Bible translation and interpretation is a tricky business, but the Exegetical Summary Series is here to help. This tool is extremely helpful, not because it supplies commentary, but because it acts as a compilation of scholarly work, including comparisons of translation, commentary, and interpretation. Let’s look inside this useful resource!

As a quick note, this title is abbreviated ‘SILES’ because it is published by SIL International. Therefore, it is the SIL Exegetical Summary, or SILES.

How SILES works

Each volume consists of nested discourse units, which explain the topic in question. Below, we see the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ discourse unit divides from the entire volume (Matthew 5-7) down to the verse level (Matthew 5:1). Each of the below abbreviations represent how relevant commentaries refer to the topical nature of each discourse unit.

sales sermon on the mount
Nested discourse units within Matthew 5-7.

Once units reduce to the verse-level, the text is given, thought for thought, from a semi-literal translation from the respective Greek or Hebrew, annotated to highlight lexical interpretations of key words. First, the lexicon form of the word is given. Then English equivalents of the Greek word show how it is translated by commentators who offer their own translations of the whole text. Sometimes further comments are made about the meaning of the word or the significance of a verb’s tense, voice, or mood.

Under the heading “Question”, a question arises that comes from examining the Greek/Hebrew text under consideration. Typical questions concern the identification of ambiguities. Background information is also considered for a proper understanding of a passage. The question is answered with a summary of what commentators have said. The editors make no attempt to select which interpretation is best.

discourse units
Discussion of the lexicon and a question within this discourse unit.

Although the content might be difficult to digest for some, the format of the Exegetical Summary Series is beautiful in its simplicity. After breaking down each Discourse Unit into discussions of lexicon and questions, some volumes have an appendix or two, which contain further examinations on various topics or structures that emerge.

How you can use SILES

Revelation is a notoriously mysterious book of the Bible. We can utilize the Exegetical Summary to establish a range of existing interpretations before deciding our own. Let’s take a look at Revelation 3:15-16.

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. –Rev 3:15-16, NIV

3:15 I-know your works that you-are neither colda nor hotb

LEXICON–
a. ψυχρός (LN 79.77) (BAGD 2. p. 894): ‘cold’ [BAGD, BNTC, EC, LN, WBC; all versions], ‘icy cold’ [Sw], ‘cool’ [BAGD]. Ψυχρός indicates lack of enthusiasm [BAGD, TH].
b. ζεστός (LN 79.71) (BAGD p. 337): ‘hot’ [BAGD, BNTC, EC, LN, WBC; all versions]. Ζεστός figuratively indicates a favorable attitude towards something [LN].

QUESTION– What does ψυχρός ‘cold’ symbolize here?

  1. It symbolizes the state of being unconverted [Alf, BNTC, EC, ICC, Ld, Lns, TH, Wal, WBC]. It symbolizes opposition to Christ [Alf, BNTC, Ld, WBC]. It refers to unbelievers who openly rejected the gospel [EC, Lns]. It symbolizes that they were out of fellowship with Christ (see 3:20) [ICC]. It symbolizes that they were part of the world around them, without spiritual life, without relationship to Christ’s church, and actively opposed to it [Alf]. It symbolizes that they were dead and had never really converted [Lns].
  2. It symbolizes the state of being refreshing to people like cold water is [NIC, NTC]. The cold waters of the city of nearby Colossae refreshed those who drank. Compared with this, the Laodiceans were not giving spiritual refreshment to people [NIC].
  3. It symbolizes the ineffectiveness of their Christian witness [NIGTC]. Both cold and hot should be taken positively. It is unlikely that Jesus would commend complete disloyalty as some interpret. It rather symbolizes the ineffectiveness of their witness for Christ. Consequently the unbelievers were getting neither spiritual healing nor life from the believers. This is supported by the fact that Jesus introduces himself as the ‘faithful and true witness’ [NIGTC].
  4. It can symbolize either 1 or 2 above [TNTC].

QUESTION– What does ζεστός ‘hot’ symbolize here?

It symbolizes: enthusiasm for a cause [BNTC, ICC, TH]; true conversion to a cause [Lns]; fervency of spirit toward a cause (Romans 12:11) [Alf, ICC, Ld, Sw, Wal]; zeal for a cause [Ld]; friendliness and commitment to a cause [WBC]; being zealous, faithful and true witnesses like Christ [NIGTC]; the quality of being able to heal the spiritually sick like the hot springs of nearby Hieropolis [NIC, NTC].

How-I-wisha you-were cold or hot.

LEXICON–
a. ὄφελον (LN 71.28) (BAGD p. 599): ‘how I wish’ [BNTC; NAB, REB, TEV], ‘I wish’ [WBC; CEV, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TNT], ‘I would’ [KJV], Ὁ that’ [BAGD], ‘would that’ [BAGD, LN, Lns].

3:16 Soa because you-are lukewarmb and neither hot nor cold,

LEXICON–
a. οὕτως (BAGD 1.b. p. 597): ‘so’ [WBC; KJV, NET, NIV, NRSV, TNT], ‘thus’ [EC], ‘but’ [BNTC; CEV, NAB, NLT, TEV], ‘as it is, since’ [BAGD], not explicit [REB]. See this word also at 2:15.
b. χλιαρός (LN 79.74) (BAGD p. 882): ‘lukewarm’ [BAGD, BNTC, EC, LN; all versions except NLT], ‘tepid’ [LN, WBC]. This adjective is also translated as a comparative phrase: ‘like lukewarm water’ [NLT].

QUESTION– What does χλιαρός ‘lukewarm’ symbolize?

It symbolizes: spiritual indifference [BNTC, Ld, Lns, TH, Wal]; ineffectiveness in spiritual matters [NIC, NTC, TH]; ineffectiveness in their witness [NIGTC]; powerlessness in spiritual matters [TH]; absence of good works [NIC]; invalid faith [Lns]. The only reason Christ would prefer coldness to lukewarmness is that it symbolizes hypocritical profession of faith [EC]. They could not even be classed with the worldly people around them who had absolutely no concern about the things of Christ [Wal]. They were ineffective to provide either refreshment or healing to others [NIC]. It is worse to have believed and sunk into indifference about one’s faith than to have had no faith from the start [Lns].

I-am-abouta to-spit-outb you from my mouth.c

LEXICON–
a. pres. act. indic. of μέλλω (See this word also at 1:19 and 3:2): ‘to be about to’ [EC; NIV, NRSV], ‘to be going to’ [NET, TEV, TNT], ‘to intend to’ [BNTC]. This verb is also translated as a future auxiliary verb: ‘will’ [WBC; CEV, KJV, NAB, NLT, REB]. See this word also at 1:19.
b. aorist act. infin. of ἐμέω (LN 23.44) (BAGD p. 254): ‘to spit out’ [BAGD, BNTC; CEV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, REB, TEV], ‘to vomit’ [LN, WBC; NET, TNT], ‘to spew’ [EC; KJV, NAB].
c. στόμα (LN 8.19) (BAGD 1.a. p. 769): ‘mouth’ [BAGD, BNTC, LN, WBC; all versions].

QUESTION– What is the effect of a lukewarm drink to a person?

It is: disgusting [EC, Lns, TH]; absolutely abhorrent [ICC]; repulsive [BNTC]; revolting [Ld]; nauseating [Lns, Sw]; intolerable [Wal].

QUESTION– What is indicated by the verb μέλλω ‘to be about to’?

It indicates that the action is only potential and there is a possibility of change [Alf, EC, ICC, Lns, TNTC]. It indicates urgency and divine authority [TH].

QUESTION– What does ‘spitting something out of one’s mouth’ symbolize?

It symbolizes: complete rejection [WBC]; strong repudiation [TNTC]; denunciation [ICC]. This indicates final, not immediate judgment, but 3:18-20 show that there is a chance for change [ICC].

Some observations

To those of us who have heard a message preached on this subject before, you’re probably familiar with the interpretation of ψυχρός ‘cold’ as opposing or rejecting Christ. This alternate interpretation of ψυχρός as refreshing or ineffective resolves the concerns about Christ not rejecting those who have made themselves enemies of him. Why would Christ only spit out those “on the fence” and not those clearly in the other camp?

By viewing how others have interpreted the text, we can better make our own interpretive decisions or follow up with the cited authors for more context on their decisions.

Exegetical Summary Series (34 vols)

exegetical summary series siles

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