from birth through death, by her or his family. In such a milieu, this saying sounds a call for individuals and the community of faith to embrace discipleship to Jesus as their new and ultimate basis for personal and corporate identity (cf. 8:19-21). Such a call would have presented a radically impractical choice, not simply an emotionally difficult one, and a nearly impossible act in a cultural setting in which contemporary definitions of freedom as individual self-assertion and many contemporary forms of economic support outside one’s family system did not exist. . . . If God’s invitation is so urgent and so absolute that an individual’s family ties no longer form the basis of her or his identity, what is left that discipleship may not require? (Brisson, Carson. Luke 14:26-27. Interpretation, 61 no 3 Jl 2007: 311)

The answer is, of course, “nothing.” There is no more to give after a disciple renounces even his/her own life. To make this ominously clear, Jesus states, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and comes after me is not able to be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Luke uses this language elsewhere, in 9:23 in which Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

The cross is, of course, and ultimately, a death sentence. Here, though, the cross also communicates the manner of life those who follow Jesus can expect – namely, one of shame and suffering. Just imagine, if we find it difficult today in our own time and culture to step outside the bounds of what our family members expect from us, how much more difficult would this task be within the bounds of the shame-honor culture of first-century Judea? But Jesus doesn’t call us to an easy life. He calls us to a life submitted completely to him. This is why the apostles refer to themselves as δοῦλος τοῦ Ἰσοῦ Χριστοῦ, “slave of Jesus Christ.” The life I live is not to be my own. In following Jesus’ call, I give up my right to direct my own life. It’s a total submission, an absolute resignation of self-sovereignty. If I declare that Jesus is Lord (κύριος), then that declaration has something to say about me too — that I am his servant, his slave. Jesus becomes the anchor of our new reality. He is the mediator through whom we relate to the world and other people. No longer am “I” the lowest common denominator, but Jesus instead.

Ultimately, this order to “hate” is a declaration of where life is found. Am I so certain that there is more life to be found in my familial relations than in Jesus, or more life in wealth or in the other forms of security this world can offer? Or am I willing to let go of absolutely everything to which I previously clung to cling singularly to the one who offers life like no other can?

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Grammatical Diagram of Luke 14:28-30

As promised, I went through Luke 14:28-30 and completed a grammatical diagram. Click here to see the PDF. (I used unicode with SBL Greek font, so hopefully it will show up properly for you! If you don’t have SBL Greek, you can download it here. It’s free, and is fun to type in.)

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The Grammatical Structure of Luke 14:29

Another quandary brought to you by Greek Tutorial. This week I was reading through Luke 14:25-30 with a couple of students, and verse 29 proved to be, shall we say, especially interesting. I’d like to examine the grammatical structure of the pericope to get a feel for what’s going on in Luke 14:29. Here’s 14:28-30:

[28] Τίς γὰρ ἐξ ὑμῶν θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι οὐχὶ πρῶτον καθίσας ψηφίζει τὴν δαπάνην, εἰ ἔχει εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν; [29] ἴνα μήποτε θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι πάντες οἰ θεωροῦντες ἄρξωνται αὐτῷ ἐμπαίζειν [30] λέγοντες ὅτι οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἤρζατο οἰκοδομεῖν καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἐκτελέσαι.

In verse 28, τὶς (nom masc sg) is matched by the participle θέλων (nom masc sg pres act ptc), and is modified by the genitive phrase ἐξ ὑμῶν to read, “For, who among you desiring”. The participle θέλων belongs to the infinitive οἰκοδομῆσαι which gives us the content of the desire, “to build.” The direct object of οἰκοδομῆσαι is the accusative masculine singular πύργον, “a tower.”

This phrase so far: “For anyone from among you desiring to build a tower”.

Next, οὐχὶ negates ψηφίζει, “does he not calculate,” which takes τὴν δαπάνην as its object, “does he not calculate the cost.”  ψηφίζει is modified by the attendant circumstance participle καθίσας, which describes the action that goes on as the person calculates the cost: “does he not, sitting down, calculate the cost”. The next clause, εἰ ἔχει εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν, appears to be a purpose clause (though this verse is missing an infinitive like “to see” or “to determine” to nicely shape this into a recognizable purpose clause), indicating why he calculates: “if he has [what is needed] for completion”.

This whole first verse is a question, noted by the interrogative form of τίς (which is anarthrous when it functions as an indefinite pronoun), and the Greek question mark ; at the end: “For who among you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down [and] calculate the cost [to determine] if he has [what is needed] for completion?” (Feel free to quibble with these conclusions; there is lots of room to move here in my understanding of the syntax!)

Moving on to verse 29. ἴνα starts this verse, which always introduces the subjunctive mood. The arrangement of this verse is a little odd, though, because the subjunctive verb, ἄρξωνται, is almost at the end of the verse. Immediately after ἴνα, the clause μήποτε θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι is inserted before the ἴνα is completed. However, this arrangement may not be so strange, considering that ἴνα and μήποτε can function together as “a strengthened form of ἴνα μή” (Marshall [1978], “The Gospel of Luke,” 594). And according to BDAG, this ἴνα μήποτε combination is often used for denoting purpose, “(in order) that . . . not, often expressing apprehension” (BDAG, 648-2b).

With this in mind, verse 29 looks a little friendlier. (If I had thought to look at BDAG last night with those Greek students, I could have been a little more helpful!) After the ἴνα μήποτε construction we find a genitive absolute θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον, “he placed a foundation,” followed by the participle ἰσχύντος, negated by μή, “not being able,” and its complementary infinitive ἐκτελέσαι, which completes the thought, “not being able to complete [it]”.

So far in verse 29 we have: “In order that he does not place a foundation, and, not being able to complete it”.

The consequence of this ill-conceived plan is that “all who see it should begin to mock him.” πάντες is modified by the adjectival participle οἰ θεωροῦντες, “all who see,” and is the subject of  ἄρξωνται. ἄρξωνται takes ἐμπαίζειν as its complementary infinitive, “begin to mock.” αὐτῷ likely refers to the uncompleted tower, rather than the builder.

This verse all together states, “In order that he does not place a foundation, and, being unable to complete it, all who see it should begin to mock him”.

Verse 30 tells us the content of their mocking, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” (You can hear Nelson from The Simpsons in the background saying his customary, “Hah hah!”)

I was going to do a grammatical diagram of this as well, but I’ve run out of time! Tune in next time for that.

There are many details I didn’t focus on — again, time being the issue. There is just never enough time for exegesis!

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Luke 14:18, πάντες ἀπὸ μιᾶς (update)

According to Liddell-Scott-Jones’ Greek-English Lexicon, ἀπὸ μιᾶς means “with one accord,” as found in Eu. Luc 14.18 (LSJ 492, εἷς entry). This is very similar to Marshall’s “unanimously.” I’m pretty satisfied now.


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Luke 14:18, πάντες ἀπὸ μιᾶς

In Jesus’ story in Luke 14:18, a servant is sent to invite the guests for a feast, but none of them want to come. In response, Luke writes, καὶ ήρξαντο πάντες ἀπὸ μιᾶς παραιτεῖτσθαι (“and all unanimously began to make excuses”). The use of the feminine singular genitive μίας is confusing. There is no syntactical reason for it. According to I. Howard Marshall, “ἀπὸ μιᾶς is probably a Greek phrase (sc. γρώμης) meaning ‘unanimously’ . . . rather than a literal translation of [the Aramaic] min hada, ‘all at once, immediately'” (p. 588 from Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, NIGTC, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978).

At Greek tutorial last night, students were asking about μίας, and I had no clue what to say other than, “Check BDAG and see if πάντα or ἀπό works with μία in any idiomatic ways.” If Marshall is write, that appears to be the case.

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Luke 14:12-14, Dinner Invitation Etiquette and the Grace of God

Last night while reading through Luke 14 with some Greek tutor students, I was struck by something Jesus said to the host of the dinner he attended. Jesus told him, “Whenever you should hold a meal or dinner, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, or your wealthy neighbours since they might invite you in return, and you might be repaid” (v. 12). Instead, Jesus tells him to invite the crippled, the maimed, the blind, and the poor — those who have no means to repay the gift of hospitality (v. 13). Jesus declares to him that “you will be blessed because they do not have [the means] to repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14).

This resembles exhortations Jesus gave elsewhere, such as Luke 6:32-36,

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Or like Jesus’ instruction on acts of righteousness in Matthew 6:1-4,

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

From Jesus’ words in Luke 14, it seems that there is no repayment (from God) for giving to those who have the means to give back to you. Repayment is received from the friend or relative or neighbour who does for you what you did for him. But God repays those who give out of grace with no hope of repayment. From the contexts of Luke 6 and Matthew 6, it is also clear that God rewards those who do these good things in secret rather than in plain view for the sake of a pat on the back, or the elevation of one’s status among his/her peers.

This is a big deal. Jesus wants us as his followers to be looking out for those who are truly down and out, to get our love working and acting in the real world. Inviting such people means also that your time is spent with them, and not only your food consumed by them. This isn’t just food-bank-filling. This is ministering truly and personally to those who have real need.

And in a very real way, this action is a picture of what God, in Jesus, already has done, and does each day, for us. He has given the gift of his love, his grace, his Fatherhood, his Son, the promise of his enduring presence — all things we can never repay. In this way in all of these passages, Jesus calls us to imitate the way the Father gives to us: out of grace.

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