Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

You are here

Exegetical Insight (Chapter 11)

Small words sometimes carry a big punch, especially when combined with other features of the Greek language. Pronouns can be those kind of small words. They, like moving vans, can carry a big load. I am thinking of a particularly sinister example of this in Jesus’ temptations in Luke 4:6. The devil has taken Jesus on a cosmic ride so he can see all the kingdoms of the world. Then he says to Jesus, “To you I will give all of this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall be yours."

Here is a great (but deceitful) offer, and all the freight is carried in the various exchanges of personal pronouns throughout the passage. To read through the verse one must follow the bouncing ball through various pronoun changes. The devil (I, me) offers authority over all the earth (it), if Jesus (you, yours) will but worship the devil.

But there is one other touch to this verse. To sweeten the offer the pronoun “to you” (soi) is put at the front of the Greek sentence for emphasis in verse 6. Though some translations suggest this emphasis (RSV), a knowledge of Greek reveals its significance. The devil makes the personal and unique nature of the offer clear. The devil is saying, “This offer is just for you!” He tries to present the offer in as attractive a way as possible to Jesus. It is a good thing the devil is not a used car salesman! Fortunately, loyalty to God was more important to Jesus than seizing power. He did not let the devil’s use (and abuse) of pronouns trip him up.

Darrell L. Bock