Great Information/Illustration - Where or how do I find this in the future?

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Bob Turner | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 21 2011 10:37 AM

This morning I was reading MacArthur's "Drawing Near" devotional and I came across this great nugget of information:

The Greek word translated “sincere” (pure in ESV) in verse 10 speaks of genuineness and authenticity. It literally means “without wax” and is an allusion to the practice of inspecting pottery by holding it up to the sunlight. In ancient times pottery often cracked during the firing process. Rather than discarding cracked pieces, dishonest dealers often filled the cracks with wax and sold them to unsuspecting customers. Holding a pot up to the sunlight revealed any flaws and protected the customer from a bad purchase.

Following that analogy, Biblical integrity requires that you be without wax, having no hypocrisy or secret sins that show up when you’re under pressure or facing temptation.

My question is... How would I have found this information on my own? Lets say I was preaching on this verse and wasn't reading this in a devotional.  I would want this type of great illustration & information to teach to my congregation.   I tried looking in LN, Strongs, and others...  I did a search for the word "pure" and even the Lemma for this word, some of my Lexicons (BDAG, TDNT, etc.) alluded to the "holding it up to sunlight" part, but gave no information as to the "cracked pottery filled with wax"... which makes the "holding up to sunlight" make much more sense and gives a very memorable word picture as well.   So how would I have found this manually?  Any great resources that are great for pointing this stuff out to a guy who doesn't want to read through his entire library after searching for the lemma?  Busy pastor hoping not to swim through thousands of recourses.  :) Any wisdom would be appreciated...

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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 21 2011 12:31 PM

Hi Bob

I have heard this also - but the more I think about it the less convinced I am!

I have a (small) collection which contains resources looking at language issues including Word Pictures in the New Testament and Word Studies in the New Testament.

They both talk about being pure / unsullied as per:

Sincere (εἰλικρινεις [eilikrineis]). Old word of uncertain origin from κρινω [krinō], to judge, by εἱλη [heilē] (sunlight) or to sift by rapid rolling (εἰλος [eilos]). At any rate it means pure, unsullied.

A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Php 1:10 (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997).

Wuest's Word Studies similarly has:

“Sincere” is from a Greek word which means “distinct, unmixed, pure, unsullied.” There is no hypocrisy about such a saint. His life is open like a book waiting to be read.

Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English Reader, Php 1:10 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).

There is an argument that "sincere" comes from the Latin "sine cere" meaning without wax (as per as opposed to it being the translation of the Greek word.

But I could be totally wrong!


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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 21 2011 2:04 PM

Bob Turner:
My question is... How would I have found this information on my own?

Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series, Vol. 10) by Robert Beekes & Lucien van Beek

Unfortunately (for you) I'm not going to make a special trip to the library to learn what the source says - although you have piqued my curiosity.Sad But don't fall into the etymological fallacy - there is still the question as to the continued awareness of the etymology.

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fgh | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 21 2011 2:23 PM

MJ. Smith:
Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series, Vol. 10) by Robert Beekes & Lucien van Beek

Sounds like something we should have in Logos. I like etymological dictionaries! I could use ones of both English, Greek and Hebrew.

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Pat Flanakin | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 21 2011 3:56 PM

Not sure what area of Scripture you are reading, but the Bible Knowledge Commentary commentary on 2 Pet. 3:1 states that the latin for sincere means "without wax."

I think the most basic Logos package as the BKC.  Just use basic "search" and type in "Greek sincere without wax" (quotes added to setoff here, but don't use quotes in the search field).

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 21 2011 4:15 PM

Normally the best resources at revealing this sort of information (i.e. definitions of words in context) are:

  • Word Pictures in the New Testament
  • Word Studies in the New Testament
  • Wuest's Word Studies in the Greek New Testament

But in this case, I think Graham's right - MacArthur's overstating the case, I fear. It seems to be true of the English word (from the Latin), but not necessarily from the Greek. MacArthur seems to acknowledge it's from the Latin in his Study Bible:

“Sincere” means “genuine,” and may have originally meant “tested by sunlight.” In the ancient world, dishonest pottery dealers filled cracks in their inferior products with wax before glazing and painting them, making worthless pots difficult to distinguish from expensive ones. The only way to avoid being defrauded was to hold the pot to the sun, making the wax-filled cracks obvious. Dealers marked their fine pottery that could withstand “sun testing” as sine cera—”without wax.”


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