That's Right, Preacher Man! I Am Dangerous
Dec 23, 2011 David Lang

That's Right, Preacher Man! I Am Dangerous

A few weeks ago, I heard a preacher talking about Galatians 4:4, which speaks of God sending his son "in the fullness of time." The preacher explained that there are two Greek words for "time": chronos and kairos. Chronos, he asserted, refers to time as something measurable and sequential. The impression he gave was that this was just the regular, value-neutral word for time. Kairos, on the other hand, refers to a significant moment in time. The impression he gave was that this word is used to indicate a moment in time which is somehow extraordinary. He then said that kairos is the word translated "time" in Galatians 4:4.

Now, I'm afraid I am naturally suspicious whenever preachers begin contrasting Greek words which are roughly synonymous. While there may be some difference in meaning which is worth looking at, in many cases those distinctions get exaggerated to strengthen the preacher's point. So when my preacher made this distinction between chronos and kairos, I decided to check it out using Accordance on my iPhone.

Chronos At that time I was testing a pre-release version of Accordance for iOS 1.4. In case you missed it, this major new update became available through the app store last week. It adds a great many useful features and enhancements including improved instant details and the ability to amplify, along with devotionals, a grid-style verse chooser, and more.

After navigating to Galatians 4:4 in a Bible text with Strong's numbers, I did a long press on the word "time" to verify that it was translating the Greek word for "special time," kairos. Oops! It's actually chronos that is used in that verse!

Thus, with a single long press, a major point in this preacher's sermon proved questionable at best. Of course, all was not lost. Accordance now gave me the entry for chronos in a Greek Dictionary, and from there I could look it up in a more robust lexicon like BDAG. Accordance also gave me the option to Search by Strong's number for every occurrence of chronos. While my preacher had made an embarrassing mistake, he had at least inspired me to do an impromptu word study. Of course, the down side of this was that I was no longer listening to the rest of the sermon!

In my preacher's defense, he's a long-time pastor who probably launched into an impromptu point from memory without previously checking his facts. It happens. But these days, preachers need to take more care that it doesn't happen, because there are people like me who now have the tools to check their facts on the fly. In years gone by, someone in the pew would have had to remember the preacher's point, then go home and check it using a Strong's concordance or similar tool. If he found that the preacher was mistaken, he might have concluded that he had misheard the preacher and then given him the benefit of the doubt. These days, he can find the preacher's mistake in an instant and tell the preacher before he leaves church that morning!

Of course, any preacher would be embarrassed to make such a mistake, but the wise one wants such dangerous, iPhone-toting people in the congregation. With Accordance for iOS, we can all be like the Bereans of Acts 17, who were described as "noble" for examining the Scriptures in response to Paul's preaching.

Have you ever caught a preacher in a gaffe like this? (If you tell us in the comments, please don't identify the preacher!)

Preachers, has anyone ever caught you making a mistake like this?

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Archived Comments

Matt

December 23, 2011 12:06 PM

This is a hard thing for me to.  I've had some experience where a preacher throws out their pet greek word and its nowhere in the text.  Once in a while, it happens.  However, if its a habit, then I'm not happy about it (called a pastor out on it unfortunately, which he didn't bother to change...)  I've also had the experiencce of a pastor trying to quote from text and was a decade off in the numbering of the verse, that's not a big deal.  I am loving this took on my iphone, hope to get an iPad for christmas (or when 3) comes out so I can engage the software further.  I'm also a seminary graduate and its sobering to know how well people can fact check you now and tune you out for even more reasons than before.


Jon Burnett

December 23, 2011 12:10 PM
I often talk things like this over with our preacher after the Bible class or sermon. Because of this increased verifiability, he and I both (when I fill in from time to time) preface a certain point that we decide on the spot to make with a statement like, "I may be wrong, so So-and-so please correct me if I am." I only wish that hearers would do so more often, and on oh-so-many more important points! We need to combine the humility of the Beareans toward Paul with the conviction and compassion of Aquila and Priscilla toward Apollos.

Peter Dubbelman

December 23, 2011 5:02 PM

I was preaching recently on the 'God of Jacob', which briefly chronicled the life of Jacob and God's involvement in it. My sermon started out with the meaning of Jacob’s name. Unfortunately, several young folks with smart phones took this as an opportunity to learn the meaning of their own name, etc. Later, they honestly confessed that they missed the foundational point of my sermon. One more reason why it is important to tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you told them. J


Aaron Meares

December 23, 2011 7:38 PM

At my former church, our pastor came to a staff meeting with an insight he had regarding the story of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31–46). He opened by saying that the word Jesus used in v. 46 for "punishment" (kolazo, he said) actually came from horticulture and meant "pruning". He added to this that the word translated "eternal" (aion, he said) really meant a "period of time." He concluded that the goats were sent to an "an aion of kolazo" – or "period of pruning" – and not "eternal punishment" as translated. He then quipped, "that usually quiets a room."

I had a strong hunch that this interpretation was incorrect. When the meeting was adjourned, I grabbed my MacBook and opened Accordance. I quickly determined that the word he thought was aion (a noun) was actually the adjective, aionios. At the same time, I also discovered that the word he thought was a verb, kolazo, was actually the noun, kolasis. In a matter of minutes, with the power Accordance software and fabulous Greek texts (GNT-T) and tools (NIDNTT, L&N, BDAG, etc.), I was able to show that kolasis didn't come from horticulture but was common in "sacral jurisprudence" (NIDNTT) and that aionios describes something without beginning, without ending, or neither. In other words, eis kolasin aionion (and not "an aion of kolazo") truly means "eternal punishment." Though these were pointed out, the preacher, undeterred, included his interpretation unamended and unedited in his latest published book. 

And that is no longer my church. :)


Lorinda

December 23, 2011 9:50 PM

I subscribe to a weekly lectionary commentary written by a devoted layperson.  When using Accordance to digg further into an interesting point made in these notes, I sometimes find original language related errors: I can't tell whether it's because the writer has misunderstood the source they are using (he uses several commentaries to prepare their notes, and isn't versed in Greek or Hebrew), or if his sources are wrong.  

Fortunately, I have a good relationship with the writer, and he's always very open to correction.


David

December 23, 2011 10:01 PM

If only we would just focus on what the authors of the writings had focused on and do what God tells us to do through the law and the prophets. Then it would not be such a commonplace thing to have a "preacher" speak about his own fanciful "insight" rather than simply repeat God's promise and God's ways to everyone. (Deut 5-6)

Therefore, Israel, love YHWH your Elohim with all your heart and all your soul and all of your very self. For the fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom, and for man to keep his commandments is everything. Let all who love the Elohim of Israel search for him with all their heart, for they shall seek and find him.


Adam Rao

December 25, 2011 7:49 PM

Aaron,

Yes, if all the assumptions you're making - that the author of Matthew wasn't being ironic, that Jesus actually said those words, and that the only meaning the scriptures can hold is contained by exegeting Greek words in a modernistic fashion - are correct, then, yes, I guess you're right.

However, Jürgen Moltmann and many, many others have interpreted that passage in the same way your pastor did. But, clearly, since you have some Greek tools in Accordance, you've got it right, and all those other scholars and theologians must be wrong.

Thank God the Pharisees didn't have iPhones. They probably would have picked apart Jesus every time he "misquoted" the scriptures to them, too.

I use Accordance every day, and I've mostly enjoyed perusing the forums and reading the blog, but the conservative (and Christian) bias is really, really annoying. There are progressive/liberal Christian and Jewish users of Accordance, too. How about featuring their voices, at least on occasion?


Drew Brown

December 26, 2011 6:46 PM

Love the Top Gun reference.  I too use the iOS app during service from time to time. Sometimes I think I need to wear a sign that says, "I'm checking Greek words here, not the football scores!"


David Lang

December 27, 2011 12:18 PM

Adam, I'm honestly not sure how to respond to your perception of a "conservative (and Christian) bias" on our blog and forums except to say that you must not have been following them for very long. We work very hard to be sensitive to our Jewish users and Christian users of every theological stripe. Many of our demos focus on Hebrew Bible passages and narrative passages for that very reason. We don't try to spiritualize what we do and we avoid using Christianese lingo. When users on our forums seem to assume that everyone there is a conservative evangelical, we have gently reminded them to be aware of the broad spectrum of people there. When threads get too contentious over theological issues we close them as being off-topic.

With respect to this blog post, I asked for readers to share their own experiences and I did not limit the invitation to conservative evangelicals, so all "progressive/liberal Christian and Jewish users of Accordance" needed to do in order to have their voices "featured" was to post a comment. You did that, but instead of gently offering another perspective, you chose to voice your annoyance with the perspectives of others. As you yourself wrote in a recent blog post, you need to view these people not as "enemies" but as "conversation partners."


Adam Rao

December 29, 2011 7:08 PM

David,

I appreciate your willingness, and the willingness of everyone at Accordance – including the users – to be sensitive to "Jewish users and Christian users of every theological stripe." I apologize for voicing my frustration in a way that wasn't helpful.

For what it's worth, I wasn't referring to this blog post in particular, but to other things I've noticed. (I didn't make that clear in my original comment.)

For example, in your blog post "What is the Glory of Preaching?" you note that you "e-mailed [the] VP of Licensing and asked him to license [The Glory of Preaching] for Accordance." Any chance you'll do the same for Willimon's The Witness of Preaching or Craddock's Preaching?

Likewise, Darin wrote earlier this month about how NICOT/NICNT is his favorite commentary series without any comment at all about the fact that it is a fairly conservative series overall and that other, more progressive, series written in a similar vein (e.g., The Old Testament Library/The New Testament Library) aren't available in Accordance.

Thus, while folks from "every theological stripe" might be using Accordance, I haven't seen content from them here on the blog in quite some time, if ever. Just an observation of at least the recent content posted here, that's all.


Darin Allen

December 30, 2011 2:02 AM

Hi Adam,

While I can't speak about the specific resources you mention, I can vouch that we are pursuing licenses that reflect the breadth of diversity in our user base.

In regards to the blog where I mentioned NICOT/NICNT as my favorite commentary, I was speaking from a first person perspective, which I typically do in blog posts. Others on our staff might claim a more critical commentary as their go-to resource, so I certainly didn't mean to speak for the entire Accordance team, and I apologize if it came off as such. I'm actually a bit of a commentary junkie, so in addition to the NICOT/NICNT, I typically check Word Biblical Commentary, Hermeneia, and The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture if I'm feeling especially adventurous :)


Mark@DR

January 02, 2012 9:31 PM

Adam,

The example in your most recent comment doesn't advance your case, unfortunately. I serve in the denomination where Darrell Johnson is the senior pastor of the flagship church. I would characterize this denomination as mainline with Evangelical pockets. In my seminary preaching class this past semester, at the denominational theology school we used Craddock and Buttrick as course texts. Not Johnson nor MacArthur nor Robinson!

Moreover, Darrell Johnson joined Regent College after serving 30 years in the PCUSA, and took his MDiv at Fuller - hardly a bastion of conservatism.

Finally, have you read The Glory of Preaching? I have, and see nothing in it particular to conservative Christianity. 

Regards,

Mark@DR




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