Let’s get Greek. This photo is the opening page of Ephesians 1 from my Greek/English Interlinear New Testament. This is what Paul’s original writing would have looked like if someone had added accent markings to his Greek, put spaces in between the words, and written word-by-word English translations under every line. If you’re curious what Paul’s original letter looked like, check out this page for a photo of an original Greek manuscript fragment.
This is it, crew. Last chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. While he closed out the last one with a few personal words mentioning several people by name, he finishes this one with more on the themes of power and weakness, and he advises the Corinthians to put themselves to the test. What does he mean by that? Let’s take a look.
I feel like Paul’s got more going on in these chapters than I can hit in one post without merely skimming the surface. Yesterday, he opened 2 Corinthians 4 with a barrage of metaphors that I didn’t even get to talk about–more of the veil thing from chapter three, then Christ as light and Satan as a blinding agent, and treasure in earthen vessels–because I was digging into the “endurance under persecution” theme from the latter half of the chapter. And now in the fifth chapter, Paul’s starting off with a tent metaphor for the body, like it’s just temporary housing while we wait for God to take us to our actual house, to be present with him. And there’s the famous “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” verse (17), and Paul’s discussion of the ministry of reconciliation, but it looks like I’m not gonna get to hit that stuff, because I’m zeroing in on a single word in a single verse because that’s what grabbed me today.
Are you familiar with the expression “lower than a duck’s instep?” Given how many of you are my relatives, you probably are. But in case you need an explanation, it means “super-low”–because a duck, with its flat feet, has the lowest instep you can imagine. It’s basically the opposite of being “fine as frog’s hair.” And today’s psalm is for people in a situation that is lower than a duck’s instep.
Like yesterday’s psalm, the first verse of this psalm has inspired a contemporary English worship song. I will not, however, be linking to a recording of it, because here are the lyrics: “I was glad when they said unto me, I was glad when they said unto me, I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ So glad (so glad), so glad (so glad), so glad (so glad), so glad (so glad).” (repeat until dead)
What’s the shortest song you can think of? Two of my favorite bands, Five Iron Frenzy and They Might Be Giants, have no shortage of short songs. Here’s one. Here’s another. And these short songs tend to be goofy ditties with nonsensical lyrics poking fun at their own brevity, but what happens when a short song takes itself and its subject matter entirely seriously? Psalm 117 happens, that’s what.
If the central question of modern theology is “What is the nature of God?” then the central question of theology in the ancient Near East was “Which gods should we worship?” In ancient cultures, towns would commonly adopt a patron deity, and there were no shortage of choices. Just take a look at Wikipedia’s list of Mesopotamian deities. And people would commonly fashion sculptures of their deities as part of their worship: they’d make idols.