The Monologue Culture ~ PART 2
Word Study: PREACH
There are a variety of Greek words used in the New Testament which are translated as: ‘PREACH’, ‘TEACH’ and ‘EXHORT’. I shall not attempt an exhaustive study of every last one but with the use of a Strong’s Concordance and other Bible Dictionaries it is easy to see and summarise the main words that are used and see them in their context.
PREACH (word 1) KERUSSO (Strong’s 2784)
Meaning: Herald (as public crier)
Also translated as: Preach, Proclaim, Publish
PREACH (word 2) EUAGGELIZO (Strong’s 2097)
Meaning: Announce good news
Also translated as: Declare, Glad Tidings
Glancing down the scores of references in Strong’s Concordance it is clear to anyone familiar with their New Testament that the vast majority of New Testament references to ‘Preaching’ are in the context of ‘Evangelism’. These were instances of the declaration of the Truths of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who had either never heard these things before or who were ‘return visitors’ curious to know more. There is nothing implied in the Greek words for ‘Preach’ that suggest either monologue or dialogue but the circumstances, physical surroundings and the Bible narratives that accompany many of these instances make it clear that questions were asked and interruptions were made. Jesus ‘preached’ to the Jews – in their Synagogues and in their streets. Paul also ‘preached’ to the Jews – in their Synagogues and he and others ‘preached’ to the Gentiles in their streets and other places (such as Mars Hill, a dedicated arena for philosophical and religious discussions among other things).
So, depending upon which English translation of the Bible you read the occurrence of the word ‘preach’ (and its derivatives: preached, preaching, preacher) is either always or nearly always in reference to a situation of evangelism.
A Notable Exception
One very notable exception where the word ‘preached’ is used (in the KJV and some other versions but not all) but is clearly not an occasion of ‘evangelism’ is in Acts 20:7.
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7 KJV)
There is no doubt that this gathering was an ‘in-house’ meeting, not an occasion for saving or warning the ‘lost’ but an occasion for those who were already part of the church. So, did Paul ‘KERUSSO’ or ‘EUAGGELIZO’ on that occasion? Neither, instead he used DIALEGOMAI. Or rather I should say that when recording what happened that night Luke, the author of Acts, said that Paul ‘DIALEGOMAI’ until midnight.
So let’s look at that word…
PREACH (word 3) DIALEGOMAI (Strong’s 1256)
Meaning: Say, Discuss
Also translated as: Dispute, Reason (with), Speak, Preach
In the KJV and some other translations the word ‘preach’ has been used here but it is the only time that DIALEGOMAI is translated as such. Some other translations use ‘spoke’ or ‘discourse’ instead. Please review the following references and see how Luke uses DIALEGOMAI elsewhere in the book of Acts: Acts 17:2, 18:4, 18:19, 24:25.
If you’ve just looked up the above references you’d be hard-pressed to believe that any of these situations were depicting a silent, passively attentive audience who never interrupted the speaker! As even the simplest student of etymology (study of the origins and development of words) can guess very easily, DIALEGOMAI is the root word from where we derive the English word ‘Dialogue’- which stands in complete contrast to ‘monologue’ of course. That late night gathering of the lovers of Jesus in Troas was not an occasion where one man spoke and all others present merely listened and never participated. I have no doubt that Paul had much to say to them. I have no doubt that those gathered together that night listened very attentively to what he had to say. And I equally have no doubt those other men in that room also spoke as part of this flow of DIALEGOMAI. What did they ask? What did they add? What did they query? What point did they seek clarification about? How many joined in the discussion? Did they all agree with everything Paul said!? How much of the time did Paul speak and how much time did others take up? I personally cannot answer any of the above with any accuracy but what I can say is, that night Paul did not deliver a ‘monologue sermon’. I am not aware of any place in the New Testament where Paul or any other Christian delivered a monologue sermon. The modus operandi, that night for sure, was DIALEGOMAI. It must however be said though that the Bible records, “Paul dialogued with them” not simply, “they all joined in a dialogue.” Therefore it is evident that Paul, and his words, were the focal point of discussion. So, this particular occasion was not a general free for all but rather a time led by one who had a God-given gift of ‘teaching through dialogue’.
Here’s how another word study source sums up DIALEGOMAI
HELPS Word-studies (taken from Biblehub.com)
1256 dialégomai (from 1223 /diá, “through, from one side across to the other,” which intensifies 3004 /légō, “speaking to a conclusion”) – properly, “getting a conclusion across” by exchanging thoughts (logic) – “mingling thought with thought, to ponder (revolve in the mind)” (J. Thayer).
1256 /dialégomai (“getting a conclusion across”) occurs 13 times in the NT, usually of believers exercising “dialectical reasoning.” This is the process of giving and receiving information with someone to reach deeper understanding – a “going back-and-forth” of thoughts and ideas so people can better know the Lord (His word, will). Doing this is perhaps the most telling characteristic of the growing Christian!
[1256 (dialégomai) is the root of the English term, “dialogue.”]
Summing up the word ‘Preach’ ~ Preaching Equals Evangelism
Leaving aside the odd translational anomaly (in particular Acts 20:7), normally wherever we read of ‘preaching’ (KERUSSO or EUAGGELIZO ) in our New Testament we should think of ‘declaring the truth’, ‘preaching the Gospel’, ‘attempting to convince the gainsayer’. In a word all Christians are familiar with: “Evangelism”.
But it is unfortunately necessary to point out yet another anomaly of ‘modern church’ in case any should yet misunderstand… Evangelism, in the New Testament, was not normally something that took place within church meetings (there is an exception to the rule mentioned in one of Paul’s letters but we cannot go there right now). Jesus sent his apostles ‘out’ ‘into the world’ to ‘preach’ – ‘evangelise’. Look up the long list in Strong’s Concordance and you will see that they preached in the synagogues (not to Christians but to the yet undecided Jews), they preached in the streets, they preached in pagan schools of philosophy, they preached in the hills and they preached in the countryside. But they didn’t usually preach (KERUSSO or EUAGGELIZO) in the church meetings. In that environment they used DIALEGOMAI – which we have just summarised, and DIDASKO – this latter word is mostly translated as ‘TEACH’. So let us now move onto the word ‘TEACH’ in the New Testament.
Go to PART 3 of this article: Word Study: TEACH