This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Little Lesson in Bunny Trails

There are many bunny trails that a pastor goes through when preparing a sermon.  It is not always profitable.  Lots of stuff concludes in a dead end.  BUT the journey is too important; the task of sermonizing is too significant simply to hurry through. I believe in the verbal inspiration of scripture, which means that God breathed the very words of scripture.  This means that I must account for the words on the page. So, here is one small example from my study today.

I am preparing for preaching Galatians 1:6-9 for this Sunday.  In verse 6, Paul uses the word "heteros" to mean "other" as in "are turning to a different gospel."  In verse 7, Paul uses the word, "allos" to describe "other" as in "not that there is another one."  Older commentators made quite a bit of this distinction between these two Greek words, "heteros" to mean "another of a different kind," and "allos" to mean "another of the same kind."  So, these older commentators pointed out that the difference in the two words as used in these two verses had significance.  (See, for example, commentaries by Robertson, Longenecker, Guthrie, Lightfoot, George, and Burton--I won't footnote in a blog, but if you ask in the comments, I will provide bibliographic data. :) )  Newer commentators, however, are of the mind that the two words, "heteros" and "allos" are more synonymous than they are different.  While the context of course shows that Paul is talking about folks who are preaching a different Gospel, one cannot make that case simply by an appeal to the two different words used in verses 6 and 7.  (See for example the standard Greek grammar by Blass, Debrunner, and Funk [known as "BDF"], and commentaries by Turner,  Dunn, Martyn, Schreiner, and Moo.)  The evidence is in favor of the newer commentators because the word, "heteros" was falling out of use by the first century and being subsumed by "allos."  But I had to know--was there a distinction?

It would be easy enough simply to take one of these opinions and run with it.  But that won't do for the pastor who is committed to verbal inspiration.  So, I looked at every text where "heteros" and "allos" appear together.  Here is what I found:

1) Where "allos" appears first, then "heteros," there really is not much distinction in the words.

Texts where "allos" appears first, then "heteros": Matthew 16:14; Acts 2:12-13; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 12:8-10; 1 Cor. 15:39-41; and 2 Cor. 11:4

2) Where "heteros" appears first, then "allos," there appears to be the distinction emphasized by the older commentators.

Texts where "heteros" appears first, then "allos,": Luke 22:58-59; 23:32,35; 1 Cor. 10:29; 1 Cor.  14:17, 19; 2 Cor. 8:8, 13 and Galatians 1:6-7.

There are two texts where these general trends are debatable.  In Acts 2:12-13, it could be understood there there is a distinction made relevant by the use of two different words.  In Luke 22:58-59, it could be understood that there is not a distinction (but here is a special case where there is yet a prior person [the servant girl] referred to which is being distinguished).  I'd like to suggest that the beginning of the disappearance of "heteros" in the first century meant that when the author thought to use this word first, he was intending to use it in contradistinction to "allos."

I still don't know if I will make anything of this in my message.  Likely, I will not.  However, if I am committed to the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible, I would do a disservice to God Himself, to the people of God, and to the gift God has given us in the Bible if I did not take the last two hours tracking this down.


  1. Thank you for your passion to correctly teach God's Word accurately. I don't take that for granted when it comes to teaching.

  2. Thanks goes to God for your faithful study and presentation to your flock. Wondered about John 14:16 when Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit; is that allos which is used here? Another of the same kind is what I have interpreted... same essence as Christ, is that correct in what you read? Just wanting to learn. Grateful for your effort and time.

  3. Yes, John 14:16 does have "allos." Good for you to consider this! And it certainly is true that the Spirit is another Comforter of the same kind. However, we might not want to put too much intensity on the distinction, since "heteros" only appears one time in John's Gospel (19:37--likely simply meaning "another" or "different"). "Heteros" does not appear in John's letters or Revelation at all, suggesting either that John was not predisposed to use the word or that by the time of writing, the word had fallen out of use (or both!). Thanks so very much for the comment!!

    1. Thanks for the insight into the original inerrant autographs. Anxiously looking forward to getting into Galatians this Sunday. Very powerful with no compromises. Paul pulls no punches.