Akribos: Living with Care

Word of the Week

January 8, 2022

Akribōs: Living with Care

 

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.

Ephesians 5:15 KJV

 

You hear the crash of shattering glass from the kitchen, and you recognize that one of the kids has just dropped a tumbler of juice.  Now you have to go in and clean up the mess.  As you turn the corner and walk over to get started, you’re watching very carefully where you step.  Who knows where those shards of glass have ended up?

That’s the image that comes to mind when I read Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:15 to “walk circumspectly.”  The English word circumspectly comes from Latin roots that mean “to look around.”  In modern English, we would probably say, “Walk carefully” or “Look before you take the next step.”

We tell our kids to be careful because we know how many dangers are out there.  They barge right into situations without thinking, so we try to teach them to pay attention to the hazards around them.

Learning to live carefully is one of the marks of maturity, and the apostle Paul highlights it in his catalog of “walking instructions” in the latter half of Ephesians.  He uses the Greek word akribōs (ah-krib-OHSS), usually translated “carefully, diligently, precisely.”  Perhaps the best way to get the flavor of the word is by viewing the fascinating array of people who do things “carefully.”

  1. Herod – The Paranoid (Matthew 2:7, 8, 16)

 

When the wise men arrived at Herod’s palace searching for a new king, Herod interrogated them “carefully” to determine the exact time when the star first appeared.

Then he instructed them to search “carefully” for the newborn monarch.

Any threat to the throne was too important to leave to chance, so Herod did his best to manipulate the wise men into locating the baby precisely – so that He could be eliminated.

 

  1. Sanhedrin – The Plotters (Acts 23:15, 20)

 

The Jewish Council was determined to get rid of the apostle Paul.  He was out of their reach in Roman custody, so they hatched a plot to bring him within range of their assassins.  “We will ask the commander to bring Paul to meet with the council so that we can investigate his case “more thoroughly.”  It sounded good – who could complain about a desire to get all the facts?  Too bad it was just a trick to lure him to his death!

 

  1. Felix – The Procurator (Acts 24:22)

Paul’s enemies sent a delegation to the Roman governor Felix, accusing the apostle of being a notorious troublemaker, a ringleader of a splinter group causing dissension in the Jewish community.  However, Felix had a “more exact” knowledge of the Christian movement.  He understood enough to resist this attempt to push him to a hasty condemnation of Paul.

  1. Paul – The Pharisee (Acts 22:3; 26:5)

Paul was in prison because he was accused of being a renegade against his own people, a traitor to his Jewish heritage.  However, he replied more than once that he had been trained under the noted rabbi Gamaliel and had lived according to the “strictest” standards of Jewish law, a Pharisee of the Pharisees.  In his younger years, he followed Jewish traditions more carefully than anyone else.

  1. Apollos – The Preacher (Acts 18:25, 26)

A young man named Apollos surfaced in the city of Ephesus proclaiming Jesus “accurately,” but not completely.  He knew only what John the Baptist had taught, so two more mature Christians took him under their wing and explains the faith “more accurately.”  Apollos took pains to present truth accurately, and he was willing to be taught so he could teach the whole truth.

  1. Luke – The Penman (Luke 1:3)

When Luke took pen in hand to record the life of Jesus, he invested considerable effort in doing research on the facts.  In the opening of his Gospel, he claimed that he had investigated everything “carefully” from the beginning to write it out in consecutive order.  Luke was not a sloppy writer; he took pains to do justice to the incredible story of Christ’s career.

Evil people can act akribōs- they can be thorough in carrying out their evil schemes.  How much more important for God’s people to be careful in walking through each day for His purposes!

Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living.  Christians realize that the thoughtless life is easily wasted.  Neither holiness nor ministry happens by accident.  We must approach each step purposefully.

Note how Paul finishes the idea in Ephesians 5:15-16.

  • Walking carefully requires wisdom.
  • Walking carefully enables you to make the most of your opportunities.
  • Walking carefully is necessary because the days are evil – full of obstacles and desperately in need of your light.
  • Walking carefully is not something you must do alone; the Holy Spirit makes it possible.

 

 

 

 

Study Hint:

The adverb akribōs is part of a cluster of related words.  We have included all of them in this discussion:

 

Akribēs (adjective) – strict, exact – Acts 26:5

Akriboō (verb) – to investigate carefully – Matthew 2:7, 16

Akribeia (noun) – exactness, strictness – Acts 22:3

 

Q/A:

Q – Does the Greek grammar in Matthew 1:16 support the Virgin Birth of Christ?

A – Yes, the genealogy of Jesus follows a rigid pattern from Abraham all the way down to Joseph.  The formula is “Abraham fathered Isaac, and Isaac fathered Jacob” and so on until we read “Jacob [a different Jacob] fathered Joseph.”  You would expect to read “Joseph fathered Jesus.” But that’s not what it says!

 

Instead, it says “Joseph the husband of Mary.”  And the next phrase says, “by whom was born Jesus.”  To seal the deal, we should notice that the word “whom” has a feminine ending.  It refers to Mary, not Joseph.  Note:  The gender of Greek nouns is somewhat arbitrary and often surprises you, but pronouns like “whom” follow definite rules, so this is solid information.

 

Coming Up

As you go through the early chapters of Matthew, both John and Jesus enter the scene calling on people to repent.  Repentance is a crucial and sometimes controversial feature of the Christian message, so we will take a closer look at the Greek word for repentance next week.

 

 

 

©Ezra Project 2022

One Response

  1. Dr. Bechtle, I must say that you really explain things very clearly, accurately and simply—in such a way that is easy-to-follow and comprehend. This is simply NOT the way the vast majority of academic professors teach, especially those who teach Greek! I know because I’ve heard many of them teach, and they are so abstract and intangible. But you are very tangible in your words and methods.

    Come to think of it, you’re a wonderful example of ακριβώς in action!

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