Full Text for New Testament Fellowship: A Study in Semantics (Text)

New Testament Fellowship: A Study in Semantics By R. T. Du BRAU IN the seventeen passages of the New Testament which employ 'XOLVffiVLU the associative idea is uppermost. One readily dis­tinguishes three chief usages of the term: 1) a common sharing in all spiritual-and sometimes material-gifts; logically fol­lowed by 2) mutual help and assistance by association in contrib­utory aid, all of which affects, and is effected by, 3) the existing intimate fellowship in the association as a divinely created and established communion of all believers in Christ. The Hellenistic use of 'XOLVffiVLU is at once versatile and restricted. It is versatile in its vivid shades of meaning and application. It is restricted by the Christian community to mean "the Communion of Saints," from its specific application of commttnion to the Sac­rament of the Altar, to its absolute sense in the "right hand of fellowship." This paper proposes a semantic examination of the varied but always associative use of 'XOLVffiVLU in the New Testament. Illus­trative examples will be adduced from such trustworthy papyri as have well-established readings and are without lacunae and from corroborative patristic literature. At times some ancient or modern translation will prove of further help in understanding the term. In no wise is the corpus of linguistic testimonials being exhausted in these pages, but the cases cited here are representative and of sufficient lexicological moment. FELLOWSHIP AS "COMMON SHARING" St Paul establishes a basis for New Testament fellowship when he thanks God for the Philippian "fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now": E:n:l 'tU 'XOLVffiVL<;X V~O)V EL~ 'to ElJUYYEALOV (Phil. 1: 5 ). His statements concerning the diffusion of the Gospel in v.7 (EV 'tU MOAOYL<;X 'Xul ~E~aLroO"EL 'tOU ElJUYYEALO'U <1'IJY'XOLVffiVOV~ !lO'U 'tfj~ xaQL't'o~) are anticipated here and should be read in con­nection with v.5. While the communion in the one true Gospel is 334 NEW TESTAMENT FELLOWSHIP: A STUDY IN SEMANTICS 335 indeed basic, the Apostle here prepares his O'UY%OLVCOVO[ for the common sharing of the Gospel and the participation in its exten­sion. United action is based on a common possession. The object is joined to the subject by means of the prepositional phrase Ei~ "to, and one can properly read "common participation in, and sharing of," the Gospel, or "union in, and uniting by," the Gospel. There is a very fine distinction here between communio and participatio. Patristic Greek continues the thought: "How can there be any sharing (%OLVCOVLO.) if nobody has anything?" laments Clemens Alexandrinus in the 13th chapter of his Quis Dives Sal­vetur. In the middle of the 4th century we have Cyril of Jerusalem, explaining in his five mystagogic catechizations the meaning of the baptismal rites to the newly baptized believers: ... (n)~l~OAOV ~v "tTj~ %mvcov[a~ "tTj~ m01j"to~ "tou ;(OV.l Translated into Latin, XOLvcov[a becomes communicatio in the Vulgate, but Theodore Beza prefers comrmtnio. There is a diver­gence in the chief Romance renditions, Italian: partecipazione; Spanish: comuni6n; and the curious but apt French: votre attache­ment a l'evangile. Among the Germanic translations Luther's "Gemeinschaft am Evangelium" covers the original and is parallel to the exact French. This is not quite so in the Swedish, where we have "deltagande i evangelium," nor in the simple Danish "Deltagelse." Representative English translations are illuminating as to the use of xOLvcov[a in this instance. The Authorized Version has "fellowship in the Gospel." The Brit. RV and the ARV agree in "fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel." The Revised Douay Version very explicitly renders, "your association with me in spread­ing the gospel," and Goodspeed translates very literally, "your cooperation in the good news." In Phil. 3: 10 Paul prays that he might know "the fellowship of His sufferings," i. e., Paul esteems it an honor to be associated with Christ in His sufferings, to participate in His sufferings. He welcomes being a cross-bearer with Jesus. Here the xOLvcov[a en­tails the taking up of His cross and following Him.2 The array of translations of this passage, ancient and modern, 336 NEW TESTAMENT FELLOWSHIP: A STUDY IN SEMANTICS is rather revealing. Jerome called the fellowship of Christ's suf­fering the societas passionum, while Beza translates, ut cognoscam eum ... et communionem perpassionum ejus.3 This time, the Italian 4 has no longer partecipazione, but "la comunione delle sue sofferenze." But, inversely, the Spanish now has participaci6n, while the French agrees with Beza and the Italians: "la communion de ses souftrances." Here the German still has Gemeinscha/t, but the Swedish is more precise: "delaktig­heten i hans lidenden," and Danish: hans Lidelsers Sam/lmd. Except for Goodspeed, who has "to share his sufferings," all English ver­sions follow the Authorized Version. In Philemon 6 occurs the significant phrase ~ I