The Greeks Had a Word for it: "Antilepsis"

You don’t need to be a Greek scholar to understand the New Testament. However, the original language in which the books were written was a uniquely concise and precise mode of expression. Although it is quite possible to convey the meaning sufficiently accurately in other languages, some things do get lost in translation.

In this column, we will "unpack" one of the Greek words of the New Testament to show the fuller meaning wrapped up in the original word. Take for instance the word that is translated as "helps," listed along with apostles, prophets, teachers and other positions and appointments of the church in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

The Greek word Paul used to describe this position is αντíληψις — antilepsis. It is the noun form of a verb that means "to take hold of the other side," and that explains quite graphically what Paul means by "helps."

Say you see someone trying to move a heavy table. You take hold of the other end and help. You see a mess that needs cleaning up, or an elderly member or a young mother needing assistance, and you step in to help by "holding up your end" of their need. Someone who "takes hold" doesn’t have to wait to be asked or officially appointed — they just help. They know what it means, and how important it is, to "share the load."

A church can have too many people clamoring to be in the "prestigious" positions. We are warned about that in James 3:1. But there is usually a shortage of people who are willing to be helpers "on the other side" — who see someone else in need and just step in and help.

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