With This Ring (part2): The Holy Spirit as our “Arrabon”

(What did Paul mean when he referred to the Holy Spirit as our Arrabon ? Does the term arrabon have any special insight to offer as to the Father’s intentions regarding the Church?  In part two we go a little further in our attempts to gain new perspective into the wonderful gift God has give us.)

“The word arrabon has one of the most human and interesting backgrounds of all NT words.”[1]

The word is very common in the papyri in business documents and agreements  Milligan quotes some very interesting usages of it. We take three of them as    examples. A woman selling a cow and she received one thousand drachmae as an arrabon that the remainder of the price would be paid. Certain dancing girls were being hired for a village festival and they are paid so many drachmae in advance  as an arrabon, with proviso that this already paid sum will be taken into account when the final payment is made after the performance has been given. And-a rather amusing instance-a man writes, ‘Regarding Lampon, the mouse catcher, I  paid him for you as arrabon eight drachmae in order that he may catch the mice  while they are with young.’[2]

A tablet was found at Pech-Maho, a fortified trading post occupied from sixth century BC to the third century BC, and is “particularly revealing, because it involves an agreement between people of different origins, as is clear from the names. Witnesses are invoked and an arrabon is given as a pledge. ‘The pledge [arrabon] I handed over where the boats are moored…Basigerros and Bleruas and Golo.biur and Sedegon; these were [witnesses] when I handed over the pledge.’”[3]  Parchments [shopkeeper’s accounts] dug up in the sands of Egypt revealed that arrabon was the word used “for cash on deposit, a pledge for a bill that you would pay at the end.”[4]  The populace of the first century would have been well acquainted with the term arrabon.

  In the first century – an arrabon – αρραβων – bound someone legally to the  complete purchase…  Now the New Testament was written in the common,  ordinary language of the people of that era – in what is known as Koine-Greek.  “Koine” is a term that means “common.” So the term “Koine-Greek” means “Common Greek” indicating it was the commonly used Greek language… Now although arrabon was only used three times in the New Testament, it was a  common word used daily in the lives of everyone living in the New Testament   era.[5]

and again,

In the last seventy-five years through the discovery and examination of countless“ordinary” documents of the time of Christ, we have been able to recapture   something of the language of the day: in bills and receipts, deeds and grocerylists, in letters from traveling fathers, anxious mothers, and prodigal sons. Let us look at just one example. The idea of buying on the installment plan, with a small  initial down payment, is nothing new. Contracts and bills of sale from the first century record such transactions and specify the down-payment which seals andbinds the contract; the word used for this initial payment is “arrabon,” the very  word…[6]

It is worth noting that although one may be tempted to make comparisons between arrabon and terms used in modern society, such as “down payment”, there really is no justification for the comparison. In today’s down payment arrangement, one may decide to forfeit on the desired purchase; on the other hand, an arrabon was/is legally binding. There really is no adequate English terminology that fully captures the significance of arrabon.[7]

    Arrabon, its etymology and employment within the vernacular of the first century has been adequately considered, but it should be noted, at this point, that the term is also still used in today’s modern Grecian culture and this is of particular interest to this writer in that its contemporary usage, while definitely retaining the aspect of something given at the present in assurance of future consummation, possesses a distinctively intimate quality as well. The arrabon of modern Greece has to do with the engagement period prior to an actual wedding.

Among the Greeks, the arravon [arrabon] is the betrothal period, and is itself a formal ceremony. It takes place among the relatives of the contracting parties, and is looked upon almost as binding as the actual wedding itself.[8]  “If we went to Greece today and met an engaged lady and asked to see her arrabon, she would put out her hand with an engagement ring on it.  In modern Greek, that is what the word means.”[9] In the opinion of this writer, it would be redundant to cite the many references available as to the present day usage of arrabon. Scholars such as John MacArthur[10] and Michael Green[11] all attest to the fact that arrabon is the term used today, among modern Greeks, when referring to wedding engagement. It is this aspect of arrabon that prompted this writer to choose the title he selected for the writing at hand. The idea that by giving the Spirit as an arrabon, the eternal Lord and master of all creation has, in effect, said to his beloved, the church, “With this ring, I thee wed.”

To be continued…


7. William Barklay, New Testament Words, (Louisville, Kentucky, John Knox Press, 2000), 58.

8. Ibid., 58, 59.

 9. William Allen Johnson and Holt N. Parker, Ancient Literacies: The Culture of Reading in Greece and Rome, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2009), 26.

 10. Lesslie Newbigin and Paul Weston, Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Theologian: A Reader, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 138.

11. Richard Coombes, “Biblical Vocabulary Term: Arrabon,” Alpha Omega Report (2009) http://aoreport.com/ao/biblical-studies-mainmenu-68/1265-biblical-vocabulary-term-arrabon, (accessed March 21, 2011).

  12. Joel Frank, “The Use of Modern Translations and Their Effect in replacing The King James Version,” wlessays.net (1971) www.wlsessays.net/files/FrankModern.rtf, (accessed March 21, 2011).

  13. Richard Coombes, “Biblical Vocabulary Term: Arrabon,” Alpha Omega Report (2009) http://aoreport.com/ao/biblical-studies-mainmenu-68/1265-biblical-vocabulary-term-arrabon, (accessed March 21, 2011).

14. Lucy M. Garnett, “The Christian Women of Turkey,” Womanhood Vol.3 (December, 1899-May 1900): 340.

 15. David Eckman, “Life Solutions Series on God The Trinity: God The Holy Spirit,” BWGI Ministries (2005) http://www.whatgodintended.com/content/god-spirit.asp, (accessed March 23, 2011).

 16. John MacArthur, Galatians: New Testament Commentary (Chicago, Il.: Moody Publishers, 1987), 66.

17. Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), 101.

House on the Risen Son

By now every one knows about how the “housing bubble” burst here, in America. But what we don’t hear a lot about are the spiritual houses collapsing around us everyday.  Luke 6:46-49 has this to say:

46 So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.

 If we look closely at this passage from Luke, a couple of obvious things stand out: coming, hearing, and doing. I like how the scriptures  point out  the way Jesus would wait upon the Father, continuously seeking Him, and hearing from Him as to what to do and what to say. We find that Jesus said, “I’m never alone because I always do that which pleases the Father.” Jesus continuously came to the Father, he continuously listened to the Father’s words, and finally; he always did what the Father showed him. Jesus’ relationship with the Father had the same characteristics he talks about in our section out of Luke 6. If we are to avoid a housing collapse in our lives we need to understand  what Jesus was talking about in regards to this Coming, Hearing, and Doing. Let’s look first at the Coming.

As most of  you know, our English New Testaments were translated from Greek manuscripts, and sometimes looking at a verse as it is written in the Greek will bring out aspects of the verse we might otherwise miss. In the case of our passages out of Luke 6, the original Greek brings out clearly that the coming to him Jesus has in mind is a continuous coming to him. The Greek reads, πᾶς ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με or,  “Everyone who is coming to me” Just as Jesus went continually before the Father, so we must continually come to Christ. So many refer back to the time they came to Christ, “Yeah, 20 years ago I got saved…” But are we coming to him today?  Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the Father. Our relationship with Jesus must be an on going, right now, present tense relationship. Remember during their time in the wilderness, after the Exodus, the children of Israel were to gather fresh manna every morning. In Moses’ tabernacle, fresh bread was placed upon the table of show bread every Sabbath. It was not allowed to get stale. Brothers and sisters our coming to Christ must be continuous. There is fresh bread but we must come!

The Greek also depicts this coming as something that we do. It carries the aspect of the subject (us) doing something intentionally, with his own benefit in mind. (We Americans ought to be good at this: “What am I going to get out of this?”) This is an intentional coming to Christ on our part. So often we think that we are just going to magically grow in Christ through some kind of osmosis, but; Jesus is saying here in Luke 6 that it is you and I who are to come to him on purpose, continually. Let me ask you to think for a moment… What do you continuously run to? We intentionally go to the TV, the computer, our entertainment,  our families, and the list goes on and on, but; do we intentionally turn aside and draw near to hear God speak to us?  We ask God for his grace for this and that, but; what about asking him for the grace to seek his face. Grace is not solely for when we mess up.  Grace is the power of the kingdom! Let’s ask him for the grace to seek his face.

We also need to see here in Luke 6 that Jesus said we are to be continuously coming to HIM, hearing Him, and doing His word. It’s all in Him! So many of us spend our time running here and there, looking for the latest word from this one or that one, and; Jesus wants us to be coming to him, and hearing his words.  Intimacy with Christ is the key thing here. Let me tell you something, “God is not hiding out in the Bible.” Now understand me, the Bible is the inspired word of God profitable for teaching, correction, reproof and training in righteousness, so that you and I can be adequate and equipped for every good work; but the only way we can properly understand this book is through relationship with Christ. This is what Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39, 40, “You search the scriptures but you don’t see that they speak of me, and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life.” This book speaks of him! The Bible is not intended to be worshiped or as some kind of magic book with spells in it that will magically give us eternal life- No!! This book is to bring us to Jesus. We can read this book every day (the Jews had most of it memorized, and oh yeah, the devil can quote it too), but if we are not continually coming to Christ, they are merely words on a page.

Here is  the best part of all: Even though our passage tells us that our continuous coming to Christ is something we do ourselves, he is the one that makes first contact!  Remember  the story of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9? Remember he was the crippled son of Jonathan who David sought out to show mercy and kindness to? (See our post Mephibosheth Saith)  Like David, your King is seeking you out, he will carry you into his presence himself, and he will make the way. Mephibosheth was not seeking David, David sought him. And Jesus is seeking you!

The first step in building a House on the Risen Son is a continual coming to Jesus!

(Next time we’ll look into the hearing part.)