Occupy – πραγματεύομαι

Original Languages

Much is said about the importance of knowing the original languages and it has once again come to my attention in my most recent study.  Previously, I had linked to an article in which the author said that because of the number of translations available to us, knowing the Greek or the Hebrew is not as important to the lay-person as it was years ago. I pretty much agreed with that author and I still do, but recently, someone told me they were going to occupy a position because they wanted to make a stand – even though he did not feel he was contributing in a meaningful way – and once I investigated the word, occupy, I changed my mind on the importance of knowing, at least, a little something about the original languages.

I had decided to do a post about what it means to occupy in the spiritual as well as the physical for the cause of Christ. I was very much in favor of “occupying” for the cause of the Kingdom. It seemed a reasonable thing to do. I thought it would be a good topic to explore and my main scripture reference was to be Luke 19:13 – I’ll quote it here from The King James Version:

13  And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.

This verse is a small part of the parable about a nobleman who needs to travel to receive kingship over the kingdom of which he has been a nobleman, so he gives each of his ten servants a sum of money which varied from servant to servant and leaves them saying, “Occupy till I return.” Meanwhile, the citizens of the country send a messenger after him to deliver a complaint to the higher authorities, saying they do not want this guy to be king. This is kind of an aside, but pretty important in the larger picture.

When he returns as king, he gathers the ten servants to him to see what each of them did with the money he had given them prior to his travels. All but one had invested and had a return on that investment. That one let fear rule his judgment and just buried the one pound of money, attempting to give it back without any fruit to show for the king’s trust. The king was infuriated and said it would have been better to give it to the bank so he could, at least, get a fee for loaning it. And the one pound was taken away from him and given to the one who had ten.

What does “occupy” really mean?

This is a tough, even frightening, parable in itself, but getting back to the main point I want to make; people use “occupy” in this verse incorrectly. They say, “I am going to occupy this place or this group and stand fast like a soldier in the Army of God against evil until Jesus’ return because in Luke 19 and verse 13 He said to ‘Occupy!'” And so, they occupy.

They sit and do nothing, taking up space, or they stand as a guard ready to fight anyone they deem to be suspect. Either way, they are passive. It is a passive verb in our understanding and usage. This is the modern (mid-14th century) notion of occupy by taking up space or time or to take possession of and it is military in definition.  It is an important role for the military and for anyone who wants to preserve something already in existence, for example, a way of life, a forest, a city, and even for us who want to preserve our faith, but the original Greek word has nothing to do with holding or taking a stand.

Instead, “occupy” means to carry on – as in a business.

Greek Dictionary.com
Pragmateuomai /prag-mat-yoo’-om-ahee/ occupy
from G4229 – verb verb
1. to be occupied in anything
2. to carry on a business
3. to carry on the business of a banker or a trader
 verb (used with object), occupied, occupying.
1.to take or fill up (space, time, etc.):
2 :to engage or employ the mind, energy, or attention of:
3 :to be a resident or tenant of; dwell in:
4 :to hold (a position, office, etc.).
5 :to take possession and control of (a place), as by military invasion.
6 :(usually initial capital letter) to participate in a protest about (a social or political issue), as by taking possession or control of buildings or public places that are symbolic of the issue.verb (used without object), occupied, occupying.
7 :to take or hold possession.
8 :(usually initial capital letter) to participate in a protest about a social or political issue.
from Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon Thayer’s Greek Definitions, and the Strong’s King James Concordance with TVM. (e-Sword Module) Retrieved March 04, 2016 from Dictionary.com website http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/occupy

So what’s the big deal?

It seems like a small thing, doesn’t it, but it does illustrate that word definitions change – sometimes dramatically. The King James Version written in the 1600’s uses words that mean something totally different for us today and 1611 CE isn’t that long ago in the greater scheme of things. For example: What does the word “terrible” mean to you? My guess is that it is something disagreeable or terrifying or a really bad grade-D movie.  To the translators enlisted by King James, its meaning was “awesome”.  I think it is important to be aware that the translations are done at a certain time in history by ordinary people and they just might have an agenda to follow – do not rule that out!

It is very valuable to at least know how to look up original language words in the appropriate dictionary. It isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, but keep on trying; it will make sense in time.  Get help, if necessary. Perhaps someone in your church can help and there are more than enough aids by reputable people and sites online. Just be conservative and use common sense when choosing a definition, because most words have multiple and sometimes diverse meanings.

The second big deal

There’s one more thing that comes to mind: Doesn’t “continue in one’s business” sound like what Jesus would want us to do – to keep working? In this parable, He is saying, “I have given you all you need – let’s see how you are going to increase my gift. Keep on working on the path I have given you.”

Jesus was not a passive type of man.  He was always proactive in his dealings with man or demon.  It may have been in prayer – very powerful – or it may have been more directly casting out a demon.  He was occupied with the will of the Father. He wasn’t sitting by idly, waiting.


Thank you for reading.


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