For some reason I have had a particular passage of Scripture stuck in my head of late. I don’t mean for the last day, or week. For the last two months or so I’ve had 1 Peter 1:3-4 just rolling around in my noggin.
I’ve been reading and re-reading and re-re-reading it. I’ve researched it online using 3 different Greek lexicons. I’ve read it in numerous translations.
Whenever I’ve got some idea or concept in my head that I can’t seem to get over, I can usually trace the reason back to some immediate necessity- maybe it was a topic of conversation with friends or the subject of study at home church. That is not the case with 1 Peter 1:3-4. I think I just woke up one morning reciting it in my head.
That isn’t the first time something like this has happened. One morning I woke up and thought about Pachelbel’s Canon in D for two hours. This is the first time, however, that the thing has stayed with me for a protracted length of time. So I decided that I might as well get some use out of this prolonged meditation. I could either be willing or unwilling, meditative or not.
I began what is basically a word study of the original passage as it is in Greek and what I found fascinated me. I’m not sure exactly why I find it fascinating. I just know I do. Maybe someone needs to know what I’ve found out, someone who would read this. I don’t know. Anyway, I decided to write my findings as a blog entry.
As my meanderings took me through different translations and paraphrases, I decided (much to my own surprise) that I preferred the King James translation over all the others. I’m not a KJV type of person, normally. But something in it clicked with me, and I consider it the best expression of the ideas in the original Greek. So here are both verses of 1 Peter 1:3-4 as the King James renders them:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.
I know, it sounds all dry and crusty- but it isn’t. I love how this passage starts with a blessing to God. The writer goes on to recount all that we have in our knowledge with Christ- mercy, hope, inheritance, a future. That pretty much covers it all.
What I used as the focus for my word study is that bold part, specifically the words in italics- incorruptible, undefiled, fadeth not away. Obviously they mean what they say but in another sense, they mean something else completely. When the writer says our inheritance is “incorruptible,” he doesn’t only mean that it can’t be corrupted.
Those three English words are trying to explain three ideas- (in the Greek)
The translator rendered them as
- Fadeth not away
In studying this verse it was hard for me to envision, in a productive way, the inheritance which is ours- which these words describe. We’re even forewarned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 that “…As it is written, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind can conceive the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
So here in 1 Peter, we’re getting a more thorough explanation of what has been prepared- our inheritance.
It’s even worth noting the way these Greek words are spelled and that there is alliteration present in the Greek. We see the presence, in all three words of the “ἀ,” the Alpha or as we call it, the letter “A.” In Greek, the alpha is the negative. For example, in the word “atheist,” we see it in the negative position of the “Theos.” So we can rightfully conclude that the literal translation of the word “atheist” to be “Negation of God,” or “Without God.”
In this passage from 1 Peter we can start by assuming that
Are conveying the negation of the idea they would imply in their non-alpha form. (I don’t know any Greek, so bear with me here.)
- Aptharton: This literally indicates the lack of ability our inheritance has in terms of decay, basically the negation of decay. Anything “decay” is, our inheritance isn’t. In studying the term I’ve come away with the (hopefully correct) idea that to even ask the question “Can our inheritance decay?” would be meaningless and is unanswerable. The idea of decay does not have any bearing whatsoever on such an inheritance as this one reserved in heaven for us.
- Amianton: literally describes a state of the absolute negation of the Greek “miano,” which means “to taint.” The closest way we could say this in the English language would be to say it is absolutely pure. Again, with the presence of the Alpha we may safely conclude that not only is our inheritance pure, it is not even possible to talk meaningfully about it outside of a state of complete, absolute purity.
- Amaranton: I think this is the most interesting of the words used because it has an association with horticulture. This literally indicates the lack of ability our inheritance has to wither and fade, such as plants do. It is sourced from the “Pthio” idea- to wither. It is not insensible to say that amaranton is the negation of withering.
I’ve walked away from this word study with a much deeper understanding of what 1 Peter is trying to get across- within the first five verses no less!