Pillar and Foundation - grammar question


#1

First, let me say that I am a completely orthodox Catholic, just so this post doesn’t appear to be a sneaky attempt to challenge Church authority. I do believe that the teaching Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. However, in the event that this question is ever posed to me, I had a grammatical question about 1 Tim. 3:15, which is often used as a “proof-text” for backing this assertion (and yes, I understand we don’t base our teachings on “proof-texts”, but on the three-part revelation, but still, this issue could come up).

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

I’m looking for a grammatical (probably Greek grammar) or contextual explanation for how the appositive works in this sentence. Given the placement of “the pillar and foundation of the truth”, which comes right after “God” and a comma, the sentence could be read that God is the pillar and foundation of the truth. For example, here’s a sentence with similar structure: If I don’t get home, you should know how to fix the lasagna, which is supper for Jimmy, our guest for this evening.

In that instance, because of the nature of appositives, “our guest for this evening” refers back to nearest noun, Jimmy, not to supper. My assumption is that the original Greek is much clearer and that the confusion is only in the translation. After all, couldn’t a protestant easily assert that Paul is saying God is the pillar and foundation of the truth without sounding silly. I just don’t know enough Greek to determine that. PLEASE don’t jump on me for this if I’m overlooking something silly. Just don’t want to be blindsided by this question should I ever be sharing my faith with someone who wants to play grammar games. Thanks.


#2

[quote=awfulthings9]First, let me say that I am a completely orthodox Catholic, just so this post doesn’t appear to be a sneaky attempt to challenge Church authority. I do believe that the teaching Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. However, in the event that this question is ever posed to me, I had a grammatical question about 1 Tim. 3:15, which is often used as a “proof-text” for backing this assertion (and yes, I understand we don’t base our teachings on “proof-texts”, but on the three-part revelation, but still, this issue could come up).

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

I’m looking for a grammatical (probably Greek grammar) or contextual explanation for how the appositive works in this sentence. Given the placement of “the pillar and foundation of the truth”, which comes right after “God” and a comma, the sentence could be read that God is the pillar and foundation of the truth. For example, here’s a sentence with similar structure: If I don’t get home, you should know how to fix the lasagna, which is supper for Jimmy, our guest for this evening.

In that instance, because of the nature of appositives, “our guest for this evening” refers back to nearest noun, Jimmy, not to supper. My assumption is that the original Greek is much clearer and that the confusion is only in the translation. After all, couldn’t a protestant easily assert that Paul is saying God is the pillar and foundation of the truth without sounding silly. I just don’t know enough Greek to determine that. PLEASE don’t jump on me for this if I’m overlooking something silly. Just don’t want to be blindsided by this question should I ever be sharing my faith with someone who wants to play grammar games. Thanks.
[/quote]

And what would be the real differance?
God IS the Pillar and Fondation. Christ IS God. The Church and Christ are ONE, Therefore…The Church is the Pillar and Foundation.


#3

I thought the same thing when I first read that. I come from a Methodist background and gramatically, that does make sense. But I think you need to dissect it a little further, line by line. The red is the key to this.

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

The red part I highlighted is one subject, the church of the living God. It is not two different subjects, Church and God, but one single subject. It is like saying the “house of my friend”. There are not two subjects there…there are two nouns but that does not make them two subjects in this context. Think of it as being wordy or rearrange it to say “the living God’s church”. The “pillar and foundation of truth” part is referring to the whole thought or subject, the “church of the living God”. If it would’ve read “which is the church, of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” Even then there is some wiggle room gramatically, but it isn’t what the Bible says so no need to worry about that, it is strictly hypothetical.

As for your example,“If I don’t get home, you should know how to fix the lasagna, which is supper for Jimmy, our guest for this evening.” Notice that in "which is supper for Jimmy, there are two subjects. The “supper” is one subject and it is “for Jimmy”, another subject.You could word that sentence even better by adding a comma between “supper” and “for Jimmy”. In any case, your take on the grammar in your example is correct but since the above mentioned Bible verse is not worded gramatically like your example, the two are completley different. The two are completley different.

I hope I have helped!

DU


#4

[quote=metal1633]And what would be the real differance?
God IS the Pillar and Fondation. Christ IS God. The Church and Christ are ONE, Therefore…The Church is the Pillar and Foundation.
[/quote]

Amen to that but I think it is good for him to have a grammatical explanation so if he ever has to defend this verse he can. But you are 100% correct, God is the pillar and foundation of truth and the Church that Christ established is the pillar and foundation of truth by the protection of the Holy Spirit. Got the whole Trinity in there!

DU


#5

“. . . ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας.”

“Pillar” and “foundation” are nominative.

Do they refer to “God”, which is genitive, or to “Church”, which is nominative?


#6

“. . . ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, στῦλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα τῆς ἀληθείας.”

“Pillar” and “foundation” are nominative.

Do they refer to “God,” which is genitive, or to “Church,” which is nominative?

I found this observation on a Greek discussion list:

. . . hEDRAIWMA and STULOS should be seen as appositives to EKKLHSIA, and I can’t see any justification whatsoever for construing hEDRAIWMA and STULOS as appositional to QEOU; and yes, those words would indeed need to be in the genitive to be appositional to QEOU.

(emphasis added)

So it seems that the nominative nouns “pillar” and “foundation” refer to the nominative noun “Church” and not to the genitive noun “God”.


#7

The Greek is “church of god living”, so in any sense, there seems to have been no real mistranslation and it is ONE subject, just like “house of mike” or any of the examples I mentioned before. Hope this helps!

DU


#8

Awfulthings says:

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

I’m looking for a grammatical (probably Greek grammar) or contextual explanation for how the appositive works in this sentence. Given the placement of “the pillar and foundation of the truth”, which comes right after “God” and a comma, the sentence could be read that God is the pillar and foundation of the truth. For example, here’s a sentence with similar structure: If I don’t get home, you should know how to fix the lasagna, which is supper for Jimmy, our guest for this evening.

Here’s my two cents worth. The example you have isn’t really structurally equivalent. You substituted the word lasagna for the word God.

I think it would’ve been more appropriate to use the phrase “dish of lasagna”.

Now let’s analyze your sentence. You said “which is supper”. In this case “supper” obviously points to “lasagna”. If you had instead stated "which is the serving platter of choice for Jimmy. Then this would point to the “dish”, not the Lasagna.

So the real analysis takes place in the meaning after the comma. In other the words the meaning of “Pillar and foundation”. Pillar is a metaphor for a “support”. A Pillar stands on a foundation, and supports an overhead structure. In this case the overhead structure is the Truth, and God is the Truth. So if you want to say that the Pillar points to God, then his makes no sense. For God is not a support. It makes more sense to say that a Pillar is a metaphor for a “church”, which, as we all know in our hearts, should be supporting the truth.

Chipper


#9

[quote=Chipper]Awfulthings says:

Here’s my two cents worth. The example you have isn’t really structurally equivalent. You substituted the word lasagna for the word God.

I think it would’ve been more appropriate to use the phrase “dish of lasagna”.

Now let’s analyze your sentence. You said “which is supper”. In this case “supper” obviously points to “lasagna”. If you had instead stated "which is the serving platter of choice for Jimmy. Then this would point to the “dish”, not the Lasagna.

So the real analysis takes place in the meaning after the comma. In other the words the meaning of “Pillar and foundation”. Pillar is a metaphor for a “support”. A Pillar stands on a foundation, and supports an overhead structure. In this case the overhead structure is the Truth, and God is the Truth. So if you want to say that the Pillar points to God, then his makes no sense. For God is not a support. It makes more sense to say that a Pillar is a metaphor for a “church”, which, as we all know in our hearts, should be supporting the truth.

Chipper
[/quote]

So was my answer complete and correct? Just checking so I know where I need to beef up my apologetic skills at.

DU


#10

Snowman says:

So was my answer complete and correct? Just checking so I know where I need to beef up my apologetic skills at.

Well Snowman, I don’t know enough about what you were saying to really be able to judge that.

It seemed to me you were basically saying that “church of the living God”, is all one meaning. And it my mind it is. But it is a Church that I perceive here. I don’t see the church as God. But rather the I see the church as the body of Christ, with Jesus as it’s head. A living breathing visible church, in support of God., and a part of God (Body of).

Calvin


#11

I wish Tim Staples would jump in here…Tim, are you there???


#12

Thanks all,

Very big help.

First off, I have to defend my grammar analysis a bit. Snowman, you were slightly off by suggesting that “supper for Jimmy” contained two subjects. In that case, “for Jimmy” is not a subject because it is a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases modify other words - in this case it is acting as an adjective to describe supper (whose supper). “of God” is a prepositional phrase and functions the same way to modify “church”. I’m not trying to nit-pick here, though, Jimmy. Just needed to clarify for the rest of my post - don’t think I’m being a jerk, it’s just that in both instances the use of a modifying prepositional phrase is consistant and there is only one subject (though actually church is a predicate nominative, not a subject, renaming the pronoun “which”). If I created a sentence diagram for either, the words church and supper would be on a line while the adjectival prepositional phrases break underneath them.

However, I do agree that my grammar was off, but more so in the way that Chipper pointed out, in that I should have been consistant and substituted the same word for “God” in both sentences. The parallel structure was broken in my example.

BUT, I think I got my answer. First, Vincent, your analysis of the Greek grammar seemed convincing. Just clarify for me, what exactly is “genitive” case? I take it it’s not the same as objective case, which “God” is as the object of the preposition. Could you clarify so I can explain to others.

Also, Chipper, your argument really makes great sense in that God is the truth, so “pillar” and “foundations” can’t be God since they are upholding the truth. God wouldn’t uphold himself The church, though, upholds the truth of God.

Actually, I thought of another reason while writing to Jimmy. If, as I pointed out, church is really a predicate nominative renaming “which”, then that means that the text has already used a dependent clause to rename “house of God”. It makes sense, then, that for consistancy the appositive would have continued with that theme and modified church instead of God.

Got it. Still want clarification on “genitive”, though. Thanks.


#13

You’re welcome, awful!

The genitive case is often used to denote possession. For example, in 1 Tim. 3:15, θεοῦ (theou) is translated as “of God”.


#14

Seems Vincent above has the answer but I would suggest checking out different translations. No one translation is definitive. For example The Jerusalem Bible as used widely in Europe says “…that is in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe.”

Peace.


#15

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