Discovering the Power of Luke's Gospel: A Greek Word Study without Greek
- Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Step 3: Explore the Usage of the Word in the New Testament
When looking up a particular word in the New Testament, there are two things that should be considered: frequency (how many times a word appears) and distribution (where the word appears).
We can use an interactive chart in Logos' Exegetical Guide to determine the frequency of a word in the New Testament. Our word, dunamis (δύναμις), occurs 119 times. Although this is interesting, this statistic only provides us with a panoramic landscape. We must supplement it with details of the terrain—the context (or specific distribution) of each occurrence. We can use Logos' concordance function or Strong's to ascertain the predominant meanings attached to this word by the New Testament authors.
Whenever we study a word, we should focus on how it is being used in the passage we are investigating. The fact that Luke uses the word dunamis (δύναμις) fifteen times throughout his account—a frequency equaled only by Paul in 1 Corinthians—establishes that "power" is a central theme and emphasis of his Gospel.
Now that we know that "power" is a central theme in Luke's Gospel, we need to determine how the word is used throughout the book. Each occurrence of the word can be categorized by what it describes. When we categorize the different occurrences of dunamis (δύναμις) in Luke's Gospel, we find that it describes four things.
In the beginning of Luke's Gospel dunamis (δύναμις) comes from the "Most High" (Luke 1:35). However, once Jesus endures a period of testing in the wilderness there is a shift. Jesus becomes "filled with the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:14). From this point onwards, Jesus independently uses and distributes divine power, like God the Father (Luke 9:1; 10:19). Luke uses "power" to establish Jesus' divine identity. Jesus' "power" causes onlookers to scratch their heads and ponder the identity and message of Jesus (Luke 4:36).
Now that we have determined how Luke uses the term in general, we can return to Luke 8:46 to reassess the meaning of dunamis (δύναμις) in light of our entire investigation.
The use of "dunamis" in Luke:
-God (1:35; 4:14)
-Jesus' heavenly authority (21:27; 22:69)
-Jesus' miracles (10:13; 19:37)
-Jesus' healing ministry (5:17; 6:19; 8:46)
Step 4: Revisit the Passage to Find the Meaning of the Word in Context
Judging from the usage of the term in various contexts (and specifically in Luke's Gospel), it seems fair to conclude that this occurrence of dunamis (δύναμις) refers to the divine power contained and originated in the person of Jesus.
The purpose of Luke 8:46 is to highlight the connection between Jesus' divinity and the actions performed in his healing ministry. Numerous times throughout Jesus' healing ministry, divine "power" finds its source in him (Luke 5:17; 6:19; 8:46). Dunamis (δύναμις) in Luke 8:46 subtly expresses that the presence and effect of "power" in Jesus' earthly ministry indicates his divine identity.
To review: The Greek writers used dunamis (δύναμις) to describe spiritual and universal "powers". The translators of the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) used the word to describe something that originated from, and was distributed by, God. Among other usages, Luke primarily used "power" to describe something God the Father and Jesus possessed.
*A lexicon is an in-depth dictionary about a specific corpus of writings. Because of this, lexicons can contain more lengthy and detailed entries than dictionaries.
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