Since it’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., I thought I’d do a little analysis of the primary thanksgiving word in Greek New Testament, the verb εὐχαριστέω, which means “thank, gives thanks to.” I’m primarily interested in getting an overview of the biblical data rather than reading what others have to say about it in lexicons and theological dictionaries (which is very valuable, but not my interest for now). So I open the Bible Word Study report, type in εὐχαριστέω, and let it do its thing.
If your Greek knowledge is limited but you want to run the report based on the Greek text rather than the English, Logos Bible Software makes that easy with the reverse interlinears. Start with the Bible Speed Search, select the ESV (or NRSV) English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament from the drop down box, and type thank in the search box. You’ll get 56 hits in 53 verses. Click the reference for Matt 15:36, the second one in the list. It will open the text of the ESV NT Reverse Interlinear to the proper location. Locate the word thanks, right click it, and select Bible Word Study: “ευχαριστεω” from the list of options.
Once the report finishes, we’re given a wealth of data to examine. My interest for now is in the Grammatical Relationships section, where I can quickly find answers to questions like:
- Who gives thanks?
- Who receives thanks?
- What is thanks given for?
This section is incredibly helpful for quickly getting the big picture of a theme in the NT. As I look over the data, I immediately notice some noteworthy patterns in the Complements section, particularly some things that stand out to me because of my current study of the Trinity.
Of the 23 complements or objects of the verb (i.e., who is being thanked), they are nearly all God. The only human objects are Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3). The rest of the references are God—and arguably, God the Father. (Jesus is the object one time [Lk 17:16].) I realize that God can refer to the Triune God, but the contexts and general pattern suggest that the Father is in view.
Here are the data:
Thanks is given to
- the Father (Col 1:11-12; cf. Jn 11:41)
- God the Father through Jesus (Rom 1:8; Col 3:17)
- God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Col 1:3-5)
- God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 5:20)
- God [who is distinguished in the context from Christ] (Rom 14:6; 1 Cor 1:4, 14; Phil 1:3-6; 1 Thes 2:13; 2 Thes 1:3; 2:13; Phm 4-5; Rev 11:17?; cf. Lk 18:11)
- God [who is later identified as the Father] (1 Thes 1:2-4)
- God [undefined in the immediate context] (Acts 27:35; 28:15; 1 Cor 14:18)
So what significance does this have as we give thanks to God today (or any day)? It gives us guidance on how we are to think about and interact with our Triune God. These patterns are descriptive, and not necessarily prescriptive of whom we shouldn’t give thanks to. (The fact that we don’t find numerous references about giving thanks to Jesus or the Spirit doesn’t necessarily mean it is inappropriate to do so.) Nevertheless, these data must be the starting point for any biblical theology of giving thanks to God.
Perhaps a more devotional exercise is to reflect upon the Adjuncts section, where we find out that thanks is given
- always (1 Cor 1:4; Eph 5:20; 1 Thes 1:2-4; 1 Thes 1:3; 2 Thes 2:13; Phm 4-5)
- for other believers (1 Cor 1:4; 1 Thes 1:2-4; 2 Thes 1:3; 2:13)
- because God has given grace to them (1 Cor 1:4)
- because they are growing in faith and love (Rom 1:8; 2 Thes 1:3)
- because God has chose them (1 Thes 1:2-4; 2 Thes 2:13)
There’s much more to explore here. Run the Bible Word Study report, and have a look for yourself. Let some of these biblical themes be the starting point for your thanksgiving today—and every day.