What Kinds of Hope? NT, Apostolic Fathers, and Syntax Searching

I am a contributor at another blog called PastoralEpistles.com. That blog is one outlet where I work specifically with my favorite section of the New Testament, the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus).

Over on PastoralEpistles.com, I’m working on a series of posts that combines a few of my loves: The writings of the Apostolic Fathers, Koine Greek, and the Pastoral Epistles. I’m using a book published in 1904 by Oxford titled The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (that one is actually a Community Pricing title, check it out!) that provides information on areas in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers that show affinity with areas of the New Testament. These “areas of affinity” may be outright quotes, they may be indirect citations, they may be allusions, or they may simply have topical similarity using similar language for similar topics.

I’m also able to use the shortly-to-be-released Logos Edition of the Apostolic Fathers which makes this sort of work loads easier than it was before. It’s true, after long last the work on the Apostolic Fathers is done and it should be released on time — so hurry up and get the pre-pub price while you can!.

Basically, I’m working through where writings of the Apostolic Fathers are noted to have affinity with the Pastoral Epistles. I started in the Epistle of Barnabas. Here’s an example of an entry from The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers:

This short section provides the texts in question and a short (emphasis on short) discussion. But it’s a starting point. Basically I’m reviewing the texts and considering the linkages. You can check out my discussion on the Ep.Barn. 1.3-6 || Titus 3.5-7; 1.2 affinities.

I’m not writing this post to discuss linkages between the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and the NT (as cool as that would be). Instead, I’m going to shift to syntax. In looking at the above linkages, one notices the Greek ἐλπίδι ζωῆς (hope of life) prominent in both the Barnabas and Titus passages.

This prompted me to ask a few questions. First, I wondered how prominent this “hope of life” (Titus has “life eternal”) is in the NT, and second I wondered what other sorts of “hope” there were in the NT. And these questions can be answered with syntax searches.

I made the below video that sets up the search and shows the results. If one just searches the Greek NT for ἐλπίς, 48 verses (53 instances) are located. But there are 18 instances where “hope” is qualified in some way. There are only two instances where it is qualified by “life” (ζωῆς), and both of them are in Titus (the two examples cited above in relation to Barnabas).

Why do I bring this up? Well, with the advent of the syntactically tagged databases of the Greek New Testament, I find myself asking more and more questions like this. And I’m more and more able to run a syntax query (many of which share the same basic template that this search has) to get a clearer picture of some grammatical phenomenon without having to run a blunt concordance search, and then sift through the hits. I’m able to get more relevant, more meaningful instances of what I’m interested in and sift through less chaff in the process. And this has made my study of the New Testament deeper, which can only help my understanding and application. And to my mind, that’s what it’s all about.

Written by
Rick Brannan

Rick Brannan is a Data Wrangler for Faithlife. He manages a team that creates and maintains linguistic databases and other analyses of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, and writings of the Second Temple era. He resides in Bellingham with his wife, Amy, their daughter, Ella, and their son, Lucas.

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Written by Rick Brannan
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