Thursday, March 20, 2008

Using the Greek New Testament for devotions part 9: Examining passives

Examining Passives:

This one is strongly linked with the slow down factor -
When I see passives in the Greek, I always find myself wondering who the agent of the passive is.
Many times it is God - hence the term 'divine passive'. Today however I found a passive that was a little bit different to your run of the mill divine passive, and it caused me to think further on the verse and gain greater insight that if I had carried on reading.

I was reading the following:

ESV John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

The ESV helpfully translates the passive correctly as 'glorified' which the NIV words differently as:

NIV John 14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.

I think this is an okay translation of the NIV, but it does mean you miss out on seeing that the Holy Spirit used a passive here.

So when I saw the passive, my brain automatically asked, "Is this a divine passive?" If so, then God is glorifying himself here. Obviously the context shows us that yes God is glorifying himself, but more specifically it is the Son who is glorifying the Father. So this is an intra-trinitarian divine passive if you like!

If have heard someone complain about the idea of God glorifying himself. They didn't think it was right. But here we have Jesus glorifying God, and Jesus is God, so this is a great example of God glorifying himself. Jesus would never do anything wrong - so we know that there is nothing wrong in God glorifying himself.

It's also interesting to see that the whole reason why Jesus answers prayers, is because he wants the Father to be glorified. The grammatical construction hina + subjunctive show us that Jesus' purpose in answering prayers is to glorify the Father.

Surely this is a great example to us that:

1) God glorifies himself, and that is okay!

2) We should follow Jesus' example, and seek to glorify God with everything we do.

3) Our prayers should be prayers that glorify God.

I realise that this can be seen clearly in the English too, but due to the slow down factor of the Greek, and my tendency to identify the agent of passives, and God's grace, I was able to extract more from this verse than I otherwise would have.