It is always fascinating to me how different words and phrases in scripture will catch my attention when I read a passage in a different language. I don’t know how many times I’ve read I Peter in English before, but today as I read it for the first time in Greek, a word in chapter 1, verse 18 stuck out to me. The verse reads thus:
“…οὐ φθαρτοῖς, ἀργυρίῳ ἢ χρυσίῳ, ἐλυτρώθητε ἐκ τῆς ματαίας ὑμῶν ἀναστροφῆς πατροπαραδότου…”
The English Standard Version says “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold.”
As you may be aware, words carry connotations that are unique to every person. This does not usually hinder understanding of scripture, and in English I can understand the verse just fine. But in Greek, when I read the word πατροπαραδότου, I thought about the word that it is derived from: παράδοσις, or “tradition.” My mind wandered to παραδοσιακές τυρόπιτες, traditional Greek cheese pitas (not so relevant), but then I thought of the traditional culture and religion of the Greeks.
Ever since I had the chance to spend four days in Greece last fall, I have been thinking about the church there and the possibility of teaching the good news in that country. As I roamed Athens, it was clear to me that the situation today is not all that different from when Paul first visited the city (see Acts 17). Greece is one of the most religious nations in Europe, and while almost the entire population claims Christianity and the divine origin of scripture, there is a great emphasis on tradition, and this word πατροπαράδοτος (literally, “father tradition”) accurately describes the Greeks today. In the Greek Orthodox Church, tradition is placed on an equal (or even higher) level to the scriptures, and although the Greek Orthodox are perhaps a little more conservative than the Catholics, there is still much in their religion that is inconsistent with scripture.
Peter was writing to Christians who had been set free from the empty traditional lifestyle of their fathers, as Christ had already paid their ransom with His blood. I believe Greece is also in need of Christ’s ransom, to be freed from their mistaken religion and to rediscover true Christianity. I’ve often thought about preaching the Word in Mexico, but when I compare the two countries, Greece has a much greater need. To my knowledge there are only three congregations of the Lord’s church in Greece, amongst much religious delusion. I certainly don’t know what God holds in my future, but I do know that I would be willing to go to Greece.
Ἰδοὺ ἐγώ εἰμι· ἀπόστειλόν με!