[b-greek] Re: 1 Thess 5:10 - answering my own question

From: Steven Lo Vullo (doulos@merr.com)
Date: Sat Feb 09 2002 - 01:32:47 EST

On Sunday, February 3, 2002, at 03:13 AM, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
Sorry it took me so long to respond. Things have been very hectic. But I now
have a few hours and a pot of dark-roasted coffee, so I will try to make
good use of both.

>> Am I the only one, or does it seem just a little odd that the
>> Thessalonians, after being told that being DEAD would not prevent them
>> from participation in the day of the Lord (4.13-18), must additionally
>> be assured that simply being ASLEEP would not cause them to lose out?
>> In
>> 4.13, 17 Paul makes clear that simply being ALIVE and REMAINING until
>> the PAROUSIA assured the Thessalonians of participation (hHMEIS hOI
>> ZWNTES hOI PERILEIPOMENOI, used in both verses). Do they, in addition,
>> really need to be told that being literally asleep would not cause
>> them
>> to miss the PAROUSIA? Come, now. This stretches credulity.
>> ==========
>> Steven Lo Vullo
>> Madison, WI
> Dear Steven,
> Hmm, a good argument!
Actually, much more in a similar vein could have been said. Not only does it
seem unreasonable to conclude that the Thessalonians, after what was said in
4.13-18, could have thought (or that Paul could have been concerned that
they could have thought) that they would NOT miss the PAROUSIA if they were
DEAD, but MIGHT miss it if they were ASLEEP, but, considering some of the
other details in 1 Thess 4.13-18, this seems downright peculiar. Note some
of the theophanic elements attending the PAROUSIA of the Lord in v. 16: a
"cry of command" (EN KELEUSMATI), the "voice of the archangel" (EN FWNH
ARCAGGELOU) and "the trumpet of God" (EN SALPIGGI QEOU). On Iver's
interpretation, either these people were (or Paul considered them to be)
incredibly dense or they were (or Paul was concerned they thought they were)
incredibly sound sleepers!! The mention of these sensational audible
phenomena makes it extremely implausible that Paul would only a few seconds
later, abruptly and without any preparation, inform them in a subordinate
clause (!) that if they should be literally asleep, they would still not be
left out: "And, oh, by the way, if you are afraid that you may be in bed or
taking a nap and won't hear the cry of command or the voice of the archangel
or the trumpet of God, don't worry--God will find some way to rouse you." If
those phenomena don't qualify as an "eschatological alarm clock," I don't
know what does! Moreover, the very fact that Paul makes plain that those who
are alive and remain (hHMEIS hOI ZWNTES hOI PERILEIPOMENOI, vv. 15, 17) will
be "caught up together with [the dead]" (hAMA SUN AUTOIS hARPAGHSOMEQA)
indicates that being awake or asleep could not possibly be considered
relevant, for as long as one is "alive and remaining" (who cares whether
asleep or not!) he/she will be "caught up" (hARPAGHSOMEQA) to be with the
resurrected dead, a mighty action performed by the Lord that could not
possibly be construed as being dependent on whether the alive and remaining
person is asleep or not!

Before moving on to your specific arguments for Iver's interpretation, I
think it is important to spend some time on an issue that is without doubt
the sine qua non of his argument. And that is his insistence that KAQEUDW
cannot in and of itself, i.e., without a modifying prepositional phrase of
some sort, be construed as a euphemism for death. Aside from the obvious
fact that the two LXX instances Iver relies on to prove his point hardly
provide a sufficient database upon which to draw such a conclusion, there
are two additional points I think need to be made in response. I will deal
with them now, and send a separate post concerning your specific arguments

(1) I think Iver's conclusion was drawn without due consideration of genre,
style, and context with respect to the instances of KAQEUDW with a modifying
prepositional phrase in the LXX, and I will illustrate what I mean by taking
a closer look at Psa 87.6, using it as an example and applying what we learn
there to the question of whether or not KAQEUDW may be a euphemism for death
elsewhere when used without a modifier. Iver seems to assume that because in
this text (and one other) KAQEUDW is qualified by a prepositional phrase, it
cannot stand alone as a euphemism for death elsewhere. Not only does this
seem heavy-handed in light of the paucity of the evidence, but I think it
fails to grapple with features of the text that would (or at least could)
lead to another conclusion.

First, it needs to be pointed out that in Psa 87.6 we are dealing with a
poetic passage wherein KAQEUDW is used in a comparative clause. Why is this
important? Because it explains why the prepositional phrase must be used
here. Note that in vv. 5-6 there are two comparative clauses dependent on
TRAUMATIAI ERRIMMENOI KAWEUDONTES *EN TAFWi* ("I have become like a helpless
man, forsaken AMONG THE DEAD, like the cast-out wounded, who sleep IN THE
TOMB"). I think it is clear that these two comparative clauses are parallel,
and that EN TAFWi is used to modify KAQEUDW, not because KAQEUDW cannot
stand on its own as a euphemism for death, but because the constraints of
the poetic parallelism require it (or something similar to it). Without EN
TAFWi there is no parallel to EN NEKROIS. Note also in v. 5 the
prepositional phrase EIS LAKKON ("to the pit") and in v. 7 EN LAKKWi
KATWTATWi ("in the lowest pit"), EN SKOTEINOIS ("in the dark"), and EN SKIAi
QANATOU ("in the shadow of death") which also designate a place (or motion
toward a place in the case of EIS LAKKON) roughly synonymous with EN NEKROIS
and EN TAFWi in vv. 5-6. And one should not ignore TWi hADHi in v. 4, which
sets the stage for the following (mostly) local prepositional phrases. So
the prepositional phrase with KAQEUDW is vital because of the parallelism
and synonymy developed in the passage, not because KAQEUDW cannot stand
alone as a euphemism for death. In fact, KOIMAW, which Iver averrs CAN
stand on its own as a euphemism for death, would be equally unable to stand
on its own in this context. Psa 87.6 provides no support at all for the
contention that KAQEUDW cannot stand on its own as a euphemism for death.

When we compare 1 Thess 5.10 with Psa 87.6, it is not hard to understand, on
similar grounds, why such a prepositional phrase is NOT used with KAQEUDW in
1 Thess 5.10: It would destroy the balance of the two coordinate correlative
clauses: EITE GRHGORWMEN EITE KAQEUDWMEN. ADDING a prepositional phrase to
KAQEUDWMEN here would be a stylistic atrocity, destroying the symmetry of
the clauses, just as OMITTING the one with KAQEUDW in Psa 87.6 would destroy
the symmetry between the comparative clauses.

(2) I think Iver's insistence that KAQEUDW never stands alone as a metaphor
for death is flat-out wrong, and I think Mark 5.39 and parallels refute it.
That the girl in question was dead is beyond dispute. In Mk 5.35 messengers
come and say, hH QUGATHR SOU APEQANEN. In Luke 8.49 it is one messenger, who
says, TEQNHKEN hH QUGATHR SOU. In Matt 9.18 it is her father who says to
Jesus, hH QUGATHR MOU ARTI ETELEUTHSEN. Moreover, according to Luke 8.53,
when they reached the man's home, the crowd laughed at Jesus' assertion that
the girl was not dead EIDOTES hOTI APEQANEN ("because they KNEW she had
died"). This is an editorial comment by Luke that indicates he agreed with
their assessment, since he does not say they "supposed" she had died.
Additionally, Luke adds this detail: EPESTREYEN TO PNEUMA AUTHS. As we all
know, TO SWMA CWRIS PNEUMATOS NEKRON ESTIN. This was no "near-death
experience" from which she could simply be resuscitated. Though some
literalist may argue "Jesus said what he meant and meant what he said,"
i.e., that the girl really was NOT dead but only literally sleeping, we must
consider this absurd, of course, in light of the above observations (and
others that could be made). This was no nap from which the little girl could
be roused with a shake.

Then why would Jesus say, TO PAIDION OUK APEQANEN ALLA KAQEUDEI? It is
because of his view of and power over death and his intention to raise the
girl. To Jesus, her death was only temporary and therefore "sleep." His
intention to raise her involved the concomitant confidence that her death
was only a "nap," if you will. This mindset finds a parallel in Jesus' view
of the final resurrection: In Mark 12.27, in a defense of the resurrection
of the dead, Jesus, after quoting Ex 3.6 (EGW hO QEOS ABRAAM KAI [hO] QEOS
ZWNTWN ("He is not the God of the dead, but of the living"). Luke adds,
PANTES GAR AUTWi ZWSIN ("for all are alive in his sight"). Remember, this is
a defense of the resurrection, not an argument for the immortality of the
soul (whatever one may belive about that). As far as their present state is
concerned, these men are dead; but in light of the resurrection, they are
alive in God's eyes, since he "gives life to the dead and calls things that
are not as though they were" (Rom 4.17, NIV). I think this helps us to
understand how Jesus could on the one hand know full well that the little
girl was dead, yet on the other hand contend she was only sleeping. Just as
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dead and yet "alive" in God's estimation,
since their death is only temporary in view of the resurrection, so also the
little girl was "dead" physically, though in a sense only "sleeping" in
light of the temporary nature of her death, since Jesus intended to raise
her. KAQEUDW is without doubt here used without a qualifying prepositional
phrase as a euphemism for death. And a prepositional phrase of some sort was
not used and indeed would have been singularly inappropriate with KAQEUDW in
Mark 5.39 and parallels because using a modifier to make explicit that
KAQEUDW meant death (albeit in the distinctive sense in which Jesus meant it
in the context) would have made clear what in the context must remain
cryptic if the paradox Jesus intends is to stand. It's all about the CONTEXT
in which KAQEUDW is found. In some contexts (such as Psa 87.6) a modifier is
indispensable; in others (such as Mark 5.39) a modifier is unthinkable.

The bottom line is that, if Paul wanted to use a euphemism for death in 1
Thess 5.10, KAQEUDW without a prepositional phrase would be a perfectly
legitimate option for describing it. There is no hard evidence to hinder us
from viewing KAQEUDW in 1 Thess 5.10 as a euphemism for death if the context
should so indicate.

I'll treat your specific arguments in my next post.

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI

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