Word of the Week
June 11, 2022
Anagkazō: Do I Have To?
Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side . . . .
He got up Sunday morning and sat on the edge of the bed, holding his head in his hands. After a long silence, he heaved a sigh and spoke to his wife:
“I’m just not up to going to church. I’m going to stay home today.”
“You can’t stay home, honey,” she replied. “You have to go. You’re the pastor!”
Sounds like the episodes where we had to push our kids to go to bed, pick up their toys, eat their vegetables, or stop hitting each other!
The Gospel of Mark uses a strong Greek word to describe a scene where Jesus had to pressure His disciples into doing something that was definitely not on their agenda.
It was the end of an incredibly eventful day. Jesus had planned a quiet retreat, but the crowds found Him. He taught them all day, then provided fish and bread for all 5000 of them.
What did the disciples want to do? Some were probably ready for a good night’s sleep. Others were probably on an adrenalin high, eager to capitalize on the enthusiasm of an excited crowd. People were ready to proclaim this miracle worker as the promised King. Surely this was the time to make a major move!
But Jesus had another idea: “Get into the boat and row back across the Sea of Galilee.”
No chance for rest. No chance to build on the momentum of the moment. How disappointing!
The Greek word translated “made” is anagkazō, which appears 9 times in the New Testament, usually rendered “compel, force, constrain.” It consistently has the idea of getting someone to do something they don’t particularly want to do.
- In his pre-Christian days, Saul of Tarsus tried to force Christians to speak against their Savior (Acts 26:11).
- Paul the imprisoned apostle was on trial before the Roman governor, but when it became apparent that he was going to be returned to Jerusalem, where assassins awaited him, he was forced to appeal his case to Caesar (Acts 28:19).
- The opposition to Paul in Corinth had grown to such a fever pitch that he was forced to go against his usual practice and to boast about his credentials as an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:11).
- Paul uses the word anagkazō three times in the book of Galatians. He is writing to warn the young churches against a breed of preachers who are attempting to push the Gentile Christians into adding all the customs and strictures of Judaism to their faith in Jesus. These false teachers, he explains, are trying to make themselves look good by compelling the Greeks to be circumcised (Galatians 6:12). Circumcision was a mark of membership in the Jewish people, and Paul makes it clear that it is not required for non-Jewish believers. When Titus, a Gentile Christian, traveled with Paul to Jerusalem for a summit meeting on this very issue, he “was not forced to be circumcised” (Galatians 2:3). Later on, Paul scolded Peter himself for backpedaling from fellowship with the Gentile church: “Why do you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:14).
- Jesus told a parable about a man who planned a massive banquet, only to find that the invited guests all cancelled, offering flimsy excuses. In response, he sent his servants to bring others to enjoy the feast, instructing them to “Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
A person might use physical force, as Saul of Tarsus did. It might be urgent persuasion, like the servants in the parable. Or the pressure might be anything between. But one way or another, anagkazō pictures someone pushing people to do what they would not choose to do on their own.
Peter, John and the rest of the disciples had no plans to end their day by launching the boat and sailing across the Sea of Galilee. It just didn’t mesh with their agenda. But Jesus had other ideas, and He insisted that they follow His plan, not theirs.
A few hours later, the men were sure that Jesus had made a mistake. A violent storm had hit and they were rowing furiously, getting nowhere. If they had just stayed on shore, they wouldn’t be in danger of sinking!
If they had stayed ashore, however, they would never have had the experience of watching Jesus walk on the water to join them and to calm the storm. Jesus pushed them into the boat to provide them with a lesson they would never forget!
There will be times when God shoves you into circumstances that you would not have picked. Is it wrong to tell the Lord that you prefer a different plan? No, we can always pray freely about every issue of life. But if He insists on substituting His plan for ours, we can trust that He knows what He is doing. He will either still the storm or still our hearts while we go through the storm.
The word anagkazō forms part of a cluster that includes the noun anagkē and the adjective anagkaios. Earlier Greek philosophers used these words to teach that there was is an impersonal force that controls all of reality, a built-in fate that determines everything. The Greek Old Testament used the same words, but replaced the idea of blind necessity with an all-powerful Creator who superintends the course of history. A complete study of this word group would include all these words.
Q – Can you help me out with the Greek word paraplēsios in Hebrews 2:14? Commentaries and lexicons seem to disagree on whether it means “likewise, in a manner that closely resembles” or goes beyond mere similarity to mean “in absolutely the same manner.” This distinction bears on the question of whether Jesus took on a fallen human nature or an unfallen nature like Adam before the Fall.
A – This word is usually translated “likewise,” and in Hebrews 2:14 it describes the way Jesus shared our human nature so that his death could provide atonement for our sin. As our weekly word studies show, almost all words have a range of meaning. Paraplēsios definitely means that two things are similar, but as one standard lexicon says, “The word does not show clearly just how far the similarity goes.”
A philosopher once tried to curb Alexander the Great’s egotism by pointing out that he was “paraplēsios to other men.” The emperor may have had unusual talents, but he was still part of the human race. Realistically, there will always be some differences between two similar people. The context determines how close the similarity is. That’s I don’t think we can settle the dispute about Christ’s human nature solely on the basis of this Greek word.
The New Testament sometimes uses expressions that seem odd to us. Next week we will try to diagnose the problem of the “evil eye.”
©Ezra Project 2022