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Luke's Greek

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... Jim, Luke 1:76-79 (NRS) 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 28, 2001
      At 05:49 AM 9/24/01 -0400, Jim Bacon wrote:
      >[On Sept. 23,] Frank McCoy wrote:
      >>In Luke 1:76-79, Zacharias, the father of John, is pictured as saying this
      >>about his infant son, "And you, little child, shall be called prophet of the
      >>Highest, for you shall go before (the) face (prosopon) of (the) Lord to
      >>prepare his way; to give knowledge of salvation to his people in remission
      >>of their sins, through (the) bowels of compassion of God, in which has
      >>visited us (the) Anatole from on high, to shine upon those in darkness and
      >>sitting in (the) shadow of death, to direct our feet into (the) way of
      >It is beyond my sphere of competence to comment on most your post, relying
      >as it does upon an analysis of the original Greek. (For example, your
      >translation of Luke 1:76-79, in which Zachariah addresses his infant son,
      >John the Baptist differs considerably different from SRV passage, which
      >makes no mention of the "face of the Lord" or of an "Anatole.") Hopefully,
      >other List members can comment where I cannot.

      Luke 1:76-79 (NRS)
      76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you
      will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
      77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of
      their sins.
      78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
      79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
      to guide our feet into the way of peace."

      "before the face of" is KJV English, and the actual word is not *prosopon,*
      a noun for "face," but a verb
      form, which to my hapless Greek eye looks like *proporeon*; in any case,
      "the face of" is not a separate word. Unfortunately for Frank, he makes
      much of this non-word in his analysis:

      >To begin with, he states that John will go before the face (prosopon) of the
      >Lord. In terms of Philonic thought, this means that John will go before
      >the Logos.
      >First of all, in Philonic thought, God does not have a physical face. As a
      >result, in Philonic thought, that John is to go before the face of the Lord
      >means that he is to go before thespiritual face of the Lord.
      >Second, in Philonic thought, one's spiritual face (prosopon) is one's mind.
      >So, in L.A. i (39), Philo states, "The breathing 'into the face (prosopo)'
      >is to be understood both physically and ethically: physically, because it is
      >in the face that He set the senses; for this part of the body is beyond
      >other parts endowed with soul: but ethically, on this wise. As the face
      >(prosopon) is the dominant element in the body, so is the mind the dominant
      >element of the soul: into this only does God breathe".
      >As the face of God is a spiritual face rather than a physical face, this
      >means that the face of God is the Mind of God....
      >So, in terms of Philonic thought, that John is to go before the Face
      >(Prosopon) of the Lord, to prepare his ways, means that John
      >is to go before the the spiritual Face of the Lord = the Mind of the Lord =
      >the Logos, to prepare his way. That is to say, this means that John is to
      >go before the Logos, to prepare his way.

      So this analysis seems to rest on sand, or at least to be much more
      complicated than necessary, if my extremely limited understanding of Greek
      is correct.

      The "Anatole" is KJV "dayspring", NRS "dawn", about which Frank made much:

      >Indeed, confirming that the figure John is to go before is the Logos, this
      >figure is explicitly said, by John's father, to be the "Anatole from on
      >high"--and this is clearly a reference to Philo's Logos: who is the heavenly
      >So, in Conf. (62-63), Philo states, "I have heard also an oracle from the
      >lips of one of the disciples of Moses, which runs thus: 'Behold a man whose
      >name is the Anatole' (Zech. vi. 12)...For that Man is the eldest Son (i.e.,
      >the Logos), whom the Father of all raised up, and elsewhere calls him His
      >(Note that, as the Anatole, the Logos is the Man. Further, there was the
      >Jewish formula of Man = Son of Man. As a result, it is possible that Jesus'
      >concept of the Son of Man might have its roots in Philonic thought regarding
      >the Logos, particularly as the Anatole/Man).
      >That this "Anatole from on high" is Philo's Logos is further
      >confirmed in the remark that this Anatole will "direct our feet into (the)
      >way of peace"--for the Logos is the bringer of peace to mankind. So, in
      >Heres (206), Philo has the Logos state, "For I am the harbinger of peace to
      >creation from that God whose will is to bring wars to an end, who is ever
      >the guardian of peace."
      >So, in Luke 1:76-79, John's father is pictured as telling the infant John
      >that he is to be the fore-runner for the Logos: the Mind of God, the
      >heavenly Anatole, and the harbinger of God's peace, incarnate on earth.

      So again, it looks to me like Frank is making much out of little.
      I'm sure that I would benefit from some classes in elementary NT Greek;
      perhaps Frank would, too.
      I think Frank might also benefit from a more modern translation.


      Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
      Northern Arizona University
      Flagstaff, AZ

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