Kataskopeo – κατασκοπεω- To inspect, view closely, in order to spy out and plot against

Our word this week is kataskopeo, which means “to inspect, view closely, in order to spy out and plot against.” It is a hapax legomenon, that is, it is only used once in the New Testament. A.T. Robertson says that kataskopeo conveys the idea of a treacherous investigationF1 (see 2 Samuel 10:31 Chronicles 19:3, as used in the Septuagint, the Greek Translation of the OT). Now let us explore the significance of kataskopeo in its present context.

Our word kataskopeo signifies a sinisterF2 activity on the part of those who were doing the “spying out.” Commenting on the significance of kataskopeo, F.F. Bruce affirms “The ‘spying’ (kataskopesai) of the false brothers had no friendly purpose, in Paul’s judgment: they wished to put an end to this freedom, to make those who enjoyed it for bondage.”F3 In the words of Paul, “This matter arose, because some false brothers had infiltrated [“infiltrate,” GK. pareiserchomai,F4 “to slip in, come in, smuggled in, sneaked in”] our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” [“to make slaves,” GK. katadouloo, “to enslave, reduce to slavery, take advantage of”].

Yes, as in the days of Paul, even today, there are those who wish to “spy out” our freedom in Christ. They are called legalists. Their sinister intention is to put the shackles of legalism on the free. But the words of the apostle rings true, as if to counterbalance the sinister intention of those who seek to enslave: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). “So if the Son sets you free, you will be [“will be,” esesthe, fut. 3rd pl. of eimi] free indeed” (ean+ subj., “sets free” [eleutherose, pres. Subj. 3rd sg. of eleutheroo] in the protasis, “if clause,” and future indicative in the apodosis, “then clause.” This conditional sentence is used by the speaker to express a condition believed by the speaker to be a realizable fact in the future. It is the case of expectation.F5 Let us enjoy our freedom in Christ Jesus!

F1: A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), p. 284.
F2: J. Louis Martyn, Galatians, The Anchor Bible (NY: Doubleday, 1997), p. 195.
F3: F.F. Bruce, Commentary on Galatians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. Eerdmans, 1982), p.112.
F4: J. Louis Martyn quotes Polybius, a Greek historian who lived around 200 B.C., use of this verb to refer to the action of admitting some Galatians secretly into a city, Martyn, p. 195.
F5: F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, A Translation and Revision by Robert Funk (Chicago and London: Chicago Press, 1961), p. 188.

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Meet the Author

Bill Klein has been a pastor, counselor, and educator for the past 41 years. He has had extensive training and education in biblical languages, and has authored a Biblical Greek course.

He is currently serving as Professor of Biblical Greek at Master’s Graduate School of Divinity, and president of BTE Ministries – The Bible Translation and Exegesis Institute of America, a non-profit organization located in California that provides Bible study tapes and Greek study materials through their website BTEMinistries.org.

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