ἀθανασία

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ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:34 pm

ἀθανασία, how absolute in meaning can we take such a word to be? Can someone who died and is resurrected be described by this term if it means deathless, negation of death? Or would ἀφθαρσίαν describe such a being in terms of life immortal after already dying and having a resurrection? Paul uses the two words side by side, I believe in contrast, at 1 cor 15:53,54.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Hylander » Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:15 pm

Can someone who died and is resurrected be described by this term if it means deathless, negation of death? Or would ἀφθαρσίαν describe such a being in terms of life immortal after already dying and having a resurrection?
I doubt you'll ever find a clear answer to your questions about the meanings of these words as used in specific passages of the New Testament. There doesn't seem to be much nuance in LSJ's entry for ἀθανασία -- "immortality" (and a few other meanings that probably aren't relevant to what you are looking for. You would also want to look at ἀθανατος and perhaps some other etymologically related words, but that doesn't seem very productive in this instance.

However, you might try posting questions like these in the Koine/New Testament forum, where they may attract the attention of participants who follow that forum and don't always look at this one, and who might have some ideas about these issues.

I couldn't help noting the citation in LSJ from Antiphanes, a 4th c. BCE writer of comedies:

ὁ δὲ λιμός ἐστιν ἀθανασίας φάρμακον -- "Starvation is the medicine for immortality."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiphanes_(comic_poet)

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by jeidsath » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:09 pm

I had already taken the opportunity to move this thread and the last to the Koine forum, which is where the NT-specific dicussion here generally takes place. B-Greek is another great forum for NT-specific discussion. They are a slightly different beast than we are though, and Textkit practices more παρρησια, for good or ill.

I think that this is an interesting word, even if I disagree with trying to logic-chop Paul in the way your question implies. Looking at αθανασια: First notice the -ια ending. That's like "-ness" or -hood" in English. Here, you can think of it as something like "αθανατ-ness." (Smyth points out that αθανατια becomes αθανασια for reasons of euphony.) Hylander mentions the Antiphanes quote which (so it appears to me) comedically likens it to a disease. You can imagine the Monty Python doctor: 'You've come down with a very serious case of immortality.'

Given that the αθανατοι are "the gods", I could imagine Greeks in other cultures and areas than Paul's assuming that putting on αθανασια as a good description of what Hercules did, becoming a god. Paul seems to intend something different.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:04 pm

The only way to find out how Paul uses a particular word is to read the traditional Pauline Canon exhaustively. The wrong place to start is focusing on a hidden nuance, a supposed distinction between this word and that word. Lexical semantics isn't really that important. You must be able to read freely in the corpus before you can do it and when can read freely then you will forget about lexical semantics it will just happen.

Bottom-up exegesis is no longer being taught as the preferred method, except at schools who are frozen in the 1950s . The target of exegesis is the text not words, phrases and clauses.

Here is a very basic undergraduate discussion of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzJHEHSbKEQ
At the other end of the spectrum, Paul Frye at Yale Univ. has a whole course on literary interpretation at the Open Yale site. Just search on Paul Frye and Yale. Many hours of lectures of high quality.


Immorality vocabulary: Athanasius spends a lot of time talking about mortality, immortality and the related subjects. Take a look at section 20 and 21 On the Incarnation. Obviously you can't import Athanasius back into Paul, but he analyzes the subject at much more length than Paul does.
§ 20.5 Καὶ συνέβαινεν ἀμφότερα ἐν ταὐτῷ γενέσθαι παραδόξως· ὅτι τε ὁ πάντων θάνατος ἐν τῷ κυριακῷ σώματι ἐπληροῦτο, καὶ ὁ θάνατος καὶ ἡ φθορὰ διὰ τὸν συνόντα Λόγον ἐξηφανίζε το. Θανάτου γὰρ ἦν χρεία, καὶ θάνατον ὑπὲρ πάντων ἔδει γενέσθαι, ἵνα τὸ παρὰ πάντων ὀφειλόμενον γένηται.

5. And so it was that two marvels came to pass at once, that the death of all was accomplished in the Lord's body, and that death and corruption were wholly done away by reason of the Word that was united with it. For there was need of death, and death must needs be suffered on behalf of all, that the debt owing from all might be paid.

§ 20.6 Ὅθεν, ὡς προεῖπον, ὁ Λόγος, ἐπεὶ οὐχ οἷόν τε ἦν αὐτὸν ἀποθανεῖν–ἀθάνατος γὰρ ἦν–, ἔλαβεν ἑαυτῷ σῶμα τὸ δυνάμενον ἀποθανεῖν, ἵνα ὡς ἴδιον ἀντὶ πάντων αὐτὸ προσε νέγκῃ, καὶ ὡς αὐτὸς ὑπὲρ πάντων πάσχων, διὰ τὴν πρὸς αὐτὸ ἐπίβασιν, «καταργήσῃ τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου, τουτέστιν τὸν διάβολον· καὶ ἀπαλλάξῃ τούτους, ὅσοι φόβῳ θανάτου διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῆν ἔνοχοι ἦσαν δου λείας».

6. Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all, and as suffering, through His union with it, on behalf of all, "Bring to nought Him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
C. Stirling Bartholomew

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:27 am

ἀθανασία, ας, ἡ (Isocr., Pla.+; Vett. Val. 221; 330; SIG 798, 4; Sb 4127, 14; PGM 4, 477; Wsd, 4 Macc; JosAs 8:5; 15:4; Philo; Jos., Bell. 7, 348, Ant. 17, 354; SibOr 2, 41; 150; Just., Tat.; Orig., C. Cels. 3 , 81, 2 al.; loanw. in rabb.) immortality (w. γνῶσις, πίστις) D 10:2. ἐνδύσασθαι ἀ. put on immortality=be clothed w. an immortal body 1 Cor 15:53f; God ὁ μόνος ἔχων ἀ. 1 Ti 6:16; ζωὴ ἐν ἀ. 1 Cl 35:2. In accord w. widespread medical terminology (TSchermann, TQ 92, 1910, 6ff) the Lord’s Supper is called a φάρμακον ἀθανασίας (Syn. ἀντίδοτος τοῦ μὴ ἀποθανεῖν) medicine of immortality IEph 20:2 (Diod S 1, 25 τὸ τῆς ἀ. φάρμακον; Lucian, Dial. Deor. 10, 5 πίνειν τῆς ἀ.).—DELG s.v. θάνατος. M-M. TW. Sv.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 23). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stirling's point about thorough knowledge of the Pauline corpus is right on the money, and an essential ingredient to interpreting properly any author. And Joel, you are of course right -- the last thing Paul wants to do is make people think of Hercules when he is talking about the subject. The whole idea of resurrection was a bit of a stretch for just about everybody, but particularly with the various strains of Greek philosophy of the first century.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by jeidsath » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:56 am

I thought that I remembered this word from Lucian, describing Ganymede becoming a god. Here it is:
Εἰσόμεθα τότε ὃ πρακτέον. νῦν δὲ ἄπαγε αὐτόν, ὦ Ἑρμῆ, καὶ πιόντα τῆς ἀθανασίας ἄγε οἰνοχοήσοντα ἡμῖν διδάξας πρότερον ὡς χρὴ ὀρέγειν τὸν σκύφον.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:07 am

So in the story does Ganymede die or is he transformed into an immortal?

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:31 am

Never mind, answered my own question. Thanks

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:38 am

That story does indicate what I was suspecting. That it is a pretty absolute meaning. Just thinking on the idea of the immortality of the soul, obviously that soul can't die and then be called immortal in connection with this word. Paul used this term only one other time. While using ἀφθαρσίαν several times. He stayed true to this meaning in 1 Tim 6:16, the only other time this is found in the greek scriptures.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by jeidsath » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:39 am

Here is the short dialogue of Zeus and Ganymede, translated into English. I notice that there is a footnote on the drink of immortality on pg. 9:

https://books.google.com/books?id=MTYOL ... &q&f=false
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:44 am

Also his point of contrasting it with ἀφθαρσίαν is seen in that he is applying it to a fulfillment of prophecy in Hosea 13:14. This prophecy includes redeeming some who are in the grave and some who have not died but are saved from the sting of death, sin. So they meet the idea of deathlessness, the others died, saw corruption in the grave so he cannot use that definitive term, but uses a term that allows for immortal life after having died, sincerity of life going forward, incorruption.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by jeidsath » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:46 am

Absolutezero wrote:
Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:38 am
the only other time this is found in the greek scriptures.
You're forgeting the Septuagint, where αθανασια and αθανατος are used a number of times.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:47 am

Thanks so much for digging that up! Helped immensely.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:47 am

Yes, I just meant in the new testament.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:56 am

How can I find where those terms are used in the septuigent? Is there a searchable one you know of?

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:21 am

The belief that individual words have meaning, force or power of themselves is rather unscientific, almost magical. Word studies can run the risk of saying that a word contains an accretion of all of the meanings that it has where you can find it. If you were to look in the LXX, try to read for the meaning of the verses, not for the meaning of the words. Words - individual and decontextualised - don't have meaning. You are starting to learn a new language now, so that should be painfully obvious. You need to be reading whole sentences in context, before you can try to discover the meanings of words. Chasing words to inform one's theological understanding is a method of study that does not easily transfer to language study.

Contextual awareness, sentence level comprehension then the "meaning" of words.
Last edited by ἑκηβόλος on Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:40 pm

I understand, and agree, the basis for my question is first, my understanding of all Paul's ideas throughout his letters. So it is context and this overall idea that leads me to questions about specific words. Although I cannot read all his words in greek, I do believe that what has been translated is accurate enough, coupled with greek definitions to guide one into arriving at certain conclusions based on the overall way ideas are expressed by him.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:35 pm

Perhaps I should state my underlying assuption more directly; the immediate linguistic context of a word is the language(s) in which it occurs.

ἀθανασία (immortality) as you say is vague enough to have need of theological discussion. Essentially, what did or could death have meant in Jesus' case. Could his humanity have seen corruption or decay in death, and if it could not, was his death really death? That leading to or from discussions about the nature (character) of the incarnation explained as either a natural (Oriental Orthodox) or a hypostatic (Eastern Orthodox & Catholic) union.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:23 pm

Paul's words in 1 Cor 15 aren't regarding Jesus having immortality but those he gathers from men, both those dead in the grave and those that survive to his parousia. Those corrupted in the grave put on incoruption while those living or mortal put on immortality. The ones who are mortal could and are described by either ἀφθαρσίαν or ἀθανασίαν, however, I feel the context shows, those dead in the grave can only be described by ἀφθαρσίαν.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by jeidsath » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:36 pm

Let's look at the context:
50 Τοῦτο δέ φημι ἀδελφοί ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα βασιλείαν Θεοῦ κληρονομῆσαι οὐ δύναται οὐδὲ ἡ φθορὰ τὴν ἀφθαρσίαν κληρονομεῖ 51 Ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα 52 ἐν ἀτόμῳ ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι σαλπίσει γάρ καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα 53 δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν 54 Ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται (τὴν) ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος 55 Ποῦ σου θάνατε τὸ νῖκος ποῦ σου θάνατε τὸ κέντρον 56 Τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος 57 τῷ δὲ Θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
Personally, I couldn't imagine that θνητος or φθαρτος could be applied to the dead. I think he's expounding on ημεις αλλαγησομεθα at this point, and has gotten off the oι νεκροι diversion.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:01 pm

Well, he is talking about a resurrection, a change from a corrupted state to a living, incorruptible, immortal with a less absolute meaning, they did die, so this isn't dead being described that way but what they put on and from that moment forward they are never dying again. Where as the mortal never die so he uses the stronger term to describe the same quality of life, just a more absolute sense of it. He describes this in this way to show these two changes fulfill Hosea's prophecy.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:50 am

Absolutezero wrote:
Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:23 pm
Paul's words in 1 Cor 15 aren't regarding Jesus having immortality but those he gathers from men, both those dead in the grave and those that survive to his parousia.
I mean that our life experience leads us to logically associate decay with death, but death itself doesn't include the meaning of decay. Both of them need to be discussed or mentioned separately.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Tue Dec 04, 2018 2:31 am

Yeah I know what you mean, I had in mind Acts 2:27, Acts 13:35, they link the idea to Jesus fulfilling Psalm 16:10 and introduces the idea of corruption from remaining in the grave. He was there parts of 3 days, so decomposition did not set in before Jesus was raised.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Tue Dec 04, 2018 3:10 am

It depends what degree of decomposition you are imagining. I am assuming that corruption means the body losing the ability to be resuscitated.

Only based on a memory of basic high school first aid training many many years ago, I think 5 minutes without oxygen to the brain is enough to quite seriously reduce a person's IQ.

That is Psalm 15:10, if you are reading it in the LXX.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by Absolutezero » Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:02 am

I think the idea is actual breakdown of organs and such.

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by ἑκηβόλος » Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:01 pm

Absolutezero wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:02 am
I think the idea is actual breakdown of organs and such.
If that is your understanding of ἀφθαρσία, I think you can answer your own question in the Opening Post of this thread (OP) about whether it can be used.

In addition to ἀφθαρσία "incorruption", you could perhaps look up ἀφθορία "incorruption" and ἀδιαφθορία "incorruptibility". Without the initial alpha, there are words like διαφθορά, etc. Looking at texts outside the New Testament might give you an udea of the background knowledge that the New Testament writers might have had when they used the words too.

For the breakdown of organ function while alive, try νέκρωσις.

As magnificent as your developing knowledge of these words you have an interest in is, developing an overall understanding of the language will put things in balance and perspective. Small gems are brilliant in and of themselves, but they look better when set in jewellery. Such a learning process as yours - going from a well-developed knowledge of key terms to an understanding and reading knowledge of Greek - is a path followed not only by people interested in Christian Theology, but also those studying philosophy, who get an in depth knowledge of the an authour's use of terms, before the language, then later learn to use the language (Greek) that those terms are native to. You don't need to dumb down in order to advance.
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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by mwh » Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:57 pm

Time to remove this undying (but not uncorrupted) thread from the Learning Greek forum? It’s quite enough to have it here.

Or start a new topic on the immortality of the nightingale?

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Re: ἀθανασία

Post by jeidsath » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:12 am

Done. I had forgotten about leaving the shadow topic in place there.
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