Epistles of Thomas

September 27, 2017

New Testament Dynamite? Hilarious.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 18:29

I just reread D.A. Carson’s take on dynamite in the New Testament and did a search of my Logos Bible Software library for dynamite NEAR dunamis and came up with quite a haul. Here’s Carson’s full comment:

Semantic anachronism Pages 33–34
But the problem has a second face when we also add a change of language. Our word dynamite is etymologically derived from δύναμις (dynamis, power, or even miracle). I do not know how many times I have heard preachers offer some p 34 such rendering of Romans 1:16 as this: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the dynamite of God unto salvation for everyone who believes”—often with a knowing tilt of the head, as if something profound or even esoteric has been uttered. This is not just the old root fallacy revisited. It is worse: it is an appeal to a kind of reverse etymology, the root fallacy compounded by anachronism. Did Paul think of dynamite when he penned this word? And in any case, even to mention dynamite as a kind of analogy is singularly inappropriate. Dynamite blows things up, tears things down, rips out rock, gouges holes, destroys things. The power of God concerning which Paul speaks he often identifies with the power that raised Jesus from the dead (e.g., Eph. 1:18–20); and as it operates in us, its goal is εἰς σωτηρίαν (eis som tērian,“unto salvation,” Rom. 1:16, KJV), aiming for the wholeness and perfection implicit in the consummation of our salvation. Quite apart from the semantic anachronism, therefore, dynamite appears inadequate as a means of raising Jesus from the dead or as a means of conforming us to the likeness of Christ. Of course, what preachers are trying to do when they talk about dynamite is give some indication of the greatness of the power involved. Even so, Paul’s measure is not dynamite, but the empty tomb. In exactly the same way, it is sheer semantic anachronism to note that in the text “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7) the Greek word behind “cheerful” is ἱλαρόν (hilaron) and conclude that what God really loves is a hilarious giver. Perhaps we should play a laugh–track record while the offering plate is being circulated.

D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996), 33–34.

In Logos I got 126 results in 60 articles in 53 resources which is a fair number but as Carson says “I don’t know how many times I have offer it in connection with Romans 1:16. Some of those hits are making the same point as Carson but many are committing the semantic anachronism he is warning us about.

Here’s my favourite of the ones I saw in my library: “worship can be dynamite, which is exactly what God has promised us. Dynamite comes from the Greek word dunamis, which is the word used in Acts 1:8 when Jesus promises, ‘You will receive power (dunamis) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.'” Bruce Larson and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Luke, vol. 26, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1983), 116.

What’s in your library? Is it dynamite?


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