Fine-tuning Phrasing

Course: Greek Tools for Bible Study

Lecture: Fine-tuning Phrasing


Week 3b: How Do We Modify Ideas?

Chapter 13: Fine-Tune Phrasing

[slide 1]

In Chapter 13 we are going to go back to phrasing. I tried to do phrasing in one week for years, but it was not enough. Jude is a great book to phrase. It is harder, which makes it better. This is a chance for phrasing to get into your head a little further. One of the things I will do as we work through Jude is encourage you to be specific at labeling the relationships.

“God so loved the world. He gave His only Son.” What is that connection? How would you explain that? See, the nature of how the phrases relate becomes important, and that is at the heart of what is going on in a lot of commentaries.

Divide Jude into Passages

[slide 2]

On the CD-ROM there is a .pdf file of Jude. You can print it out and use if for these exercises.

I want you to take 5 minutes and read through the book of Jude. I want you to go through and find where the basic divisions are. How many passages are you going to break Jude into? We will come back in 5 minutes and talk about your decision.

Divide Jude into Sections

[slide 3]

Let’s start working our way through Jude. First of all, can you imagine if your Sunday School superintendent came to you and said, “We have a 5th grade class open and we need you to teach Jude.” First of all, you might say, “I am not sure this material is appropriate.” Or you might say, “Where on earth do I start?” Did you notice that you can get somewhat lost in this book? The narratives and the gospels have short stories that give you some natural divides. There are a few natural divisions in Jude, but that middle piece is weird. I want you to remember that sense of weirdness, because it will make beautiful sense when you are done, and you will never study your Bible without phrasing again.

Let’s look at Jude. First of all, how many sections did you come up with? Again, this is one of those things where everyone may see things a little differently, and that is okay. By the way, this is a great illustration of why you always read to get the big picture first in Bible study.

There are a couple of very natural breaks up front. The first break is after the first two verses. You have a Salutation. Pretty straight forward, right?

The second break is after 4, before verse 5. What label would you put for verses 3 to 4? It is an introduction; it is a purpose; kind of the occasion for writing, something like that.

Now the next one is the hard one. Well, let’s come back to it. How many saw a break between verse 19 and 20? It switches audience; it switches from being negative to positive. Where does this section end that starts in verse 20? It ends at 23. That is a little easier because 24 to 25 are a doxology, so that stands out as a section. Now, I can see that perhaps you want the doxology to be linked to the message of 20 and 23 because the power the doxology gives you strength to do what 20 to 23 are telling you to do. Remember: I said that phrasing is not exact.

What heading would you put for verses 20 to 23? It is an exhortation. How does it relate to everything that has been going on? It is a summary in the sense that it lists all these horrible sins in the past that are analogous to all the horrible sins in this church, and da-da-da, and it says, “If you were a true Christian in this particular church, they are going to beat up on you pretty bad.” You can feel that, with this amount of sin and oppression going on. Then you hit 20, and it is a call to persevere. In light of all the junk that is going on, Jude says, “Okay, I condemned the evil. Now let me turn to those of you who are true disciples, who are Christians. What is my message to you in light of all of this?... Hang in there. Persevere.”

Then you get the beautiful doxology in 24 and 25, and perhaps you want to leave the doxology as part of the call to persevere because it reminds us of who we are persevering for.

The question is, what do you do with the middle? The main question exegetically is, do you break it after 16 or do you break it after 19? You need to know that the commentaries are divided on this. There is no right or wrong answer here, but there is an exegetical difference here. Most people actually feel it between sixteen and seventeen. Notice I say “feel.” This is good literature, and you read it as good literature, and it will impact you that way. Although it is not the only way to read the Bible, it is a good way to read the Bible.

I think most students I had in seminary like the break between 16 and 17. And the reason is the “but dear friends.” These introductory phrases are one of the key things that the Bible gives you when making a change in subjects. So that is a very legitimate place to break it. However, I tend to go through 19. Because, although you have this strong introductory comment in verse 17, he is still talking about the bad guys. I like having 5 to 19 be about the first group of people, and then 20 to 23 being about the second group of people. That is how it divides more in my mind.

We will attack this piece here in the middle of Jude and see some cool stuff.

Salutation

[slide 4]

The salutation phrases out as you would expect in a standard letter. “Jude,” “to those who have been called,” and then the statement of “mercy, peace and love.” No big surprises. We learn that Jude is “a servant of Jesus and a brother of James.” As is often pointed out in sermons, Jesus’ brothers didn’t call themselves “Jesus’ brother.” They called themselves “servants,” but he was James’ brother.

“And to those who have been called” They not only have been called, but they also have been “loved,” they have been “kept by Jesus.” The Biblical salutations are longer than normal if you compare them to ancient letters, especially Paul's. They are being expanded, and the author is starting to drop hints at what he is going to say. We will see this “kept by Jesus Christ” come up again. There are bookends going on literally speaking. Now that you know what is in the middle part of Jude, you realize why he needs to remind his people that they are “kept by Jesus Christ.” But, standard salutation; no surprises there.

Occasion for Writing

[slide 5]

The next section is an occasion. What is the occasion for writing? When I get a phrasing like this that has stuff all over, I start underlining or changing the color or doing something. I am big on finding the main point, and I do not want the it to collapse into the phrasing. The main point here would be “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith for certain men have secretly slipped in among you.” That is what Jude is all about. So, when there is this much stuff around the main point, I tend to highlight it or do something to make the main point clear.

Why did I indent “although” where I did, “although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share?” What does that phrase modify? It does not modify “friends”; that is just who he is writing to. It is an introductory comment, but grammatically all these phrases have to be related to something. You want to know where that grammatical connection is because that is where the thought connection usually is. It is under “felt.” Here is an example of where I have indented it over the word that it modifies.

“I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith” Let me modify that main thought, “Well, I really wanted to write about something else.” And frankly, if I were looking at what Jude was having to look at to write, I would have wanted to have written something else, too! I mean, who wants to talk like that, right? I would rather talk about “the salvation we share”; that is fun; those are fun sermons. I mean, who wants to preach on Jude? Well, I do, but that’s something else. So the “although” phrase is telling you something about “felt."

So, he wanted to do this but he felt he had “to write and urge you to contend for the faith.” What about “the faith?” Well “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Ran out of room on the right, so I pulled it back to the left and connected it with a line. In terms of the meaning, again, you can see where Jude is going. You have a bunch of dreamers, he calls them. Later on he calls them shepherds. I think the opponents that Jude was facing were elders in the church who were perverting the faith. You will see; I will show you the details as we go through. He is making the point up front that the faith is once for all; if somebody disagrees with it, they are wrong because it is not in the process of being formed. Again, it is a hint as to what is coming. This is not really phrasing, just fun. It is what the passage means.

Anyway, “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith,” and then what question is verse 4 answering? Why? Let me give you the reason. At the end of this chapter, there is the discussion on these labels. We are not going to have time to go into them tonight, but this is the final step in exegesis. It is when you can actually label the connection between the phrases and the thoughts. Commentary writers will say, “Here’s this.” And they’ll say, “Now in verse 4, Jude gives us the reason for why he felt he had to this.” Reason; that is one of these labels. And you can see it at the end of the chapter.

“For certain men have secretly slipped in among you.” Now let me tell you two things about the “men.” Their “condemnation was written about long ago” and “they’re godless.” 

Why do I have these two phrases under the adjective “godless?” Well, they are godless for two reasons. (By the way, this is a great sermon.) ''What does it take to be “godless?”'' (There’s your title.) They “changed the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” A bunch of antinomians! They think that because God is a God of grace it is perfectly okay if they live lives of immorality. They are godless because they think that God’s grace means they can be immoral, and they are godless because they are denying Jesus Christ as our only Sovereign and Lord. I wish Jude had been a little more detailed about that. There is something about the person of Christ who is under attack–His lordship, His sovereignty, the fact that He’s boss.

Here is your twofold test for godlessness: behavior, theology. See, that is what happens in this phrasing. The sermons and the Sunday School lessons easily unfold themselves to you. You could teach that to 5th graders.

Just one typographical thing: I tend to put on the computer a little extra space above every paragraph. That way, when a paragraph wraps around, there is a space before the second line comes. If I did not have this space between “for immorality and” and then “deny Jesus Christ,” it would look like there were three modifiers. Because I put space in front of every paragraph, I get these spaces here so I can see that in this case there are two.

Divide Jude 1:5-19 into Sections and Assign Headings

[slide 6]

Jude 1:5-19. When I divide something into passages, I look at it and say, “Can I handle this amount of data? Can my proverbial 5th grade Sunday School class handle this amount of data?” No. There is just way too much in Jude 1:5-19. So what do you do? I take this passage, treat it as a separate passage, and start dividing it again. I will keep subdividing sections until I get manageable amounts of material because I need to have a heading that summarizes the passage so that my 5th graders can understand.

Divide Jude 1:5-19 into Sections

 

[slide 7]

Now as you looked over Jude 1:5-19, you may come up with some slightly different arrangements than I do. Specifically, verse 17 is the big question. Does verse 17 start a whole new topic or just a minor topic? That is just a judgment call, and you will see what I mean when we look at this in detail.

When I look at 5-19, I ended up with six major sections. I have “Three parallels,” three different groups of people in 5-7. I had a “Description of the troublemakers” in 8-10. I had a “Statement of judgment” on the troublemakers in 11-13. I had some more “Prophecies” in 14-15, and in the act of prophesying there is also description and condemnation happening as well. In verse 16 there are more “descriptions,” and then 17-19 there are more “Prophecies” that once again are determined to condemn the evil people. Those are the six basic sections that I break verses 5-19 into.

Let’s work through in a little more detail in each of these sections.

Three Parallels

[slide 8]

In verses 5-7, there are three parallel statements, Jude's favorite number.

Verse 5, “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home  – these he has kept in darkness, bound in everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

So, there are three examples of immorality. Three examples of different groups of people who were all sinners. And the other factor that keeps it together is that God punished them. In fact, some of these were pretty privileged people. In verse 5, you have the children of Israel. In verse 6, you have angels. In verse 7, you have Sodom and Gomorrah. So, when looking at that you think, “Oh, he got three groups of people, two of them privileged who thought they could live in sin and it was going to be okay.” Guess what? They could not and God punished them.

Okay, those are your three parallels. There is enough stuff going on that I need something to make the points stand out, so I number them (1, 2, 3). Then I underline the three different groups of people (his people, the angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah).

Here is just a detail: in verse 6, “these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” I could have split that into two since there really are two different statements there. However, I like the symmetry of the description, punishment; description, punishment; description, punishment. I did not want to lose the symmetry, and I did not want to lose the two sets of three because that is Jude.

Description of the Troublemakers

[slide 9]

In verses 8-10, you have a description of the troublemakers. “In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.” Okay, just in terms of exegesis, they are dreamers, most likely claiming knowledge of God based on visions. They pollute their own bodies, which would be sexual immorality. They reject authority, specifically Jesus’ sovereign lordship; I think that is the tie-in. They even slander celestial beings; they make fun of angels.

Then you have this very strange verse 9, but let’s skip it for a moment. Verse 10, “Yet these men,” in light of verse 9 they do two more things. They “speak abusively” and “what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them.” I kept the numbering going because you really have five different descriptions of the troublemakers.

Now, what is verse 9 doing? It talks about number 3, he said these dreamers “slander celestial beings.” It is a parentheses, in a sense. He wants to emphasize how bad it is to curse the angels. He says, “Even the archangel Michael, remember when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses?” (Don’t go looking for this in the Bible because you won’t find it). Michael “did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him (the devil);” he simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” So, verse 9 is saying, “Look how bad it is with these people! They are slandering celestial beings, which even Michael will not do! He just simply says, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ And yet still these men speak abusively.”

As far as the phrasing is concerned, it is critical that you see verse 9 is a parenthetical comment, meant to emphasize how bad it is to slander celestial beings. He then picks right up again with his description of the troublemakers. Again, that is the beauty of phrasing. It makes you slow down and say, “What is the connection of the ideas?” It is not always easy, but when you do it you go, “Wow! Yes, I understand something in God’s Word so much better.”

I use a lot of little arrows here. “But even the archangel Michael… did not dare to bring a…” There is too much stuff in here, and I get lost, so I tend to use arrows if I cannot use lines. I normally would have used a line from “Michael” to “did,” but then it goes right through “when” and “Moses.” I do not want to do that, so I use arrows. You might find some other way to do it, it does not matter. Some people use ellipsis marks and some people just draw curvy lines.

Statement of Judgment

[slide 10]

The next smaller section is going to be the Statement of Judgment. “Woe to them!”, and he lists eight statements of judgment. That is an important point. I could have said “Descriptions of Their Sin,” but is he only doing that in these passages? Is he only trying to recount for us all the sin of these people? No. There is too much background to Cain, Balaam, and Korah, being twice dead, and this statement about wandering stars and basically hell. He is describing them, but in the description he is judging them. That explains why I do something later on, and you will see it in a second. So, “Woe to them!”

Here is the descriptions of what they are doing wrong, and in describing them he is passing judgment on them: “They have taken the way of Cain” (they are murderers) “they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion” (Korah’s rising up against Moses) “These men are blemishes at your love feasts” (the early Christian dinners, the communal meals, potlucks, often with communion at the end; but they are there, nothing but blemishes on their love feasts. Why are they blemishes? Well, because they are “eating with you without the slightest qualm”; they are “shepherds who only feed themselves.”

That is your big hint as to who these people are. I cannot figure out any other group of people that a Biblical writer would call “shepherds,” except the elders. You remember who made all the problems in the pastoral epistles?… elders. And remember Paul’s prophecy in Acts 20?... “fierce wolves will arise from your midst.”

“They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind.” They appear to be something, but they are nothing; they are nothing beneficial. They are “autumn trees,” beautiful trees without fruit and uprooted; they died twice and are totally worthless. He is very poetic in his anger. “They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame.” They are like the waves and they say, “Hey, look at all the things but look how immoral I am,” like a wave just throwing up its shame, like a wave throws up the foam.

They are “wandering stars,” which is not a good thing. In the ancient world, the stars stood still. They gave the pagan something that was secure and constant, something you could hang onto. Then there were those planets, from the Greek word planavw (planaō) meaning “to wander,” they were the stars that would not hold still, and they were evil. So these bad shepherds are “wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” Got a room in hell waiting for them. Rather strong language, isn’t it? There certainly is a time to stand up for truth, isn’t there? There was in Jude’s church; it was messed up.

[slide 11]

Prophecies

Then you have this interesting prophecy from Enoch. “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men.” He probably did not prophesy about these specific people, but he did prophesy what happens to evil people.

“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones.” Why is He coming?... “to judge everyone.” Why is He coming?... “to convict all the ungodly.” Convict them of what?... “of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way.” He is also going to convict them “of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” See, Jude wants to make explicit what is implicit in the earlier descriptions, that he is describing them as an active condemnation. He says, “Let me make this very clear: their condemnation is sure.” So he, again, quotes from another non-canonical writing.

Continued Descriptions

In verse 16 he says, “You know, I am not done describing these people.”

“These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” We could have kept this numbering going from the previous slide, but Jude likes three’s, and I wanted that reflected in the phrasing.

Prophecies

[slide 12]

Now, verses 17, 18, and 19. We have already said that there is a difference of opinion regarding these verses (I am in a minority and that is fine). He writes, “But, dear friends,” and then his main point, “remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.” In other words, “In the midst of all the yuckiness I have been talking about, remember the prophecies from the apostles.”

The apostles, “they said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers.” Notice how I pulled it back. Why did I put it where it is? It is what they remember, and this is the content of the remembering. They are to remember that in a prophecy is, “In the last times there will be scoffers.” Who are scoffers?... They are those “who will follow their own ungodly desires.” What else can you tell me about the scoffers?... “These are the men...” and they do three things: one, “divide you;” two, they “follow mere natural instincts;” and three, they “do not have the Spirit”

I can see why you want to break it at 17 because it changes the audience, and it is certainly becoming more encouraging. Verse 19, to me, sounds like the past 10 verses or so, that he is still describing with the intent to judge. That was what made me put the break between 19 and 20. However, both get the flow beautifully.

Call to Perseverance

[slide 13]

The last few slides are pretty straight forward. You have the whole heart of the epistle. Yes, it was important to describe these people. It was important to condemn them. But where Jude has been going all along was to help them understand that they are kept by Jesus, that in the midst of all this they have to persevere, and they persevere by the strength that comes from Jesus who perseveres with them. He gets to the real admonition, the really strong part for the Christians in the Church.

What do you do? You “build yourselves up in your most holy faith;” you “pray in the Spirit;” you “keep yourself in God’s love;” you “be merciful to those who doubt;” you “snatch others from the fire and save them;” you “show mercy, mixed with fear;” you “hate even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” With a parenthetical comment up there in verse 21, that you keep yourselves as you are in the process of waiting “for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to your eternal life.”

Doxology

[slide 14]

So, you have a call to perseverance and then everything closes in the doxology, and you have these marvelous bookends. “To him who is able” to do two things: “to keep you from falling” and “to present you before his glorious presence.” How is He going to present you?... “without fault” and “with great joy.” Who is Him?... It’s our “only God and Savior.” And what are you stating?... “be glory, majesty, power and authority.” All of that is “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is “before all ages, now and forevermore.” And finally, “Amen.” That Jesus is able to keep us from falling even in the midst of the horrible, horrible kind of mess that is going on in this church that he has described in the middle.

Now, can you teach Jude in Sunday School? Yes. The whole key is keep breaking it down until it gets into a manageable chunk. Then find and teach the main thing. If there are main modifiers, teach the main modifiers. Talk to them about how the modifiers are altering or explaining or something the main thought. And then you get your headings up there so that when your kids leave, they leave with at least one thing in their head which is just about all they can handle. That is what phrasing is all about. This is what commentaries do. Now when you read some of the better ones, hopefully you will follow the discussion and say, “Oh, I see what he’s doing. He’s just walking through his own sentence flows to help you see what the point is.”

Advanced Information (Colossians 1:9-12a)

[slide 15]

One last point. In the advanced information section on this chapter, I talk a bit about applying labels to your phrasing. Now this is, as the page indicates, a little more advanced. This is a great stage to get to, and as you want to read better commentaries, this certainly is the kind of thing that’s going to be happening.

This is a few phrased verses out of Colossians 1. Let’s start up at the top. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled.” Okay, what is the relationship between the phrase “asking that you may be filled” and the preceding assertion? It gives you the content of the prayer. So across from “we have not ceased to pray for you,” I have ''assertion''. It is the main statement being made. Across from 9d “asking that you may be filled,” I have the word ''content'', because “asking that you may be filled” is providing the content for what they are praying for. You see what’s happening? I am being very specific regarding the relationship between the different ideas.

Let’s look at the rest of verse 9, “with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Now you can see how I’ve indented it under the word “filled.” We know those two phrases are modifying “filled,” but how are they modifying “filled”? Well, 9e gives the content of what they are to be filled with. Filled with what?... “filled with the knowledge of his will.” Then 9f is telling us the manner in which they are to be filled. How are they to be filled?... They are to be filled “in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

As you can see, this gets pretty detailed, but this is what the best commentaries are doing. I have found that the Biblical text can come alive when you slow yourself down by asking these kinds of questions. Now, you can also go nuts if you try to apply a label to every single phrase. It gets quite tedious. Certainly on the major phrases, you need to be able to look at them and not just indent them under the word they’re modifying, but ask yourself, “What actually is their relationship? What label could I apply?”

As an example, let's look at verse 10, “so as to walk.” Okay, that is connected with the “asking” which is connected with the “to pray.” But how does 10a “so as to walk” connect to “pray”? It is the purpose. “We have not ceased to pray for you.” For what purpose? The end purpose is that you walk. What is the manner in which you are going to walk? Well, “in a manner worthy of the Lord.” In what manner are you to walk? You are to walk in a manner that is “fully pleasing to him.” What is the result of walking this way?... The result is that you will “bear fruit in every good work” and “increase in the knowledge of God.”

You see what’s going on here? We have our phrases indented under the words they modify. The final and ultimate step is to apply a label that specifically states the nature of the relationship. This is the most detailed exegesis you will probably ever do, but I believe it is also the most rewarding.