February 25, 2016

Forcefully Advancing

Many of us have our eyes fixated on ISIS and Islamic terrorists as they forcefully advance across the Middle East. The media provides graphics and maps showing us, often in real time, how the movement is spreading. I think we believers are often guilty of being shortsighted because we fail to recognize, or entertain the thought, that the kingdom of heaven is also advancing and spreading. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matt 11:12 NIV).

1 comment:

Steve Corey said...


-----I am certainly no Greek scholar, but I did well in English K1-12, graduated High School with an English major, tested out of Freshmen English requirement at both Ozark Bible College and Mesa College, and studied three semesters of Greek at Ozark Bible College. I know the difference between active and passive verbs. Most people do without all that boring classroom time. The subject of the passive verb is acted upon. The subject of the active verb acts upon.
-----About half the translations I have present this passage as, “the kingdom has suffered violence.“ The other half agrees with your NIV, “the kingdom has been forcefully advancing.“ The Greek word behind “forcefully advancing” is here written in the passive voice. That would be “the kingdom is being forcefully advanced.” That’s a big difference from “forcefully advancing”. But it does fit “has suffered violence”.
-----“…the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence” has always confused me, though. Thayer’s Greek/English Lexicon presents the meaning of “biadzo” as “to use force, to apply force.” It is with “tina”, basically the Greek for “who, which, or what” that “biadzo” means to inflict violence upon. This particle is not present in this passage of Matthew. Besides, the idea of the kingdom of heaven being taken by force or suffering violence lies outside this passage’s context, nor is there any evidential history of attempts to do such, though some try to hang this charge upon Judas as if he were one of some historically illusive company of spiritual gangsters. Now that idea might fit the Pharisees, who were “forcefully” opposing the kingdom. But the whole thing begs for missing information.
-----The passive form in Classical Greek can also represent middle voice: something acting upon itself. A couple hundred years ago, English had a voice called “passival”. They would say, “The field is plowing,” meaning, “The field is being plowed.” It’s commonality has waned, but we find holdovers in such expressions as, “the airplane is flying”, “the car is driving”, “the Broncos are loosing” (not this year.) But here again, although the subject is being acted upon, the action is not by the subject’s means as the middle should be, although - can we say - the subject is presented as “metaphorically” acting upon itself. A pilot flies a plane; it doesn’t fly itself. A driver drives a car. NFC Champions beat the Broncos (5 of 8 times.) What is forcefully advancing the kingdom? True middle would have, “…the kingdom has been forcefully advancing itself.” That’s a little too close to those annoying Muslim’s who’s god is not powerful enough to conquer the world without measly human hands.
-----So. If I seem to still be confused, it’s because I am. The best proposition I have heard for a translation is that from the time of John the Baptist one had to enter the kingdom by much effort to understand and against much peril posed by the kingdom‘s enemies. Therefore they were “men of force” laying hold of it; the kingdom was “forcefully advancing”.
-----This idea makes the most sense to me. And to this day entering the kingdom of heaven is not for the faint of heart. Hereafter, until Christ returns, it only gets more difficult to be of the kingdom of heaven because the gangsters of that feckless little “god” advance their kingdom by swords and bloodshed. To enter the kingdom against such violent odds takes a more “forceful” faith. It sounds reasonable, anyway.

Love you all,
Steve Corey