Article of the Month

November, 2015

 

Lightning

 

This article is not really about lightning.  It is about the Greek word which is translated “lightning.”  But the word also is translated other ways.  It is what we might call a “contextually determined” word.  In other words, it doesn’t MEAN “lightning”—although it CAN. But its meaning is “brightness” or “shining,” or even “bright shining,” and the way it is translated MUST be determined by its context.

 

The reason we are looking at this word is because it is usually MISTRANSLATED in Matthew 24:27.  Because of this mistranslation, many have come to misunderstand an important prophecy spoken by Jesus.

 

 

  ASTRAPEE 

 

“Astrapee” is the Greek word translated “lightning” in the New Testament.  It occurs nine times (KJV),  Eight of those times it is translated “lightning(s).”  We can be certain that three of them should be translated “lightning” because they are linked with THUNDER!  This is one way which context helped the translators.  (See Revelation 4:5; 8:5; and 16:18.)

 

 

  NOT LIGHTNING! 

 

When we look at Luke 11:36, however, we can see very clearly why the translators HAD TO translate “astrapee” differently.  The verse reads in part:

                                               

                                                “…the bright shining of a candle

                                                doth give thee light.”

 

It is so plain that the word (“bright shining”) in this context cannot be translated “lightning”!  It also is plain that the word does mean “bright shining.”

 

Because “lightning” does, indeed, shine brightly, this Greek word is used to describe it.  But    and this is important    the word, itself, DOES NOT mean lightning, and it can be applied to any bright object.

 

 

 

  MATTHEW 24:27 

 

Knowing (from Jesus’ usage in Luke 11) the true Scriptural meaning of this Greek word, we now can look at Matthew 24:27 and can, BY CONTEXT, come to its true meaning.  We don’t even have to be able to read Greek!

 

The passage reads like this:

 

                                                “For as the lightning cometh out of the east

                                                and shineth even unto the west, so shall

                                                also the coming (Greek = PRESENCE)

                                                of the Son of Man be.”

 

What comes out of the east and shines to the west?  We all immediately realize that this is a reference to the course of the SUN.  Lightning certainly does not do this on any predictable basis.  “Lightning” is an OBVIOUSLY poor choice by the translators.

 

It is difficult to know why translators chose “lightning” in this context.  It is more difficult to know why they continue to do so.  While we don’t want to ascribe motives to their choice, it seems likely that the traditional belief that Jesus’ second advent occurs all of a sudden    like a lightning bolt    is the reason for the translation error.

 

But we must never let tradition color our choice as we make translations.  The directional reference which Jesus makes here is SO STRONG as to insist that the “bright shiner” here is the sunlight  — not lightning.  The result is that GRADUALNESS rather than SUDDENNESS becomes the thought of this prophecy.

 

In this same verse, the translators chose “coming” as the translation for the Greek word “parousia.”  But “parousia” does not contain the thought of arrival, but of presence.  Jesus is explaining that his “thief-like” presence at his second advent would be recognized GRADUALLY    like the dawning of the sun.  (See I Thessalonians 5:2;     II Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15.)  Eventually, the presence will be known and recognized by all.  But it begins just as the sun rises    scarcely perceptible, even by those carefully watching.

 

This “little” item regarding the second advent has been obscured over the centuries because of a mistranslation.  But it is, indeed, a “big” item when we seek understanding.

  

 

 

 

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