The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words


This book is an abridgment of the four-volume work edited by Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Only the vital information of each of the present dictionary entries is kept in the abridgment. The existing work has been arranged according to English topics, with several Greek words often discussed under a single subject heading. This abridgment is arranged with its entries in Greek Alphabet order, which makes it much easier for the user to find the discussion of particular ...
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This book is an abridgment of the four-volume work edited by Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Only the vital information of each of the present dictionary entries is kept in the abridgment. The existing work has been arranged according to English topics, with several Greek words often discussed under a single subject heading. This abridgment is arranged with its entries in Greek Alphabet order, which makes it much easier for the user to find the discussion of particular Greek words. All Greek words are transliterated into English. This book is a marvelous companion to Bill Mounce's English-Greek Study Bible. Each article is a single running text from an evangelical theological perspective. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NIV.
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Editorial Reviews

This volume draws on the most up-to-date evangelical scholarship in order to provide an essential grasp of the meanings and usage of Greek words in the New Testament. Abridged from the four-volume , material has been rearranged so that each Greek word is discussed in its own place in Greek (rather than English) alphabetical order, with cross references to related Greek words. Each of the Greek words has a number, according to the Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbering system. Although the initial lexical paragraph of each entry has Greek words written in Greek letters (always followed by transliteration), the rest of the entry uses only transliteration; thus, the reader need not know how to read Greek in order to use the dictionary. Also includes an index of English words keyed to appropriate Greek entries, and an index of scripture verses. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words


Copyright © 2000 Zondervan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-21650-8

Chapter One

A alpha

5 abba abba (abba), father (5).

OT 1. In Aram. abba is originally, like the feminine equivalent imma, a word derived from baby language (like our "dada"). Already in the pre-Christian era the word underwent a considerable extension of meaning, replacing not only the older form of address common to biblical Heb. and Aram., abî, my father, but also the Aram. terms for "the father" and "my father." In other words, abba as a form of address to one's father was no longer restricted to children but was also used by adult sons and daughters. The childish character of the word ("daddy") thus receded, and abba acquired the warm, familiar ring that we may feel in such an expression as "dear father."

2. Nowhere in the entire wealth of devotional literature produced by ancient Jud. do we find abba used as a way of addressing God. The pious Jew knew too much of the great gap between God and humanity (Eccl. 5:1) to be free to address God with the familiar word used in everyday family life. The literature of rab. Jud. contains only one indirect example of abba used in reference to God (b. Taanith 23b).

NT abba occurs in the NT only 3x: Mk. 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6. In each case it is used in calling on God in prayer. In the other Gk. literature of early Christianity abba is found only in quotations of these passages.

1. It seems clear from the Gospel tradition-indirectly confirmed in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6 (see below)-that Jesus addressed God in his prayers as "my Father." In so doing, he made use of the warm, familiar term abba, used in the everyday life of the family. The only exception is the cry of dereliction from the cross (Mk. 15:34 par.), which is a quotation from Ps. 22:1.

(a) The invocation abba is expressly attested in the Markan text of Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane (Mk. 14:36). But in the other prayers of Jesus recorded by the Evangelists ([arrow] pater, 4252), there is good reason to argue that the Aram. abba underlies, either directly or indirectly, the various Gk. versions of his invocation of the Father.

(b) This use, unthinkable for the pious Jew, of the familiar term abba in prayer denotes the unique relationship of Jesus to God. It expresses not only his attitude of trust and obedience toward the Father (Mk. 14:36 par.), but also his incomparable authority (Matt. 11:25-27 par.).

2. The early church took over the use of abba in prayer. Note esp. Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6, where Paul may have been thinking of the Lord's Prayer. In the oldest version of this prayer (Lk. 11:2-4), the invocation reads pater, "[dear] Father," and suggests abba as the Aram. original. Thus, when Jesus gave his disciples the Lord's Prayer, he gave them authority to follow him in addressing God as abba and so granted them a share in his status as Son (cf. Jn. 1:12). Accordingly, Paul sees in the invocation "Abba" clear evidence of our adoption as sons through Christ and of the eschatological possession of the Spirit (Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:4-7). The fact that the church, like Jesus, may say "Abba" is a fulfillment of God's promise: "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters" (2 Cor. 6:18; cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; also Jub. 1:24-25).

11 Abpaa[micro] Abpaa[micro] (Abraam), Abraham (11).

OT The name derived either from the Babylonian Abam-rama, he loves the Father (i.e., God) or from the Aram. lengthening of the Canaanite name Âb-ram, the Father (i.e., God) is exalted. The popular etymology of the Heb. abraham (Gen. 17:4-5) makes the name signify "father of a multitude."

1. The tradition of Gen. 11:27-25:11 depicts Abraham as the first of the so-called patriarchs, the ancestor of the later people of Israel. Admittedly, he continues to have the second place in the OT behind the patriarch Jacob, as is already indicated by the name Israel, which Jacob received and which was applied to the nation ([arrow] Israel [2702]), Iakob [2609]). But a profound and far-reaching significance was attached to Abraham.

(a) Abraham stands for the prophetic experience of Israel. He is not only called a "prophet" (Gen. 20:7; cf. 15:13-16), he was also tested as a prophet (22:1), to see whether in his person God's people would esteem God enough to be willing to offer human sacrifice. Abraham held to the word of his God almost to the point of killing his only son. God then released him and the people of Israel, because he loves faithfulness and not sacrifice.

(b) Abraham was the recipient of a promise of land, which steadily grew despite the scanty beginnings. His life constantly appeared threatened by the lack of a son and heir (Gen. 15:2-3), and the latter was only born when Sarah was past the age of childbearing (18:1-15). In the panoramic perspective of the Pentateuch the theme of the land is not brought to fulfillment but looks towards fulfillment with the dying Moses (Deut. 34). Yet insofar as the land was never merely a physical possession but was constantly seen as a spiritual heritage (representing freedom, peace, and well-being in and with God), later Israel remained profoundly conscious of the fact that it still looked for the ultimate fulfillment of the promise to Abraham.

(c) The making of the covenant in Gen. 17 develops this theme and ensures that the land promised as a possession to Abraham and his posterity is not understood in a nationalistic way as personal property, but as the place of worship appropriate to the creator of the world (Gen. 1). In Gen. 17 the message is formulated that enabled Israel to survive even the terrible situation of national collapse and the far from glorious period of reconstruction under Persian rule.

(d) This insight was decisively influenced by the declaration that Abraham was called so that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through [him]" (Gen. 12:3). This declaration stands in the context of the promise of the land that looks forward to the kingdom of David (15:18) and relates these words, with their ring of power politics, to an antinationalistic perspective. Humankind, including Israel and the patriarchs, had fallen prey to the desire to be like God (3:5), to the mysterious couching of sin before the door of the heart (4:7), and to the need to establish a name for itself in a single kingdom (11:1-9). But the Lord of the world made a new beginning with Abraham, the man who unconditionally remained true to the promise (of the land) despite its meager fulfillment.

Alongside the instances where Abraham is mentioned in Gen., there is the particularly important and oft-repeated expression, esp. in Deut., "the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers-to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (cf. Deut. 1:8; 6:10; 9:5, 27; 29:13; 30:20; 34:4). Amid the despair of the exile, this expression denotes the fixed point on which election depended: a solemnly attested promise of God that made it possible for the Israelites after the loss of the land and in the anxiety of being remote from God (Isa. 63:15-64:11; cf. esp. the complaint of 63:16!) to accept their sin as sin, because they understood God as the one who is dependable. Thus Abraham is the ancestor to whom the promise was the basis of his life; God counted this to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).

2. The special position of Abraham, already foreshadowed in this development, reached its highest expression in Jud. Because of Abraham's election, all who confess themselves as his descendants have a place in the coming kingdom of God. Rab. Jud. saw Abraham's life as a series of acts of obedience; according to it, Abraham had kept the whole law. By contrast, Hel. Jud., esp. Philo, stressed his trust in God's promises, esp. those about the final judgment and the kingdom of God, and attributed the beginnings of belief in a world to come to his time.

NT 1. Since Abraham was the ancestor of Israel, the descent of Jesus from him became of great importance for the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah. It underlined the continuity in God's saving activity both for his people and the world (cf. the genealogy in Matt. 1:1-17).

2. (a) For the Jews in general it was a special title of honor to be known as "children of Abraham" (Matt. 3:9; Lk. 3:8), for according to the popular belief, Abraham's merits guaranteed Israel a share in the kingdom of God-an idea John the Baptist attacked. According to him, to be descended from Abraham was in itself of no value. Only those who set their hearts and minds on the coming kingdom of God, brought forth the true fruit of repentance, and by baptism anticipated the final judgment had any right to hope for a place in the kingdom. God could raise up from stones children for Abraham. That is why Jesus considered it so important to search for the lost sheep of Israel. He healed a "daughter of Abraham" (Lk. 13:16), cured the woman with an issue of blood who had been excluded from the community (8:43-48), and caused salvation to come to the house of Zacchaeus as "a son of Abraham," although he had been living outside the Mosaic law (19:9).

When Luke records that the apostles addressed their hearers as descendants of Abraham and mentions the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he intends his readers to understand how aware the apostles were of their loyalty to the faith of their ancestors and how strenuously they had sought to win Jesus' people despite their unwillingness (Acts 3:12-13, 25; 13:26).

(b) "Abraham's side" (Lk. 16:22) means the pouch above the girdle made by pulling up the garment slightly. It suggests special care, as that of a mother loving her child whom she carries in the folds of her dress over her breast, or the place of honor at table beside Abraham (cf. Jn. 13:23). Jud. frequently expected intercession by Abraham, who lives with God (Lk. 16:22-31), as well as by Isaac and Jacob. The Jewish belief that those who have lived with God (e.g., the patriarchs) must remain alive after death was shared by Jesus, who justified it by saying that where God is, there also must be life (cf. Matt. 22:32; Mk. 12:26-27; Lk. 20:37-38.). The one who lives with God can die but cannot cease to live. It is from this angle that we must understand the resurrection of Jesus.

3. When Paul explains Abraham's importance, he is concerned above all with justification (righteousness) by faith. His exposition both in Gal. 3:6-20 and Rom. 4:1-13 is not a deductive proof in the strict sense. Rather, in the light of the revelation of Christ, Paul recognizes that Scripture had long before spoken of justification by faith.

(a) The details of the apostle's arguments about Abraham were partly determined by the ideas of his Judaizing opponents, who maintained that Moses' law was the definitive revelation that brought salvation. It followed that Abraham must have lived by it, even before it had been revealed at Sinai. By contrast, Paul maintains in Gal. that anyone who wishes to live by the works of the Mosaic law is under a curse (Gal. 3:10), since it implies that people must earn their salvation. Such persons do not permit God to be the God who alone can give humankind that which is good without qualification and save them (Rom. 7; cf. Gen. 3). As Paul sees it, Scripture shows clearly that Abraham was justified not by works of the law but by faith (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; cf. Gen. 15:6).

Scripture even foresaw the placing on an equal footing of the lawless pagan and the pious Jew through faith (Gal. 3:6-9), because faith excludes every basis for human honor. The Mosaic law was given to reveal that sin, in the last analysis, is directed against God and not against human beings. It thus prepared us for the recognition that our only hope is in God (3:24) and that Jesus is the promised offspring of Abraham (3:16-17). By abrogating the law, God opened to everyone the possibility of living by faith and so sharing the heritage of Abraham in all its fullness.

(b) In Rom. 4 these thoughts are expressed with even greater clarity. Abraham had nothing to boast about, for it was faith that was reckoned to him for righteousness (4:1-3). No one can earn wages from God (4:4-8; cf. Ps. 32:1-2). Following methods of rab. argument, Paul maintains that God's blessing does not result from circumcision, which Jud. regarded as a sign of the fulfillment of God's law and of turning away from transgression (Rom. 4:9-12). Abraham was, after all, justified before he was circumcised. Circumcision was simply a seal of the righteousness by faith reckoned to the Gentile Abraham. Hence Abraham is the father of believers who come from the Gentiles (4:16).

Paul then adds another example of Abraham's faith (Rom. 4:18-22). Just as we are dead before God and have nothing to hope for, so Abraham and Sarah's procreative power was dead. But trust in God created and creates new life. The point of comparison is the deadness, the lack of any prerequisite conditions, not the willingness to yield oneself.

Paul's view of obedience in faith was not always accepted in the early church. Jas. 2:14-26 pointedly shows that Pauline concepts were misused even by Christians. For some only the relationship of the soul to God was important; the deeds of our transient bodies were considered to be relatively unimportant. Against such a view it was necessary to stress that faith expresses itself in works and that faith will be judged, as with Abraham, by the way it works itself out in life.

4. This false security with which Jews and Judaizers alike deluded themselves by appealing to Abraham contributed in great measure to this attitude. The way in which it hindered faith in Jesus is the background to the discussion about Abraham in Jn. 8:30-40, 48-59. The first section (8:30-40) makes it clear that the newly found faith of the Jews was not genuine but only superficial, for they were not doing the works of Abraham (8:39-40). Abraham relied solely on God's liberating word, but they wished to silence that word when it stood before them incarnate in Jesus. They thought that descent from Abraham guaranteed their freedom, whereas in fact only Jesus and holding fast to his word could give them true freedom.


Excerpted from The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words Copyright © 2000 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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