. Word of the Week
September 17, 2022
Paradidōmi: Hand It Over!
As they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.”
Matthew 26:21 NASB
Benedict Arnold betrayed his country. He attempted to hand over the American fort at West Point to the British during the War for Independence, and his name has been a symbol of treachery ever since.
Judas Iscariot betrayed his Master. He earned a few shekels by showing the Sanhedrin’s mob where to find Jesus, and he has been known as the arch-traitor ever since.
In English, the word “betrayal” describes one of the most hurtful, heinous offenses imaginable. The Greek word used for betrayal has a much wider range of unexpected meanings. In fact, the New Testament term can cover some very good actions!
In Greek, the word commonly translated “betray” is paradidōmi. You’ll find it about 120 times in the New Testament and it appears over 200 times in the Greek Old Testament. The core meaning is “to hand over” someone or something, to deliver or pass down. Paradidōmi stems from two Greek words meaning “alongside” and “to give.” It covers any situation where one person transfers something to another person.
Judas handed Jesus to the Jewish authorities in a disloyal act against someone who didn’t deserve it. It is fitting to describe that as betrayal. Jesus even warned His disciples that it was going to happen (Matthew 26:2), and that they would later experience similar treatment (Mark 13:9).
In the Roman world, paradidōmi often served as a technical term in the legal system for handing a person over to the authorities for trial. Judas delivered Jesus to the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:10), the Sanhedrin sent Jesus to Pilate (Mark 15:1), and Pilate turned Him over to the execution squad for crucifixion (Mark 15:15).
The trial of Jesus was a mockery of justice motivated by vindictive enemies, and many of His followers have experienced similar treatment. The persecuted church today knows what it is like to have family and neighbors paradidōmi them to hostile authorities.
However, the same word could be used for legitimate law enforcement. When a policeman arrests a criminal and hauls him to jail, he is “handing him” over for trial. On a cosmic scale, God Himself hands people over to face judgment. Three times in Romans 1, we read that God gave a rebellious race over to the consequences of their sin (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). It can even happen in the church! Paul announced that he was handing an offender over to Satan to face the consequences of their sin (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20).
But that’s not all that you can “hand over”!
- The scribes and Pharisees handed down a boatload of traditions, burdened with complicated restrictions that could obscure God’s real demands (Mark 7:13).
- As Paul and Barnabas revisited the churches in Galatia, they passed on the decision of the Jerusalem Council that confirmed the good news that Gentiles could come to God without adopting Judaism (Acts 16:4).
- In Corinth, Paul delivered the core truths of the gospel that he had received (1 Corinthians 15:3).
- Jude called on Christians to stand firm for the faith that had been handed down to them (Jude 3).
- One of Christ’s parables featured a landowner who handed a sum of money to his servants to invest during his absence (Matthew 25:14).
- On the cross, Jesus shouted, “It is finished” and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).
There is no place for betrayal in the Christian life, but there are times when “handing over” is precisely the right thing to do. The church at Antioch entrusted Paul and Silas to the grace of God when they embarked on a ministry trip together (Acts 15:40), and there are many times when we need to hand a brother or sister over to God’s gracious hand. When Christ suffered, He kept entrusting Himself to the Father who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23) – and we can hand our fate to a trustworthy Father.
Satan once claimed that the kingdoms of the world had been handed over to him (Luke 4:6), and it is easy to see the effect of his evil schemes today. However, the day will come when every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, and every rival power will be abolished. It will all be in the hands of Jesus, who will hand it over to the Father in history’s climax (1 Corinthians 15:24).
What is in your hand, and to whom will you hand it?
Paradidōmi is a surprisingly common word with an exceptionally wide range of meanings. It is a clear example of the fact that words have multiple meanings. There may be a core concept at the root of it all, but you cannot translate this word without looking at the context.
The word occurs most commonly in the Gospels, where it most often describes Christ’s betrayal, trial and execution. It has the meaning of betrayal later in the New Testament mostly in descriptions of the sufferings of Jesus. Elsewhere, however, it changes shape frequently. Context is important!
It is helpful to remember the primary sense of “hand over, hand to, deliver” – it may throw surprising light on a familiar passage.
Q – I just read an explanation of Ephesians 2:7, which says God will show His grace “in kindness.” The writer said that the Greek word for kindness means a desire to do what is in your power to prevent discomfort in another. Is that a good explanation of the verse?
A – The Greek word there is chrēstotēs (kray-STAH-tays) which is often translated “goodness” or “kindness.” I haven’t found this exact explanation in the standard Greek dictionaries that I consulted, where the word has a wider meaning of “good” in various ways. It is true, however, that it often has the idea of gracious thoughtfulness. The writer’s explanation is a useful way to describe the word when it is used in that sense.
Word of the Week has been around since November 2018 and we have just opened up the archives so that you can see all the previous articles. To spotlight this enhanced feature, we will revisit one of the earliest blogs and show you how to find the word you want.
©Ezra Project 2022