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The word apostleship
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Hellenist Disciple
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September 26, 2021 - 11:02 am

Found in Rom. 1:5, 1 Cor. 9:2 and Gal. 2:8 (and potentially in not-yet-translated Acts 1:25), it seems to me as a Christianese word (and maybe an unnecessarily narrow choice).

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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September 26, 2021 - 6:26 pm

Hmm.  The only other word I can think of to fit it would be "commission". 

  • "we received grace and a commission to accomplish the obedience of faith"
  • "for you are the seal of my commission in the Lord."
  • "for the One who worked in Peter’s commission to the circumcised "

It works, however there's a few issues with taking that route.  Translating it "commission" severs it from the word association with "apostle".  That is, anyone who reads "apostleship" will immediately understand it has something to do with being an apostle.  However, that connection is lost when you translate it "commission". 

Now, "apostolic commission" is a possibility, as it keeps the association intact and also keeps the idea of sending out. 

  • "we received grace and an apostolic commission to accomplish the obedience of faith"
  • "for you are the seal of my apostolic commission in the Lord."
  • "for the One who worked in Peter’s apostolic commission to the circumcised "

The only downside might be that I know the phrase "apostolic" carries a certain connotation among Catholics and former Catholics.  Would that association change the nuance enough to make it a bad idea? 

Further, is there other nuance that could be affected?  A change in meaning perhaps?  If you look at definition #4 in Thayer's, it says it also refers to an officer or position.  Does "apostolic commission" veer too far from that meaning? That is, does "apostolic commission" stray too far from the word's meaning?

Hmm. 

Thoughts?

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Hellenist Disciple
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September 28, 2021 - 6:47 pm

The connotation in Catholicism strengthens the case that "apostleship" is a Christianese, because "apostolic commission" literally means "the commission of those who got committed". Although the word "apostleship" makes an obvious connection to being an apostle, this connection was not intended in the text, because commissions were given to non-apostles as well. In the case of the New Testament, the important commission was not given to the apostles, but to the disciples. It was for their commission that Jesus named them apostles. Moreover, there is no other word in Greek that means "commission" (which is very convenient in a word-for-word translation, because it works both ways). Therefore, I would go with plain "commission" (optionally with a footnote).

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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September 29, 2021 - 10:59 am

This does bring up a related issue: how to translate "apostle".  Since you're right that no other Greek word means commission, then should "apostle" be looked at also?  Something like "Paul, a man who was commissioned" or something like that.  It's super wordy but there's probably a way to condense that.  However, that brings other issues up.  To keep the word relationships intact, I'd like consistency.  So apostles/apostleship, or "one who has been commissioned"/commission accomplishes that.

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October 2, 2021 - 9:35 am

You are right that the word "apostle" should not be overlooked while considering the word "apostleship". However, for a long time these two words did not co-exist. According to etymonline.com, the word "apostle" is essentially a transliteration of the respective Greek word (through Latin and Old English), while the word "apostleship" is an English word made up sometime in the Middle Ages, not chained back to a Greek word (neither forward for that matter). Therefore, in this case the argument for consistency from the common grammatical root is not supported by an accompanying common historical root.

Compare this to the pair of words "Christ"/"Christian", which were both present at the time of the New Testament. Are you ready to also replace the transliterated word "Christian" (currently in 1 Peter 4:16, and in the future in Acts 11:26 and 26:28) with a phrase like "followers of the Anointed", given that you have meticulously replaced the transliterated word "Christ" with the English word "Anointed" (effectively severing it from the word association with "Christians")? In that light, the use of the word "commission" has a stronger justification than the use of the word "Anointed", because the word "apostleship" does not transliterate a Greek word, while the word "Christ" does.

After all, by being Anointed, Jesus was also an apostle (Heb. 3:1), commissioned among other things to commission the apostles (John 17:18). In the ancient text, the emphasis of all these words was not on Thayer's office or position (thus apostleship), but on authority and duty (thus commission).

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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October 3, 2021 - 8:51 pm

You're right that "apostle" is merely a transliteration of "apostolos", but "apostleship" is a transliteration of "apostolé", with using the English suffix "ship" to properly indicate the corrisponding English noun form (more about the English suffix "ship" here).  Both apostolos/apostle and apostolé/apostleship are from apostelló, the verb form, so they do share a common heritage.

Contrast that with "Christ", which has - in effect - become Jesus' last name instead of a descriptive title. When I came across "Christian" I did noodle on that for a while, trying to decide if it should be translated as you suggest. However, "Christian" does preserve the word's meaning without severing it from "Christ". While the connection isn't obvious from the word's form, it is obvious from the word's meaning/definition.

Since apostolos/apostolé share a common heritage, then how apostolos/apostle is translated has a massive impact on apostolé.  I can't think of another way to translate apostle that isn't incredibly wordy.  So the question then would be: "does the English word "apostle" capture the meaning of apostolos or not?"  If so, then apostleship is perfectly appropriate.  if not, then the translation of apostolé would rest on the translation of apostolos. 

If you'd like to discuss apostolos in more detail - which seems like it might be necessary - then please create a new thread to keep things orderly and to make the discussion easier for others to find/take part in.  We can come back to this thread once we've finished with apostolos.

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October 4, 2021 - 8:06 am

Since the English word "apostle" simply transliterates the Greek word "apostolos", it doesn't capture any meaning, it needs an explicit definition (and so does the word "Christ"). However, I don't have a good suggestion for it (so I don't create a thread). At least that Greek word took its special meaning (i.e. beyond "the commissioned one" to mean "one of the twelve") within the New Testament itself (as its natural usage "apostles of the Anointed" gave its place to plain "apostles"). And the same has happened with the word "Christos", it was not long before it got used as a name more unique at the time than the name "Jesus" (maybe as early as Mat. 1:16, where the word "Christ" should probably remain without translation).

But this is not the case with the word "apostolē", as it has maintained the generic meaning "mission" to present day, without any connotation to the twelve apostles. To my knowledge, it was never understood to mean "apostleship", not even by Greek Christians. This is not by coincidence. Consider words like "craftsmanship", "salesmanship", "sportsmanship" etc. They are all composite nouns, produced from a root noun, after two steps of adding the suffixes "man" and "ship", with an intermediate noun produced after the first step too. The word "apostleship" corresponds to the last step. The word "apostle" corresponds to the first step. The word "apostolē" corresponds to the root noun. This should clarify the distance of its meaning from the meaning of the word "apostleship".

Indeed the word "Christian" cannot be confused (except maybe with the modern human name "Christian" in some languages). But the word "apostleship", while retaining the grammatical connection through its root, it misses the historical connection, because "apostolē" means "commission" and "apostleship" simply doesn't. There is no single Greek word that means "apostleship", but there is one that means "commission", and this is the word "apostolē". For that reason, the word "apostleship" is not a perfect choice. It is up to you to decide whether its grammatical connection is more important than its meaning. In the case of the word "Anointed" you have decided to give priority to its meaning.

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