HiDef Mondays: Some Synoptic Comparison

One of my favorite applications of discourse grammar is reading the Synoptic gospels, well, synoptically. Mathew, Mark and Luke have enough overlapping content that scholars often study the stories in parallel using what’s called a synopsis. This is the idea behind the Parallel Gospel Reader interactive in Logos 6. Where the gospels differ from one another, some scholars have claimed the differences stem from a hypothetical gospel source called Q. Much of what is attributed to Q could just as easily be understood as adaptation by the gospel writer from the standpoint of discourse grammar. Take a look at the differences between in how John the Baptist describes Jesus in Mark 1:7–8 compared to Luke 3:16 and Matthew 3:11. Each writer presents the same basic information in a slightly different way, which in turn affects how Jesus is portrayed. Mark 1:7 begins by introducing Jesus and then moves on to comparing Jesus’s ministry to his own.

Mark 1 7-8

Mark’s version describes Jesus as “one more powerful than me” who is coming, whose sandal thongs he is not worthy to untie.

Luke’s version begins by describing John the Baptist’s own ministry before introducing Jesus. The intro, virtually the same as Mark’s, ends up delaying the contrasting portrait of Jesus’s baptism with the Holy Spirit. Luke also signals that another related piece is coming through the inclusion of the particle μέν. It is the grammatical equivalent of a shipping label saying  “Item 1 of 2.” We expect that some related element will follow. Here is Luke 3:16:

Luke 3 16

We also see Luke change the order of John’s first statement to add emphasis: “I with water baptize you,” as Yoda would say. The emphasis serves as a foil for the contrasting statement about Jesus. He also baptizes, but with a different means than John’s water. Again, these are not huge changes, but they certainly add rhetorical impact compared to Mark.

Matthew changes the proposition around slightly, but with dramatic effect. Like Luke he begins with John’s characterization of his ministry introduced with a prospective μέν. But he also adds a purpose for his baptism: repentance. And where Mark and Luke characterize Jesus as “one more powerful who is coming,” Matthew inverts this to “the coming one who is more powerful.” Same concepts and ideas, but different formulations to create different portraits. Take a look at Matt 3:11:

Matt 3 11

Matthew also applies emphasis differently than Luke. Where Luke omitted the comment about Jesus coming after John, Mathew retains and emphasizes it. The shift from “coming” as the action to “being stronger” spotlights it compared to it just being a quality of the person coming. The inclusion of the verb ἐστιν “is” allows Matthew to show “more powerful than me” is emphasized compared to a simple verbless clause.

Finally there is the parallelism between the contrasting descriptions of the baptisms. Matthew’s version adds two details about each baptism whereas Mark and Luke only include one. We have two people—John the Baptist and Jesus—doing the same action—baptizing. The most important part of the contrast is the final details about the means. The particle μέν ensures that readers know to connect these critical parts. Even though their ministries might appear similar, John’s speech highlights the critical differences.

All three writers convey the same basic content; we have synoptic consistency. But each, it appears, shapes their version to highlight or prioritize details based on their individual purposes. Attributing the differences to lost Q sayings ignores the more important exegetical question, namely phrase it this way and not that way?

This quick analysis shows that there is more going on here than stylistic variation or idiosyncratic writing, especially for those who believe these writings are inspired. Discourse grammar holds great potential for addressing issues like these, both in the pulpit and in the Academy.

If you have had some Greek and are longing to dig deeper into issues like these, then it’s time to dive into discourse grammar. And there is no easier or more effective way to get started than the New Testament Greek Discourse Bundle from Logos. Click here to receive a 25% discount on this bundle until May 1.

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 9.16.06 AM

Discourse resources like these are not available anywhere else. Not a Logos user? Purchase these as stand-alone resources—no base package is required—though they work best as part of a larger library.

Already own any of these resources? Don’t worry, with Logos dynamic pricing you’ll receive credit for what you’ve already purchased.

 And be sure to check out the Old Testament counterparts to these resources. Don’t forget to check back each week for the next installment of HiDef Mondays.

Unfiltered Fridays: Getting Serious—and Being Honest—about Interpreting the Bible in Context

Anyone interested in Bible study, from the new believer to the biblical scholar, has heard (and probably said) that if you want to correctly interpret the Bible, you have to interpret it in context. I’m certainly not going to disagree. But I have a question: What does that mean? Put another way, just what context are we talking about?

There are many contexts to which an interpreter needs to pay attention. Historical context situates a passage in a specific time period against the backdrop of certain events. Cultural context concerns the way people lived and how they thought about their lives and their world. Literary context focuses on how a given piece of biblical literature conforms (or not) to how the same type of literature was written during biblical times. All of these are important—but they only flirt with the heart of the matter. There’s a pretty clear element to this “context talk” that we’re missing. It’s time to get a firm grasp on something obvious. Believe it or not, it took years of study before I had it fixed in my head and my heart.

The Bible’s true context

As Christians, whether consciously or otherwise, we’ve been trained to think that the history of Christianity is the true context for interpreting the Bible. It isn’t.

That might be hard to hear, but Christian history and Christian thought is not the context of the biblical writers, and so it cannot be the correct context for interpreting what they wrote. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is not the church fathers. They lived a thousand years or more after most of the Old Testament was written. Less than a half dozen of them could read Hebrew. The New Testament period was a century or more removed from important early theologians like Tertullian and Irenaeus. Augustine, arguably the most famous early church figure, lived three hundred years after the conversion of Paul. That’s more time than has elapsed since the founding of the United States. Many church fathers worked primarily with a translation (the Latin Vulgate), and so a good bit of their exegesis is translation-driven. They were also responding to the intellectual issues of their own world when they wrote about Scripture, not looking back to the biblical context.

The farther down the timeline of history one moves, the greater the contextual gap becomes. The context for interpreting the biblical text is not the Catholic Church. It is not the rabbinic movements of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is not the Reformation (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, or the Anabaptists). It’s not the Puritans. It is not evangelicalism in any of its flavors. It is not the modern world at all.

So what is the proper context for interpreting the Bible? Here’s the transparently obvious truth I was talking about: The proper context for interpreting the Bible is the context of the biblical writers—the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien or at least secondary.

The biblical writers living in our heads

The biblical text was produced by men who lived in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean between the second millennium BC and the first century AD. To understand how biblical writers thought, we need to tap into that context. We need the biblical writers living in our heads.

As certain as this observation is, there is a pervasive tendency in the believing Church to filter the Bible through creeds, confessions, and denominational preferences. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a human thing. Creeds are useful for distilling important points of theology. But they are far from the whole counsel of God, and even farther from the biblical world. This is something to be aware of at all times.

Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not arguing that we should ignore our Christian forefathers. I’m also not saying that we’re smarter. They were prodigious intellects. The problem isn’t their brain power—it’s that they are simply removed from the world of the biblical writers with little chance of bridging that gap.

Putting context first

It might sound odd, but we’re actually in a better position than any of our spiritual forefathers in that respect. We live at a time when the languages of the major civilizations that flourished during the lifetimes of the biblical writers have been deciphered. We can tap into the intellectual and cultural output of those civilizations. That output is enormous—millions of words. We can recover the worldview context (their “cognitive framework” in scholar-speak) of the biblical writers as never before. The same is true of the New Testament writers because they inherited what had gone before them and were in turn part of a first century world two thousand years removed from us.

Think about it. How would anyone living a thousand years from now understand something you wrote unless they had you inside their head? They’d need your frame of reference. They’d need to know what was going on in the wider world that potentially concerned, angered, encouraged, or depressed you. They’d need to understand the pop culture of your day to be able to parse why you’re using this word and not that one, or to properly process an expression. There’s no way to do that unless they recover your frame of reference.

That is what it means to interpret in context.

I know firsthand this is a hard lesson. It isn’t easy to put the biblical context ahead of our traditions. But if we don’t do that, we ought to stop talking about how important it is to interpret the Bible in context lest we be hypocrites. I can honestly say that the day I decided to commit myself to framing my study of Scripture in the context of the biblical world instead of any modern substitute was a day of liberation. It’s what put me on a path to reading the Bible again—for the first time. You can do that, too. Don’t believe me? Stay tuned.


Be sure to check back every Friday for another unfiltered insight from Dr. Michael Heiser.

Get a thorough introduction to interpreting the Bible in context with Dr. Heiser’s Mobile Ed course: BI 101 Introducing Biblical Interpretation: Contexts and Resources.

Why Mark Wrote His Gospel

In this clip from NT315 Book Study: The Gospel of Mark, Dr. Mark Strauss describes the three reasons Mark wrote his Gospel. He shows how understanding these themes paints a more vibrant picture of the early church and what they were experiencing at that time in history.

This course is being released today, as part of the Mobile Ed: Studies in the Gospels Bundle. With this limited-time offer, you’ll get 41% off and receive the first seven courses immediately. This allows you to get the best possible deal and start learning right away. The last two courses will be automatically delivered to your library as soon as they are finished, at no additional cost. Get this deal today or call 888-875-9491 to talk to a Logos specialist.

HiDef Mondays: Backgrounding in Gal 2:16

rock-and-hard-place-285x280The final installment of this series on participles focuses on the practical payoff of letting Greek be Greek. What do I mean by this? Writers make rhetorical arguments that rattle our theological cages. Take a look at a literal translation of Gal 2:16a: “knowing that a person is not justified by works of the law except by faith in Jesus Christ…” This apparent theological problem is generally solved with a grammatical fix by claiming irregular or exceptional use of something.

Most translations promote the participle of 2:16a to a main verb, and render ἐὰν μὴ as “but” instead of as an exception. This avoids contradicting Paul’s claims elsewhere that salvation is by faith in Christ alone, without works:

Galatians 2:16  know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (NIV)

Paul’s use of a participle instead of a main verb has the effect of backgrounding the action with respect to the main clause that follows. It prioritizes the actions, signaling that the main action is more important. What could have been two main thoughts is consolidated into a primary and secondary action.

But what if Paul really meant to use a participle here instead of a main verb, and to create a real exception like ἐὰν μὴ typically indicates? What happens if we apply principles from discourse grammar and take the choices at face value? It’s not the unorthodox problem you might think. Here is a screenshot of the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament to help illustrate what I mean:

Gal 2 16


The Logic of Paul’s Argument

This initial part of verse  16 (the grayscale text above) is backgrounded with respect to the main verb of believing. Paul’s assertion can be logically summarized like this:

X + Faith >> Justification, where X = works of the law

But we could substitute most anything else in the X position (e.g., reading my bible or something silly like drinking chocolate milk). Why? As Paul makes clear in the balance of this complex sentence, faith is the only determinative factor in justification. But from a rhetorical standpoint, including works makes it sound as though they play a meaningful role.

The reference to works also does something else: it restricts the statement about justification by faith to a specific group of people. Take a look at the diagram below:

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 1.21.31 PM

In other words, the participial clause is only commenting on those doing works of the law, not those resting on faith alone. I could say that drinkers of chocolate milk won’t be justified except by faith in Christ Jesus and it would be true, right? Misleading, but true. In order to get the full, corrected picture, it is critically important to read this as a backgrounded participial action. It telegraphs that this clause is not the final word on the matter, just the beginning.

The participle “knowing” also characterizes the following statement as a shared assumption by Paul and the Jews referenced in the “we” of verse 15. It makes Paul sound as though he is siding with the Judaizers. It doesn’t mean that Paul has changed his claim about justification. All it does is leave the door open that works play a role in justification. But if we just read the rest of the sentence, structured as Paul indicates, we’ll see that he slams this “open door” shut. Twice, as a matter of fact.

Closing Open Doors

What is Paul’s goal for believing in Christ? The last part of the verse (the ἵνα “sub-point” in the screenshot) asserts his purpose in believing is to be justified by faith and not by works of the law. From a logical standpoint, Paul claims that:

 Faith (without X) >> Justification.

So as we read the rest of what in Greek is one complex sentence, Paul clearly states that faith alone is sufficient for justification. This statement essentially introduces another group omitted from the participial clause of  2:16a, people not doing works of the law.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 1.21.51 PM

Clear enough, but this leaves one logical possibility unaccounted for. What about justification by works alone, without combining them with faith? The last part of v. 16 directly addresses this issue. By works of the law no flesh (of any kind) will be justified. In other words, it ain’t ever going to happen. From a logical standpoint, this means:

X (without Faith) ≠ Justification


Paul’s inclusion of works as though it played a meaningful role in justification set the stage for him to unequivocally exclude it from consideration later in the verse. It was a red herring, something that seemed relevant but turns out not to be. Logically, saying “No one is justified by doing X except by faith in Christ Jesus” is a true statement, but it creates the impression that X plays a meaningful role.

The example above illustrates the explanatory power of discourse grammar. We can respect Paul’s grammatical decisions without undermining the doctrine of justification by faith alone without reference to works, as clearly stated in passages like Rom 3:28.

Continuing the Discussion

I will host a Google Hangout later this week to dig a bit deeper into these issues and to answer questions you might have. Join or follow the Faithlife’s High Definition Bible Study group for more details about the time and how to submit questions.

If you found this explanation and these diagrams helpful, then like and share it with your fellow grammarians. I’d strongly recommend the High Definition Commentary series to you. This series is designed to address complex matters of advanced grammar and discourse analysis in plain language. It also includes graphics like these that can help you both in your own study and your communication of that to others. The Philippians and Romans volumes are available for purchase now, and the James volume is available for pre-ordering at a significant discount. And don’t forget to check back each week for the next installment of HiDef Mondays.

Dr. David W. Baker—Importance of and Investment in Archaeology

Dr. David W. Baker is a professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Ashland Theological Seminary. One of today’s leading Old Testament scholars, Dr. Baker has contributed to, edited, or written over 40 books. In this episode of Mobile Ed Conversations, he talks about the importance of archaeology and how much money goes into making the digs possible.

Join Dr. Baker in his Mobile Ed courses to uncover new insight about the Old Testament’s poetry, prophecy, and more.

Douglas Moo on God’s Election, Part 2

In this clip from his Mobile Ed Course NT305 New Testament Theology, Dr. Douglas Moo explains the opposing viewpoints of Calvinism and Arminianism regarding Romans 9. He also looks at the balance between God’s sovereignty, as emphasized in Romans 9 and the responsibility we have to respond in faith, as is emphasized in Romans 10.
View part one of his lecture here.

Dr. Moo’s course NT305 New Testament Theology will be discounted for just a few more days. Pre-order it before it ships on April 16 to save $180.

HiDef Mondays: All about Participles 5

 Participles That Elaborate

The first post of this series described how Greek participles can serve as substitutes for nouns, and then for adjectivesAdverbial participles—those functioning as an alternative to main or finite verbs in a clause—bring about different effects depending upon their location in the clause. The adverbial participles that precede the main verb generally convey situational information (see here and here), what grammarians typically label attendant circumstances. From a functional standpoint, these circumstantial participles are backgrounded with respect to the main action. They could have been independent main actions in their own right, but use of a participle represents the writer’s choice not to do that. This choice also prioritizes the participle’s importance vis-a-vis the main verb. This technique keeps the spotlight on one main action instead of potentially dispersing it over several actions. The participles preceding the main verb may also bear little semantic connection to the main action, i.e. they are largely independent. These two traits—backgrounding and independence—form the point of departure for the discussion that follows.

Adverbial participles that follow the main verb typically bear a much closer semantic connection to the main verb, and consequently tend to elaborate on the main action. The close conceptual relationship means the participles expand on what is meant by the main action, offering practical detail about about what it looks like or how one might go about doing it. Consider the usage in Matt 28:19—20 illustrated below from the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. The text πορευθέντες in grayscale signifies the backgrounding achieved by using a participle before the main verb. Note that “going” has little relation to “making disciples.”

Mat 28 19


But look at the semantic relationship between disciple making and baptizing/teaching people to obey. This elaborating function is not a rule but a general principle that holds true in most cases. As with anything, there are exceptions. And instead of backgrounding the action, the participles that follow generally offer illustrative detail of what is meant by the main verb. There is still a prioritizing that occurs, in that disciple making is the overarching umbrella under which baptizing and teaching operate. Had all three been rendered as imperatives Jesus would have been giving us three commands rather than one.

Another great example is found in Phil 2:2—3, where the participles that follow practically illustrate what being likeminded looks like.

PHIL 2 2

All of the actions that follow have a natural thematic connection back to the governing idea of making Paul’s joy complete by being likeminded. It involves positive things like being united in spirit and considering others more important than yourselves. He also lists things to be avoided like doing things out of selfish ambition or empty conceit.

Elaborating participles should not be understood as exhaustively listing what the main action looks like as much as illustrating what it looks like. It is a starting point rather than the finish, as illustrated in Eph 5:18—21:

Eph 5 18

All of the actions that follow elaborate on what it looks like to be filled by the Spirit.

Applying These Principles in the Pulpit

When I am preaching or teaching,  I use rhetorical questions to help people understand the relationship of the elaborating participles to the main action, even if the translation we are using translates the participles as though they were main or finite verbs. Questions like “What does this practically look like?” or “Like what?” can serve as a bridge without needing to go into detail about grammar or discourse principles.

Another implication of the main verb versus participle distinction is the structuring of my outline. I need to make sure that the main/finite  verbs are my points and that the participles are sub-points nested underneath them. The writer’s grammatical prioritization of the action must be respected as much as possible. If Paul or Matthew had wanted to place the actions on an equal status, each could have reflected that intention in the kind of verb chosen. The choice not to use a finite verb thus has exegetical and homiletical implications.


If you enjoyed today’s post, like and share it with your fellow grammarians. Get into the classroom with Dr. Runge with his Mobile Ed courses, LA 211: Introducing New Testament Discourse Grammar and NT 346 Exegetical Study: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Don’t forget to check back each week for the next installment of HiDef Mondays.

Douglas Moo on God’s Election, Part 1

In this clip from his Mobile Ed course NT305 New Testament Theology, Dr. Douglas Moo explains the Bible’s view of corporate and individual election. He defines “foreknowledge” and discuss how it is used in the Bible, and surveys the main disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians regarding election.

Dr. Moo’s course NT305 New Testament Theology is shipping April 16, which means the 40% discount is about to disappear. To continue learning from Dr. Moo and to get the best deal, pre-order the course today.

Stay tuned for the second part of the lecture where Dr. Moo discusses the tension between divine sovereignty in Romans 9 and human responsibility in Romans 10.

HiDef Mondays: All about Participles 4

Backgrounding Action-the Sequel

In the last post we talked about how not all actions are created equal, so writers need some means of clearly prioritizing them so that readers can make correct judgments about them. We looked at the use of what grammarians generally call “participles of attendant circumstance,” or what I label as nominative circumstantial frames in the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. This use of the participle has several common traits:

  1. The participles are all functioning as verbs rather than nouns or adjectives (if you haven’t read these first two posts, you should).
  2. If a main or finite verb been used for this action (indicative, imperative or subjunctive mood), at least grammatically it would have been on the same par as the main action. Use of the participle demotes the action, backgrounding it with respect to the main verb on which it grammatically depends.
  3. The participles are in the same grammatical case as the subject of the main clause, i.e. the nominative case. This means that the subject of the main clause is also the subject of the backgrounded participial clause.

If that made any sense at all, then good! It means you’ve learned something and made your mother proud.

Today I want to look at one other group of these circumstantial participles, the “absolutes.” There was an extensive discussion among professors about the problems of terminology over on the Facebook’s Nerdy Language Majors, so I will refer readers who care for such things to the 105 comment thread. Regardless of what we might call them, there are some important and simple takeaways to be gleaned.

The circumstantial participles that are generally called “absolutes” are all in a different grammatical case than the nominative, most often the genitive case. In other words, the absolutes differ from the others in point 3 above, but only in point three. So why use a different case, what is the point? I’ll refer you to Big Bird and Susan to help you better understand:

You see, by using a case other than the nominative, the writer is able to clearly communicate that the subject(s) of the participle are not the same subjects as the main clause. In truly “absolute” cases the subject of the participial clause is not involved in any way within the main clause as in the following examples:

  • Γενομένης … ἡμέρας (Acts 12:18) “becoming … day”
  • ἡλίου … ἀνατείλαντος (Matt 13:6) “sun … rising/rose”
  • Ὀψίας … γενομένης (Matt 8:16; Matt 14:15, 23; Matt 16:2; Matt 20:8; Matt 26:20; Matt 27:57) “evening … coming about”
  • Πρωΐας δὲ γενομένης (Matt 27:1) “early morning … coming about”

These are subjects that you would really expect to continue, but rather scene-setting information that sets the stage for the main action. Backgrounding this action as less important makes perfect sense.

But there is another use of the absolutes that is a lot more interesting, and it can bring about the same kind of suspense-building repetition we commonly use in storytelling in English and many other languages. For instance:

I was home all alone when I heard a noise upstairs. I decided to go and take a look. And as I was walking up the stairs…

Okay, this is where you internally scream “Don’t go up the stairs, something BAD is going to happen!!!” When we hear this kind of repetition, this circling back through what we were just told, it creates the expectation that something surprising or important is about to happen. Slasher movies accomplish the same thing by playing that creepy music that let’s you know someone is about to (almost) die.

But note that in my English example, the repeated clause “as I was walking up the stairs” is a dependent clause, not a main clause based on the use of “as.” This is the same kind of backgrounding in English as what we will see in the following Greek examples, along with repetition of the immediately preceding action. It brings about the same slowing and suspense-building as we see in English. Take a look at the repetition in Mark 14:43 below. The grayscale in the HDNT indicates a backgrounded participial clause, and the circular arrows mark what is called tail-head linkage. Jesus had been the key character in the scene up to this point, until it shifts to Judas. The backgrounded repetition slows things down and ties things together:

Mark 14 41 HDNT

We see a similar kind of near-repetition in verse 45 where we already expect Judas to go and kiss Jesus based on the preceding verse. Backgrounding the “going” prioritizes the action in the clause so that his kiss is the only main action. And as a freebee, the changed reference to “the betrayer” in verse 44 is a participle, the kind described in the first post of this series.

Just a little bit later in this chapter the same technique is used to shift from the scene of Jesus being mocked and beaten back to Peter’s coming betrayal. These are simultaneously occurring threads of the story, but text does not allow for a picture-in-picture window like our TVs do. Instead, backgrounded participles and tail-head linkage combine to achieve that “meanwhile, back at the ranch” kind of switch from one concurrent scene to another.

Mark 14 65

Peter is not part of the main clause of verse 66, so the participle reminds us about where we last saw Peter. The same holds true in verse 67, though he is the addressee of the girl’s speech.

In both of these examples the tail-head linkage creates a close connection with what precedes (where part of the preceding clause becomes the circumstantial head of the next one). The use of a non-nominative case in the participial clause also signals that the subject will be different from the subject of the main clause.

Here are a few more examples I will leave for you to look up. Expressions like Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος “(while) he was still speaking” (Luke 8:49; Luke 22:47, 60) and ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος “saying these things” (Luke 9:34; John 8:30; John 18:22; Acts 10:44; Acts 13:17; Acts 24:36 also generally create the same kind of effect and are genitive absolutes.

If you want to learn more, here are some suggested resources:

  • Backgrounding using participles, Chapter 12 of DGGNT or the introductions of the LDGNT or the Greek-free HDNT.
  • Tail-head linkage, Chapter 8 of DGGNT or the introductions of the LDGNT or the Greek-free HDNT.
  • If you’d like the analyzed version of the text, the HDNT comes included with the LDGNT, and each include a glossary and introduction.

Here’s a video introducing the OT versions of the same resources.

Geerhardus Vos on the Instrumental Function of the Resurrection

Geerhardus VosThis post has been adapted with permission from Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics, published by Lexham Press.

There is a causal connection between the justification of Christ and that of those who belong to him, between the making alive of his soul and the regeneration of the children of God, between his resurrection and their resurrection.

1. The justification of Christ is a justification of the head, and to that extent of all the members who are in this head. By the resurrection, the judgment is pronounced that the body made up of the elect is righteous before God. Therefore it is said that Christ was given up for our sins and raised for our justification (Rom 4:25), and that were Christ not raised, we would still be in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). What comes to pass with the individual believer in his justification is nothing other than the personal realization of this justification of the surety. We hope to come back to this point in connection with the doctrine of justification.

2. The enlivening of Christ is an enlivening of the head, and to that extent of all the members who are in the head. In it resides not only the legal ground for the regeneration of the elect, but in a certain sense its active cause as well. It is not as if there had been no regeneration before the mediator rose from the dead, for the saints of old also received the grace of regeneration on the basis of the merits of Christ. But since the exaltation of Christ has taken place and the outpouring of the Spirit has followed it, this regeneration must be seen as an implanting into the body of Christ. Earlier, the Spirit operated in a more separate manner in each individual and not directly from Christ as glorified mediator. Now it is the Spirit of the one body who from the head acts upon the members. Scripture in fact views the regeneration of believers as a consequence of the resurrection of Christ; Ephesians 2:4–5, “But God who is rich in mercy, through his great love with which he has loved us, even when we were dead through trespasses, has made us alive with Christ”; Romans 6:5, “For if we have become one plant with him, planted in the likeness of his death, so will we also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” Baptism as the bath of regeneration points to the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Rom 6:4; 1 Pet 3:21).

Reformed Dogmatics3. In a similar way, the resurrection of Christ functions instrumentally for the resurrection of the body of believers. He has become the firstfruits of those who are asleep (1 Cor 15:20). As death is through one man—namely, has been brought about for us causally by Adam—so the resurrection of the dead through one man (1 Cor 15:21). The first man, Adam, has become a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit. All these statements appear in 1 Cor 15 (vv. 20–21, 45), where the apostle speaks specifically of the resurrection of the flesh. And in Romans 8:10–11, he says, “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, so will he who has raised Christ from the dead also make alive your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Finally, in John 5:25–26, the savior himself says, “Truly, truly I say to you, the hour comes and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who have heard it will live; for as the Father has life in himself, so he has also given to the Son to have life in himself” (cf. vv. 28–29). The raising of the body of believers, therefore, stands in connection with the resurrection of the body of the mediator, and it is the Spirit of Christ who effects this connection. One must, however, note that it is not the resurrection as a bare fact that is referred to here, for that occurs as well for those who have died outside Christ. They, too, will leave the grave at his voice. It is rather the resurrection as re-creation of the psychical (cf. 1 Cor 15:44) body of believers into a pneumatic body—the change from the corruptible into the incorruptible, from dishonor into glory, from weakness into power—that is to be viewed as a fruit and consequence of the resurrection of Christ.

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Add Geerhardus Vos’ classic five-volume Reformed Dogmatics to your library today!